Benn out Friday, J.T. Miller, Stamkos, plus more…
Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day! If you’ve finally had your fill of green beer, take a look at the Saturday Ramblings below. No I didn’t have a drink tonight, but I had my St. Patrick’s Day drink a night early while at the Canucks/Stars game.
Fun fact to start: All four road teams playing on Friday night were on the second game of back-to-backs, so no time for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Unfortunately, this is something we’re seeing more of with the tight schedule. Despite that clear disadvantage, road teams actually went 2-2 for the evening.
J.T. Miller scored his 20th goal on Friday, making this his second consecutive 20-goal season. Where he’s made further progress is in his assist total, which is already ten higher than last season. As a result, Miller now has his first 50-point season leads Rangers in scoring with 51 points with a possibility of hitting 60 points.
Miller has had a high shooting percentage (16-17%) over the past couple seasons, so it will be interesting to see if he can sustain it. Guess who his linemate has been for much of the season? None other than Michael Grabner, he of the 19 percent shooting accuracy. Grabner will be at the top of many bust lists next season because of his out-of-nowhere goal total. But has that luck rubbed off on Miller? Certainly his career has been on an upward trajectory, but we may need to limit our expectations.
Mats Zuccarello scored two goals to give him 14 on the season. That was his first goal in nearly a month, which is a span of 13 games. He’s reached 50 points in three of his last four seasons (with the other season a 49-point campaign). With 61 points as his career high, at least we know what we’ll get from him.
Jaromir Jagr posted another two assists to his enormous career total, which puts him ahead of Mr. Hockey for one particular record.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 18, 2017
Sidney Crosby does more Sidney Crosby things, scoring two goals and adding an assist on Friday. It seems as though the name at the top of the scoring list changes every day. Crosby is now tied for third with Patrick Kane (77 points), while Brad Marchand and Connor McDavid currently hold top spot (79 points). Should be fun to watch right down to the wire.
With another goal on Friday, Nick Bonino five goals in his last six games. But the goal was his first in four games. So it depends on how you look at things.
I recommended Jake Guentzel again in my Sportsnet waiver wire piece. He scored another goal on Friday, so hopefully you took my advice. He has seven points in his last seven games. As you might already know, his linemate is the aforementioned Crosby.
With two goals on Friday, Kyle Palmieri has scored a team-leading 25 goals for the Devils and is making a run at a second consecutive 30-goal season. If you’ve deployed him on your team this past week, he’s come through in a big way with five goals and an assist over his past three games. The Devils play again on Sunday, so if he continues his hot streak he could be a real difference maker in some head-to-head playoff series.
The highlight of the Canucks/Stars game I attended on Thursday night was a second-period fight between Nikita Tryamkin and Jamie Benn. I was surprised that Benn was able to stay on his feet the entire time against the much larger Tryamkin, although Tryamkin is not an experienced fighter.
Benn did not return to the game after serving his five-minute major. As it turned out, Benn missed Friday’s game against Calgary with an eye injury, although he is likely to return for Monday’s game against San Jose. Benn fantasy owners have to be wondering why he risking injury in fighting a giant like Tryamkin (6’7”, 265 lbs.), particularly during such a key week. We also have to wonder if Benn will be sporting a visor once he returns.
After Benn left Thursday's game, the Stars moved Patrick Sharp onto a stacked top line with Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. That was a line they tried for some of Friday's game, although they also tried Brett Ritchie in place of Spezza for that unit. There is a noticeable dropoff for the Stars after that first line.
Remember Jiri Hudler? He replaced Benn in the Stars’ lineup on Friday, although he was held without a point. With 10 points in 30 games this season, that 76-point total from two seasons ago now seems like an anomaly.
That Stars’ goaltending timeshare doesn’t seem like much of a timeshare anymore. Kari Lehtonen played both of the back-to-backs for the Stars. Lehtonen has been the goalie of record for six of the Stars’ last seven games. Since the Stars really can’t go on with the Lehtonen/Antti Niemi goaltending tandem if they have any designs on being competitive, Niemi seems like a strong candidate for an offseason buyout. With a 3.35 goals-against average and a sub-.900 save percentage, Niemi shouldn’t be on your fantasy team now that the Stars aren’t earning many wins.
All I ask is, where was this goaltending from Brian Elliott earlier in the season?
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 18, 2017
The same could be said for Mark Giordano. With a goal and two assists on Friday, Giordano is salvaging his season and now could even reach 40 points. Over his last eight games he has six points. After a miserable first two months (9 points in 26 games), Gio has basically been on a 0.5 point/game pace the rest of the way.
The Buffalo/Anaheim game didn’t offer much in the way of offense. But Rickard Rakell scored his 31st goal of the season. He has eight goals in his last nine games. Factor in his time missed to start the season and over a full season his current total extrapolates to 40 goals.
Some positive news if you’ve been hanging onto Steven Stamkos all season, as he participates in his first full practice since his mid-November injury. In a perfect world, he would return in just over a week, when my real fantasy playoffs begin. Usually I’m not in a hurry to activate players coming off lengthy IR stays, since they need to get their game legs back. But if he returns this season, I will activate Stamkos the moment he comes off IR. If you’re playing to win, you’re putting your best cards on the table.
Confirmed Saturday goalie starts, which you can find on Goalie Post:
Richard Bachman (@ Edmonton): The Canucks have lost five games in a row, all at home, and now hit the road. Bachman gives Ryan Miller a much-needed rest against Connor McDavid and the boys. Chris Wassel has a few Oilers in his daily picks. So Bachman isn’t a goalie you should be targeting at all.
Calvin Pickard (@ Detroit): Trusting any Avalanche player is a tall order, but Pickard stopped 27 of 28 shots in earning a win against those same Wings on Wednesday. If I had to pick between Bachman and Pickard (and I hope I never have to make that kind of decision) I’d choose Pickard.
Carey Price (@ Ottawa): Price is usually Mr. Saturday Night, posting a 12-2-2 record on Hockey Night in Canada Day. This might not be an easy start for Price, who is facing a Sens team that is almost neck-and-neck with the Habs for first place in the Atlantic. But you can still justify starting him in just about every league.
Finally, something with an Irish theme for St. Paddy’s Day. Former Canucks’ goalie Alex Auld trades places with Irish hurling star Lee Chin in an Irish TV show called The Toughest Trade. Some of Chin’s stories afterward about his experience with the Canucks sound a bit exaggerated, but this show is an interesting watch anyway with a glimpse inside the world of hurling. I recognize because I'm one-quarter Irish, although I've never been to Ireland and have never tried the sport of hurling.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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