Blue Jackets' streak is dead, Bobrovsky's health, Bergeron, Forsberg and others turning the corner and more.
Amazing World Junior final last night. Just wow!
I hate that it ended on a shootout, but in this case, it almost had to. Those kids were running on E from the second they dropped the puck for overtime. A second overtime? Get outta here. They had nothing left for another round.
My only quibble: both teams had skaters with single-digit ice time for that game. Hell, Michael McLeod skated only 2:15. At a certain point, you should use the guys who actually have some gas in the tank, rather than riding your studs who’ve got nothing. I’ve been the guy glued to the bench in a tough loss, knowing I could make a difference. I think I sympathize with those guys the most.
Great game. Great tournament. The best hockey you can watch before April (in years without the Olympics/World Cup). Excellent showcase of some of the best up-and-coming prospects. Here were the top ones:
IIHF Awards— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 6, 2017
Best Goalie ?? Sandstrom
Best Defenceman ?? Chabot
Best Forward ?? Kaprizov
Now get out there in your keeper leagues and start dangling these prospects for guys who can help you win now!
The Blue Jackets’ streak was stopped forcefully by the Capitals last night in a 5-0 loss. Now we get to see how they respond. I am assuming this is where we start to see some regression. That doesn’t mean guys like their studs are going to suddenly be worthless, especially with how magical their power play moves the puck but some of them are going to slow from their current scoring paces.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you should sell high on everyone. For instance, you won’t find many defensemen more valuable than Zach Werenski so it would be tough to sell him. Sam Gagner, on the other hand…
Well you probably won’t find anyone willing to give up anything too serious for Gagner (as good as he has been) unless you are playing with noobs. Then sell away!
Sergei Bobrovsky, the league leader in wins by nearly a touchdown, will probably see some slippage but he is excellent so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Just perhaps a few more losses. He is also tied for #2 in the league in appearances, despite the Blue Jackets ranking second last in games played. He has played 33 of Columbus’ 37 games, a rate which is concerning for someone with an extensive injury history.
If you are concerned, check out this interesting article discussing a change in his approach that may keep him healthy:
That included toning things down in the gym, where the fitness-obsessed Bobrovsky is known to be the first guy in and the last guy out every day. He typically walked around at a muscular 6-foot-2 and 199 pounds, and the medical consultation suggested he would stay healthy easier if he had less meat on his frame. That way, he’d be more flexible, which would cater to his style of play, which is heavy on movement. Bobrovsky shaved down to 182 pounds.
*Paging Kris Letang*
Will this work and keep Bob healthy? I hope so, even though I didn’t manage to get him in any pools.
What would work even better is if the Blue Jackets start mixing in some starts for the backup in the second half. Now that their streak is over, they can focus on that. They’ve banked enough points they should be a lock for the playoffs.
Now, Curtis McElhinney is probably a great guy but I don’t think anyone wants to see him starting a bunch of games. However, the Blue Jackets can work it so that they bring up Joonas Korpisalo (or Anton Forsberg), their excellent AHL goaltender who played well while Bob was hurt last season, to start the games Bob doesn’t. They are probably losing Korpisalo in the expansion draft, so they may as well use him while they still have him. Korpisalo is an interesting option for the second half.
Players in the midst of turning the corner:
Filip Forsberg – six goals, seven points, 22 SOG in his last eight games.
Ryan Johansen – one goal, eight points in his last seven games.
Patrice Bergeron – three goals, four points, 21 SOG in his last four games.
Evgeny Kuznetsov – seven assists, eight points, 17 SOG in his last six games.
Justin Williams – nine goals, 16 points in his last 15 games.
Rasmus Ristolainen – three goals, 17 points in his last 16 games.
The only one of these I didn’t expect was Williams. I assumed that Andre Burakovsky had finally broken into the top six for good. Williams is back and riding high. I suspect he’s merely a short-term option but I wouldn’t rule out him continuing to produce the rest of the way.
Patrick Maroon netted a hat-trick last night. You know the rules: play with McDavid, produce like a star. Of course, the Oilers keep coming back to Milan Lucic in this spot but Maroon has produced well when given a shot.
Jordan Eberle has now gone a month (12 games) without scoring a goal so I’m sure his owners are awaiting his next turn alongside the cheat code.
Jesse Puljujarvi skated a season low 3:37, which is absolutely pathetic. May as well make him a healthy scratch at that point. Or better yet, send him to the AHL. I think it’s coming. I wonder if the Oilers avoided sending him down while the World Junior tournament was on and now that it’s over, they’ll pull the trigger. Of course, that opens the question of why he wasn’t allowed to go in the first place but that’s a whole other can of worms.
Ty Rattie made his Hurricane debut skating a season high 12:59. He even debuted on the Hurricanes’ top line with Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner. No points and no power play time for Rattie but it’s a start.
Derek Ryan was bumped back to the third line with Jordan Staal and Brock McGinn, which proved fruitful as he scored a pair of goals to end a seven-game scoreless drought. Not sure I am in on Ryan as a long-term option.
Justin Faulk returned from his latest injury. He skated 21:46 with a team high 4:14 on the power play, was held scoreless but had three SOG. Standard night for Faulk.
Ryan O’Reilly returned for the Sabres for his first game since his appendectomy. A pair of power-play assists for the star centerman.
Meanwhile, Marian Hossa returned for the Blackhawks but was held off the board.
Mikkel Boedker was a healthy scratch last night. He has been disappointing this year, to say the least. He is on pace for a four-goal/17-point season. Yikes! Free agent signings are always risky but this one is looking particularly egregious.
Of course, some of Boedker’s struggles are percentage based. He is a 10.9% career shooter currently shooting just 4.4%. His on-ice shooting percentage of 5.7% isn’t much better.
It’s also a usage based problem. 30 of Boedker’s 67 points during his last two seasons in Arizona came on the power play, where he was used immensely. His ice time is down to 14:31 per game from 18:32 last season. His PP time is down to 2:00 per game from 3:57 last season.
But the Sharks didn’t sign Boedker to be a top piece. Their top line and top PP unit were already well established. They wanted depth scoring. Boedker has spent over half of his shifts with Logan Couture and a connection has not been made. Chemistry takes time but time (or patience) is running out.
On the plus side, the Sharks have pushed teams to a relative standstill in terms of shot metrics while Boedker has been out there. He has turned into the possession-bending, post-hype lottery pick free agent signing that Michael Frolik has been for Calgary but he hasn’t been a total drain either.
Boedker’s contract looks toxic with three more years at $4M per but I feel like there’s still a redeemable player here. At his current usage, Boedker should be able to produce at around a 40-point pace. Obviously, he won’t get there this year, but 20 points during the second half could be achievable. But to see how he is currently viewed, I took a poll:
If the Sharks ate half of Boedker's deal would you be okay with your team trading for him?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 5, 2017
Even at the low bar of 50% of his contract, folks were still divided.
Of course, if we are talking about healthy scratches, we should mention that the Blackhawks scratched Brian Campbell for the second time in four games but this one is not related to poor play. The Blackhawks are in a unique position with seven or eight genuinely capable defensemen. Their issue is a lack of forward depth, which obviously makes you wonder if some trades are coming.
The Blackhawks did call up Spencer Abbott, an AHL scoring stud, who skated just 8:34 alongside Hossa and Jonathan Toews. I’m not sure he is the answer.
Back to the Sharks. They actually found some secondary scoring as Joel Ward scored just his third of the season and Joonas Donskoi scored his fifth. Unfortunately, they Sharks couldn’t hold up defensively.
Two more points for the sizzling Mikael Granlund. In fact, maybe every fantasy relevant forward on the Wild got two points last night. And no, Jason Pominville is not fantasy relevant. My feelings haven’t changed on Granlund from a week ago. Enjoy the heat wave!
Devan Dubnyk has allowed four goals in three straight games and won two of them. Bonkers.
Jared Coreau notched his first NHL shutout and continues to be the Wings’ best option in goal. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Jimmy Howard gets healthy. With how well he played prior to injury, you’d assume he gets a chance to run with the gig but the Wings are already at desperation time.
Since it’s desperation time, we really aught to see more of Andreas Athanasiou. He returned from a healthy scratch to post a three-point night. He has that game-toppling speed/creativity. They need to ride out the hiccups and recognize he offers more good than ill. He could be their Michael Grabner and that’s setting the bar low.
Anthony Mantha has six goals and 11 points in his last eight games. He is unlikely to keep converting at 17.9% but he has the game of a high-percentage shooter. His arrival is reminiscent of the Gustav Nyquist rookie year where he scored 28 goals in 57 games as a mid-season call-up. Nyquist maintained an 18.3% shooting percentage that season.
I wonder when we are going to find out what brutal injury Anze Kopitar has and how long he has been hampered by it. This year has been bad but it’s never been worse than the past three weeks. He hasn’t scored a goal in 11 straight and has just two assists in that span. I don’t give up on superstars but this is distressingly bad.
Their bye week isn’t until February 10 so it could be another month of doom.
With Kopitar in mind, make sure you vote in the latest Cage Match Tournament, which is looking at which slumping star is most likely to continue faltering.
The Canadiens have recalled Nikita Scherbak and Sven Andrighetto, which likely means Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher are going to miss some time. Gallagher is irreplaceable but there is some potential for one of these guys to produce in a #2 role behind Alexander Radulov.
On the plus side, it looks like the Canadiens will be getting some reinforcements soon:
If you haven't already, make sure to pre-order the Mid-Season Guide for updated projections on every player/team. Only $9.99. It will be released in a week!
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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