Ramblings: Bruins Blast Sens; Ovi and Backstrom Lead Caps; Forsberg; Sprong – December 31

by Michael Clifford on December 31, 2017 | (9 Comments)
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Bruins Blast Sens; Ovi and Backstrom Lead Caps; Forsberg; Sprong – December 31

Daniel Sprong was recalled by Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon. Sprong has 18 goals and 28 points as a 20-year old in the AHL this year, a year after averaging over a goal per game in the QMJHL last year. You can ready his Dobber Prospects profile here.

With the Pens at the bottom of the league in five-on-five shooting percentage – which is hard to fathom – they are clearly looking for a scoring spark. Maybe he can provide it? Without PP1 time, he won’t be otherworldly in fantasy, but we are just a season removed from Conor Sheary putting up 23 goals and 53 points in 61 games in a similar situation. If you have room on your bench, it’s worth the shot. If he can draw into that top-six, and the team starts heating up, there’s serious upside here. It looks like he’s starting in the bottom-six, though:

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The story of late for Boston has been depth scoring and that trend continued Saturday night in Ottawa. Ryan Spooner scored twice and goals added by David Krejci and Noel Acciari helped cement their 5-0. The other tally was by Patrice Bergeron.

Tuukka Rask wasn’t really asked to do much but did save all 25 shots he faced. After his awful start to the year, Rask is now sitting at a very solid .923 save percentage. Anyone that bought low on him, kudos. Anyone that sold low on him, sorry?

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Sean Kuraly came incredibly close to having a very bad gash across his face or neck:

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Christian Djoos had a goal and an assist in the first half of the first period in Washington’s game against New Jersey on Saturday night. Scoring a goal as a third-pair defenceman is nice and all, but it was the assist that was his highlight:

Just the confidence to shake the oncoming Devils player, get down low, and find Tom Wilson is something special. Sometimes with a rookie blue liner, he will make it a point (often at the direction of his coach) to “keep it simple.” Rather than floating a puck on net, Djoos created a goal out of nothing. He’s impressive.

Djoos won’t have fantasy value this year; he just doesn’t play enough. Moving forward beyond this year, though, this is a guy I would be trying to acquire in dynasty leagues.

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It was a banner night for Washington’s top line as Alex Ovechkin had three assists and Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and two assists. It was actually Ovechkin’s third three-assist game this season. He had one such game over the previous six seasons. John Carlson also had a goal and two assists, with the goal being of the power-play variety. 

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This came up during the Caps game. Does anyone double-check these?

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André Burakovsky was a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game.

This was inevitable after he played fewer than nine minutes in each of Washington’s two games coming out of the holiday break, but it’s still disheartening for those hoping he’d carry fantasy value. He’s shooting a lot less this year (13.08 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five compared to 16.14 last year). The coaching staff is obviously unhappy with his play, but hopefully this wakes him out of his funk.

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Connor Brickley scored Florida’s first goal of their game against Montreal. He also eventually joined the second line early in the second period, skating alongside Vincent Trocheck and Denis Malgin. Evgenii Dadonov was moved down to the third line.

At times this year, the Panthers have used Brickley in their top-six. He never showed much of a scoring touch in the AHL, so I doubt this is anything long-term. For Dadonov owners, though, the continued demotions should be a little worrisome. Before he was injured in late November, when he was skating on the top line and top PP unit, he was playing just a shade under 20 minutes a game, and had 18 points in 22 contests. Since returning from injury on December 12th, he’s playing a full three minutes less per contest, and has zero goals. Is he still injured? Maybe the league is catching up with him? Whatever it is, he’s looking less and less of a draft-day steal.

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James Reimer was the story in Sunrise as he made 35 saves for the 2-0 shutout win. Reimer finishes the December with a .932 save percentage for the month with two shutouts and seven wins. Not a bad 30 days.

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Outside of Reimer’s performance, the Panthers/Habs game was rather dull. There was this little nugget from intermission, though:

It seems to me that trading one of the top goal scorers over the last half-decade who is on a very team-friendly contract for another top goal scorer is dumb, but that’s just me.

Regardless, this could be good news for fantasy owners. Pacioretty is going to bounce back regardless of where he plays, but imagine if he ends up with Ryan Johansen, or Anze Kopitar, or Brayden Schenn as his centre?

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St. Louis went with 11 forwards in this game. By the end of their 3-2 win on Saturday night, Scottie Upshall was with Tarasenko/Schenn, Berglund stayed on a line all game with Brodziak and Steen while Stastny was between Tage Thompson and Vladimir Sobotka, until late in the game when Paajarvi joined Stastny and Sobotka. It seems Schenn/Tarasenko is the only sure thing up front right now. 

Parayko and Thompson, by the way, were moved to the top PP unit for the game with Steen and Pietrangelo moving to the second unit. If Thompson can maintain his top-six slotting with top PP minutes, he can carry some redraft value. Again, however, this seems like a situation that can change quickly. 

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Lucas Wallmark scored his first career goal for Carolina. You can read his Dobber profile here

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Bad news, sports fans:

During the first intermission of the Kings-Canucks game, Nick Kypreos said at least two weeks. There's more news to come on that front, but that's the baseline for fantasy owners to know. 

Calle Jarnkrok started the game Saturday night with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, keeping the Kyle Turris line together. He also took Forsberg’s spot on the top PP unit. Jarnkrok is a good two-way player, but I’m not sure he’ll stick around long on the top line. We’ll see. He did have two assists in their game, so, good start. 

Juuse Saros, by the way, got the shutout for the Preds in their 3-0 win, making 29 saves along the way. It’s his second shutout of the year and he now has a .925 save percentage. Craig Smith had five shots on goal, a night after putting up 11 shots. He had 51 shots on goal in 12 games. Yowza. 

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It’s New Year’s Eve and with just six games on the docket for Saturday night, I thought it would be a good time to go over the year that was 2017. These are just some random facts and stats from the previous 365-ish days that are of importance to fantasy hockey owners. These stats will be taken from Dobber’s Frozen Pool, Corsica, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL.com (at my own peril). Today will be forwards, tomorrow will be defencemen and goalies. Reminder that these were all tallied before Saturday night’s action.

Shot Leader

It is Evander Kane (4.11) and not Alex Ovechkin (4.02) that leads the league in shots on goal per game since January 1st. Everyone knows that Kane shoots a lot, but surpassing the guy who has typically been the far-and-away leader since the 2005 lockout in this regard puts him in another stratosphere. With the way things are going in Buffalo, and the fact that Kane’s contract is up after this year, he’ll probably be on the move by the trade deadline. Imagine that shot volume on a good offensive team?

 

Power-Play Goals

Over his last 83 games, Tomas Tatar has as many PP goals (11) as Sidney Crosby, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and David Pastrnak. I suppose the reason this doesn’t get talked about very often is that he has just 14 total power-play points. That lack of assists really hurts in leagues that just count total man-advantage production. In fact, going back further, he has just four PP assists over his last 119 games. There is a chance he may not crack 40 total points this year, though an increase in power-play scoring from his teammates could go a long way in buoying his overall production.

 

David Pastrnak Is Really Good

I’m basically just a David Pastrnak fanboy now. As far as power-play production goes, the 21-year old Czech is tied for fourth in 2017 with Claude Giroux at 31 points. Beyond that, he’s on a very short list of players to have accomplished the following: 30 goals, 40 assists, 240 shots on goal. The others on this list are Nikita Kucherov, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, John Tavares, and Patrick Kane. Say it loudly enough for the people in the back: Pastrnak is on the short list for elite wingers in the NHL, and he hasn’t hit his prime yet.

 

Goal Scoring

There were four players to score at least 40 goals in 2017 and they are as follows: Nikita Kucherov (51), Anders Lee (44), Brad Marchand (44), and Alex Ovechkin (40). It is stunning just how good Lee’s year was. His 44 goals tied him for second in the league, his 73 points were as many as Vladimir Tarasenko, and his 23 power-play points were more than Patrick Kane. Over his career, he’s now averaging 30 goals every 82 games. Of course, the big shoe to drop is what happens with John Tavares in the offseason. Not that I would advocate outright trading Anders Lee in keeper leagues, and if Tavares does leave, maybe he fits as well with Mathew Barzal. All that said, his value will never be higher than it is right now.

 

Squealer For Ehlers

Of the 19 players with at least 30 goals, 30 assists, and 200 shots on goal since the calendar turned, Nikolaj Ehlers is the fourth-youngest behind Eichel, Matthews, and Pastrnak. I suppose as far as the 2017-18 season is concerned, people could have been hoping for more than 60-65 points from Ehlers, but it’s worth noting he’s on pace to soar past 30 goals, and maybe crack 35. The issue with Ehlers is that Bryan Little and Patrike Laine – his line mates most of this year – have just 11 goals at five-on-five. With Ehlers playing the second PP unit the majority of the year, it hasn’t allowed him to rack up the assists. Stay patient, my friends. This is a top-end offensive talent.

 

Do The Bartman

Ok, not Bartman, but Hartman. As in Ryan Hartman. In calendar 2017, there were five forwards who managed 20 goals and 80 penalty minutes: Evander Kane, Wayne Simmonds, Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, and Hartman. It should be noted, of course, that he’s done this in way less ice time per game (12:51) than anyone else (next closest is 16:26, and three of the five are over 17 minutes). Anyone who reads my Ramblings regularly knows I’m a big Hartman fan, though with Joel Quenneville’s proclivity for going all Boggle on his lines it’s hard to rely on him for consistent top-six minutes even if he lines up there for a game or two. Regardless, in deeper leagues, Hartman contributes across the board, and he can be viable in shallower formats if he ever gets a bigger permanent role. 

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Not really fantasy-relevant, but in an interview with TSN during Canada’s semi-final Spengler Cup contest, René Fasel (President of the IIHF) said that NHL owners have already committed to sending NHLers to Beijing in 2022. This obviously fits with the NHL’s strategy of increasing coverage in China, but it’s still infuriating for anyone that was hoping they’d go to South Korea for 2018. I suppose, if anything, we’ll get Sidney Crosby in a grizzled-and-aging veteran’s role as a third or fourth liner, which is an incredibly weird thought to have. They grow up so fast.  

 

  • Jonathan

    “It seems to me that trading one of the top goal scorers over the last
    half-decade who is on a very team-friendly contract for another top goal
    scorer is dumb, but that’s just me.”

    Agreed!!! However, maybe it’s just me, but since last year’s playoffs, Pacioretty sure shoots a lot, but often it’s from far off, a wrist shot, not very hard, with no screen in front and directly into the goalie’s chest. More often than not, it just looks as though he’s dumping the puck, but on the goalie instead of on the boards. Again, maybe it’s just me, but it’s what I seemed to have noticed.

    • anonymouse

      As a diehard Habs fan, that has always been the type of player Pacioretty is. As dobberhockey said a while back, he’s a perimeter player with solid wheels and a wicked wrist shot. He’s not playing any different to how he usually plays, he has an incredibly low shot% and IPP for his standards and will bounce back

  • wholi

    With the Winter Classic being the first game of the week, does it make sense to grab a couple of players and try to get a jump on your opponent or are there stats that show numbers are down in outdoor games and it’s not worth the effort?
    I imagine weather conditions dictate a lot of that.
    Just wondering.
    Thanks,
    Wholi

    • Michael Clifford

      it’s not worth the effort to grab Sabres players, I can assure you that.

      • wholi

        🙂

  • Stephen Lidbetter

    Anybody notice the TOI for the Bruins’ top line, Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, last night? Cassidy sending a message? Shows how deep they are currently to pull this off during a hot streak.

    • Michael Clifford

      I wouldn’t be too worried about that. Once they got up 4-0, there was no reason to play them. They barely stepped on the ice with the power play and I think they had three PPs in the final 25 minutes. Even though Bergeron got a PP goal, they stepped on the ice with like 15 seconds left in the PP.

  • JasonRicketts

    With the jets being so deep, how any seasons could it take for Ehlers to get first line minutes and PP1 time? Wheeler isn’t young but he probably still has a few more elite seasons left

    • Michael Clifford

      He should be this year and I don’t know why they’re not. It reminds me of 3-4 years ago when Marchand couldn’t sniff the PP even though everyone that wasn’t Claude Julien knew he should be out there.