Ramblings: Ducks' injuries mounting, Keith's suspension, playoff pool strategy and more.
Here it is, my final ramblings of the 2015-16 season as I transition into my summer gig as a forest fire ranger. I imagine I’ll be back a few times to check in throughout the summer. I’d like to keep some content coming whenever I can find the time. Thankfully, Michael Clifford and Neil Parker will be back to cover through the summer months. Great work by those two last summer and I expect the same once again. I do have some more stuff coming for Sportsnet in the next couple of weeks but I’ll get to that later.
The verdict is in. Duncan Keith has been suspended six games for his stick swing on Charlie Coyle the other night. That went into effect immediately, so Keith was absent for last night’s game and will miss the remaining four regular season games for the Blackhawks plus their first playoff game. I believe that Keith can appeal this but considering how that went for Dennis Wideman, we’ll likely see Keith back in the lineup before we see that appeal heard. Plus, you could argue that Keith got off easy.
Frankly, I’m impressed they even suspended Keith for a single playoff game but perhaps that’s how the NHL determined their course of action. What exactly their logic was is described in the Department of Player Safety video:
One playoff game isn’t enough that you’ll avoid Keith in your playoff pools, should you decide to bet on the Blackhawks going deep again. And as we discussed earlier this week, defensemen make very strong playoff producers.
The Blackhawks were successful in defeating the Jets in overtime last night but not without incurring more casualties. Jonathan Toews briefly left the game after taking a puck in the ear but he returned okay. Andrew Shaw and Trevor van Riemsdyk were not so lucky as both left the game and did not return.
The Blackhawks got strong performances out of their big guns, with Artemi Panarin ending a lengthy goal drought with a pair of goals and an assist, while Patrick Kane scored his 40th of the season in a two-point night. No points for Artem Anisimov but he was back centering those two.
Dustin Byfuglien was an absolute menace last night. He scored a goal and added two assists. Plus, he had the huge hit that knocked van Riemsdyk out of the game. He has been straight up crunching dudes.
Jimmy Howard gets the win for Detroit to keep them hanging in the playoff race. It’s a really fine line the Red Wings need to tow here. I can’t imagine them winning a playoff series with Howard in net so they need to get Petr Mrazek back into rhythm but Mrazek has struggled so much that Howard is the winning option right now. Really, it’s a can’t win situation.
Niklas Kronwall continues to drop dimes. He has assists in three straight games and has six in seven games since returning from injury. As tough a year as Kronwall has had, he is closing strong. Not sure the Red Wings are still hanging around if he doesn’t get back so quickly.
Tomas Tatar did not have the breakout season I was hoping he would have but he has still scored 21 goals on the year, which isn’t terrible, especially considering how he has been deployed. If there were more top unit PP minutes available Tatar could have put up some bigger numbers. Even with second unit deployment he has 15 PPP. That’s where he can really do some damage.
I expected the Red Wings offense as a whole to hum a lot better this season but it just hasn’t. Jeff Blashill may or may not be a good coach but he’s clearly no Mike Babcock, at this point, which was overlooked on my part. Also, I overlooked how bereft the Red Wings were of puck-movers on the back end and how important that would be.
The Wild loss last night keeps the Avalanche alive but barely as they dropped what amounted to a must-win against the Capitals. The end result is that the Predators have now clinched a playoff spot. And the Avalanche are pretty much dead in the water.
The Avs did get Matt Duchene back in the lineup but he was held scoreless. Instead it was Carl Soderberg notching a pair of assists while skating with Gabriel Landeskog. Soderberg did not totally take advantage of the absence of Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon though.
Semyon Varlamov put forth a herculean effort stopping 43 of 46 shots but it wasn’t enough.
The Bruins kept pace with the Red Wings by blowing the doors open on Brian Elliott. Elliott ended up giving up five goals on 23 shots through two periods. Jake Allen came on for relief in the third and gave up one goal on five shots. Only four games left for the Blues to figure out their playoff starter but considering the run that Elliott has had, I think you give him a pass on last night and roll with him into the first round.
The Blues attempted a comeback scoring five goals of their own. They spread the offense out fairly evenly too. This is a team going three lines deep at full strength.
They were without Robby Fabbri last night but that didn’t slow down their post-All-Star leading scorer as Paul Stastny scored a goal and an assist. Having him contributing as we head towards the playoffs has to be a confidence booster.
David Krejci was rocking the day-to-day symbol up until this morning but he got into the Bruin lineup and lit the Blues up. Two goals and two assists for Krejci, who had just two points in the previous six games. That pretty well makes up for the slump.
Tuukka Rask got the win but it wasn’t pretty. He was on the hook for all five Blues goals. That’s one of those wins you’d gladly return in your fantasy league.
Oh my goodness the injuries for the Ducks.
David Perron was officially diagnosed with a separated shoulder. He’ll miss another 2-4 weeks, which makes him a questionable add in your playoff pool. Let’s say the Ducks do roll through round one. Would they upset the applecart by bringing Perron back? Also, shoulder injuries are no joke. Two weeks is the optimistic timeline but even if he is capable of a return is he going to offer much as a shooter or as a fore-checker? I’m skeptical. I can see him as a last round flyer and nothing more but if guys like Jamie McGinn or Brandon Pirri are also available I’d lean towards the healthy option.
That being said, Pirri is now also day-to-day after last night’s action.
Here’s an interesting one: would you take Perron or Shea Theodore in a playoff pool? If the Ducks defense is healthy, Theodore might not see a single game.
Freddie Andersen was supposed to start last night’s game but he suffered a concussion during his brief relief appearance on Wednesday. That’s adding injury to the insult that was the three goals on five shots he allowed that night. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF! This is killing me.
On the plus side, this just might resolve Anaheim’s goalie controversy.
Rickard Rakell had to have his appendix removed so he’s slated to miss the next week. I’d write him off for the regular season but expect him back for game one of the playoffs. This unfortunate injury might help him slide a couple rounds in your playoff draft.
Travis Hamonic will miss the rest of the regular season and possibly some of the playoffs due to injury. And just when I was thinking the Islanders might have hit paydirt by aligning themselves to play on the Atlantic side of the playoff bracket.
Joe Thornton would prefer to keep playing regardless, “but I’m sure if Pete (DeBoer) said, ‘Hey you’re taking a day off,’ I would. But for me, it’s all about timing, rhythm. I feel healthier when I play. I just like to play games. I’ve always been like that.”
Really cool look at how the NHL is mining college hockey for goaltenders:
"I look at it this way now that I am waist deep in this: At 18 we are out there trying to find goalies and they haven't even found themselves yet," said Mike Valley, who is in his first season as the Dallas Stars goalie development coach after five seasons as their NHL goaltending coach. "They have no idea about the game really. It takes you until you are 25 or 26 years old to figure it out. But we pull guys out early and then they have to play pro at 20 or 21 and they are not ready, and then they quickly get labeled. If you have a college kid, the biggest thing is you get to buy time and they get to mature physically and mentally."
To a certain degree we are seeing the same story with the European goalies who come over. Rarely do we see a goalie cracking the NHL at 20. That’s a good reminder of how wild the goaltending position is. Starters come from all over the place and can be drafted in any round, if they are even drafted at all. If you’re in a keeper league with a small farm squad or none at all, I wouldn’t even bother with drafting goaltenders. It’s just not a good investment. The time you’ll dedicate is insane compared to a forward who might pop for you within two years of drafting.
Murray says Colin White could come out and play. Will talk to him after his season at Boston College. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) April 1, 2016
I’ve been contending since the World Juniors that White stands a good chance of leaping to the Senators next season but here you have it from the horse’s mouth.
As promised, I have some playoff pool content for you guys. This year, I decided to take a look at where the top scorers in the NHL playoffs typically come from. Pouring over the last 10 years of playoff data I looked at the top 50 scorers in each playoff season. The cut-off for the top 50 was usually between seven and nine points. This distinction is important because seven to nine points is around the most you can expect from a top scorer on a team eliminated in round one. For instance, last year Kevin Shattenkirk was the top scorer for a team eliminated in round one scoring eight points.
Only 22 players eliminated in round one made the top 50 in scoring in their playoff season in the past 10 years. The highest any scorer finished after being eliminated in round one was tied for 26th. Typically, if a scorer cracked the top 50 at all, it was in the 40’s. It is intuitive that if load up on a team that gets bounced in round one, odds are you are losing but the takeaway is that you are better off grabbing a depth player off a true contender than a top player on a team destined to be one-and-done.
Of the players scoring in the top 50, 70% came off of teams that made the conference finals. Again, this is intuitive. You win by scoring more than your opponents and you get more opportunities to score by winning more rounds and thus playing more games. 70% is a high mark however. That means most of the impact players in playoff pools are coming from just four teams or a quarter of the field.
On only three occasions did a player on a team eliminated in round two crack the top 10. So 97% of top 10 scorers came off of teams making the conference finals. Nothing shocking here but again, it highlights how important it is to pick the teams that go far.
Good luck forecasting which teams will make it that far. A few years ago I looked at the qualities of teams who won playoff series and found the most important quality was having a better goal differential than your opponent. At the time, the team that won each playoff series had the better goal differential in exactly two-thirds of those series from 2006 to 2013. That figure has since slipped to 65% but is still the most prevalent trait of any series winner.
Really interesting stat: if you eliminate shootout goals, which the NHL for some reason tracks, every single team currently in the playoffs has a positive goal differential, and every team outside the playoffs has a negative goal differential. This does not strike me as a coincidence. Your top five in goal differential in order are: Washington, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay.
Other folks have looked at specific qualities of Stanley Cup champions. Adam Gretz is known for focusing on the teams that have that are strong in goals against, penalty killing and 5-on-5 shot differential. The Ducks happen to have a top five mark in all three, while the Kings, Lightning, Capitals, Blues and Penguins rank high in all three.
Other potential metrics to consider? Hockey reference has a Playoff Probabilities Report under their “Frivolities” section. Their top five in terms off odds to win the Cup, in order: Washington, Florida, Dallas, Los Angeles and St. Louis. I have no idea how they calculate these odds but they are interesting to look at all the same.
More popular for calculating playoff odds is Sports Club Stats who give Washington a whopping 25.2% chance of winning the Cup. Their top five for Cup odds: Washington, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Florida.
I haven’t yet settled on my picks and won’t until the playoff bracket is fully set. We have playoff pool content planned for next week on Sportsnet. Dobber, Ian, Rick and I will also be making our picks for Sportsnet as part of their bracket challenge. Be sure to sign up for Sportsnet’s Playoff Pool because it is FREE!!!! Of course, the Dobber Hockey Experts panel will be back with our playoff predictions. Lastly, pick up Dobber’s Interactive Playoff Guide for $8.99. It is the best.
Thanks for reading all season. I hope I was able to help you in some capacity. Give me a follow @SteveLaidlaw and I’ll happily get to your questions all summer, though I may not be as quick with the responses. Take care, and best of luck!
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