We’ll start off today with a PSA: get your lineups set early! The Avalanche and Senators are playing over in Stockholm starting at 2:00 pm EST. That goes for tomorrow as well, as there are a pair of early games at 1:00 pm EST.
Micheal Ferland alert! The power forward is back on the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. More importantly, he is skating on the top power play unit with that duo as well. He has goals in three straight including this beauty:
FILTHY FERLAND, WHAT A MOVE! MICHEAL FERLAND DANGLES PETR MRAZEK OUT OF HIS SKATES AND SCORES TO PUT THE FLAMES UP 3-0! pic.twitter.com/TO74gWU3Y3— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) November 10, 2017
Seeing results like that you can’t help but wonder why Ferland can’t lock down that top line gig permanently, as Patrick Maroon has in Edmonton. So far Ferland has 80% of his shifts on that top line but the recent increase in PP time bumps him up a notch. Maroon is the upside for Ferland. We’ll see if he sticks.
The Flames’ offensive explosion was so large that even Sam Bennett got in on the scoring! Indeed, it was his first point of the season, 16 games in. Bennett is not as bad as his start to the season indicates but he’s also not very good. He’s still young at 21, and a former first-round pick, but that only buys you so much time. In his third year he should be trending up. Instead, his minutes per game have dropped for the second consecutive year after a decent rookie campaign. I am loathe to give up on youngsters, but this is venturing into Curtis Lazar territory. If I had him in any keeper leagues, I’d try to sell now while there’s still some new car smell lingering.
Jankowski has been a slow burn playing all four years of college hockey before graduating to the pros, but he has scored 70 points in 80 AHL games. I can’t promise that Jankowski will make a huge impact for the Flames as there isn’t much ice time to go around outside of the top-six. I’d take my chances on him over Bennett, however. Any player who uses his twig and berries to score his first career goal is gonna be a favourite of mine:
Mark Jankowski has his first NHL goal which is a crotch goal. Beautiful. pic.twitter.com/I4p7NNsgOM— Mike Pfeil (@mikeFAIL) November 10, 2017
Yikes, after a hot start Brandon Saad has no goals and just one point in the past 10 games. This is where you kick the tires or hope that he gets dropped. Saad fits the profile of a productive player. He has it all: minutes (19:07 per game), power play time (3:50 per game on the top PP unit), quality linemates (70% of his shifts with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik), shot volume (54 SOG in 16 games), and a history of producing (has scored 2.0 P/60 or more at 5-on-5 in every pro season). I’d bet good money that if all those stay true he finishes in the high 50’s or low 60’s.
The only question I have with Saad is if the top PP minutes can continue. The Blackhawks PP is lagging at the bottom of the league clicking on just 12.8% of their chances. Saad has never been a big-time PP producer. How much longer can they trot him out there?
Also with just one point in his last 10 games; Nick Schmaltz. There’s much less reason to buy Schmaltz as his usage is falling off. He has recently been seeing time on the top PP unit but has yet to produce. He’s no longer riding shotgun with Patrick Kane at even strength. I would still buy Schmaltz if rebuilding in a keeper but I’m not as excited in one-year leagues. He has only 16 SOG through 12 games. Blech.
Just tossing this one out there: what happens to the Blackhawks when Corey Crawford starts letting in goals at a reasonable rate? The Blackhawks starter has an OBSCENE 0.942 save percentage. I suppose it’ll be more nights like last night if they can’t sort out the offense.
I discussed Jason Zucker in yesterday’s ramblings but I’ll mention him again after a hat-trick performance. I scooped up Zucker on Wednesday morning and now have five goals in two games. I think I’ll be buying a lotto ticket tonight.
Much to the chagrin of Habs fans, Montreal had two goals waived off last night. I’ll tell you what, Devan Dubnyk needed a break or two, and got them on his way to a 41-save shutout, in a back-to-back no less.
Weber was a bit more of a surprise to have sat out. There isn’t much information available regarding the injury other than that it is not believed to be serious.
On the plus side, they still have Rickard Rakell who dished out three PP assists. With all the injuries Rakell has been consistently skating 20+ minutes a night. He is one of just 22 forwards seeing 20 or minutes per game and of those is one of just four who does not take a regular PK shift. Rakell is all offense. Your other four pure offense options: Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin and Sidney Crosby. Lofty company.
Jakob Silfverberg’s two-goal night gives him four in the past six games. They are pumping him full of PP time but we’ve been down this road before with Silfverberg. Until he proves that he can be an efficient shooter and not just a volume shooter I am not jumping on the band wagon.
Just as we thought Brandon Montour was on the outs due to the return of Sami Vatanen, he jumps back into the picture with a power-play goal. After one game off the top PP unit, Montour jumped back onto the top unit, this time replacing Hampus Lindholm on what became an all-righty PP. Interesting.
Just to keep you thoroughly confused, Lindhom also scored a power-play goal last night. I’m sticking firmly in the Montour camp until I see a thorough stretch of Montour being suppressed. He’s just too dynamic not to bet on.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is fully back on track with points in three straight. I am most enthused by the return of his shot volume, however. I’m not sure what injury or other shenanigans were impacting OEL’s shooting last season, but he dropped from back-to-back 200-SOG seasons to a mere 145 SOG. He’s back on pace for 210, should be plenty of goals to go with that too!
Derek Stepan appears to have entered the Jason Allison phase of his career. I’m pretty sure he still hasn’t crossed the blue line on his shootout attempt from last night. Stepan sits on the list of forwards skating 20+ minutes per game, but it’s only because the Coyotes have no other options.
Checkout the latest gem from Nikita Kucherov:
The run he is on, now with 16 goals in 17 games, has FiveThirtyEight asking if he can score 50 in 50:
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the NHL was a wide open league, and goaltending often seemed like an afterthought. From 1980-81 to 1993-94, the goals against average for the league never dipped below 3.0 — and the 50 in 50 was accomplished seven times.1 From 1994-95 to the present, the goals against average has risen higher than 3.0 in only one season. It hasn’t climbed quite that high this season, but it’s close.x
It currently sits at 2.89.
Kucherov isn’t the only one taking advantage of the increase in scoring. Like during the 2005-06 season, this year’s NHL has a handful of players vying for NHL legend status. Alex Ovechkin has also started the year on fire (13 goals in 16 games), while Islanders’ captain John Tavares has 12 goals in 15.
It’s a compelling argument but we aren’t even half-way there. Once I see 25 in 25 or 30 in 30 I’ll start really considering it. There are just too many reasons why it wouldn’t happen. Shooting percentage regression, reduction in penalties being called, injuries (*runs through the forest banging on trees*) or coaching adjustments could all derail this.
I am happy there’s a conversation to be had, however. The Lightning are appointment viewing.
The most impressive aspect of what the Lightning and their absurd top line are doing is that they have almost completely overshadowed the hot starts from the top lines of the Flyers and Blues. Amazingly, the Flyers’ top line of Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux has produced more even strength points (39) than the Lightning’s top trio (32).
I have some suspicions that these trios will be stifled a bit once teams start venturing into their second and third viewings of one another. You just know there are enterprising coaches diving into the film on these guys trying to decipher how to slow them down. However, talent like this can only be kept quiet for so long.
The Sabres are in a bad way with the latest update on Rasmus Ristolainen:
Housley said Ristolainen is more of a week to week situation now.— Paul Hamilton (@pham1717) November 9, 2017
Mind you, Ristolainen is not exactly what you’d call an analytical darling, but he has been a consistently productive fantasy performer. As the lone defenseman used on their top power play unit, Ristolainen piled up a good number of points. Almost exactly half (57) of the 115 points he has scored at the NHL level have come with the man-advantage.
The Sabres’ power play, normally an asset, is drowning at just 11.5% on the year. One hot week and it would bounce back so I am not overly concerned but without Ristolainen they really don’t have a dynamic option to man the point.
Normally, when a player of Ristolainen’s calibre goes down, there’s someone intriguing waiting to jump into his minutes and produce. The Sabres have nothing. That’s probably why they aren’t very good.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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