Laine injured, Grabner is back, Tkachuk streak, plus more…
You’ve probably heard and even seen this by now, but in one of the early games Patrik Laine got absolutely levelled by Jake McCabe. Not surprisingly, Laine ended up leaving the game, and no doubt he could end up missing some time.
The good news is that Laine recorded an assist before leaving, extending his point streak to four games. He has seven points (2g-5a) over that four-game stretch.
Coincidentally, the Geek of the Week this week is Laine and the impact he is having on fantasy leagues in his rookie season. I certainly made the mistake of not ranking either him or Auston Matthews high enough. Steven Stamkos’ underwhelming rookie season still stands out in my mind as to why I am cautious about ranking rookies too high.
For the other early game, I’m going to discuss goalies.
Michal Neuvirth started for the first time in nearly two months, stopping 24 of 26 shots in earning the win. His return is actually good news for Steve Mason, who is in need of a rest after playing in 22 of 24 games since Neuvirth’s injury. Neuvirth entered the game with a ghastly 3.54 goals-against average and .859 save percentage, so fantasy owners shouldn’t rush to get him back into the lineup given his early-season struggles and injury history.
I’m not having the greatest week in one of my head-to-head leagues. Fortunately, my opponent has been starting Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has allowed 14 goals over three games this week. For those of you convinced that Vas will be the Bolts’ starting goalie down the stretch, he recorded a 3.12 GAA and .892 SV% in December, and his struggles have continued into January. Ben Bishop is expected to be back in about a week, so Vasilevskiy will probably be back on the Lightning bench. Hopefully you’ve moved him to yours by now too.
Jeff Carter keeps on keeping on, scoring another goal and adding two assists on Saturday. As I’ve said before, where would the Kings’ bottom-third offense be without Carter? With goal number 22, Carter finished his game second in the NHL in goals. His 17 percent shooting accuracy indicates that perhaps a regression is on the way, so selling high may be an option.
Darryl Sutter tried Carter with the struggling Anze Kopitar in Friday’s practice, but it was simply so the power play could get some practice. Kopitar recorded an assist on Saturday, but he is still stuck on three goals. To put that into perspective, Nic Dowd, Dustin Brown, Dwight King, and Trevor Lewis all have more goals than Kopitar. His 4 percent shooting accuracy should rise, so there’s a buy-low opportunity to be sure. But another alarming stat on Kopitar: no power-play goals and only five power-play points. The Kings are 27th in the NHL with just 112 power-play opportunities, which is factoring into the lack of power-play points.
After a slow start (five goals in 24 games), Max Pacioretty has scored 14 goals in last 14 games, including a goal before the Leafs’ faithful could get comfortable in their seats on Saturday (21 seconds in).
Also scoring for the Habs was Nikita Scherbak, who scored his first NHL goal. He was the Habs’ first-round pick in 2014. With 20 points in 27 games in the AHL, he was probably ready for a callup. But he may be sent back to the NHL once other Habs’ forwards recover from their injuries. But Scherbak is another name to keep an eye on in keeper leagues.
James van Riemsdyk has been making it work with Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak lately. JVR scored a goal and added two assists, which gives him a five-game point streak where he has scored eight points. Linemate Marner recorded three assists of his own. With the Leafs seriously engaged in the playoff chase, it’s difficult to believe that they would be trading van Riemsdyk.
Playing his second game in as many nights, Frederik Andersen allowed two goals in the first five minutes, three goals in the first period, and five goals in total. After the game, Mike Babcock admitted he didn’t make the right decision in starting Andersen. I agree, as I seldom believe that a goalie should be starting on back-to-back nights.
I’ve never practiced this, but I’m starting to think that I should bench a goalie on the second game of back-to-backs. The only thing is that Andersen is my top point-getter in one of my leagues with all the saves he piles up. Andersen is currently second in the NHL in saves (960), with only Oilers’ workhorse Cam Talbot ahead of him (1030).
The Senators could have used Bobby Ryan on Saturday against Holtby and the Capitals. Ryan was a late scratch with no reason given from Guy Boucher after the game. As little as Boucher said in his post-game press conference, he sounded optimistic that Ryan would be back today (Sunday) against Edmonton. Possible discipline issue?
No points for Taylor Hall in his first game against the Oilers. He’ll have another crack against them on Thursday when he returns to Edmonton for the first time since the trade.
Icetime totals for Devils’ defensemen on Saturday, none of which recorded a point:
TOI: Merrill 27:38, Lovejoy 26:38, Severson 28:05. That's season-highs for Merrill and Severson.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) January 8, 2017
Michael Grabner is back. For the second consecutive game, Grabner scored two goals and added an assist in the Rangers’ 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Columbus (two losses in a row for the Blue Jackets!) With the two 2-point games, Grabner is suddenly only two goals shy of reaching 20 goals. It probably seems like 14 of his 18 goals came in October, but it was actually 12 that came on or before November 21. So he basically went through a stretch where he scored two goals in 19 games. Talk about feast or famine.
Paul Stastny scored two goals and added an assist, his first goal since (looks down in the game log) December 6. Stastny even managed to put together his three-point game with Nail Yakupov on his line.
In case it’s been awhile since you’ve checked up on Yakupov, he has six points in 22 games as a Blue. He’s currently on the path of one day appearing in one of those articles listing the worst first overall picks in NHL history.
In case you were worried about John Klingberg:
— /Cam Robinson/ (@CrazyJoeDavola3) January 8, 2017
With an assist on Michael Frolik’s goal, Matthew Tkachuk now has a nine-game point streak. A lot of the rookie attention is focused on Laine and Matthews as expected, but Tkachuk is putting together a nice rookie season of his own with 25 points so far. I’m wondering if Tkachuk fell in the draft because there were questions about his inclination to take bad penalties (second in NHL with 72 PIM). But with power forwards, particularly anyone with his last name, you take the good with the bad. Or if your league counts penalty minutes, multicategory strength.
Speaking of point streaks, Bo Horvat is now riding a seven-game point streak. With another goal on Saturday, Horvat continues to climb the rankings of fantasy hockey centers. We’re now reaching territory where Horvat is the first-line center of the Canucks, with Sven Baertschi riding shotgun. Baertschi might not seem like the best option in this spot, but keep in mind that the Canucks aren’t exactly overflowing with top-level talent at forward.
Loui Eriksson reunited with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin on Saturday, moving Jayson Megna to a line with Brandon Sutter and Markus Granlund. Like did you really see Megna sticking with the Sedins? I wondered why Megna was there in the first place, but Willie Desjardins makes some puzzling decisions sometimes. Like leaving Horvat on the second power-play unit and Brandon Sutter on the first unit.
The Red Wings were outscored by the Sharks on Saturday, but two of the Wings’ scorers have made some noise as of late.
Thomas Vanek has scored three goals in his last two games and eight points over his last seven games. With 25 points in 29 games, Vanek is having what should be considered a rebound season. Maybe we were too quick to write him off. So far he’s been my best waiver-wire pickup in my deepest league.
As hot as Vanek has been, Anthony Mantha has been even hotter. Mantha has points in eight of his last nine games with 12 points over that span. As with most hot young players, Mantha will probably cool off. But he’s still available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.
Finally, the AHL had an outdoor game in Bakersfield where the Condors invited the Reign.
— Andy Cole (@AndyCole84) January 8, 2017
— Andy Cole (@AndyCole84) January 8, 2017
Folks in Bakersfield can now say that they’ve seen an outdoor game with some Reign.
I’ll excuse myself now. But follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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