Welcome to the Tarasenk-show, Draisaitl with McDavid, Fleury Strikes Back and more.
Huge night for Vladimir Tarasenko netting a hat-trick, including the game winner and adding an assist. He’s threatening to go for his first 80-point season. I think it matters more what his teammates do than what he does because we know he is going to be in the 40-goal conversation, so it all depends on if he can finally get 40+ assists. It could happen if you consider his current linemates:
Fabbri is hot with five goals and nine points in his last 11 games. Meanwhile, Steen returned from injury to play center on the top line and notched three assists.
Steen didn’t look right to me in the early season but missing two weeks and six games may have been just the rest his surgically repaired shoulder need. Steen’s a Band-Aid Boy so this is unlikely the last of his injury woes but he is still a force when healthy. Good to have him back.
Kevin Shattenkirk also had a huge night with two goals and two assists. He has 19 points in 24 games, of which 12 have come on the power play. He is one of the best in the business with the man-advantage.
The Lightning got some reinforcements with Anton Stralman returning and skating 25 minutes on the top pairing. Stralman’s return pushed Slater Koekkoek to the bench.
The Lightning also shuffled things around with Joel Vermin taking Vladislav Namestnikov’s spot in the lineup. Check out the lines:
#1 24.6% DROUIN,JONATHAN - PAQUETTE,CEDRIC - VERMIN,JOEL
#2 24.1% JOHNSON,TYLER - KUCHEROV,NIKITA - PALAT,ONDREJ
#3 17.8% FILPPULA,VALTTERI - KILLORN,ALEX - POINT,BRAYDEN
#4 8.4% BOURNIVAL,MICHAEL - BOYLE,BRIAN - BROWN,J.T.
Great display from Vermin with two assists in his first game of the season. His line was buzzing with Cedric Paquette scoring a pair and threatening for more, while Jonathan Drouin ended a five-game scoreless drought with a pair of assists.
I imagine Namestnikov will draw back in at some point soon but it is hard to envision Vermin not getting another crack. Vermin has obvious offensive talent but he has only scored 66 points in 138 AHL games, which is fairly underwhelming. The Lightning have no end of talent coming through the pipeline but I’m not sure we are looking at the next Jonathan Marchessault.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made his second straight start and for the second straight game he got punctured. I won’t hang him for this one, as the Lightning paraded to the penalty box all night but it seems time for Ben Bishop to get back in the crease.
Bishop, by the way, came on in relief and ended up eating the loss having given up the fifth goal while the team mounted a furious comeback.
Like Vasilevskiy, we have finally seen Matt Murray face some struggles this season. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first quality start in what seems like forever and now the see-saw really begins to take hold. I am not saying that this is where Fleury (or Bishop) takes complete control of the crease, but they may go on a nice little run before it bounces back to the youngsters. Buckle up.
John Klingberg returned from his latest healthy scratch to notch an assist and fire three shots on goal. Decent performance but he was also minus-two. His potential replacement – Julius Honka – went scoreless and was minus-three. They got smoked so I’m not sure how much we read into this other than what I’ve already written over the past couple of weeks.
Overall, the Stars are mostly healthy, save for Ales Hemsky and Jiri Hudler (he of the mystery illness). At this point, it’s time to accept that this team might just be mediocre. That’s a tough realization but when you lose two of your best defensemen in the offseason and your best defenseman starts going through growing pains this is what will happen. Their goaltending is still awful, which can’t help cover up for their defensive miscues.
God bless Lindy Ruff for sticking to the program of playing firewagon hockey despite everything that has gone wrong. I hope that Ruff, Jim Nill and ownership are all on the same page. I hope that they are willing to see this as a “developmental” year and continue playing their young defensemen despite whatever mistakes they may make and to continue to allow them to play the style that has made the Stars one of the most entertaining teams in the league. It’s an investment in the long term.
The Stars aren’t that far out of it despite a goal differential that is the single worst in the league. They have played a road-heavy schedule, where they have struggled mightily.
There are rumours they may even shop a veteran defenseman like Johnny Oduya to clear the way for more of their young defensemen to play. If the return is another scoring forward, even better. If true, I applaud the gusto.
It was 21 games in between the last time Aleksander Barkov scored a goal and when he finished the game off with this overtime beauty but he finally got the monkey off his back:
Goodness, Barky. 😅 pic.twitter.com/0C9YA6YzBi— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) December 2, 2016
Barkov has seven points in the last seven games and I wonder if this is where the floodgates open.
It was rumoured that there would be changes to the power play for Florida with Tom Rowe taking over as head coach but so far they haven’t changed a damned thing. At least not in terms of personnel. I don’t know if they are waiting for a lull in the schedule to practice some stuff before implementing it in games but I do know that they continue to stink while up a man. They went 0/6 last night.
I am at my wits’ end with Vincent Trocheck. I really thought he’d have a shot at a 60-point season but it just isn’t happening. He’s skating 20 minutes a night, with over three of those on the power play but at this point he is just cold and going nowhere. Like I did with Palat earlier in the season, I may drop Trocheck and look to grab him once he starts to pick up steam.
Part of the reason I am looking to dump Trocheck is that the streamer spot on one of my rosters has been permanently filled by Colton Parayko who was foolishly dropped a couple of weeks back. You know, right before he took off.
I have some fears of something similar happening with Trocheck but right now I am better off with random waiver fodder that I can mine for four-six man games each week than I am with Trocheck’s production.
The kicker for me dumping Trocheck is that he isn’t even shooting as much as I’d like. I figured he would take a run at 250 SOG. Right now he is on pace for 188. Not up to par.
Aaron Ekblad hasn’t scored a ton of points but he is at least pumping shots at the net. He has 28 SOG in the last five games and is second among defensemen with 77 on the year. He has six goals, which is awesome but has only one assist. I can live with the lack of points with that shot total. I smell a turnaround coming.
Justin Faulk is in my dog house, but I am not dumping him. He has just one assist in the past 12 games, including six straight without a point but I am not giving up. Why? Because these are the ups and downs that you have to ride out with defensemen. It’s the reason that I set the 200 SOG bar for my fantasy defensemen.
Even top-10 defensemen only score around 50 points, which means they are going to be held off the board in at least 32 of the 82 games and likely more than that. One point in 12 games? That’s going to happen. But guess what? Faulk also has 36 SOG in those 12 games, exactly three per game. I can live with that. And when Faulk goes on a hot run like he did to open the season (with five points in five games) I’ll be reaping the rewards.
Faulk is still seeing 23+ minutes per game, with nearly three of those on the top power play unit. The opportunities have been there. He just hasn’t cashed.
Take the example of Torey Krug, who started off the season like a carcass in a meat locker. He is up to 11 points in 24 games (decent) but has run five points in the past three games, with 9 SOG in that span. It changes that quickly. And it’s not like Krug wasn’t keeping you fed. He ranks third among defensemen with 74 SOG on the season, a 240-SOG pace.
Yet another example of the brilliance of David Pastrnak:
David Pastrnak, silky angel child pic.twitter.com/GTuk46PlbN— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 2, 2016
I remain convinced that Pastrnak is going to score 40 goals this season. He only needs 27 more, with 58 games to play. At the rate he is piling up shots and his ability to convert those, it almost feels inevitable. And sure, Pastrnak is likely going to go through a lengthy drought of some sort, but that’s why I’m only saying he’ll get to 40 goals. With no drop-off, he’d get to 55.
It's looking sillier by the day that Pastrnak slipped to 25th in the 2014 draft. How many of the 23 teams picking ahead of Boston are kicking themselves about that one? 10? 15? Granted, Pastrnak was not ranked in the top-15 pre-draft but he was definitely on the radar.
By the way, Vancouver passed on Pastrnak not once, but twice. How’s Jake Virtanen’s AHL season going anyhow?
Sorry. That was mean.
Bottom line, Pastrnak might be the best offensive weapon from a draft loaded with good ones, you really should check it out.
This is all I have to say about Jaroslav Halak posting a 38-save shutout of the Capitals:
Some idiot left Halak on his fantasy bench and that idiot is me.— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) December 2, 2016
On the plus side, the Kuznetsov buy-low window has reopened. He has skated huge minutes on the top power play unit over the past week. He should stick there. I read something about Trotz preferring Kuznetsov’s ability to gain clean zone entries than Marcus Johansson’s. Maybe that changes if he isn’t producing but we’ll have to wait and see.
Justin Williams has grabbed a spot on the top PP unit as well. He had seven SOG last night. Perhaps time to give him a look.
#1 29.6% BACKSTROM,NICKLAS - JOHANSSON,MARCUS - OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER
#2 19.3% BEAGLE,JAY - WILSON,TOM - WINNIK,DANIEL
#3 17.5% CONNOLLY,BRETT - ELLER,LARS - WILLIAMS,JUSTIN
#4 13% BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE - KUZNETSOV,EVGENY - VRANA,JAKUB
Decent spot in the lineup for Jakub Vrana’s NHL debut. He had four SOG in just 10:10 of action.
Three goals and four points in two games for Jack Eichel. Safe to say he is a game-changer for the Sabres. It’s easy to over-react to this hot start but it’s important to note that Eichel hasn’t subtracted from the Sabres’ lethal power play and may even be enhancing it.
More important than what Eichel does with the man-advantage is what he does at even strength because his ability to help turn Evander Kane into an asset will go a long way to helping the Sabres win games, and fantasy managers to find another asset. One assist for Kane in two games with Eichel. I don’t have much optimism but stay tuned.
The PDO kings are starting to show some chinks in the armor. Michael Grabner hasn’t scored in five games, while Kevin Hayes and JT Miller have been held off the board in three straight. It’s just too damned hard to sustain scoring without power play time. Hayes still has 19 points in 24 games, so it’s hard to complain and he is skating the odd power play shift but I won’t be shocked if (when) he finishes shy of 55 points.
What happened to the terror that was Chris Kreider in the early going? He had seven points and 23 SOG in five October games, then the neck injury kicked in. He has just 25 SOG and seven points in 14 games since. So much for his 60-point breakout season. I still like his usage but the declining shot volume is disappointing.
ALERT: Leon Draisaitl skating with McDavid.
You guys know the rule: skate with McDavid produce like a star. Draisaitl’s turn and for more than his usual turn on the top PP unit. He scored two goals, added an assist and had eight SOG. Draisaitl was already hot, now he’s boiling over. Amazingly, he’s only owned in 57% of Yahoo leagues. Should be closer to 1000000000000000% right now.
Mark Letestu also had a three-point night as he jumped onto the Oilers’ usually feeble but suddenly powerful PP. Jordan Eberle was down to 14:45 with just 32 seconds of second unit PP time. Just a hiccup I would imagine so no panicking Eberle owners.
Jesse Puljujarvi was scratched after having had a decent run on McDavid’s wing.
#1 27.8% EHLERS,NIKOLAJ - LAINE,PATRIK - SCHEIFELE,MARK
#2 23.4% LITTLE,BRYAN - STAFFORD,DREW - WHEELER,BLAKE
#3 17.1% DANO,MARKO - LOWRY,ADAM - PERREAULT,MATHIEU
#4 9.3% COPP,ANDREW - TANEV,BRANDON - THORBURN,CHRIS
Doesn’t seem like there is room for Kyle Connor or Nic Petan in this lineup, although Petan is currently injured. That’s okay, they are part of a bright future for the Jets.
Perreault’s return kicked Nikolaj Ehlers off the top PP unit, which stinks but I’d still prefer Ehlers in any fantasy league.
Last night was Connor Hellebuyck’s 14th start in the last 16 games. While he got ventilated and Michael Hutchinson needed to come on in relief, it is safe to say Hellebuyck has grabbed that #1 role. I don’t think it’ll be pretty but look for about league-average numbers and 30 wins if he keeps seeing starts at this rate.
Taylor Hall returned to the Devils’ lineup and showed some spunk but it continues to be the Mike Cammalleri – Travis Zajac – Kyle Palmieri unit that is bringing the scoring. Zajac had a hat-trick but that’s making me go and grab him in my fantasy league. Instead, I am looking to Cammalleri (still just 54% owned) who has nine points in five games since returning from injury.
Might be time to revisit Palmieri, who has four points in four games since returning from his own injury. I am a bit more skeptical on that one.
By the way, Zajac is an example that must be considered when looking at the season Artem Anisimov (up to 10 goals now) is having. Zajac did have back-to-back 20-goal/60-point seasons teaming up with a young Zach Parise and (get this) Jamie Langenbrunner!!! Parise was about on the level that Patrick Kane is now, so as dismissive as I have been about Anisimov sustaining his pace, I was similarly dismissive of Zajac nearly a decade ago. Food for thought.
Six straight games with three goals or more allowed for Cory Schneider. He is not playing up to his unusually high standard and it is throwing me for a loop. It’s not panic time yet, but we must monitor this.
Anthony DeAngelo was a healthy scratch and Michael Stone took full advantage jumping up onto the top power play unit and notching a pair of assists. This was his first spin on the top unit since returning from injury nearly a month ago. We might have a battle on our hands.
Then again, Stone signed merely a one-year bridge deal last summer and will hit unrestricted free agency. DeAngelo’s emergence, the signing of Alex Goligoski and the drafting of Jakob Chychrun creates a log jam for the Coyotes on the blue line. Maybe they are showcasing Stone for a trade.
So Randy Carlyle does not trust his fourth line. Just 18:54 combined for the trio of Ryan Garbutt, Logan Shaw and Chris Wagner. That’s old school but it offers tons of minutes for the rest of the forwards.
Ryan Kesler skated over 22 minutes, which is becoming the norm. He is third in the league in average ice time at 21:26. Apparently, the Ducks are determined to get their money’s worth on Kesler’s new deal. So far, so good.
Ondrej Kase scored his first career NHL goal and had five SOG in over 15 minutes of action. He’s on the third line though, so I am not jumping to add him.
If the Canucks had a better squad I would be all over Troy Stecher who has entrenched himself as their #1 defenseman. He is skating over 20 minutes per game, including nearly three minutes on the top PP unit and clearly has the skills to make it work.
Stecher is averaging over three SOG per game, so he looks set to meet my 200-SOG bar for fantasy relevance for defensemen. Unfortunately, he might not even hit 30 points considering the time he has missed working his way into the lineup and then playing with this dreadful roster.
We’ll see how Stecher does over the next month. Maybe his scoring picks up a bit and we can start looking at him more seriously. For now, he remains a curiosity.
Fan voting for the All-Star Game opened yesterday. Vote here.
Anderson’s been awesome and his perseverance through family crisis warrants recognition. I don’t know if he would even want this spotlight. He might prefer to spend the All-Star break with his family but he can always turn down the offer.
McDavid is an obvious vote.
Subban hasn’t been particularly great but he’s one of the biggest personalities in the league and not having him at the All-Star game would be a failure for the NHL. We should all be doing everything we can to make the league more popular because the only way to avoid constant labour battles is to make the damn sport so profitable that the players and owners can’t help but come to terms without a strike or a lockout.
You may not like Subban, but realize that you are an old curmudgeon. Kids love Subban, and they are the future of the sport so we need to make sure he continues to get exposure to the biggest audience.
Finally, I had to write in Werenski because of the game-changer he has been for the Blue Jackets and so many fantasy rosters. If Shayne Gostisbehere was the fantasy MVP of last season, in terms of the guy who made the biggest impact as a mid-season waiver claim, Werenski is probably the MVP of the season thus far.
I’ll put together a set of fantasy All-Star rosters on a night lighter on games. Watch for that in the coming weeks.
Pierre LeBrun suggests that we introduce a three-point system for the NHL standings:
And one specific rule recommendation stood out, if only because it was the one that ultimately ended up on the cutting-room floor: awarding three points for a regulation-time victory. The idea at the time was to go to a 3-2-1 point system in conjunction with the shootout after first asking the AHL to experiment with it.
I would be all for the change. I don’t think that it would alter the standings much but it would reduce the number of overtime games. More importantly, I hate incongruities. Why do some games have three points awarded and some games have two points awarded? It literally, does not add up.
Because of this teams really do play for overtime, especially down the stretch:
Worse, teams play more OT games later in the year, when the playoff push picks up. (4/n) pic.twitter.com/pbOk6uKW3L— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) December 1, 2016
And because more games in the final few months are played where both teams are awarded points, it becomes exceedingly difficult to make up ground.
One of the biggest critics of the three-point system is Bryan Burke:
"You will have teams mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by Christmas. I really think so,'' said the Flames' president of hockey operations. "I have zero interest in that. None. I'd rather put a sharp stick in my eye.''
This argument does not hold water and frankly makes it sound like he is completely oblivious to what is happening every season. While teams don’t get out to huge numerical leads under the current system that caps wins at two points, the increase of overtime games every spring makes the smaller leads harder to overcome.
Elliotte Friedman tracks a stat where teams four points (or more) out of a playoff spot on November 1 rarely make the playoffs. Burke is worried about teams eliminated in December? Sorry, it’s happening much earlier, whether mathematically true or not.
Ultimately, awarding three points for a regulation win is going to make it easier for teams to build big leads but that same mechanism is going to make it plausible for teams to make up big deficits and they can do it by winning in regulation. Perhaps that would be enough to drive teams to play for the win.
I still don’t think it will change much but it baffles me that we have a system where some games have more points awarded than others. I still don’t understand why we have to have a winner in every game. I still hate the shootout, even if it produces some highlights that I enjoy. If you like all of this stuff that’s fine, we just have different aesthetic tastes.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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