Ramblings: The Senators Banged Up, Mrazek Heating Up, Toffoli Stumbling (Feb 20)

by steve laidlaw on February 20, 2017 | (5 Comments)
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: The Senators Banged Up, Mrazek Heating Up, Toffoli Stumbling (Feb 20)

Ramblings: The Senators Banged Up, Mrazek Heating Up, Toffoli Stumbling and more.

The Senators are headed to injury hell.

Bobby Ryan is out with a finger injury. It’s the same finger that cost him a week earlier this season but it sounds like it could cost him even more time:

Check out Ryan’s numbers since the Sens acquired him:

That is a linear decline from above-average to average. Average is fine, by the way. Ryan was able to maintain fantasy relevance through this decline because the Sens used him on their top PP unit. He has had no such advantage this season dropping from 2:52 with the man-advantage to 2:14. Without top unit usage he’s going to have a tough time staying relevant beyond deep leagues.

The hand injury has clearly played a part in Ryan’s declining shot total. He had 33 SOG through the first 15 games – a 180-shot pace that would nearly match last season’s 183 – but that dropped off right around the time of his first injury.

They don’t even have the depth to deal with Ryan’s injury but last night they also lost Mark Stone, Tommy Wingels and Mike Hoffman.

Stone left the game after getting clipped in the head by Jacob Trouba:

Trouba is looking at some supplemental discipline here, which is too bad because he has been a stud for the past couple of months but it is also warranted.

Stone, meanwhile, had seen his season takeoff in mid-November, ranking 13th in league scoring with 41 points in 42 games. You can set your watch to Stone’s second half breakout and indeed he is one of the league’s best players period. This is particularly concerning because Stone has already suffered a concussion this season. Another one could totally derail his season, and potentially his career.

There is no update on any of the three forwards Ottawa lost last night so stay tuned. This was already a team lacking forward depth, starting just 11 forwards last night, including the ineffective Curtis Lazar. We might be seeing a skeleton crew called up from Binghamton with guys like Max McCormick, Phil Varone, Jason Akeson, Mike Blunden or Nick Paul called up.

This won’t help the goaltenders, nor will it helps guys like Erik Karlsson or Kyle Turris. Things could go South in a hurry. Apparently playing the Jets is like having the team bus get into an accident. First Pittsburgh, now the Senators lose a bunch of bodies. The Leafs better buckle up for Tuesday.

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Nine games since his return to the lineup and John Carlson still hasn’t grabbed his spot on the top power play unit back from Matt Niskanen. The Capitals’ power play is 7/24 (29.2%) over those nine games so there’s no reason to shake things up.

Carlson has just three points in those nine games, while Niskanen has six. That’s right about what you’d expect, especially since four of Niskanen’s six have come on the power play. I still expect the roles to flip back at some point but we aren’t there yet.

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Ryan McDonagh scored his first goal since before Christmas and it was a beauty:

McDonagh hasn’t done much over the past couple of months, scoring just eight points in 19 games since the start of January. Before that he had scored 25 points in the first 38 games. But this cold streak was necessary to even things out. Now he’s on pace for a more plausible 47 points. McDonagh is a beauty but he’s Ryan Suter 2.0. 50 points is the max you’ll ever get from him.

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Petr Mrazek has started to find his game since the All-Star break. He’s got a 4-3-1 record with a 2.36 goals-against average and a 0.929 save percentage. It’s a small sample but he has five quality starts in those eight games, including four in a row. He has done this against top flight competition as well.

The Wings are a pretty miserable team but anyone can go on a run if they get elite goaltending like this. I don’t want to be over-optimistic about this but Mrazek can get as hot as anyone. He has been an above-average goalie up until this season so it isn’t out of character for him to have a hot run. He put on a show yesterday:

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If Mrazek is trending upward, Cam Ward is definitely trending downward. Get out the shotgun, it’s time to put this horse down. Of course, the Hurricanes probably won’t make a move to address their goaltending until this summer. They have both Ward and Eddie Lack signed for next season so they are covered for the expansion draft, and Ward’s deal isn’t so onerous that they couldn’t buy him out or bury him.

I wonder if they are a destination for Scott Darling, who was excellent once again last night for the Blackhawks.

They aught to be playing Lack more down the stretch now that he’s healthy, so that they can figure out what they have in him.

The Hurricanes are a sneaky tank option. They are now last in the East. And while they have games in hand on everyone, if those games in hand will be with Ward in net, you may as well count them as losses.

No one is beating Colorado for the best lottery odds and there isn’t even some can’t miss prospect worth tanking for but there are some pretty good forwards at the top of the draft that would help their depth. Or, they use their pick to trade for a starter, much like New Jersey did with Cory Schneider. That deal hasn’t added up to success for the Devils but they have a tentpole in the crease. I don’t even know that there’s a goalie that you’d trade a lottery pick for but it opens up the possibilities.

The bottom line is that outside of Colorado, no one has entered the tanking race yet. Arizona, Dallas, Vancouver, Carolina and Detroit are among the teams that could. The prize is increased lottery odds. You don’t have to look too far to find examples of why you don’t want the top pick in a bad draft but by all accounts, Nolan Patrick is still a prospect people want. I am curious to see when a teams will take stock of what they really have and take advantage of the fact that everyone still seems eager to compete this season.

And if no one jumps into the tanking race, I’m good with that too. There is valuable experience to be gained from playing competitive hockey to the end of the season, whether it means something or not.

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Curtis McElhinney just pitched a 37-save shutout. Now, it was against the Hurricanes who notoriously underperform in shooting percentage, but nevertheless this continues a shocking season for McElhinney. He’s made only 13 appearances, which is a large enough sample to determine absolutely nothing. But maybe he made a deal with the devil. Use McElhinney as a spot starter at your own risk.

Jake Gardiner had scored just three points in the past 17 games before last night’s outburst. That’s the way these things go for defensemen, even those as talented as Gardiner. The Leafs have been giving more of his PP duties to Nikita Zaitsev, although a lot of that is just because they spread PP time evenly between their two units. Some nights one unit will get more run than the other. Lately, Gardiner’s unit has drawn the shorter straw, which will happen when results diminish.

For a while it seemed that Gardiner had won the position as the Leafs’ top fantasy defenseman but it seems they may be trending towards having three marginally relevant options instead. Everyone loses.

Gardiner has moved into a tie with a bunch of guys for 26th in the NHL with 28 points but that doesn’t make him fantasy relevant. I realize that in most leagues, at least 40 defensemen are rostered at any given time but you should be playing the hot streaks and moving guys in and out. Otherwise, you let Gardiner rot in your starting lineup for a month of zilch all for the payoff of last night’s three-point game. No thanks.

You could have scooped up a bunch of different options who are widely available like Brady Skjei, Dion Phaneuf, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Nick Leddy, Ryan Ellis, Seth Jones, Zaitsev, etc. and gotten better results this past month, and that includes last night’s performance. If you’ve got a guy like Gardiner as a regular you need to turn that into a spot you constantly turnover. If you’re league doesn’t give you enough moves to make that a possibility you probably should have opted to spend bigger on defensemen in the first place.

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Seth Jones, by the way, has 14 points in his last 13 games. He’s second in defenseman scoring over the last month. Almost all of Jones’ damage has come at even strength, which suggests to me that this isn’t entirely sustainable but he’s very talented and with the right bounces could push into the 45-point range even without much power play production.

Jones is on pace for 50 points, and that’s even factoring in the six games he has already missed but it would be fallacious to take his current pace at face value. You always assume the good times won’t end, until they ultimately do. Enjoy this run and hang onto until he shows signs of tailing off but don’t marry yourself to Jones.

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I was all set to write off the Lightning if they collapsed for the second straight game. It was almost there, giving up a two-goal lead in the third period against the Avs but then Jonathan Drouin bailed them out in overtime:

As amazing as Drouin is, that play could easily have gone the other way and ended up in the Lightning goal. 3-on-3 overtime is an exhibition for the best in the world but in a lot of ways it’s no better than the shootout for determining wins and losses. But at least players get actual points for what they do in 3-on-3 overtime.

How many more dazzling plays does Drouin need to make before we start reconsidering the Drouin or Nathan MacKinnon question we all had in their draft year? The correct answer turned out to be neither. Aleksander Barkov is the cat’s pajamas but MacKinnon’s inability to convert shot volume into actual goals has resulted in stagnation that has Drouin back in the conversation.

At the time, I preferred Drouin because he had a higher upside. It is starting to look like that is the case. Of course, you’d rather have MacKinnon’s first three years than what little you got from Drouin but Drouin is finally emerging as a star. I think the discussion is back open.

Ben Bishop has now won four in a row and is 6-2-1 since returning from injury with a 0.920 SV% and a 2.17 GAA. I’m not convinced this is a big enough sample size to say that he is back as an elite option but I am growing more comfortable in deploying him. If you’ve been following all year, you also know that I never gave up on Bishop as the Lightning’s best option. Of course, I’ve gone down with the ship on other options like Connor Hellebuyck and Steve Mason.

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The Predators are testing their organizational depth for scoring options before the trade deadline. They recently gave Pontus Aberg a twirl on the third line with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith but that ended with four donuts on Aberg’s part. Kevin Fiala took his turn last night and scored a goal. Both have demonstrated the mastery of the AHL that I like to see having scored 29 in 35 and 19 in 22, respectively at that level.

Ultimately, Fiala has gotten way more NHL chances and is the prospect with the better pedigree and likely higher upside. Fiala has far surpassed anything that Aberg in terms of NHL production. In fact, Fiala has produced at a similar rate of production at 5-on-5 as lauded rookies like Brayden Point and Mikko Rantanen. Fiala hasn’t been so good that you wouldn’t consider an upgrade but he has produced more offense than potential deadline acquisitions like Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal or Drew Stafford.

Obviously, Hanzal offers defensive value that Fiala cannot but if you’re looking for added scoring, I think most teams would do better to promote from within than to go after the rentals that are available.  

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Tyler Toffoli’s return was supposed to help fuel Anze Kopitar’s second half surge. Instead, both are in the toilet. Toffoli has just one point in seven games since returning and has been dropped to the second power play unit. Kopitar has just two points since Toffoli’s return. He had scored 15 points in the 13 games prior to Toffoli getting back. If this is the result, ship Toffoli off to Siberia.

Seriously, just drop Toffoli to the fourth line until he’s fully healthy. Kopitar was doing better with Marian Gaborik’s corpse and the hoof-handed trio of Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan and Dwight King.

I wouldn’t drop either Toffoli or Kopitar just yet. We are so close to fantasy playoffs that unless you are fighting for your playoff life, you should be comfortable riding it out for a couple more weeks and hoping these two start clicking because the potential is astronomical.

If you are fighting for your playoff life well then you do what you gotta do. There’s no prize to be had if Toffoli finally turns things around once you are already eliminated.

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Brandon Montour is a scratch now that Sami Vatanen has been back for a couple of games. Vatanen has skated huge minutes since returning, including a return to top PP minutes but so far no results. I am a Vatanen fan but he has been a complete dud. He isn’t shooting the puck with nearly the same volume as in the past. I wouldn’t hold out for a turnaround. Vatanen, like Gardiner above, isn’t so good that you ride out his cold streaks and he hasn’t scored since January 10th.

John Gibson’s numbers since January 1 are insane: 11-6-2, 1.82 GAA, 0.938 SV%, and three shutouts. That’s like prime Tim Thomas.

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Brad Marchand nets the overtime winner:

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Shayne Gostisbehere finally delivered with a big game assisting on all three Flyer goals, including a pair on the power play. The Flyers mixed things up going with a two-defenseman look on the top unit, moving Gostisbehere to the weak side in Jakub Voracek’s slot, while moving in Ivan Provorov to play the point.

I generally hate the 2D look for teams but Gostisbehere plays a lot like a forward. Also, anything that can help Provorov’s value is intriguing. Ultimately, I don’t think this experiment will last but if it does Voracek’s value is going to plummet, and that’s even considering that he scored at even-strength last night.

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.

 

  • Chris Liggio

    if you were 16-1-1 at this point in fantasy reg. season and goalies were Bishop/Talbot/Flames duo….would you make a move to further bolster the crease a la acquire say a Lundqvist?

  • starz31

    About a month ago, while Gardiner was in the midst of his hot streak and looking solid for the 2nd half with his PP duties at the time, I traded high on him, adding in a mid-round pick as a kicker, for Justin Schultz who was certainly riding high at the time. As a Letang owner this was win-win in my book and appears to have worked out well for me, recent Schultz concussion not-with-standing. The team I was trading him to was selling off parts so he made an easy pick.

  • jordan

    Eh id still take Drouin in a keeper here on out. Barkovs going to give you 65 points in 70 game seasons. Those injuries kill his upside.

    Curious why Kadri has been so rarely mentoned despite on pace for a career year. What do you make of his deployment/sustainability?

    Advanced Stats
    Year PDO 5 on 5 SH% Off. Zone Start % PTS/60 IPP
    2016-17 997 8.98 38.45 2.9 74.2

    • Kadri has already crushed his career high in goals.

  • jordan

    Eh id still take drouin in a keeper here on out. Barkovs going to give you 65 points in 70 game seasons. Those injuries kill his upside.

    Curious why Kadri has been so rarely mentoned despite on pace for a career year. What do you make of his deployment/sustainability?

    Advanced Stats
    Year PDO 5 on 5 SH% Off. Zone Start % PTS/60 IPP
    2016-17 997 8.98 38.45 2.9 74.2