My big pickup for this week was Tom Wilson, which has worked out better than I could have imagined. The power forward is enjoying his time on the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin. He put up a four-point night along with four PIM, three SOG, two hits and two blocked shots. I scooped up Wilson for the peripheral value and potential for a point or two with that top line exposure, but he has provided five points in two games. It’ll likely be back to the waiver wire after Friday’s action as the Capitals have the weekend off, but he may have done enough to earn a longer look.
A lot will depend on how my squad is performing, but I am also monitoring the injury situations of Andre Burakovsky and TJ Oshie. Both could potentially return on Friday. Those two would soak up the top-six opportunities and push Wilson back down the depth chart.
Also benefitting from the absence of these top wingers is Brett Connolly with goals in three straight games. He has skated in Oshie’s spot on the top power play unit the past two games. He isn’t skating much otherwise, so he is a pure PP specialist, and scheduled to lose that gig at some point.
Backstrom put an end to a 21-game goalless drought. We never rely on the playmaking centerman for many goals, but the career 12.0% shooter is sitting at just 8.3%, so he should see an uptick. That being said, remember that assist-heavy players are more heavily subject to swings in performance because a blip in shooting will show up more significantly in a smaller sample of shots. They are also heavily reliant on strong shooting from their teammates.
Can you keep up with the line shuffling in Chicago? I’ve barely been able to. Here’s what they rolled out last night:
#1 20.9% ANISIMOV,ARTEM - KANE,PATRICK - SAAD,BRANDON
#2 18.2% HARTMAN,RYAN - HAYDEN,JOHN - TOEWS,JONATHAN
#3 15.1% BOUMA,LANCE - DEBRINCAT,ALEX - SCHMALTZ,NICK
#4 10.2% PANIK,RICHARD - SHARP,PATRICK - WINGELS,TOMMY
Seemingly a good spot for Brandon Saad, but this team is dog tired. Saad’s statistical profile screams buy low skating 18:42 with top unit PP time, a history of elite 5-on-5 production, a woefully underperforming IPP at 54% (he has notched points on over 70% of goals the past three seasons), and tremendous shot volume (on pace for 249 SOG).
That sort of profile screams 60+, but that’s out of reach after a slow start. I still see his usual 50-55 points as within reach. Everyone would take 35-40 points over the final 54 games, but no one would blame you for pulling the pin.
I also wonder if they reach a point where they stop rolling Saad out on the power play. For all the minutes he is seeing in this phase, he has not produced. The Blackhawk PP is drowning at 29th in efficiency (16.1%). Considering this is a top-10 offense, they would be running over folks with an improved power play.
Alex DeBrincat is begging for top unit usage, which would vault the rookie into relevance in all formats.
Points in three straight games for Jonathan Toews, who can still shimmy:
It was too little too late but Jonathan Toews showed off some silky hands on this breakaway goal. pic.twitter.com/toYfTTETY1— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 7, 2017
Finally, an updated timeline for Corey Crawford:
Coach Joel Quenneville said Corey Crawford (lower body) is skating back in Chicago right now. Unlikely he plays vs. Buffalo on Friday. Some likelihood he plays Sunday vs. Arizona.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) December 6, 2017
Since being promoted to the top line it has been biscuits and gravy for Wayne Simmonds with two goals and three points in two games. Small sample, but the Giroux/Couturier halo seems to be helping.
More importantly for the Flyers, shuffling Jakub Voracek to the second line has resulted in some depth scoring. Voracek has four assists through to games, while Michael Raffl has two goals and three points, and Valtteri Filppula has one goal and three points.
The person of interest here is likely Raffl who we have seen go on some hot streaks before. Raffl is up to four goals and six points in the last seven games. This is a deep option for sure, but someone to keep an eye on, especially after he went the first 21 games of the season without recording a point.
Kudos to those still riding the Brian Elliott rollercoaster, he is back on a high.
After three games without a point Draisaitl bagged a short-handed goal courtesy of McDavid. Draisaitl owners are surely looking for more consistency, especially in time alongside McDavid, but he is still on pace for 65 points despite getting bounced around the lineup, after missing four games and having failed to record a single PPP.
Indeed, after bagging 26 PPP Draisaitl has a goose egg in that category. Some of this is the result of being bumped from the top PP unit at times, but this is a chicken and egg scenario, where poor production begets reduced playing time. Draisaitl should be a factor in this phase so there may be more meat on the bone here.
Matthew Tkachuk did another dumb thing:
There really wasn’t much to the play, but that almost makes it worse. What was he thinking? You simply cannot get involved from the bench. That line is very clear. Seems like a lock for a fine, but this is the sort of behaviour that has gotten him suspended. At some point the sophomore is going to learn how to better walk the line, but he may always be a great PIM option.
Big-time 47-save performance by Frederik Andersen, securing a shootout win. The goaltender has been one of the most consistent over the past month rolling off a .910 save percentage or higher in 11 straight starts. With the league average save percentage at .907 that makes all of those appearances quality starts.
Leaguewide save percentage has sat at about .907 for over a month now so I am prepared to recalibrate to this as the new normal. Lower your expectations for save percentage from goalies until we see things trending upward.
Tyler Bozak skated over 16 minutes in his return to the lineup from illness. No points, but four SOG for the centerman. Despite his top PP usage and exposure to quality linemates Bozak is waiver fodder. I need a hot streak before jumping back onboard.
We are up to 10 straight games without a point for Erik Karlsson. You owe it to yourself to make an offer if you don’t own him.
Hell, put on the full-court press. Make a strong offer. Leave the owner a voicemail. Spam him with text messages. Send off some awkward snapchats. Cook up a batch of Swedish meatballs! Don’t take no for an answer.
The Adam Henrique tenure in Anaheim is off to a roaring start with points in all four outings. He has five points in four games total and is skating all the minutes he can handle with Corey Perry and Rickard Rakell on his wings. Great spot for the time being. Ride him while he remains their top centerman.
Awesome handle on Ondrej Kase:
KASE, THIS IS GORGEOUS! DUCKS UP 2-0! pic.twitter.com/CM2rlLhOmy— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) December 7, 2017
Kase isn’t overly relevant, but has two points in four games since returning from injury, and should have some deep league relevance all season.
If the Ducks survive their injuries to make the playoffs they can’t thank Ryan Miller’s superb play. In six starts the veteran backup has boasted a .919 save percentage or higher, earning the Ducks a point in each outing. Indeed, his numbers are off the charts with a .945 save percentage. He’s no threat to John Gibson, but could go on a nice run if Gibson gets hurt again.
Ben Bishop is out for at least one game with a sore back. The injury isn’t expected to be major, so he should get back into action by the weekend, but I have been skeptical of Bishop because of his track record with injuries. Should this prove to becoming a nagging injury Kari Lehtonen is of mild interest because any goalie can go on a run, but it’s been YEARS since Lehtonen was a reliable option so tread carefully if venturing down that path.
After a hot run in the AHL Joel Eriksson Ek has been recalled to the Wild. Set the bar low for his potential impact though. In 35 NHL games he has 10 points, averaging about 11:40 per game. If that deployment continues, he won’t be a regular contributor. He is a very good prospect, however.
Paul Martin should be back in the Sharks’ lineup tonight. Martin has no fantasy value himself, but may impact Brent Burns, who has struggled to produce offense. Having his regular defense partner back in the rotation could free up Burns to take more chances and get into more dangerous shooting locations.
Of course, even if this theory proves correct, it still won’t resolve the deeper issue that is San Jose’s sinking power play. They went into last night’s action tied for 26th in efficiency at just 16.7% overall, which is the exact same success rate they had last season.
The Sharks did add Dave Barr to the coaching staff in an attempt to help their PP, but Barr’s track record as an assistant isn’t great, most recently running Florida’s bunk PP last season. Of course, that team sucks again this season. For a power play to succeed there is a need for both talent and structure. There is also a certain element of randomness as well.
Bottom line: Burns should be better. He’s too talented, shooting too many pucks and playing too many minutes to not produce. The Sharks are averaging exactly three power plays per game, just as they did last season and are clicking on the exact same percentage. Yet this time around Burns is on pace for just 13 PPP after putting up 25 the year prior. I’ll go down with the ship forecasting a turnaround. Whether it’s improved coaching, a better defense partner, or sheer randomness I expect improved results.
Hockey Canada released the list of players who will vie for position on their World Junior Hockey Championship roster. Most countries have done the same over the past couple of days. Now marks the time where folks in keeper leagues should engage in the Jeff Angus strategy of scooping up prospects who will star at the upcoming tournament and receive a sizeable boost to their profile and fantasy stock.
Sometimes, you land prospects worth hanging onto for the long haul, but more often the move is to grab these prospects and exchange them for players who can help you win now. I basically cannot use this strategy any more because folks in my keeper leagues read these ramblings and know this strategy all too well, but today I’ll skim the top prospects who should be at or near universally owned. If any of these guys are unowned in your keeper league, jump on them. (Links to their DobberProspects profiles)
I’ll sprinkle in a couple of deeper names to seek out at some point in the next couple of weeks, but in the mean time do check out the work from the DobberProspects gang, as this is their bread and butter. Peter Harlings’ latest prospect ramblings touch on the Finnish and US WJC squads.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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