Hellebuyck shines, Drouin returns, Scheifele showing flashes and more.

Connor Hellebuyck, ladies and gentlemen. Future star right here. This is where you say, “small sample size.” Which, is absolutely fair, at least as far as the short-term goes. Hellebuyck was hardly tested in his debut and last night, while he faced 33 shots, it came from one of the league’s lowest scoring teams. Also, he was beaten for two goals but one was waived off for what looked to me like a phantom goaltender interference call.

This is exactly what Hellebuyck needs to do to create a conversation about him sticking around once Ondrej Pavelec returns. He needs to win, a lot.

Of course, the next four Jets games come in a pair of back-to-backs and they are really spaced out. The Jets don’t play again until Saturday/Sunday and then next Thursday/Friday. That is a lot of down time. Not a great situation for Hellebuyck to put together a hot streak, if you believe in such things. Everything needs to break right for Hellebuyck to have a shot of being relevant all season and right now the schedule isn’t cooperating.

Huge night for the Jets’ second line of Mark Scheifele, Mathieu Perreault and Drew Stafford combining for three goals and seven points. We might need to nickname Stafford “Monsoon” because when it rains, it ****ing pours and when it doesn’t even the wells are dry.

That whole line has been awfully streaky. At least Perreault will find an assist every now and again, just skating on the top power-play unit but for Scheifele and Stafford it’s all about the monsoon.

Scheifele, it should be mentioned, has more talent than the 50 points he is on pace for but this is all about the slow progression of a player. Last season he scored an assist-heavy 49 points but now he is getting much more active as a goal-scorer, which bodes well for an eventual breakout, maybe as early as next season. Scheifele is shooting more than ever, on pace for 211 SOG. Maybe next season, he cranks that up to 250-260 and has a big time breakout of 60-80 points. He will need top unit PP time to get there but it could come available if Andrew Ladd is lost in free agency.

Of course, Scheifele is also benefitting from a high shooting percentage at 13.4%. He was also never really a big goal-scorer at the junior level, save for his 19-year-old season. It remains to be seen if he can sustain this pace of shooting, let alone hit another level. His game up to this point would probably be described as “more Joe Thornton than Jeff Carter” but the best fate for Scheifele is if he can get that shot to another level and become more Carter because that is the career path he is following fairly closely right now. It’s not a perfect comparison because Scheifele won’t be firing 300+ shots any time soon but you get the point. This development of Scheifele scoring more goals is extremely positive.

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So much for Garrett Sparks the saviour. The truth for Sparks is between the shutout he had in his debut and that six-goal ventilation last night but you can bet the Leafs will be starting James Reimer as often as possible.

The Leafs are sending Jonathan Bernier on a 10-day conditioning stint in the AHL. Bernier’s confidence is already crushed but he had to agree to be sent down so clearly he is trying to get better. I only see positives here. Remember when Sergei Bobrovsky had no confidence? It just takes reps and some success to get it back. It’s better for Bernier to get those out of the limelight.

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Once again we were reminded why Islanders-Rangers needs to be a playoff series. It has to happen. The energy in the arena, regardless of location is always electric and the quality of play is top notch. It was a 2-1 game that went to a freaking shootout and it was still the best game of the night.

Stick tap to Henrik Lundqvist and Jaroslav Halak for a wonderful goaltending duel. Who would’ve thunk that Halak could give Lundqvist a run for his money? If we go by goals-against average and save percentage Halak is right there:

 

GAA

Save%

Halak

1.93

0.926

Lundqvist

2.04

0.937

 

Of course, where Lundqvist trumps Halak is the sheer bulk of starts he has made, which is what makes his numbers so darned impressive. The takeaway: Halak has been tremendous thus far.

Here are a couple of great pieces on how Lundqvist is beating the odds thus far and playing at a high level. Good stuff for anyone who thinks his save percentage is bound to crash by season’s end.

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Ryan Strome’s three-game scoring streak came to a close last night and he only fired one SOG. That’s okay, I still think he looks vastly improved. Good enough to hang onto his roster slot and produce at a streaky level.

The Islanders went 1/2 on the power play to boost their success rate to 15th in the league at 19.4%. That’s a perfectly respectable rate. They are basically one extra power-play goal away from being in the top 10 for efficiency. Still, I lose my mind seeing Nick Leddy patrolling the point on the top unit, he just is not a fit. Johnny Boychuk is so much better given the threat of his big shot, especially since as a righty he is on the correct side to shoot one-timers off feeds from John Tavares on the right half-wall.

Of course, they run Boychuk out there whenever the team is at 5-on-3, which is exactly the situation when they scored their PP goal. Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, it was the threat of a Boychuk shot that helped open up a seam for Tavares to drive to the middle and score his goal.

It seems to me that any power play that doesn’t have a one-timer threat from the point is awfully futile.

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More Keith Yandle talk…

I really wish we could pull the pin on the Dan Boyle experience. He just isn’t the same guy that he used to be and yet he has been crushing Yandle as far as ice time goes for the past few weeks. In particular, the Rangers love using Boyle on the power play during overtime. Part of it is his righty shot. For the same reasons outline above with Boychuk. The difference is, Boyle does not have the same shot that he used to.

Of course, the Rangers are doing just fine with a power play that ranks in the top 10 for efficiency. By failing to give up on Boyle, the Rangers are willfully holding back their most dynamic offensive weapon.

Yandle is still a 40-45-point option but owners cannot wait until this summer when he has the chance to escape via free agency.

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The win/loss record isn’t there but the Oilers have found a perfectly average option in goal in Anders Nilsson. Nine of his 14 starts have been of the quality variety (save percentage of .910 or better), which has made him a very reliable asset. Also, since he is now getting the bulk of the starts it’s not like you need to do a bunch of Goaliepost monitoring while hoping he will get in there.

Some good news and some bad news for Jordan Eberle owners. The good news, he was elevated to the top line alongside Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl. The bad news, he was demoted off the top PP unit. The kicker, no goals and no points. Eberle did score in the shootout so maybe that is enough to get him going.

I am probably a week or two away from pulling the pin on Justin Schultz. I have to give him a little bit of time to work back into “form” as he returns from injury but at a certain point enough is enough. He was worth taking a gamble on as the Oilers seem intent on trying to fit him in as their PPQB. He just doesn’t seem to be that guy.

Want to play a fun Schultz related game? When was the last date Schultz scored a power-play goal?

March 16, 2014. No that is not a typo.

Are we sure he even has skills necessary to do the one thing he is supposedly good at?

Like I said, Schultz gets two more weeks from me and then he is gone. Actually, I have him on IR in one league and I am in no hurry to take him off and watch him waste a roster spot. Maybe he will sit there until his two weeks is up.

This isn’t just a “show me” season for fantasy owners of Schultz. It’s also a “show me” season for Schultz with the Oilers. Do they even offer the pending RFA a contract if he doesn’t step it up?

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Courtesy of our new Frozen Pool goalie calculator tool, Tuukka Rask’s stats the past four weeks:

Nine games played, five wins, 2.31 GAA, .924 Save%

Safe to say he has turned it around.

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Big game for Jonathan Drouin with a goal and an assist in his return to the lineup after missing almost three weeks with injury. He skated only 13:41, with second unit PP deployment but looked pretty good regardless.

Check out the Lightning lines:

23.17%

EV

FILPPULA,VALTTERI – KILLORN,ALEX – STAMKOS,STEVEN

20.33%

EV

BOYLE,BRIAN – BROWN,J.T. – CALLAHAN,RYAN

14.23%

EV

DROUIN,JONATHAN – KUCHEROV,NIKITA – NAMESTNIKOV,VLADISLAV

2.85%

EV

BOYLE,BRIAN – CONDRA,ERIK – MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN

 

After what we talked about on Tuesday, I like seeing Steven Stamkos split away from Ryan Callahan. Valtteri Filppula isn’t perfect but he’s a better fit for what Stamkos needs.

This doesn’t get talked about enough with regard to why the Lightning offense has slowed down this year but the total desiccation of Matt Carle has been astounding. He was a force for good last season skating over 20 minutes a night helping to drive the play to the offensive zone. This season he is drowning at even strength and the Lightning can barely play him. He is averaging just 17:51 per game but I think if they could afford to limit that to 10-12 minutes they would. He is only 31. How the heck does that happen?

With the importance of puck-moving defensemen in today’s game it is not that shocking to see teams like the Lightning, Penguins, Avalanche, and Blue Jackets, loaded at forward still struggling to find offense. If your defensemen can’t spark a quick breakout or jump into the rush, all the great forwards in the world won’t make a difference against the wall teams are throwing up in the defensive zone.

Jason Garrison, not exactly doing too hot himself, scored his first point since October 10th. Woof.

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The Wild have called up Mike Reilly, an intriguing puck-moving defenseman. Unfortunately, he probably sits at the back of the pile in Minnesota. There is only room for one defenseman (Ryan Suter) on their top PP unit and they have a number of options (Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba) who they could use on the second unit. Reilly probably won’t make a splash for another couple of years.

Read more on Reilly here.

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Tough blow for the Senators who were already seeking help up front as they have lost Milan Michalek indefinitely with a broken finger.

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The Stars have activated Kari Lehtonen off IR. Antti Niemi’s run in the crease without Lehtonen was woefully underwhelming though you can probably blame the team in front of him for that as much as anything. Anyhow, back to the banana split.

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We finally have a timeline on Brandon Sutter who will miss 4-6 weeks after surgery to repair a hernia.

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The Predators have placed Mike Fisher on IR with a lower-body injury. He will miss at least a week.

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Amazingly candid interview with Bruins play caller, Jack Edwards:

The problem with Joe, he’s just such a nice guy. That feeling pervaded the team to the point where they were universally soft. [Then coach] Mike Sullivan tried every trick he knew—and he knows a lot of them—and Joe was a non-responder. That doesn’t make Joe a bad person. It just means he’s not a leader. They had him in a position of leadership because they thought putting the C on him would turn him into a leader, and they got their thinking totally backwards. Even though they got dimes on the dollar for Joe, they misread the personnel situation.

If that doesn’t explain the last decade of Sharks playoff disappointment, I don’t know what will.

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Sean McIndoe looks at six goalie controversies in the Eastern Conference.

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Here’s a good one from Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:

Also asked Nill if, in 2010, John Klingberg was on Detroit’s radar.

He said the Red Wings knew him, but, like a lot of teams back then, weren’t entirely confident in him. Klingberg wasn’t making Swedish National Teams at the youth level and hadn’t cracked the country’s Elite League. “He was 160 pounds and his skating wasn’t strong,” Nill said.

This is how guys fall through the cracks. It is crazy, how the Stars got two of their most important players out of the fifth round in separate drafts. I cannot wait for 10 years down the road when Jamie Benn and Klingberg are deep into their thirties and we are all talking about what steals they were and what excellent scouting prowess the Stars had. Call it skill if you dare but just about everyone else they drafted in those years has been a flop.

The real legacy of the Stars is one of building through trades since that’s how they acquired just about the entire core of this team. Not sure if that is a positive or a negative for the trade market.  

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Check out my latest Waiver Wednesday column highlighted by the still underrated Mikkel Boedker who is somehow only 20% owned in Yahoo! leagues. If you can add Boedker and you don’t we are fighting.

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Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of Dobber Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.