Ramblings: The State of Rick Nash, Isles Sinking, Couturier Dishing (Mar. 22)

steve laidlaw


Ramblings: The state of Rick Nash, Isles sinking, Couturier dishing and more.


Oh my goodness Rick Nash scored. That’s his first goal (and point) since returning from injury. He was scoreless in his previous five games. He has been limited since returning but can still be fairly effective, just perhaps not for fantasy purposes. I’m loathe to suggest that he is decaying the same way that Dany Heatley did because Nash’s skating ability still holds up. He can still be an imposing two-way force. It’s quite similar to what Eric Staal has become though Staal has notably lost a step.

I wonder how refreshed Nash will be going into next season because I can definitely see folks being down on him after what has been a rough year. It’s like we’ve all forgotten how great he was last season when he scored 42 goals. Some of that was high shooting percentage as Nash shot 13.8% but he’s a career 12.4% shooter, it’s not like he was crazy fortunate to put up that total.

Nash’s shooting percentage has cratered to just 7.4%. He seems like a good bet to bounce back, especially if he can get some better health on his side.

The downside with Nash is that he just doesn’t get the easy points needed to float a high point total consistently. He has been near useless on the power play with 34 PPP in four seasons with the Rangers and has been banished to the second PP unit, likely permanently. So if Nash is getting back to 60 points next season he’ll have to do it with about 50 points at even strength or shorthanded, which is on the cusp of elite scoring.

Derek Stepan ended a three-game scoreless drought with a power-play assist. He has really helped to drive that Rangers power play since returning from injury woes of his own. He is up to 18 points in 24 games since the All-Star break. Stepan is available in 52% of all Yahoo! leagues.

Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers got a little help holding the lead last night as well:

What is the ref doing there? It looks to me like he’s maybe trying to hold the net up but he’s done it in the worst way possible. Just lunacy throwing himself into the firing line like that. He doesn’t actually block any shot attempts, mind you. But his mere presence in the crease is mind boggling.


Al Montoya got the start for Florida so that is perhaps a sigh of relief for less attentive Roberto Luongo owners. Luongo has been struggling enough lately that you could have read that Montoya started the game and then seen the final score and been aggravated about Luongo letting you down again. At least that was my experience if only for a very brief moment.

The Panthers’ third line continues to produce. Nick Bjugstad was held off the board ending a five-game scoring streak but both Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell kept it going extending their streaks to four games apiece. I figured that the latter two would slow down upon arrival with a much deeper Panther team but it just has not been the case.

Mind you, while the second (Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith) and third lines for the Panthers have been hot both Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have gone scoreless in the past three games. There is a yin and yang to all of this. It would be a bit sad if the Panthers were turning into one of those teams like the pre-Tarasenko Blues where everyone scores between 35-55 points but no one gets to be a star. There is value to be had from these teams but who doesn’t like a star?


Tyler Bozak will make his return to the Leaf lineup on Thursday, which is a nice little surprise for those who figured the Leafs would just let all their injured guys ride out the season.

William Nylander netted the first three-point game of his NHL career. I imagine this will not be the last.

It will be interesting to see where Bozak fits into the lineup considering all the youngsters have been playing some feisty hockey. I suppose he fits on the third line, which would make it rather hilarious that the Leafs would have to strip the roster of most of it’s players and see the few remaining ones get injured before finally turning him into a third centerman. They’ll find some power-play time for him though.

Three goals for the line of Nylander, PA Parenteau and Zach Hyman. You do not split that line up after that sort of performance.

Nazem Kadri got an embellishment penalty on this play:

I’ve never been slashed by two dudes one after the other so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.


Jonas Hiller returned for the Flames and was about as good as he has been all season, which is to say, not very. The Flames would be better off with mummified Niklas Backstrom back in goal.

There were some concerns that Sam Bennett would be unable to go last night but he did indeed get into the action. Only 10:50 of ice time though.

Joe Colborne continues to produce bouncing between the second and third line, while also setting up as a net-front presence on the top PP unit. Six goals and nine points in the last nine games. Last I checked he was owned in just 2% of Yahoo! leagues. I made sure to snag him in a couple of leagues.


I scooped up Thomas Greiss to give my ailing goaltending a boost but that didn’t work out quite so well. I knew the Flyers matchup was going to be tough but my goaltending consisted of Freddie Andersen, Craig Anderson and Joonas Korpisalo. Something had to be done.

Greiss was only available because he has been slipping of late. He has now lost five of his last six starts and has allowed three goals in four of those six. Not great. Not sure the schedule gets any easier with the Senators coming to town on Wednesday and then a trip to play the Lightning on Friday. The Islanders do have the Hurricanes on Saturday but that one will probably be started by JF Berube.

This is all important because it is suddenly the Islanders who are in the crosshairs of a Wild Card spot instead of the Penguins. The Islanders are still three points up on the Flyers, even after the loss last night and they also have the Red Wings as a buffer but this is not where they want to be. Also, the Islanders are no longer slated to face the Rangers in round one after months of this being an expected series. This series needs to happen. Don’t do this, hockey gods.


Oddity of the Evening: Flyer defenseman Brandon Manning scored the first goal of his NHL career with assists from Andrew MacDonald and Mark Streit. Strange enough seeing a couple of those names on the scoresheet but also, all three were defensemen. Not every day you see one of those.

Oddity of the Evening #2: MacDonald went plus-four. I don’t know if he picked up some things during his time in the AHL but he has been decidedly not terrible since returning, which I did not expect.

I gave some thought to pushing Sean Couturier as a waiver pickup this week but went with some other options instead. Couturier and the Flyers’ second line, now with Sam Gagner and Michael Raffl has been highly productive of late. Couturier now has seven assists in his last eight games.

Now that Jakub Voracek is back, the Flyers’ third line looks a little frisky as well with Nick Cousins and Matt Read. Voracek is takes a bit of a hit skating on that line but he still sees heavy use on the top PP unit so now huge concerns.


You know the Predators had a good night when they get goals from three different lines. I have been referring to them as the Highlander team since they can only ever get one line to score in any given game. Last night they got three, although I did cheat counting Mike Fisher’s power-play goal as a marker for the third line.

The James NealRyan Johansen duo stayed hot with five points between the two. They are the Highlander right now. But the Predators also got a goal from Filip Forsberg, his 30th of the season. I didn’t realize Forsberg was so close to 30 goals.

Craig Smith got an assist on the Forsberg goal but I’m still recommending he be dumped in most leagues for someone who is hotter or has a more favourable schedule. The Predators have just two games remaining this week with action on busy Thursday and Saturday slates. Odds are you aren’t getting Smith into your lineup again this week.


Jonathan Quick got yanked after two periods having given up three goals on 27 shots. The Kings then attempted to mount a comeback but fell short. Quick was a stud for fantasy owners in round one of the head-to-head playoffs last week. Not so much to start this week.

Kris Versteeg wound up missing last night’s action after blocking a shot over the weekend. He’s officially day-to-day so maybe he’ll be back soon. Not hanging my hat on it though.

Alec Martinez was another name I hyped up for this week thanks to the four games that the Kings had on the schedule. He has goals in back-to-back games now and is up to 10 on the season. This is Martinez’s second career 10-goal season and he is also up to a career high 30 points. Quietly a very impactful fantasy asset, especially if your league counts hits and blocked shots. I do wonder if Martinez would do better on a team where he wasn’t stuck behind Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin. Perhaps he would have upside in the 40’s. We’re unlikely to find out, however, as all three are locked up for the next few years.


Bad news for those who had been enjoying the productivity of David Perron since he was dealt to Anaheim:

He crashed really awkwardly into the boards on Sunday night. I’d be surprised if we see him again in the regular season.

I’m not sure anyone really benefits from a boost in ice time. The Ducks had been using Perron in more of a secondary role anyhow. He had been skating with Ryan Getzlaf but was only on the second PP unit. Rickard Rakell will continue to be the guy on the top PP unit.


The Jets’ injuries keep piling up:

They have enough forwards remaining for maybe one line at this point. We’ll probably see the Jets move to two defensemen on their top power-play unit now. Could be a nice boost for one of Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba or Toby Enstrom. I’m betting Myers gets the bump.


Some Sabres injury updates:

Jack Eichel better play. He’s on the chopping block in my one-year leagues given the Sabres only have two games this week anyhow. If he misses tonight’s game, I will most certainly dump him for someone with a big chunk of games.

The Robin Lehner injury means Chad Johnson goes tomorrow night. If you are hurting for goalie starts that’s one direction to go but it’s so early in the week that I have a tough time recommending it.


A little positive news for the Sabres as they signed forward prospect Hudson Fasching to a contract yesterday. He should make his NHL debut before the season is out. In my limited viewings of Fasching I saw a big winger who has a bit of scoring touch. He had some really nice numbers in college but probably projects as a second or third liner in the NHL. Given the depth up the middle in Buffalo having some scoring touch on the wing is a real nice quality for a prospect. He is arguably the Sabres’ top prospect now that Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel have graduated. Read more on Fasching here.


We already figured Alex Edler and Brandon Sutter were done but the Radim Vrbata news hurts. Not that Vrbata has been good this year anyway. He’s been waiver fodder for much of the season. He’ll have a tough time finding a contract this summer with the season he has had but it could lead to a great opportunity with a team short on talent but high on opportunity.


It sounds like Patrick Wiercioch is done for the year due to injury. Not that this is all that fantasy relevant. Wiercioch hasn’t really done anything since Erik Karlsson returned from his Achilles injury and that was like three years ago.


Pierre LeBrun looks at five key questions down the stretch:

5. Ben Bishop in Vezina Trophy race?

It has seemed like a forgone conclusion for a while now that NHL GMs would likely vote Braden Holtby the Vezina winner this season as top goalie given his league-leading 43 wins and overall sparkling season. But I wonder if we're not going to get a closer vote than one assumes. Jonathan Quick should get a hard look as well as Corey Crawford. And I would submit Bishop and his NHL-leading 2.02 goals-against average as worthy of the discussion as well. The Bolts haven't scored goals like we're used to seeing and I think the work of their No. 1 goalie has gone under the radar nationally.

Bishop may have been the only good pick I made in the Experts’ League draft this year. Bishop has been a rock for me all season, making good on my pre-season ranking of him as a top tier goalie option.


Dmitri Filipovic looks at how even in the salary cap system the key to winning is spending more money:

For example, take the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that needed to completely rearrange its entire supporting cast after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. Despite continually bleeding talent ever since, they’ve been able to keep their well-oiled machine humming thanks to clever manipulation. Whether it’s by meticulously structuring contracts, or by using future assets to get other teams to retain salary so that they can make the numbers work, by the end of this year’s trade deadline Chicago had more than $90 million in salary on their books despite the $71.4 million cap.


Some interesting stuff on the qualities required to win the Calder Trophy in the latest prospect ramblings.


Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of Dobber Hockey. Follow him @SteveLaidlaw.


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