Ramblings: Varlamov’s nine lives; Hudler’s impact, Nathan MacKinnon and more


Q – What has more lives, a cat…or Semyon Varlamov

A – Why, Varlamov, of course!

Here’s a guy who has been roasted time and time again this year, and then created an all new definition of getting roasted on Saturday against the Habs…only to get the start again against the Leafs! And just when you thought ‘well, if he blows this one then that’s it – the net is Pickard’s’ …he finally gets the door shut and allows just one goal on 52 shots. Heading into Sunday he had allowed 10 goals on the last 48 shots he faced. And that was actually after he had already started the season poorly. Would you have started Varlamov? Not many (sane) people would. But that’s what NHL coaches do – they stick with the guy who is paid to be the No. 1. This is precisely the reason why I stand by the proven starting goaltenders whenever one of you ask me what I think of Goalie X (where Goalie X is a promising prospect). This is why Ben Bishop will keep getting chances and why Marc-Andre Fleury maintains value.

The Leafs had 99 shot attempts, the most this season by any team.

Nathan MacKinnon now has 12 points in his last 12 games, including six goals. His numbers are undergoing a vastly needed market correction and there is still a ways for them to go. Kudos to you if you stuck by him and believed that the pucks were bound to start going in.

If you doubted his talent for even a second, shame on you:


Antti Raanta (speaking of hot backups putting pressure on the starters) picked up another shutout Sunday. He’s started three consecutive games and he’s allowed just one goal – total. The Rangers don’t play back-to-back games until next weekend so I suspect that Raanta gets the next start Tuesday…and another great game would give him the start Thursday. Raanta is proving that he can be the future of this team, but Lundqvist has four years left on his contract after this one. So he’s not going anywhere. And Lundqvist also has a no-move clause, so he’s protected at the expansion draft. Can you see the Vegas Golden Knights going with a tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Antti Raanta?

Chris Kreider has seven points in his last six games. Let’s hope that this time things don’t get interrupted by that neck injury and he’s able to see the breakout season to the end. He’s playing with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello.




By the way, Ilya Kovalchuk is having an amazing year in the KHL so far. He has 53 points in 39 games for SKA St. Petersburg. That already beats last year’s 49 points (in 50 games) and is two points shy of his KHL best 55. He’s playing with Tampa Bay prospect Nikita Gusev (who you should keep on your radar because he’s buddies with Nikita Kucherov and wants to come over). As for Kovalchuk, he would either need all 30 teams to agree to his return for 2017-18 (doubtful, but possible), or he could just sign with New Jersey again for 2017-18 (not as remote, but still doubtful), or he could wait one more year and then return in 2018-19 as an unrestricted free agent at the age of 35 (he’s 33 right now). If he has another season like this one there will be no shortage of suitors.


Our player profiles, thanks to a suggestion on Twitter, now have IPP data (individual points as a percentage). In the “Advanced Stats” chart this number indicates the percentage of the team’s goals scored while he’s on the ice that he gets a point on. For more on IPP, see Steve’s article on Puck Daddy here. And to check out the amazing player profiles, just click on any player name in these Ramblings (or any article on this site). Basically, if the player profile is missing something that you need – then let me know. We’re building these for you the fantasy owner. And I want them perfect.


I swear I dropped Mathieu Perreault last night about a minute before he scored. I was setting my lineup for the week, he’s been a dog hogging a spot on my bench, and I thought “should I wait until the game is over, in case he has a big game?” And then I concluded that, since Monday is often a busy day, that I couldn’t risk forgetting. So I dropped him in favor of a one-week add in Trevor Lewis. Lewis has been playing with Anze Kopitar and doing very well there, and Los Angeles has four games this week. So I took Lewis and dropped Perreault. Then Perreault scored. You can probably expect 10 points in the next two games now.

For what it’s worth, I put Derrick Brassard on my bench (three games) in favor of Lewis (four games). Tough call, but I’m getting sick of this Brassard slump. Plus I own him in another league, so if he piles up points suddenly on my bench – I still win! But I won’t be dropping Brassard until at least February, as I consider him far too good. Too capable of that sudden ‘pop’.


Justin Williams is playing with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. So his four points in four games isn’t an illusion. Yes, he is on the decline and this will be a down year – last year was way too good. But he’s still a 45-point player who is on pace for 24 points. He’ll get back on track, and it will happen quickly as long as he’s on this line.

Dmitry Orlov’s points-per-game average is up only slightly so far (0.35 to 0.37), but I like him for a big second half because of his shot total. Generally he fires just over a shot per game but this season he is up to 1.6 per game. And in fact has 34 shots in his last 20 games. His pace is for 30 points but I say he gets 35.


Loui Eriksson – pointless in five games now, despite 18 minutes of PP time in that span. It would be just Vancouver’s luck if they get him right at the start of his massive career drop-off and have to pay him for six seasons of that. I still think he can eke out 20 goals this season, but he’s not going to get 40 points unless he plays with the Sedin twins.


Ryan Kesler now has 21 points in his last 20 games. He’s leading the Ducks in scoring.


Craig Anderson is on leave to be with his wife and all we can do is speculate as to when he’ll be back. The Senators play just once in the next five days so if he misses the Wednesday contest then he can pretty much have the week off. That would put him back in net for next Saturday. Again, just musing aloud for those who are deciding what to do with their net this week. Mike Condon is 1-2-0 in three consecutive starts and he got the hook on Sunday after one period.


Anthony Stolarz had his second start of the season and he got a shutout (28 saves). So maybe it’s not so much Steve Mason as it is the entire team just buying in and buckling down defensively.

Shayne Gostisbehere was scratched Sunday because of a finger injury. He had five points in six games prior to that, so the injury was poorly-timed. He was finally getting his legs under him. Let’s hope he picks up where he left off. Just two games on the sched for the Flyers this week.


Wow, I had no idea that Jamie Benn’s decline has been so steep:


A Jiri Hudler sighting! Hudler was back in the Dallas lineup and saw 14:17 of ice time and 1:51 of PP time. Here were the line combos with him back in:




#4           12.2%    EAKIN,CODY – HUDLER,JIRI – SPEZZA,JASON


That’s a pretty strong lineup on paper when you consider the fact that Devin Shore is hot right now (three goals in two games). But Hudler will likely take several games to get going and Cody Eakin still hasn’t found his mojo. And with Spezza’s off year and Benn’s apparent decline noted above…Oh well, at least goaltending is s-… whoops!