Dealing with injuries and the shortened week, plus more…
When considering bounce-back candidates, Eric Staal should be in the discussion. Staal scored a goal and added an assist on Saturday, giving him four goals in his last three games and points in six of his last seven games. With 24 points in 30 games, Staal is on pace for 65 points, which would be his highest per-game point total in four seasons. An added bonus: With all the positive plus/minus in Minny, Staal is a plus-13. Staal has exceeded that plus-minus total just once in his entire career.
For the first time in nine games, Steve Mason posted a loss, stopping 25 of 27 shots he faced against the Stars. According to the Report Generator, no goalie has posted more wins over the past month than Mason, although Chad Johnson and Sergei Bobrovsky have also won ten games over that span like Mason has.
My tip of the week: There’s a shortened week next week with the schedule dark on Christmas Eve (Saturday) and Christmas Day (Sunday). Target players from Arizona, Edmonton, and Philadelphia, as they are the only three teams to play on both “off nights” of Monday (five games) and Wednesday (two games).
So Ivan Provorov might be an enticing defenseman to target, as he’s still available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. You’d also have more reason to start Mike Smith, but you might have considered that already if you’d noticed his solid .930 save percentage. If you’re like me and you’ve lost both Kris Letang and David Pastrnak to injury, then you’ll need every edge that you can get.
Speaking of Pastrnak, my guess is that he would return after the Christmas break. The Bruins have announced that he will miss Sunday’s game and Tuesday’s game. The Bruins play two more times before the break, which should give him enough time to heal if he follows David Backes’ timeline.
Pastrnak has undergone the same elbow procedure as David Backes earlier this season. Backes missed 5 games & roughly two weeks of action
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) December 17, 2016
The Penguins’ first-unit power-play without Letang featured Justin Schultz on the point with the usual forwards (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist). I watched a fair portion of this game and it seemed like #4 for the Penguins was out there a lot. As it turned out, he led all Penguins’ defenders with 23 minutes as well as one helper. He’s owned in just over half of Yahoo leagues, so his window has probably closed as far as his availability in serious leagues. But if he’s somehow unowned in your league, try to find a way to add him to your roster.
I was curious about Derrick Pouliot as well, since he was recalled shortly after the Letang injury was announced and even more so now that Trevor Daley is also sidelined. In his second game, Pouliot received 19 minutes, a minute and two more shifts than Friday’s game. If you’re a keeper leaguer that’s been hanging onto Pouliot all this time waiting for his big break (like me), these icetime totals have to be somewhat encouraging. I was expecting coach Mike Sullivan to shelter Pouliot the same way he has throughout his NHL stints, but the recent injuries should provide him with decent icetime and second-unit power-play minutes.
Because of his goals-against average north of 3 and his save percentage barely above .900, and not to mention flat out losing the starting job to Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury has been trickling toward unplayable status. But then he played the Leafs on Saturday and almost totally redeemed himself. Flower stopped 41 of 43 shots against a Leafs team that took 49 total. (Fleury had to leave the game briefly in the first period when he took a skate cut near his neck.) Although he did not earn the win, Fleury shouldn’t have to wait another six games for his next start. The Penguins play back-to-backs just before Christmas.
Tomas Tatar recorded his first career hat trick on Saturday to give him seven goals this season. If you haven’t given the Red Wings a good look in fantasy, you can’t be blamed. The Wings are in an unfamiliar spot with the league’s 27th-ranked offense at just 2.31 goals/game. Tatar himself had not recorded a point in his previous four games. Even Dylan Larkin owners have been wondering why there hasn’t been more – Larkin has recorded just two assists all season (to go with ten goals).
John Gibson has been inconsistent all year. So it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that Jonathan Bernier received his second consecutive start on Saturday. But Bernier was pulled after two periods after allowing four goals. Gibson wasn’t any better in the third period, allowing two goals of his own. But at the very least, Bernier didn’t prove that he was deserving of a third consecutive start, so it’ll probably be back to Gibson on Monday. Then maybe Bernier on Tuesday.
By the way, note the number of back-to-back games on the shortened week next week. It might be a good week to invest in a solid backup goalie.
Like Larkin, Artturi Lehkonen might be shaping up for a Cy Young-type total. With a goal on Saturday, Lehkonen’s goal total well overmatches his assist total (6-1). Lehkonen also has goals in three of his past five games, but his icetime hasn’t changed a great deal since the Alex Galchenyuk/David Desharnais injuries (around 13-15 minutes per game). But he is at least receiving some second-unit power-play time. I’ve invested in him in a keeper league because he’s shown some promise in his rookie season.
The good news for the Habs (along with their win) was that Shea Weber returned to the game after leaving briefly after blocking a shot. The bad news was that Andrei Markov left the game with a lower-body injury. If you owned Markov prior to the lockout-shortened season, you will no doubt remember how injury-prone he was. But what if I told you he’s suddenly become more durable with age, missing just two games dating back to the 2012-13 season.
Your blooper of the night… it's difficult to skate without a blade, isn't it?
Artemi Panarin scored a goal and added two assists in the Blackhawks-Blues goalfest. If you entered the season thinking that Panarin would regress at least somewhat, that hasn’t been the case, especially not recently. Panarin is on pace to match his near point-per-game pace from last season, which includes back-to-back three-point games and nine points over his last four games. Maybe we need to accept that Panarin is this good and he is a perfect fit with Patrick Kane. But we all know how backed into a corner the Hawks are with the cap, so Panarin’s fantasy value could take a hit if the Hawks cannot retain him.
The third member of that high-scoring line, Artem Anisimov, is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. A look at the Hawks’ line combinations for the latest game shows Jonathan Toews moving up to that top line. If you know the fantasy game well enough, you’ll know that Toews is a good but not great option. So if Anisimov misses time, Toews could receive an uptick in value if he stays on the Kane-Panarin line. Unfortunately, Toews failed to record a point on Saturday.
Not every waiver-wire recommendation of mine turns to fantasy gold. With Carl Gunnarson’s return to the lineup on Saturday, Brad Hunt was a scratch. Too bad, because Hunt has recorded a point in each of his four games since his AHL callup. Joel Edmundson recording three assists in this game probably isn’t going to help Hunt’s cause either. You can read more about Hunt in my waiver-wire submission for Sportsnet.
No P.K. Subban for the Predators on Saturday due to an upper-body injury. In Subban’s absence, Roman Josi played 29 minutes, which shouldn’t be a massive surprise. But Ryan Ellis playing 28 minutes and change has to be his highest total ever for a regular-season game (someone want to look that up?) Matt Irwin moved up to be the fourth defenseman with 21 minutes. Irwin doesn’t provide much offense, so there isn’t much further we can go here.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are an injured bunch. No Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan, and now Cedric Paquette for a team that has incredible depth when everyone is healthy. With the Lightning finishing a western Canadian road trip on Saturday, I’ve had some opportunity to watch them on the telly this week. So here are a few Bolts thoughts below.
With all these names absent, Brian Boyle suddenly becomes heavily leaned on. The big man received first-unit power-play time and totaled 21 minutes on Saturday. Although he was held without a point on Saturday in Edmonton, he scored two goals and added an assist in the Bolts’ two other games in Calgary and Vancouver.
With a goal on Saturday, Jonathan Drouin has eight points over his last seven games. The injuries are clearly helping his fantasy value. Icetime seems to make a huge difference. Start him with confidence.
Jon Cooper plays his top-6 a lot more than his bottom-6. Valtteri Filppula, Alex Killorn, and even young Brayden Point all received 23 minutes on Saturday. Point’s assist on Saturday was his first point in eight games. (I’m going to have to be careful writing sentences about points for Point.)
Vladislav Namestnikov has not scored a goal in 15 games. He dinged one off the crossbar in overtime and seemed to be deployed often during the extra five minutes. But I’ve moved on anyway since his early-season opportunity with Stamkos.
One last thought, unrelated to fantasy: Cooper is an interesting guy who grew up in a town not far away from the town I grew up in. Is there ever a bad interview on After Hours? Or at least one where a player comes off as looking bad?
And while I was looking that up, I found out that Matt Moulson has seven power-play goals. Yet just one even-strength goal. So whether you add Moulson at all should depend on whether your league specifically counts power-play goals.
Finally, maybe you’ve experienced something similar to Mike Myers’ Christmas story that was played prior to the beginning of Hockey Night in Canada tonight. Maybe you remember that final sticker or card that you needed to get the entire set. His Norm Ullman was my Dan Quinn (from an O-Pee-Chee set from his Calgary Flames days). Who was yours?
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 18, 2016
And with that, I just remembered that my next Ramblings will be for Christmas Day!
Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.