Ramblings: A Tale of Two Teams (Jan 14)
JVR, Hellebuyck, Skinner, Korpisalo, plus more…
The Midseason Guide is here! Besides the second-half projections, this beauty will also have players on the trade block (and what it means), prospects ready to make the jump for a dozen games down the stretch, the lowdown on undrafted or unsigned free agents (both in college and in Europe) and much more. Last year’s Midseason Guide, for example, had one of my personal faves in Troy Stecher, as well as Drake Caggiula, Nick Lappin, Brandon Tanev, Alexander Radulov and Anton Rodin, to give you a small sample. Imagine getting a heads up on players like that in January instead of finding out about them in April or even July? Order it here.
Some teams develop faster than others. On Friday, two promising young teams played in separate games. One of those teams has won seven of its last nine games and is charging hard toward a playoff spot. The other team, well, I’ll get into their plight later.
The first promising young team is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Those who took a chance on Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, et al are already being rewarded. After years of apathy, these young Buds are a delight to watch. Surprisingly, they currently hold the league’s fifth-ranked offense (3.08 goals/game) and third-ranked power-play (23.3%).
With another goal on Friday, James van Riemsdyk has a six-game point streak in which he has posted ten points. You probably drafted him in spite of the fact he plays for Toronto. Now you are hoping he won’t get traded out of Toronto (which he won’t, unless the Leafs fall into a major tailspin).
Another player I was concerned about entering the season, particularly because of his trade to Toronto, was Frederik Andersen. But he’s been money in leagues that count saves with over 1000 after Friday’s 34-save performance. Only Cam Talbot has more at the moment.
Rick Nash owners were looking forward to his return from injury, but he failed to record a point with just two shots on goal in 15 minutes of icetime on Friday.
Mats Zuccarello took nine shots on goal, but it was all for naught in the goal department. But he didn’t come home empty-handed, recording one assist. Over his last five games, Zuccarello has fired 23 shots on goal.
One Ranger who is red hot offensively is Chris Kreider. With a goal on Friday, Kreider now has eight goals in his last eight games. He’s also taken 32 shots over his last eight games. So both Zuccarello and Kreider have been averaging about four shots a game recently.
Henrik Lundqvist is not so hot in January, allowing four goals in three of his four outings. You may have recently dropped Antti Raanta, but he’s a good bet to start on Saturday against Montreal. Need other goalie starts for Saturday? Don’t forget about Goalie Post (I’ll get into goalie starts for Saturday a little later).
Non-fantasy related, but a classy move from the Rangers honoring NYPD hero and superfan Steven McDonald before Friday’s game.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 14, 2017
The other New York team had more success on Friday. John Tavares scored his first hat trick of the season on six shots on goal with a plus-3, snapping a three-game drought without a point.
Linemate Anders Lee failed to record even a single point, but he at least took seven shots on goal. Lee is now four games without a point. He is having a nice Cy Young-type season, scoring 14 goals to go with just four assists.
Nick Leddy scored a goal and added two assists and a plus-3 of his own. Leddy is having some success recently, scoring six points over his last six games.
It’s not the Blue Jackets’ streak yet, but the Capitals have won eight games in a row. Braden Holtby has been lights out recently, posting his third shutout in his past five games and his fifth shutout in 14 games. That first- or second-round pick you likely invested in him in single-season leagues is finally beginning to pay off. More notably, he has not allowed an even-strength goal in over a week (January 3).
If you saw the 6-0 score and were hoping for huge numbers from Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and company, you may be disappointed (though they were not held off the scoresheet). It was Jay Beagle (two goals) and Tom Wilson (goal and two assists) who were the most notable offensive producers, helping very few fantasy teams. Wilson might seem like a legit add in leagues that count penalty minutes, but he’s currently on pace on fewer than 100 PIM after three consecutive seasons of at least 150 PIM. And he entered Friday’s game with just two goals and two assists.
The highlight of the night in Tampa Bay. I always admire players who can play until they’re 40 and don’t stand six feet tall. Even more so if they meet both criteria. Thank the man for the greatness he brought to your fantasy team.
— NHL (@NHL) January 14, 2017
With Curtis McElhinney being waived earlier this week, we got our first look at Joonas Korpisalo this season on Friday, and he didn’t disappoint. Korpisalo recorded 31 saves in recording a 3-1 road win for the Blue Jackets. You could argue that Korpisalo is less deserving of a callup from the AHL than Anton Forsberg, if you compare their AHL numbers this season:
Forsberg: 12-6-1, 2.16 GAA, .930 SV%
Korpisalo: 5-5-1, 2.99 GAA, .900 SV%
Yet Forsberg couldn’t impress John Tortorella in his one opportunity on Tuesday, allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to Carolina. So on one hand, Korpisalo could make a great streaming start. But one bad start and Torts (who is known for running with the hot goalie) could recall Forsberg again and demote Korpisalo. Either way, Sergei Bobrovsky might be due for a decrease in volume of starts after taking over 80 percent of the Jackets’ goaltending minutes.
Josh Anderson provided a little something for numerous stat categories on Friday: a goal, a fight (7 PIM total), four shots on goal, and a plus-1. Or to put it another way, an assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick. He probably won’t make it into the Jackets’ top-6 anytime soon, but he has points in three of his past four games.
Is Jeff Skinner in for a career year? Usually “career year” and “rookie year” aren’t used synonymously, but that’s the case for Skinner (63 points in 2010-11). But with a second consecutive game of three points (two goals and an assist on Friday), Skinner is up to 35 points in 41 games. So at the midway point of the season, that puts him on pace for 70 points. Shooting the puck has been key, as he has taken 149 shots already (fifth in the NHL). Since his shooting percentage (11%) is in line with his career average, 30+ goals and 70 points are a very real possibility.
You’ve been patient in reading this far, so I’ll finally let you in on that second young team. That team is the Winnipeg Jets. After this during and this after Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to Montreal, the Paul Maurice doomsday clock pushed one additional minute closer to midnight on Friday with a 4-3 loss to the woeful Coyotes. Maurice was a little more subdued after this loss, but he’s clearly still a man frustrated. We’ll meet tomorrow and discuss whether he still has his job.
Paul Maurice gives his view of the 4-3 loss to Arizona to open the road trip. pic.twitter.com/En9Wc1nOqG
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 14, 2017
One regular reader wanted to rant about the Jets’ inadequacies tonight, so let’s fill you with some of the misery he mentioned. Connor Hellebuyck was lifted in the first period after allowing three goals on six shots. I’ll let you turn to the graphic below for more, but my analysis is that you should bench him for at least his next start.
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) January 14, 2017
Steve mentioned something about a home Hellebuyck and a road Hellebuyck the other day, so a silver lining is that Friday’s game was on the road. So applying that theory means that you don’t start Hellebuyck today (Saturday) in LA or Monday in San Jose. You wait until Wednesday at home for the rematch with the Coyotes (assuming Hellebuyck is the starter that day).
On a side note, Hellebuyck isn’t the only promising young goalie to struggle this season. On the cover of the Midseason Guide, you’ll see the slogan “The Kids Are Alright: Fantasy’s Youth Revolution.” But of the nine photos showing young stars, you won’t see a single goalie. Hellebuyck, Jake Allen, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Calvin Pickard, and John Gibson are all young goalies who have sputtered for at least significant portions of a season in which they were all handed greater roles.
I was told that at one point during Friday’s game, Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele were a combined minus-6 with only one shot on goal. With the Jets making a game out of it eventually, the two only combined for a minus-3 in the end. Although Ehlers eventually recorded an assist, Scheifele was held without a point and did not even record a shot on goal.
The fact of the matter is that despite all the young talent, it still may not be happening for the Jets this season. As we know from teams like the Oilers, sometimes an assembly of talent doesn’t translate to the right mix. Or maybe this team has simply tuned Maurice out. But there’s still half a season to go and the Jets are still only three points (plus three games in hand) out of a playoff spot. But Patrik Laine was put on IR on Friday with a concussion, which won’t help.
At least the team formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets showed some fantasy goodness on Friday. Brendan Perlini scored two goals, giving him three in his last two games and six goals in 16 games. We don’t have much of an NHL track record on the rookie, but his 22 percent shooting accuracy suggests he’ll hit the rookie wall soon.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson was doing OEL things, recording three assists in 26 minutes of icetime. But even though two of those assists were even strength, he could not improve on his minus-11 entering this game.
The Coyotes also got three assists out of Radim Vrbata. He had not recorded a point in his previous four games, so you couldn’t be blamed if you benched him. Normally a generous shooter, Vrbata has just five shots on goal over his past five games. And he only passed the puck on Friday – he didn’t actually shoot it himself.
Goalie starts Saturday at the time of this writing, according to Goalie Post:
Semyon Varlamov (stay away)
Curtis McElhinney (first start with the Leafs, but I’m also staying away)
Michal Neuvirth (post-injury – 2 wins in 2 games, stopping 38 of 40 shots)
Mike Condon (would be making his ninth consecutive start)
Speaking of Neuvirth, I recommended him and two Habs in this week’s waiver wire report for Sportsnet.
Finally, a shoutout to arguably Canada’s finest female hockey player.
— Hayley Wickenheiser (@wick_22) January 14, 2017
Enjoy your Saturday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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