Pens/Sens Game 1
Bobby Ryan scored at 4:59 into overtime to give the Senators a 2-1 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. It’s a nifty backhand, in case you didn’t get a chance to see it.
After a regular season that was a complete bust for Ryan (just 25 points in 62 games), Ryan has been a key cog in the Senators’ attack with the team’s second-leading point total (11 points in 13 games). Ryan simply did not take enough shots during the regular season (an average of fewer than two per game), which saw his points-per-game dip from his usual 0.65-0.7 down to 0.4.
During these playoffs, Ryan has found success with both Derick Brassard and Jean-Gabriel Pageau as his center. It would seem that natural passer Brassard would be his best fit, but his even-strength line combinations during the regular season show Kyle Turris as his regular center. If Guy Boucher matches Ryan with Brassard instead of Turris, and if Ryan can improve on his power-play point total (only five during the regular season, but four already during the playoffs), then Ryan is a potential comeback player for fantasy teams in 2017-18.
All in all, this wasn’t the most exciting playoff game that I’ve watched (I actually dozed off for a few minutes during the second period after a long day with my family), and a few comments on Twitter seemed to match my thoughts on this game. The Penguins looked a bit out of sorts during the first period and at other points during the game. But a letdown might be expected after that intense Game 7 with Washington, similar to what Anaheim experienced against Nashville on Friday night.
Pageau continues to play this year’s version of Chris Kontos or John Druce, scoring his eighth goal of the playoffs (in a three-way tie for second in that category). And as Don Cherry noted in Coach’s Corner, he kills all the penalties too. In case you’re wondering why Pageau isn’t among the point leaders, it’s because his first assist of the playoff was on Ryan’s overtime winner. That’s probably less surprising than the eight goals, since he isn’t usually considered a fantasy option. Regardless, what a valuable player he has turned out to be for the Senators and a great fit for Boucher’s system.
Erik Karlsson was on the ice for 30:34 of the 64:59 of this game. His six shots on goal led players from both teams. Should we be surprised?
The leader in hits for both teams was Karlsson’s defense partner Marc Methot, who dished seven hits. After the Crosby slash to his finger, Methot might be a tough piece of business for the Penguins to deal with.
With his game-tying goal, Evgeni Malkin has extended his lead in playoff scoring to 19 points in just 13 games. Should the Penguins move on to the Stanley Cup Final (and I still think they will, in spite of the Game 1 loss), Geno has to be in the Conn Smythe discussion. So he has scored at over a point per game in both the regular season and the playoffs.
Some fantasy owners won’t touch Malkin because of what becomes an annual stint on the IR. So is he the forward version of Kris Letang? Over the last four seasons, Malkin has averaged 20 games missed per season, while Letang has averaged 27 games missed per season. Plus Malkin is healthy right now and Letang isn’t. So Malkin has actually been the safer own of the two Band-Aid Boy Penguins. Take that for what it’s worth.
Or to put it another way, the above clip shows my son every day when he gets home from school.
The Contrarian: Ocho Sinko?
It was Groundhog Day again for the Washington Capitals, who were again not quite able to slay their Metropolitan Division dragon also known as the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As the Capitals’ playoff run has ended, the season of second-guessing has begun. You know, the expected narratives. Why did Braden Holtby look shaky at times after another top-notch regular season? Why did the Caps trade for Kevin Shattenkirk when he has trouble playing in his own zone? Why can’t Nicklas Backstrom play with the grit that is needed in the playoffs?
But the most attention-grabbing question of all involved the team’s franchise player: Should the Capitals trade Alex Ovechkin?
Since the Capitals have turned over every stone in their attempt to win a Stanley Cup, it’s easy to suggest that they blow the whole thing up and trade their captain while the loss is still fresh. After all, Ovechkin is now on the other side of 30 and saw his goal total sink from 50 to 33. (He did, however, finish with only two fewer points, thanks to his highest assist total in six seasons.)
A closer examination of his statline also shows that his shot total dropped by a shot per game this past season. Factor in a 2 percent shooting accuracy decrease and you have the 17-goal decline. Teams don’t place their 50-goal scorer on the third line during the playoffs. A 30-goal scorer, as uncommon as they are in today’s NHL, may be in the discussion if a shakeup is needed.
Power forwards aren’t built to last. It’s rare to find players well into their thirties who are among the league leaders in hits (Chris Kunitz is a notable exception, and he’s yet another Penguin with chronic injury issues). And assuming Ovie’s shot total stays closer to the 300 level instead of knocking on the door of 400, you have yourself a declining asset. I’m not saying he won’t be useful in fantasy leagues going forward. But that shiny new car that you drove off the lot several years ago is beginning to show some wear and tear, even if gruesome injuries are a part of playing in the NHL.
So it’s best to trade Ovechkin while his value is still high, correct? If you’re a fantasy GM, there may not be a better time than the present because of his name recognition. But if you’re the Capitals, would the possible alternatives from a trade really be a better option? Sometimes the prize isn’t behind any of the doors: Door A, Door B, Door C, and so on.
Even convincing a team to seriously consider a trade would be a challenge. A $9.5 million cap hit for four more seasons, after which Ovie will be 35, is too much to swallow for many teams. Another fantasy lesson here, this one for those in salary cap leagues: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, particularly with an aging player.
So as easy as it is to suggest that Ovie isn’t the kind of player that will lead his team to the Stanley Cup, he and owner Ted Leonsis are like a married couple that understand that although the situation might not be ideal, staying together might still be the better option when you consider all that they have invested together.
Besides, would any other owner be smitten enough with Ovechkin to allow him to take two weeks off during the NHL season to play in the Olympics? Another reason to move him slightly down your draft board. Ovie is listed at #9 in Dobber’s keeper rankings for May and #5 in the single-season rankings at NHL.com.
But if you simply can’t get the right offer in your attempt to trade Ovechkin, your best option is to stick with him. Just understand that 30 goals and 300 shots might be the new normal for the Great 8.
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