Ramblings: Avoid the Early-Season Goalie Panic

steve laidlaw


Early goalie panic never ceases to entertain. 10 starts into the season Devan Dubnyk has been less than stellar with a 0.907 save percentage after getting chased last night. He has just four quality starts in those 10 appearances, which is a less than stellar ratio but it’s still such a small sample size. It’s also worth mentioning that despite being down, Dubnyk’s save percentage sits above the league average of 0.905. Goalies across the league are struggling but this stuff has a way of regressing.

Anyhow, I get that there are some added concerns with Dubnyk given how horribly he ended last season with a 3-8-2 record and a 0.889 save percentage in March as folks were trying to win their fantasy league. Dubnyk’s long-term track record is good, however. He has a career 0.916 save percentage, essentially league average. He also boasts a 0.585 quality start percentage, which ranks 10th among goalies over the past four seasons. Yes, your middle-of-the-pack goalie is going to have some bad stretches. He’ll also have some good ones. Suck it up!

For what it’s worth, Alex Stalock is likely to start on Wednesday but it’s also a back-to-back situation. Anything can happen but Stalock’s track record suggests any goalie controversy will be short-lived.

In general, don’t make assessments on goaltenders one way or another this early into the season. It takes something drastic like what has gone down in Winnipeg to really shift things. And that situation involves a goaltender coming off a bad season tanking, while being usurped by a young talent we have all been excited about. It’s not a leap to suggest Connor Hellebuyck is the #1 in Winnipeg. It would be a leap to do the same with Stalock. Dubnyk will continue to get chances and with said chances the percentages will balance out.


Big fan of Nino Niederreiter:

He has three points in four games since returning from injury. If you are looking for positive signs that he will build on his breakout 57-point season, Niederreiter’s minutes are up to 15:51 per game, a boost of 47 seconds that is almost entirely comprised of an increase in power play time. Last night he skated near the entirety of the lone power play opportunity Minnesota received. Pretty good signs there. I’d still prefer if he were skating 17-18 minutes per game though.


Brad Marchand sat out last night with an upper-body injury. I don’t think it’s anything serious. There were reports that he was nicked up heading into action on the weekend and then appeared to hurt himself during Saturday’s game. My concern: the previous issue was a lower-body one. Now he’s got multiple little injuries? It’s likely nothing serious but if these injuries keep compounding it could easily clip a game or two every couple of weeks and before you know it Marchand has missed a dozen games. DO NOT OVERREACT. Monitor.

Jake DeBrusk was the primary benefactor of Marchand’s absence. He skated 16:29 with nearly five minutes of PP time and scored a goal.

Torey Krug is now on a four-game scoring streak putting all early concerns in the rearview.

Frank Vatrano returned to the lineup and skated 13:53 the second highest total of his season and scored his first goal of the season. He’s mostly been buried below the 10-minute mark, however Vatrano’s AHL numbers are enticing but the returns at the NHL level have not been there. Perhaps a post-hype sleeper candidate who might need a trade to get going.


Shea Theodore notched his first point of the season but he’s not trending in a direction I’m particularly satisfied with. He’s essentially being used in the same role as Mikhail Sergachev in Tampa Bay, only on a less enthusing team. Theodore has averaged 15:10 per game, skating on the third pairing. The only positive is the 3:18 he has averaged on the “top” power play unit.

I use quotations because the Vegas PP deployment has been funky. They have frequently rolled out their three-forward look with Theodore (or Brad Hunt) and Colin Miller patrolling at the back with William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch as the first unit. Following that up is their four-forward look with James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, etc.

That four-forward look is what I’d bet on winning the bulk of the minutes over the long haul. Unless Theodore nudges Nate Schmidt off that unit, I’ll be lukewarm. I still believe in the potential but after tonight’s game I think he’s off to the waiver wire.


The New York Rangers’ top PP unit continues to provide excellent returns. Kevin Shattenkirk now sits tied with former teammate, Alex Pietrangelo, for tops in defensemen scoring with 15 points. Over half (eight points) of Shattenkirk’s production has come with the man-advantage. I’d love to say this is unsustainable, but Shattenkirk has averaged 26 PPP over the past four seasons, and that includes a season in which he missed 26 games and put up 25 PPP anyway. Not even the Ranger stink can stop this special-teams machine.

It is likely helping that Pavel Buchnevich has become a central figure on the Ranger power play as well. He has 12 points on the season, seven of which have come with the man-advantage, including two from last night’s game. This I see as less sustainable but Buchnevich should produce a little more at even strength to buoy him. He’s on pace for 62 points, which isn’t an unrealistic final total though I’d bank on something in the 50’s. Buchnevich remains available in 77% of Yahoo leagues.

There’s no room for Brady Skjei to have much fantasy relevance but holy mackerel can he skate!


Boone Jenner made my Fantasy Five segment this weekend. He extended his scoring streak to four games with an assist last night. He’s available in 75% of Yahoo leagues.

Josh Anderson scored a goal last night giving him five in the last seven games. I discussed him more in-depth last week, but I really enjoyed this little play from him:

Definitely showing flashes of brilliance this season.


Step aside, Trojan, there’s a new boss in the rubber slinging business: Jamie Benn with 11 SOG last night. He also scored the lone goal for Dallas.

It is crazy how quickly the Stars became a one-line wonder. Outside of Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg, who of relevance do the Stars have?

Time on ice says it all for these guys. The only forwards outside of the big three averaging more than 15 minutes per game are Devin Shore (essentially a PP specialist) and Mattias Janmark. The guys who are supposed to be providing depth are looking awfully washed up. Martin Hanzal can’t get from the locker room to the bench without hurting himself and Jason Spezza is tumbling after a bad year.

The plus side for fantasy owners, you can bet on the Stars’ big three seeing huge minutes all season, especially if they don’t entirely drop out of the playoff race. That should make them players to lean on come fantasy playoffs.


After a couple of scoreless outings, Kyle Connor is back in the good graces with a multi-point effort. He skated 20+ minutes for the second time in the past three games. Skating alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler at even strength and on the power play, there is every reason for optimism regarding Connor.

Jacob Trouba has assists in three straight games and is starting to creep up on a 40-point pace. You can’t expect more than 40 out of Trouba considering his usage does not include top PP time. But he’s good enough on an explosive enough team to produce 40 points in spite of that limited PP time.

In 60 games last season, Trouba scored at a 45-point pace and fired shots at a 210-SOG pace. That would hold relevance in virtually every league. I’m holding on to Trouba, especially since he has yet to score a goal but has the talent to score 10.


Clayton Keller continues to mesmerize:

Indeed, that makes 11 goals on the season for Keller, leaving him fourth behind only Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares.

I’m down with Keller and Oliver Ekman-Larsson off the Coyotes. I also have some lukewarm interest for Antti Raanta as a third goalie. Otherwise, the Coyotes may as well be relegated as far as my fantasy hockey concerns go.


John Carlson scored his first goal of the season, the overtime winner.

Carlson has 11 points through 15 games (a 60-point pace) despite boasting a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 7.41. It’s typically been higher for Carlson skating on a good Washington team.

Carlson’s minutes are up at a career high 27:14 per game, in part thanks to Matt Niskanen missing time but also thanks to increased PP usage. His 4:06 per game is also the highest of his career.

Furthermore, Carlson’s shot volume is way up. He’s only got the one goal but if he continues to fire away at even a 200-SOG pace (his current pace is for 273!) he should easily score in the double-digits once again.

Given that Carlson’s best season came in 2014-15 (55 points) when he saw only 1:44 per game on the power play scoring 16 PPP, there is potential for a 60-point season. Of course, we should know better than to get too high (or too low) on Carlson but the tracks are being laid for a career-best season. Plan on getting 50 from him but hope for 60.

In the realm of slumps no one should be concerned about: Nicklas Backstrom has gone six straight games without a point.


Gustav Nyquist was back in the lineup for Detroit after being forced from the game on Sunday, which is a very good sign. He skated 16 minutes of action.


As well as the Canucks have played, including a run of four straight quality starts for Jacob Markstrom, there was no way I was jumping on board this early. Three goals on 29 shots derails the mini-streak for Markstrom.


If you are looking for my take on the Duchene/Turris deal, I weighed in over on Sportsnet. One item that did not make the article; for folks in deeper leagues it appears JT Compher will take over Duchene’s spot as the #2 centerman in Colorado, when he returns from a broken thumb in a week or two.

Also, early indications have Duchene centering Mike Hoffman and Zack Smith:

That could prove explosive for both Duchene and Hoffman.


Both Kailer Yamamoto and Owen Tippett were sent back to the minors yesterday. This doesn't say anything about their long-term prospects. They remain among the best in the game and neither was seeing enough ice time to make much of a fantasy impact at this stage.


Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


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