This week we look at a particularly hot line and a couple of cold ones (I’m not talking about beers) in the past ten days, as well as what we should expect from them in the future. Also added some notable line changes that might warrant a spot start!
Hey, guess who’s leading the rookie scoring race right now! Clayton Keller? Nope. Brock Boeser? Try again. Mathew Barzal! Ding, Ding, Ding! The former first-round pick (2015) currently has 23 points in 23 games and while most fancy stats don’t scream regression, we have to keep in mind he is a rookie, and it’s unlikely he finishes with 82 points in 82 games this season. Remember how hot Keller was? Well, he dropped off a point-per-game pace after totalling only three points in his last 10 games, rookie production is a lot more unpredictable because our sample size is so small.
At the beginning of the season many of us expected Jordan Eberle to play with John Tavares, so it’s even more amazing that the former Edmonton Oiler is finding his groove away from Johnny T. The Brooklyn market seems to be a breath of fresh air for Eberle, as he revealed the tough critics in Edmonton diminished his confidence while he was there, which might have affected his play on ice. While Eberle’s success is a good sign for the team, his 17.3% shooting percentage should see regression as the season progresses (13.5% career shooting percentage), but 60 points looks attainable with how well New York’s top six has been performing.
Last season, many thought Andrew Ladd would be fantasy relevant again playing alongside John Tavares. He impressed with a whopping 31 points. At this point in his career, Ladd is better suited as a secondary scoring option that leaves most of the scoring to his line mates. While we shouldn’t be expecting too much from Ladd anymore in terms of points, let’s hope he continues allowing Eberle and Barzal to play to their potential.
For years, the Joes have been consistently productive regardless of who skates alongside them.
Since the beginning of the season, Kevin Labanc, Joonas Donskoi, and now Timo Meier have seen considerable ice time beside the dynamic duo. Despite Meier having the most impressive pedigree of the three (picked ninth overall in 2015), I don’t think he’ll hold that spot for long, as it seems destined to be a revolving door throughout the season. Instead, we’ll take a closer look at Thornton and Pavelski, as their play will determine the success of their linemate.
News recently came out that Joe Pavelski was playing through an injury, “a lot of guys maybe wouldn’t be out there, dealing with what he’s dealing with”. Perhaps that’s the only possible explanation for Pavelski’s 11 points in 22 games, because he has been shooting the puck at an expected pace (on pace for 231 shots, totalled 233 and 224 in past couple of seasons). While some are concerned Pavelski’s age is starting to become an issue, turning 33 doesn’t come with dentures and prune juice. Currently rocking a shooting percentage of 6.5%, the Sharks’ captain is far below his career shooting percentage of 12%, indicating he’s due for an increase in scoring. In the past four seasons, Pavelski has been an exemplary candidate in terms of health and consistency, missing only one game in that span while eclipsing the 65-point mark in each of those four seasons. As long as he keeps putting the puck on the net, the numbers suggest a change in fortune.
While Joe Thornton has been more productive than Pavelski, his 14 points in 22 games come with only 32 shots. That still puts him on pace to break last year’s miserable shot total of 81, during a season which saw him total only 51 points. In fact, Thornton’s shot rate is very similar to recent seasons in which he totalled 82 (2015-2016) and 77 (2013-2014) points. However, now that he’s 38 years young, his body will have a tougher time responding to the physical toll this game takes on its players. While we shouldn’t expect Thornton to be driving offense on this line, he could remain productive as long as Pavelski rebounds from a slow start.
The main reason I mention this line is because I think it’s one the Canadiens will continue to turn to as the season progresses. Claude Julien tried stacking his offensive talent on the top line when he let Alex Galchenyuk, Jonathan Drouin, and Max Pacioretty play together, but his little experiment was unsuccessful. So, he reunited the Canadiens most productive line at even strength: Shaw, Danault and Pacioretty. While the trio has been cold in the last ten games, they seem to complement each other well on the ice.
Although captain Max Pacioretty is constantly criticized by the Montreal media, he has consistently tallied 30 goals and 60 points in the past four seasons. Despite these impressive stats, he doesn’t pass my eye test. I’m no optometrist, but I see Pacioretty as more of a perimeter player with a great shot and a good set of wheels, who doesn’t get into the dirty areas. But this is why guys like Shaw and Danault are perfect linemates for Pacioretty, because they are willing to get physical and feed Pacioretty the puck, so he can use his lethal shot.
Danault might not be a household name, but he is a former first round draft pick (2011) who is still only 24 years old. He’s on pace for 180 shots this season, a huge increase from the 133 of 2016-2017. With a full season in the NHL under his belt, he could very well improve on last year’s 40-point total.
So far this season, Shaw has showcased his work ethic, battling hard for every puck and showing the intangibles that make up for a lack of scoring. While picking him up for peripherals may be beneficial, his real value lies in making life easier for Pacioretty, doing the dirty work for him.
Overall, the Montreal Canadiens area different team when Carey Price is on his game. If Price continues to play like he did against the Sabres (3-0) and Blue Jackets (3-1 W), the team’s offense should gain some confidence and improve going forward.
Interesting Line Changes
If you want to see a team’s line combinations in their most recent game check it out over here. I’ll try to point out some notable shake ups every week that impact your fantasy roster. Keep in mind sometimes these lines are thrown together by a coach in desperation to turn a game around and aren’t set in stone.