Ramblings: Give Up Your Hats, Niederreiter is Back! (Jan 5)

steve laidlaw



As seems to happen every year, weather has intervened causing the postponement of the Panthers-Bruins game last night. We will have to wait and see when the makeup game is slotted for, but this has offered extra games for head-to-head playoffs for specific teams in the past. Last season the Hurricanes benefitted with a couple of five-game weeks.

The challenge is that because of the bye week that every team gets, the schedule is already jam packed in the second half. It’s near impossible to reschedule a game without forcing a team to play three nights in a row, an untenable proposition. A few years ago, we saw games rescheduled for the day after what was supposed to be the final day of league play. Reviewing the schedule for each team, this feels like the simplest means of getting that makeup game in.

The one slot in the schedule where both teams have a sufficient break and wouldn’t disrupt their established travel plans is Sunday, February 4. But it might be too soon to get the arena. The Celtics have a day game scheduled on that date. In any case, stay tuned for how it is rescheduled as there will be some advantage to be gained.

In the mean-time, this is good news for James Reimer owners. The Panthers have been riding him for 12 straight starts. He has been good, but got banged up against Minnesota both physically and on the scoresheet. An extra day off on the road doesn’t mean much, but it does prevent him from having to go back-to-back as the Panthers were scheduled to do. I’d look for a strong bounce-back game against Detroit tonight. After that, the schedule eases up with only three games before their bye week.


Rasmus Ristolainen was given ejected for interference with this hit on Mikko Koivu:


Interference? Nah. Hit to the head? There’s definitely contact, but he actually gets him in the chest first. This one is in that grey area where the hitter has to be able to avoid head contact, even though that’s an uncontrollable aspect at full speed. Eventually, players are going to go low more often, but that unfortunately means more blown out knees. It’s that, or open ice hits continue to die their slow death.

I don’t know what the correct answer is, but in terms of whether or not Ristolainen will face supplementary discipline, I don’t believe it will go beyond the game misconducted assessed in the game. Patrick Maroon got two games for a direct hit to the head on a player who really wasn’t eligible to be hit. There are a ton of circumstantial boxes that this doesn’t hit, but we shall see what the Department of Player Safety has to say.


Koivu, by the way, was bloodied but returned helping contribute to the onslaught against the Sabres with a goal and two assists.

Nino Niederreiter, meanwhile, contributed a hat-trick in his return from injury. The line of Koivu, Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund contributed nine points total. The Wild are a whole different animal if they’ve got this line rolling as an effective #1 unit, freeing up Eric Staal and Co. to feast on offensive zone starts and favourable matchups.

We’ll see if Niederreiter’s return gets this line going. His results have not been particularly spectacular, although with 14 power-play goals over the past two seasons you have to wonder if it’s time for the Wild to load up one unit, with Niederreiter on it.


I’m normally not one to get excited about a hockey fight, but when Nazem Kadri rips out a hunk of Joe Thornton’s beard I’ll tune in to the sideshow:


Take my pop psychology for what you will, but I do believe in some positive value for a player like Kadri getting into a scrap, especially against someone so much larger, and especially given his scoring slump. Kadri scored a power-play goal later in the game, ending his 12-game scoreless drought. Kadri was going to turn it around eventually given his placement on the Leafs’ top PP unit and his general scoring prowess. I suspect him to continue scoring in that 50-60 -point range.


Kevin Labanc has been on a hot run, but with Logan Couture back, he has been shuffled to the third line and the second PP unit, so he’s back to waiver fodder in your average league, unless we see further changes.

Tomas Hertl has lingered on the second line and top PP unit, but is scoreless in five games. This could easily result in him getting moved down the lineup, however he has been a part of the turnaround their PP has seen over the last month. I suppose we just have to keep waiting for him to put it all together. Whatever the case, San Jose hits their bye week after Sunday’s trip to Winnipeg, so you’ll likely toss all your fringe Sharks overboard.


Aaron Dell spot start opportunity tonight! Don’t miss out. With Martin Jones going against the Leafs last night, we should expect Dell against the impotent Senators. Check GoaliePost to be sure. At this point spot starts from Dell or Carter Hutton are likely better than whatever your third goalie is offering up.

Hutton made his third straight start for the Blues, all victories. With St. Louis’ slumping scoring (which I discussed on Tuesday) they have leaned more heavily on their goaltending. Hutton has been a more consistent option and is all but guaranteed to start at least one of their next three games before hitting their bye next Wednesday due to this weekend’s back-to-back in Washington and Philadelphia. Whether or not you have room for Hutton is another story.

I don’t trust Hutton enough to give him a full-time spot on my roster, but I’m inching into that territory. He came into this season with a career .910 save percentage across 106 appearances, which maybe isn’t a large enough sample. He has an outrageous .944 save percentage in 13 appearances. Taken as a whole, his career save percentage is up to a sub-standard .914. I’d expect something closer to this going forward. All those caveats established, I have all the time in the world for a goaltender on a heater as long as I’m not expecting a long-term solution.

While he’s hot, you could deploy Hutton as a strong third option or even a #2 alongside a stud like Andrei Vasilevskiy or Sergei Bobrovsky and come out with elite goaltending. This is especially true in rotisserie leagues where you may not have weekly minimums requiring you to carry a more frequent starter.

All this goes for Dell as well. In fact, I feel much stronger about his talent and potential to steal Jones’ starting gig. Of course, anyone who had Jake Allen for the first half of last seasons knows how precarious his hold on the starting gig is.


By the way, regarding St. Louis’ offensive woes, they are now 3/38 on the power play since Jaden Schwartz went down. Hints of Columbus’ mid-season implosion here?


It doesn’t matter who the Islanders put in net, they just keep coughing up goals. They are the cheat code for daily fantasy. Simply plug John Tavares and then pile on a smattering of players off the team facing them that night. They are the only team that still sees it’s betting line at 6.0 goals, all other games have adapted back to the 5.5 goals over/under line now that scoring is back to the usual ~5.5 goals per game. Don’t just use this for daily fantasy, but also for streaming options off your waiver wire.

How long does this continue before the Islanders go shopping for a netminder? Who could they reasonably acquire? This situation is growing untenable, although I have to admit to enjoying the hell out of it. Halak and Greiss, the new Lehtonen/Niemi!


Last night, the Flyers got the Islander bump.

It was mostly the Flyers’ usual suspects who got in on the act, but they made a line change worth noting:





Indeed, Wayne Simmonds was dropped to line three, but maintained his spot on the top PP unit, where he does most of his work. He scored a goal, and shouldn’t lose too much value dropping down to a different line. He saw an initial boost jumping onto the top line, but hasn’t done much beyond PP work for the past couple of weeks. He may as well be on the third line in that case.

Travis Konency is the latest Flyer looking to get the top line spark, and boy does he need it. Konecny does have four points in the last four games, but has been useless for fantasy owners all season. He had a goal and five shots last night. So far so good.

Ivan Provorov had a three-point night, but don’t think that this is where he gets going. He’s still behind Shayne Gostisbehere for PP time and the Flyers don’t have enough secondary scoring to push Provorov beyond a 40-point ceiling, which he may not even hit. Teams need to be elite to drive multiple defenders above that mark, especially with the prevalence of one-defenseman PP looks.

Brian Elliott started his 15th straight game. Only two games remain before their bye week. Can he hang on?


The Hurricanes suffocated the Penguins 4-0, getting a big performance out of Sebastian Aho who scored this beauty:


Aho has 10 points in the last eight games, demanding to get back into the mix in all leagues.


Cam Ward and Jonathan Bernier both posted shutouts last night. I do not trust these goalies in the slightest.


Brett Ritchie claimed Devin Shore’s spot on Dallas’ top power play unit, netting a goal. He appears to have all the tools necessary to be a demon in this spot. We’ll see if he sticks. Shore did maintain his spot alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn at even strength, however.


Just throwing this out there:


Some indications that Jaromir Jagr may be retiring, or shutting it down:


As fans, this would suck, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it led to one last hurrah for Jagr at the Olympics. I’d also expect him to continue playing back home in the Czech Republic. Either way, Jagr hasn’t been fantasy relevant all season. Whether or not he does retire, not much changes on that front, other than that Calgary will continue to look for right wing solutions.

The Flames called up Marek Hrivik from the AHL, but he did not get into the lineup last night. I don’t have much enthusiasm for this call up. While Hrivik has scored at a point-per-game pace in the AHL this season, I don’t like that it took him until his age-26 season to reach this level. He is very much a fringe prospect in my books. It’s not that he can’t be an NHL player, but rather I don’t expect him to have much in the way of fantasy value. Read more about Hrivik here.


After being rumoured to be available for the past couple of weeks Anthony Duclair has officially requested a trade. I discussed Duclair’s potential last week:

Duclair scored 2.0 points/60 at 5-on-5 through his first 99 games in the NHL as a 19-20 -year-old. Impressive stuff, but he has fallen off in the last two seasons with Arizona. How much can we attribute to growing pains, and a bad environment? Last season was a total write off. This season, he’s up to 1.56 points/60, which is okay. He is shooting at the highest rate of his career. I definitely think there’s potential for Duclair, but I want to see him get back to 2.0 points/60 before considering him truly intriguing.

If he can’t score at a good rate as a lower-line player, he doesn’t stand much chance of getting elevated to a spot in the lineup where he can gain relevance, so we are talking two hurdles here, not one.

I always wonder who benefits from this information getting out. Duclair’s name has been on the block for a while. Either the player is trying to light a fire under the team, or someone in the organization wants to pass the buck for the situation not working out onto the player. Either way, it seems to me that the Coyotes have had little luck in drumming up interest. I can’t imagine this request helps them get a deal done. How many times have we seen it take over a year for a trade to go down after such a request? This news will only further diminish Duclair’s foundering trade value.

He did, however, score a goal last night. There’s hope!


Some promising news here for those who have stock in Kirill Kaprizov:


For what it’s worth, this was clarified to indicate that this was the first time that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher had met with these two, not that it was the first time the Wild had met with them.

Kaprizov is still years away from coming to North America, but at least they are opening a dialogue.

The interesting part of all of this is that Fletcher is in the last year of his contract, and may not still be with the Wild by the time Kaprizov’s KHL deal is up. This news is still positive, but there are so many wrinkles to this situation.


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


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