Flying High, Duchene Rebounding, MacKinnon for Hart?
The Philadelphia Flyers might be right where we expected them to be in the standings. But it’s fair to say that two Flyers that have stuck together for most of the season have exceeded preseason expectations.
Many fantasy owners were loath to drafting Claude Giroux, as his point totals have declined for three consecutive seasons. But this season, Giroux is not only proving there’s lots left in the tank, but he’s also one of the NHL’s top scorers. With a goal and two assists, Giroux has three goals and 20 assists in his last 14 games, which places him third in NHL scoring. It may have been about finding the right linemate, though.
Last season, Giroux and Sean Couturier spent virtually no time on the same line, as both were used as centers. This season, however, Giroux and Couturier have been used on the same line over 90 percent of the time, which has benefitted both. With two goals on Saturday, Couturier has reached the 20-goal and 40-point marks for the first time in his career. And he’s done so in just 41 games.
Can Giroux and Couturier keep this pace? Or are they both potential sell highs? Both are seeing pucks go in the net at about a 16 percent rate – much higher than the roughly 9 percent career rate for both. Couturier would stand to lose more from regression, as he is more of the goal scorer and has taken 125 shots compared to Giroux’s 80 shots. Giroux has more of a history of high-end scoring, so I’d be more inclined to retain his services. And although you can’t argue with an x-factor like chemistry, Couturier would fetch a much higher return via a trade now than you would have had to pay in a draft or from waivers.
Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, and John Klingberg were kind to their fantasy owners on Saturday. Each banked three points before the Stars have to go on their bye week, which works out to a one-week break. The Stars play just once next week (against Colorado on Saturday), so weekly leaguers may have to consider sitting Radulov, Seguin, Klingberg, and/or Jamie Benn. Adam Daly-Frey has more schedule-related start/sit recommendations, as well as a bye week schedule, in this week’s Looking Ahead.
The Stars have at times split up their big three of Radulov, Seguin, and Benn in an effort to generate more offense throughout the lineup. But it worked wonders for them on Saturday, as someone from that line was in on four of the Stars’ five goals. Deploying this super line snuffs out the fantasy value of every other Star save for Klingberg and Ben Bishop.
Al Montoya made his Oilers’ debut in this game, entering the game in the second period in relief of Cam Talbot. Montoya stopped 13 of 14 shots he faced after Talbot allowed four goals on 19 shots. Even though Talbot has not been the same goalie as he was last season, don’t expect Montoya to see a whole lot of starts in an Oilers’ uniform.
I can say this firsthand: this was the wrong day to add Cam Ward for the purposes of starting him. Ward was pulled after allowing two goals in 5:43. Scott Darling wasn’t a whole lot better, allowing five goals on 28 shots while the Bruins feasted. The B’s now have a 10-game undefeated streak, a streak that I blindly and willfully ignored when adding Ward.
So which Bruins hit paydirt? Try the top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, who combined for a whopping 12 points in this game. Bergeron led the charge, scoring four goals and adding an assist. To give you an idea how big a game that is, Alex Ovechkin is the only other player to score four goals this season. Bergeron now has goals in three consecutive games.
Surprisingly, Pastrnak entered this game with a 10-game goalless drought before scoring his goal. In spite of the slump, Pastrnak is still on pace for 32 goals, so not to worry if you own him.
Marchand recorded four assists, a career high for him. Marchand has 1.23 points/games played, a number that places him in the top 5 of the league.
To add injury to insult for the Canes, Sebastian Aho left this game late in the first period with a lower-body injury. Aho’s six-game point streak also came to an end.
Things are finally looking up for Matt Duchene. After scoring two goals and adding an assist on Friday, Duchene scored again on Saturday in helping the Sens to wins on back-to-back nights. How much of a bust has Duchene been since the trade? Prior to his four points this weekend, Duchene had posted just six points in 24 games as a Senator.
Is Duchene due for a rebound? Since joining the Senators (including this weekend), Duchene has scored at 9.5 percent accuracy, about 2.5 percent lower than his career average. This doesn’t suggest a huge rebound, but maybe a little bit of one. If you’re thinking of adding Duchene, though, keep in mind that the Sens play just twice next week and twice the following week because their layoff starts on Thursday and lasts an entire week. If you’re a Duchene owner, hopefully that break won’t dampen the positives from the last two games. In addition, a possible Mike Hoffman trade could hurt Duchene’s value.
Ryan Dzingel scored two goals, giving him goals in three consecutive games. He is benefitting from playing on a line with Derick Brassard and Mark Stone, which should make him a possible waiver-wire add in deep formats. Stone scored a goal and added two assists with a plus-2 on Saturday, matching his total from Friday. Even though Stone scoring at a point-per-game pace (40 points in 40 games), he could be considered a buy-low candidate himself considering the sorry state of the Senators.
Erik Karlsson was doing Erik Karlsson things in this game, recording three assists with a plus-5 in 29:30 of icetime.
Nathan MacKinnon is Exhibit A on why you don’t want to give up on a player in a keeper league too early. I answered literally dozens of questions about him last season asking if it was time to trade him or cast him aside. Fantasy owners can do whatever they want to with their player, but one common statement in my answers was that he was only 21 – still way too early to think about that. Now at age 22, he’s now second in the league in scoring.
With a goal and two assists on Saturday, MacKinnon is already up to 52 points in just 41 games. He has absolutely gone off in his last five games, scoring 12 points (3g-9a). His season 13.2% shooting accuracy is higher than his 8.7% career average. But like the aforementioned Giroux, his point totals have come mainly in the form of assists. Most of those assists (26 of 34) have been primary assists, which is another positive sign.
So as MacKinnon and the Avs put the 2016-17 disaster behind them, fantasy owners shouldn’t have to worry that the fun won’t last. Unless the HNIC crew just jinxed him by calling him a potential Hart Trophy candidate.
Lost in the attention that MacKinnon has been receiving is the recent success of linemate Mikko Rantanen. With a goal and two assists of his own, Rantanen has eight points (3g-5a) in his last three games. Rantanen also has five goals in his last six games and points in 11 of his last 12 games. With 41 points in 41 games, Rantanen has already surpassed his total from all of last season with half a season still to go.
Corey Perry returned to the Ducks’ lineup on Saturday, just in time for a game with the Flames that turned chippy (not that the Ducks need Perry in order to play with an edge, though). Perry was held without a point with a plus-1 and three shots on goal while playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell.
Dougie Hamilton has not delivered for fantasy teams as expected. His game-winning goal snapped a five-game pointless drought, while he entered this game with just one goal in his past 17 games. Hamilton is still on pace to take over 200 shots on goal, but his scoring is down (17 points in 41 games) and he has just four power-play points all season. Hamilton doesn’t play on the first-unit power play, which doesn’t help his cause. Dropping from 50 points last season to 34 points (which he is currently on pace for) would send him into fantasy bust territory, not only in pure points leagues but also in multicategory.
In case you missed the news about Jaromir Jagr, see below. Possibly the end of a first-ballot Hall of Fame career.
A brief scare for Jonathan Quick owners:
That would be a disaster for the Kings if he were to miss time. Fortunately, he remained in the game.
Brock Boeser scored goal number 22 in his fine rookie season. You probably know by now that he leads all rookies in goals and points (39), as well as the players he compares to statistically already. But here’s one more for you: Boeser also leads the entire NHL (not just rookies) in goals/60 with 2.03.
And to think, these two could be linemates for the Stars and Stripes at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Loui Eriksson, meanwhile, has just two assists in 15 games dating back to the beginning of December. I can’t see how the Canucks don’t buy out his contract (4 years remaining) at some point. Especially when it comes time to give Boeser his fair share.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.