Converted Touchdowns for Stars and Islanders, an Avalanche of Wins
What can you say about John Klingberg, who added another three assists on Saturday to give him 40 assists and 46 points, which leads all NHL blueliners. In just 48 games, Klingberg has nearly equaled his point total from all of last season (49 points in 2016-17), while his 40 assists leads all defensemen and is top 5 among all skaters. His eight-game point streak ended on Thursday, but he still has 19 points in his last 14 games.
But it wasn’t all Klingberg for the Stars in a 7-1 rout over Buffalo. Klingberg usually provides most of the Stars’ offense from the blueline, but Esa Lindell chipped in with a goal and two assists of his own to go with a plus-4. When I watched the Stars play live last season, something that caught my eye was how much icetime Lindell receives, as he is Klingberg’s regular defense partner. Lindell has averaged nearly 22 minutes of icetime over the last two seasons, although he usually defers to the second power-play unit. I know Julius Honka has been more appealing to keeper owners over the last few seasons, but I’d keep an eye on Lindell, who a much more established NHL defender at this point.
The Stars’ scoring attack usually falls off a cliff after Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Klingberg, but they did receive scoring help from another forward on Saturday. Mattias Janmark scored two goals and added an assist with a plus-2. The points were Janmark’s first in five games. Janmark lined up with the previously scratched Jason Spezza, who added two assists of his own to give him four points in his last three games. I discussed Spezza in more detail a few days ago in the Ramblings.
With a goal and an assist, Jamie Benn was able to extend his point streak to seven games. How does Benn stack up against a player like Brad Marchand? This week’s Cage Match featured a comparison of the two.
Don’t look now, but Michal Neuvirth has back-to-back wins over the past three days. Neuvirth stopped 28 of 29 shots he faced in the Flyers’ 3-1 win over New Jersey. The Flyers are back in action today against Washington, so expect that Brian Elliott will be back for that game. Elliott has played more than he’s probably used to over the first half, so don’t be surprised if we see more of Neuvirth beyond just back-to-back games during the second half. A lot will depend on Neuvirth staying healthy, though.
When I played minor hockey many years ago, there were three medals given out for each team at the end of the season: most valuable player, most sportsmanlike player, and most improved player. If these were handed out to NHL teams, the most improved medal should be handed to the Colorado Avalanche, who have already exceeded last season’s point total in half the games.
We know Nathan MacKinnon has evolved into one of the top value picks this season, and he did his part by adding a goal and an assist. But there are two other Avalanche who had strong performances on Saturday.
In stopping 27 of 28 shots, Jonathan Bernier has now won eight consecutive games, just one fewer than his team’s present win streak. During his personal win streak he has a 1.47 GAA and .958 SV%. I know the general rule is that a starter isn’t supposed to lose his job because of an injury, but this recent run could mean that Bernier factors into the Colorado goaltending equation more even when Semyon Varlamov returns. I know the Avs have faith in Varlamov, given the fact that they didn’t protect Calvin Pickard during the expansion draft. But Varlamov has not posted a GAA below 2.80 or a SV% above .915% over the last three seasons.
Erik Johnson scored a goal and added an assist in this game. He has never stood out offensively in his career, never reaching the magic 40-point mark that seems to mean universal ownership for a defenseman in fantasy leagues. But this is at least worth pointing out:
Erik Johnson has 17 points in 32 games since the start of Nov when the Lando-Mac-Ranta line was put together.
— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 20, 2018
Maybe I should have acquired Johnson when someone offered him to me in mid-December for a player that I eventually had to drop. But at the time I couldn’t have forecasted Tyson Barrie’s injury just before Christmas. Here’s another stat for you: since Barrie’s injury, Johnson has seven points over his last ten games (all even strength). In addition, EJ’s icetime is up nearly two minutes per game in January, some of which is power-play time. So with Barrie possibly returning next week, Johnson could be back to his old role next week, which isn’t as fantasy friendly.
The hottest line in hockey might be the Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron. This trio has combined for 56 points (25g-31a) in their past 16 games. The leader for this line on Saturday against Montreal was Pastrnak, who filled the multicategory stat sheet with two goals and added an assist with a plus-3 and eight shots on goal.
While the Bruins are on their 16-game team point streak which started on December 16, Tuukka Rask has nine wins, a 1.80 GAA and a .933 SV%. He is also 13-0-2 in his last 15 decisions. After a rough start, he’s playing like one of the league’s top goalies while the Bruins have been playing like one of the league’s top teams.
With his goal against Boston on Saturday, Max Pacioretty now has seven goals in his last seven games. Your window to buy low on him should officially be closed. At the same time, this should be a lesson that we shouldn’t just give up suddenly on consistent, proven performers.
Morgan Rielly was not in the lineup for the Leafs on Saturday with an upper-body injury. As a result, Jake Gardiner moved up to top D pair with Ron Hainsey. Gardiner took full advantage of the opportunity, recording three assists. The move didn’t affect Gardiner’s overall icetime, though, as he has been averaging around 25 minutes per game in January and logged 24 minutes in this game. Gardiner is now on pace for his second consecutive 40-point season and has five points in eight games with the increased icetime.
You could say that the Islanders have been shooting the lights out this season.
Pulock’s line ended up as a goal, four assists with a plus-3 and four shots on goal. He has the offensive upside to be a fantasy contributor, but getting onto the NHL team prior to this season has been a challenge. Now that he’s on the team, icetime has been a challenge, as he has averaged just 16 minutes and change. But his situation has improved recently with the injuries to Johnny Boychuk and Calvin de Haan. He’s also been receiving second-unit power-play time, for what it’s worth.
Brock Nelson hasn’t exactly gotten in on the Islanders’ scoring jackpot this season, but he did score a goal and added two assists leading all Isles’ forwards in scoring. Nelson had not scored a goal in his previous four games and had not scored a goal in his previous 17 games, which shouldn’t be that surprising considering that he’s played outside of the top-6 for much of the season. But what happens to his fantasy value if John Tavares leaves?
I’ve been leaving Antti Raanta on my bench for much of the season, but maybe I can roll the dice and start him now. Raanta has a 1.91 GAA and .933 SV% this month, even though he has just two wins in six games.
With two goals on Saturday, Christian Dvorak snapped a 10-game goalless drought.
The Kevin Fiala/Nick Bonino/Calle Jarnkrok line was on fire on Saturday, combining for eight points. Fiala scored his first multigoal game of the season, which was a feat that he couldn’t manage when he was on the red-hot line earlier this season with Kyle Turris and Craig Smith.
Turris recorded an assist in this game, but I’ve moved him to my bench because he’s been ice cold. Turris has just three points over his last 13 games, which of course is the inevitable cool down after his hot streak (17 points in 17 games) when he first joined the Preds.
Opportunity knocks for Elias Lindholm. He replaced the injured Sebastian Aho on the Hurricanes’ first line and on the first-unit power play and took full advantage, scoring two power-play goals and taking five shots on goal. With Aho’s status uncertain after suffering a concussion and lower-body injury after a nasty hit from Mark Giordano, Lindholm will need to be leaned on while the Canes’ leading scorer is out of the lineup. We’ve been waiting for some kind of breakout, and we may get something at least in the short term.
Brent Burns is doing his thing again. With a pair of assists on Saturday, he now has at least one point in 16 of his last 19 games.
Want to know who the fantasy MVP is? According to Yahoo, it’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is owned in 45 percent of the top 500 Yahoo Public League teams. No one else is owned in more than 25 percent of this collection of teams, so this is a remarkable number.
Unfortunately, with the Bolts’ recent three-game losing streak, Vasilevskiy has been sputtering. Going back to the last five games (two weeks) Vasilevskiy has posted a horrific 4.64 GAA and .850 SV%. He’s been fantasy’s most valuable goalie up to that point, so you’re obviously best to be patient unless you can acquire a proven stud in return. But this slide has to be at least somewhat concerning. The Bolts’ next two games are back-to-backs on Monday and Tuesday, so expect to see Louis Domingue for one of those games. Vasilevskiy is second in the NHL in minutes played, so it might be time for a little rest.
Jesse Puljujarvi didn’t look like a player that had been held without a point in his previous eight games, scoring a goal and added two assists with a plus-3 and six shots on goal. The Oilers have moved Puljujarvi off Connor McDavid’s line, but one constant linemate since his AHL recall has been Milan Lucic while he appeared to connect with Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers haven’t been happy with their scoring from the wing since trading away Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, so expect Puljujarvi to figure significantly in their plans going forward.
Paul Coffey has joined the Oilers in some capacity, with a formal announcement coming today. It will be interesting to see how this affects the Oilers, particularly their defense, in their latest attempt to get things right.
McLellan says Coffey’s focus will be on skill development, at all levels of organization, and with a focus on D in particular. Will work with prospects and with their NHL dmen as well. More to come tomorrow.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) January 21, 2018
Alex Edler might not move the needle much in fantasy. But with an assist on Saturday, he currently has a five-game point streak with six points over that stretch. He's also been shooting the puck a ton recently. With six shots on goal on Saturday, Edler now has 33 shots in seven games this month. Only Brent Burns, who leads all players by a wide margin in shots (44), has more shots on goal among defensemen than Edler this month.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.