Ramblings: Schwartz is Back! (Jan 26)

steve laidlaw



Jaden Schwartz did make his return for St. Louis last night. He skated 18:22 on a line with Brayden Schenn and Alex Steen along with top power play unit time. No points, but it’s safe to say he’s back in business. Just in time for Schenn who has goals in four straight games.

Alex Pietrangelo too has started to pick up the pace again with six points in his last seven games. With Schwartz back it sure feels like there are going to be a few career performances out of St. Louis, none more shocking than Carter Hutton.

Even after getting bombed by the Coyotes earlier this week the Blues still rode Hutton for the final two starts pre-All-Star. They are really riding the hot hand here, but perhaps more importantly, giving Jake Allen enough time away to rebuild his fundamentals. Remember, Allen was trash until the All-Star break last season before going on a 16-8-2 tear with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. Hutton represents a hurdle, but we cannot rule out another wild run from Allen.


Alex DeBrincat scored his second hat-trick of the season. This one came out of nowhere as he had scored just three goals and nine points over the past 23 games since the start of December. This highlights the immense potential that he boasts. I don’t know if he’ll ever consistently skate on a line with Patrick Kane because the Nick Schmaltz/Kane marriage seems firm, but I do suspect that he could play on the Blackhawks’ top power play unit. They are still looking for the right fit to play in the Artemi Panarin spot and it’s a spot he seems perfect for.

Of course, it sometimes takes a long time for efficient scores to earn consistent top PP usage for whatever reason. Tyler Toffoli STILL can’t get it in Los Angeles. Or how about an example from the Blackhawks, where it took until this season for Brandon Saad to get consistent top PP run only for him to fail miserably.

Saad, by the way, is scoreless in eight straight games and has seen his minutes slipping down into the 16-minute range after averaging about 19 per game for the first two months of the year. Most of that drop is from a loss of PP use, but he is bouncing all over the lineup and failing to perform. His shot rate is still firmly above 3.0 SOG per game, however, so at least you can lean on that.


Patrice Bergeron in 2018: nine goals and 17 points in 10 games. Is there anyone hotter?

That’s good news for Anders Bjork who jumped onto the top line to fill in for Brad Marchand who served the first game of his five-game suspension. Also benefitting here: Danton Heinen who grabbed Marchand’s top PP unit minutes. Heinen has been in the mix on Boston’s top PP unit all season, but had recently slipped to the second unit and had suffered a mini-slump.


Dion Phaneuf ended a 10-game scoreless slump with a two-point night. That 10-game slump was preceded by another two-point night, which was preceded by a nine-game slump, which was preceded by another two-point night, which was preceded by an eight-game slump. The point of that run-on sentence: you could have a fucking farmer’s market with all the goose eggs on Phaneuf’s game log. The Senators have been absolute trash since returning from their Sweden trip.

The only Sen currently carrying his weight for fantasy owners is Matt Duchene who has nine points in his last nine games.


I thought Ryan Callahan was washed up as a scoring threat, but Shayne Gostisbehere made him look good:


That’s the kind of ugly play that got Gostisbehere benched several times last season. I feel confident that those days are behind us, but every now and again we get a reminder that Gostisbehere is not a complete defenseman.

Brian Elliott was out last night with a lower-body injury. I’m not sure the severity on that, but I would have some mild concerns about this derailing his post-All-Star performance.

Travis Konecny scored a late goal to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games. He now has six goals and 12 points in his last 13 games. His time alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier has been fruitful!


Joe Thornton underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair his right MCL yesterday. Still no timeline, but I believe that surgery elevates the timeline from the “minimum of two weeks” as was reported yesterday. I think we might be talking months not weeks here.

San Jose’s lines without Thornton:






Big opportunity for Mikkel Boedker who has been a complete flop since signing with San Jose, however I am looking to that second line for more offense.

Logan Couture scored a pair of goals to give him 20 on the season. Kevin Labanc assisted on both those goals giving the winger five points in his last five games.

Labanc has been very inconsistent, but I like his chances of playing a bigger role with Thornton out. He was in Thornton’s spot on the top PP unit, though a rough turnover leading to a shorthanded goal won’t help his cause. Players in Labanc’s position don’t have wiggle room to make mistakes.


Buffalo’s power play is back on track! They have now gone 10/36 in 2018. That’s a small sample size, but the success rate of 27.8% is right up around the level that they led the league with last season.

Kyle Okposo is now up to 11 points in 11 games this month with six of those points on the power play. He has been meshing with Jack Eichel at even strength and on the power play.

We’ve also seen some flashes of brilliance from Sam Reinhart who has seven points in the last five games, having resumed his spot as the net-front man on the top PP unit. I wonder if this top PP unit run is just to butter him up to be traded elsewhere. Who knows how to parse Reinhart’s failure to launch with Buffalo’s general malaise, but three years in we’ve yet to see him sustain a 5-on-5 scoring rate higher than 1.69 points/60, which is third line material. He’s still only 22, but we’d expect to see a bit more from him at least in terms of per-minute scoring. Perhaps he can succeed as a secondary guy, but I question him as a guy who can drive a line.


You already knew this was the case, but Jake Gardiner’s hot streak with Morgan Rielly out confirms that there is only room for one fantasy relevant defenseman on the Leafs as currently constructed. Gardiner was the man last year, but Rielly has blown him out of the water.

Gardiner’s recent run with nine points in five games makes for a good opportunity to try and sell high. Rielly should be back after the All-Star break, which will presumably push Gardiner back below a 40-point pace.

The worm has finally turned for Nazem Kadri. The forward has three goals in two games since Mitch Marner was put on his wing. Too soon to call this a productive marriage. I also suspect that Kadri’s slump was as much to do with misfortune than anything else. He continues to see consistent deployment at 5-on-5 and on their primary PP unit.


The Devils got drowned 3-0 by the Predators. They were without Cory Schneider and Taylor Hall both of whom New Jersey won’t succeed without.

For Hall, it’s a hand injury that cost him this entire week, but isn’t expected to be long term. However, he will miss the All-Star game and Brian Boyle will play in his stead.

For Schneider, it’s much more concerning. He is coming off a flu bug, but is now dealing with a groin injury that has cost him a couple of games.

If you recall, Schneider was derailed by injury woes last season. This (along with low expectations for the Devils) was why I had concerns about Schneider coming into the season. He was a stud in the first half, but now the groin area is acting up again. I have a tough time trusting 30+ aged goalies with injury woes. It’s hard to keep those guys upright and in peak condition for 60+ starts.

Nico Hischier’s season seems to be dwindling from fantasy relevance. He has only five points in 10 games in 2018. That’s a bounce or two away from sustaining his 50-point pace, but is also a continuation of his downward trend that started in December when he scored just six points in 14 games. It was always going to be tough for Hischier to produce while not skating on the Devils’ top PP unit and nothing has changed in that regard. A low-shot 50-point centerman is still valuable in a lot of leagues, and awesome for a rookie, but the average league wouldn’t value that type of player and we have to acknowledge the downward trend.


Carl Hagelin continues to provide that sorely needed secondary scoring for Pittsburgh. The winger is finally meshing with Evgeni Malkin scoring eight points in the last eight games.

Casey DeSmith started his fourth straight game winning three of them. Not too shabby. I still think Matt Murray is the guy for the closing run, and Tristan Jarry is probably the better of the two backups, but this is a good problem for Pittsburgh.  


The Canadiens’ top power play unit from last night was what fantasy owners have been screaming for all season with the following players:

Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry

Pacioretty continues to be a second-half revelation. He’s up to eight goals and 11 points in 10 games in 2018. He is now on pace for 27 goals and 50 points. Still a bit of ways to reach his usual 30/60 benchmarks, but he’s on his way!

Jeff Petry, meanwhile continues to take advantage of the big minutes he is seeing with Shea Weber out and has eight points in the last 10 games.


John Gibson was forced to leave last night’s game late in the third period after getting crashed into by Blake Wheeler. Gibson was able to skate off on his own but given his track record with injuries we all fear the worst.

Ryan Miller came on in relief and didn’t face a shot in 11 minutes of action. He has been really good as a backup and could no doubt carry the Ducks for a stretch, so he makes for a suitable post-All-Star waiver scoop should Gibson miss time.


James Reimer is out for at least two weeks with a pulled groin. It is likely that Roberto Luongo will have returned, or be close to a return by the time Reimer is good to go. If, like me, you snapped up Reimer as a third option when Luongo went down and has to dump Luongo because you didn’t have the IR space, you may as well make a move to pickup Luongo again now. That assumes you haven’t yet missed out on grabbing Carter Hutton or Jonathan Bernier, who can help you immediately coming out of the All-Star break.

The internal options on the Panthers are Harri Sateri who got the start last night and Samuel Montembeault. I am not particularly interested in either just yet. Sateri is 28 and has only everr put up impressive numbers in the KHL. His AHL numbers, even this season, leave a lot to be desired. Montembeault has middling numbers in his first professional season, but is only 21 so there is plenty of time for growth. Read more about Montembeault here.


Cam Atkinson returned after a month off with injury to play 19:09. He scored a goal too on a sick feed from Alex Wennberg:


Atkinson has been awful, but we cannot rule out a second half surge, especially with the Blue Jackets’ power play finally scoring at a run-of-the-mill bad pace.


The latest on Nino Niederreiter is that he should return for their first home game after the All-Star break, which is their February 2nd matchup against Vegas.


The Rangers have claimed Cody McLeod off waivers, officially announcing that they are All In For Dahlin.

They did shred the Sharks last night, but these guys still feel like sellers not buyers.

Kevin Hayes’ return is big, he notched a couple of points centering the second line with JT Miller and Mats Zuccarello.

We also saw Ryan McDonagh score his first two goals of the season. It was only a matter of time now that he had taken over the top PP duties with Kevin Shattenkirk out. Could be a strong second half for McDonagh in that spot, though the Rangers’ PP isn’t particularly strong.


If you haven’t yet, watch PK Subban’s appearance on the Daily Show:


I will never understand the hate that this guy gets. Subban is a legit superstar in a league where the two best players have had less interesting things to say than a sheet of drywall.


Check out Ian Gooding’s latest Finding Fantasy Value piece looking at some players trending up.


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


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