Matthews is considered day-to-day, which is probably the best news Leafs fans could hope for here. We’re at the point of the season where a six-week injury could start to affect postseason appearances. The team only has three games in the next nine days even though a couple are against teams ahead of them in the division. It could be worse.
Chris Kreider returned to the Rangers lineup after missing nearly two months with the blood clot issue. Hockey aside, it’s nice to see him make a full recovery this quickly. Let’s hope there are no more serious issues that arise moving forward.
He was slotted on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, though it’s uncertain how long that will last. The Rangers are apparently ready to trade anything that isn’t bolted to the floor.
The big non-injury news from Friday was the trade of Derick Brassard from Ottawa to Pittsburgh. There was a hang-up before it was finalized – the NHL rejected the original proposal – but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
You can read Steve Laidlaw’s thoughts here.
As expected, even with Kreider back, the Wild laid the wood to the Rangers to the tune of 4-1. It’s not a blowout score but the game was certainly never in New York’s control. Injuries and trades will render this team unwatchable for the final six weeks of the season. Rob O’Gara led their d-men in 5v5 TOI while Vinni Lettieri led the forwards. Yeah, unwatchable.
Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal led the way with two goals and two assists apiece. It appeared as though Granlund had a hat trick but an earlier goal was changed to Staal. They each had seven shots on goal to boot. Those two were assembled with Jason Zucker as the team’s top line and, apparently, they’re pretty good!
Devan Dubnyk saved 22 of 23 in the win and probably had a nice dinner sometime in the second period.
By the way, Ryan Suter had a power-play assist in the third period, his 16th PP apple of the campaign, which is double what he had last season.
Speaking of laying the wood, Pittsburgh knocked off Carolina 6-1. Things got so bad that Cam Ward cracked his stick across the post, leading to a 10-minute misconduct (and nearly taking out Jeff Skinner in the process).
Also, speaking of Derick Brassard, his potential new line mates were the difference for the Penguins in this one. Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists while Phil Kessel had two goals and an assist. Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby had a goal, and on and on…
It was one of the better all-around fantasy performances on the season for Guentzel. On top of the points, he was a plus-3, added four more shots, had two blocked shots, and threw a hit for good measure. He now has 11 points in his last 10 games and is getting a playmaking centre to skate with.
Jordan Staal missed this game due to a family emergency but we did not hear anything further. Obviously, Eric Staal played for Minnesota so it’s likely not something with the Staal family at large. Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious for Jordan.
Teuvo Teravainen scored the lone goal for Carolina, his 15th of the year, which ties a career-high. I did not think he’d maintain his early season scoring pace but he’s been pretty good all season long. The team still needs more scoring, but Teravainen turning into a 20-goal, 50-point guy is a step in the right direction.
The road warrior theme continues as Winnipeg shutout St. Louis 4-0 thanks to 34 saves from Connor Hellebuyck. League-wide, he’s now second in wins (32), second in shutouts (6), and third in save percentage (.924).
Kyle Connor had a goal and an assist which gives him an even 40 points on the year. I discuss him a little later so scroll down if you want some thoughts on his season and future.
A quick note on Laine scoring his 65th career goal:
Laine needs five goals to be the sixth player ever with 70 goals as a teenager. Crosby/Stamkos only ones to do it since 1988 https://t.co/aTN1Vldfet
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) February 24, 2018
Petan only played 6:23 so he was very efficient in his scoring tonight.
After going 0-4 on the power play, the Blues PP sits at 14.9 percent since Christmas. Considering the talent among both their forwards and defencemen, this is fairly absurd. How much can they keep shaking things up, though?
With his two points, Blake Wheeler becomes the sixth player to crack 70 points on the season, tying Connor McDavid with 71. Wheeler also set a career-high with 53 assists. He won’t win the Hart Trophy but I do wonder if he gets any votes. He moved to centre in Scheifele’s absence and will almost certainly be a point-per-game player for a Cup contender. It would just be nice to see one of the game’s top wingers finally get some league-wide recognition.
In his first start of the season, Jean-Francois Berube stopped 42 of 43 shots that he faced en route to a 3-1 Blackhawks win. Both Jan Rutta and Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist with Artem Anisimov adding the empty netter. That makes 17 goals on the year for Schmaltz and I wrote a bit more on him a little later.
Brent Burns had a typical Brent Burns night with one assist, seven shots, three blocks, two penalty minutes, and a hit. Timo Meier scored the lone goal which is his ninth goal since the calendar turned 2018.
There were a lot of lines changing around for the Sharks in this one including returning Tomas Hertl to centre where he had been at times post-Joe Thornton injury. We’ll see if they stick, but Hertl moving to the middle would obviously add some value in leagues with face-off wins.
Eventually, the Vegas top line might slow down.
At any rate, William Karlsson had two goals and an assist, Jonathan Marchessault had a goal and an assist, and Reilly Smith had three assists in the Golden Knights' 6-3 win over Vancouver. Tomas Nosek, David Perron, and Tomas Hyka tallied the others.
You can read Hyka's Dobber Prospects profile here.
Daniel Sedin had one of Vancouver's goals, giving him 16 on the year, and he's now officially surpassed last year's total. He also has 16 power-play points. A very nice bounce-back fantasy season from the shoot-y Sedin.
It’s been a pretty quiet season in the fantasy community for Colton Parayko. It’s kind of understandable, given that Alex Pietrangelo started the season absolutely scorching but had just two goals and 21 points over his previous 40 games going into Friday night’s action. Parayko, however, is on pace for a career-high in points, shots, hits, and blocked shots. Not bad?
Funny thing about all this is that his season probably should be better than it is. The team’s on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five with Parayko patrolling the blue line stands at 6.41 percent, by far the worst his career (8.88 percent in his rookie year and 8.41 percent last year). That’s something that could improve next year, if not over the balance of this season, and Parayko’s numbers with it.
The problem will continue to be the power-play minutes. He’s third among the team’s defencemen in this regard, both per game and in total TOI. Alex Pietrangelo was on the top unit to start the year, Vince Dunn has been there of late, while Parayko has usually been tasked with mop-up duty on the second quintet. He will still likely reach double-digit PP points which is fine but as long as that hierarchy remains, his fantasy upside is capped. Just keep that in mind for September drafts: 50-plus point seasons for Parayko are very unlikely unless he gets those prime PP minutes.
I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do about Kyle Connor in keeper leagues. He could push for 25 goals and 50 points this year which is a very stellar season, of course. The lack of peripherals like PIMs and hits ding him hard in multi-category roto leagues but the production has been solid.
I have posted the work from CJ Turtoro before; he has assembled a visual tool to help compare players by measures such as controlled zone entries and exits, shots, and more. Here is how Kyle Connor measures up against another 21-year old, Adrian Kempe:
This isn’t a comprehensive sample; you’ll note the games played limits. But it should make fantasy owners question whether Connor is a legit scoring star in the making, or a good player who happens to play most of his minutes alongside two of the most talented forwards in the league.
The conundrum here is that it may not matter if he’s a star in the making or a good player who happens to play with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Like Chris Kunitz four or five years ago in Pittsburgh, as long as he keeps his role, he’ll keep his fantasy value.
There has been a lot to go wrong with the Blackhawks this year – Brandon Saad’s disappointing return, Corey Crawford’s injury, missing the playoffs, to name a few – but one bright spot has certainly been the play of Nick Schmaltz.
With 40 points on the season, Schmaltz is tied for second on the team in scoring with Jonathan Toews and, league-wide, he’s tied with Matthew Tkachuk in primary points per 60 minutes at five-on-five (which doesn’t count secondary assists), ranking just below names like Nikolaj Ehlers and Brayden Schenn. That’s pretty good. (note: he moved up following Friday night's game, this was all as of early Friday evening)
The problem, as I’m sure many are waiting to point out, is his shooting percentage. As of early Friday, he was over 17 percent at all strengths and over 20 percent at five-on-five. Those will both decline, the latter more than the former. He also doesn’t shoot very much and by “very much” I mean hardly at all; his 9.22 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five is sandwiched between Tom Pyatt and Chris Kunitz. It’s lower than Nick Shore and Riley Sheahan. That’s pretty bad.
Then again, he’s only 21 years old playing 18:30 per game as the centre for Patrick Kane, at least until they broke up that duo recently.
I also wanted to point this out, again from the three-zones tool I linked above:
So, yeah. Schmaltz has been excellent at doing everything except shooting the puck. The William Nylander comparison is there to approximate skating alongside an elite forward.
As anyone whose owned Blackhawks forwards in fantasy over the years knows, your player’s value is inextricably linked to Joel Quenneville’s whims. Schmaltz is a first-round pick who was touted for offence and is producing offensively while doing all the underlying things we’d expect (besides shooting) for that offence to continue. A common fantasy mantra is to bet on talent and Schmaltz is showing it in spades. Keep him in mind when September rolls around as a depth centre.