Laine Strikes Again, Washington Goalie Controversy? Plus more…
Patrik Laine scored his 40th goal of the season on Saturday, tying him with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead. No player is on the kind of roll that Laine is on right now. He has nine of the Jets’ last 13 goals, goals in each of his last five games with nine goals over that span, and 15 goals and 21 points over his last 11 games. Needless to say you don’t want to be the team that faces the Laine owner in head-to-head.
I know I mentioned this before and so have others, but the acquisition of Paul Stastny has helped both Stastny and Laine. With his assist on Laine’s goal on Saturday, Stastny now has seven points and a plus-8 in his six games as a Jet. The Jets are usually on a budget, so I have my doubts as to whether they can re-sign Stastny, who has traditionally been on the expensive side for his production level. So unless the Jets prove me wrong and can bring him back as a UFA, I’d have a hard time thinking Stastny can continue this kind of pace next season for a different team without a goal scorer of Laine’s ability.
In that same game, Nolan Patrick recorded an assist, giving him 10 points over his last 12 games. Patrick got off to a very slow start as he adjusted to life in the NHL, but now he’s turned into an effective fantasy option. An interesting question was posted on the Dobber Sports Facebook page recently: After almost one full NHL season in the books, who would you draft for your FantasyHockey team now? I’d still draft Hischier, but Patrick has clearly closed the gap. As a Patrick keeper owner, at least I’m less worried now.
Brad Marchand was involved in another controversial hit on Saturday, this one involving Anthony Duclair. Does Marchand need to play the way he does in order to be a successful NHL player? Would he lose his competitive edge if he behaved himself on the ice? Or are the suspensions and fines just a cost of doing business for being Brad Marchand? Things that I wonder.
Marchand isn’t going to get the benefit of the doubt as often as other players when it comes to these hits. My guess is that he probably won’t get suspended for the hit, though. Regardless, anyone looking to draft his services next season will need to budget for suspension time missed, just as we account for injury time missed for various Band-Aid Boys.
If you’re one of the few people left that owns Duclair, he’ll be sidelined for the next week or two with a lower-body injury.
The Bruins scored seven goals on Saturday, rolling a very strong top-6 with two R. Nashes.
25.85% EV MARCHAND,BRAD – NASH,RILEY – PASTRNAK,DAVID
16.67% EV DEBRUSK,JAKE – KREJCI,DAVID – NASH,RICK
Riley Nash was drafted by the Oilers a decade ago and hasn’t had a standout career since then, but he’s on the verge of his first 40-point season. With Patrice Bergeron out of the lineup, Nash is taking advantage of the opportunity on the top line. Nash has eight points (3g-5a) over his last six games, and he plays again on Sunday if you need him. The possible Marchand situation is a bit unsettling, but I’ve got the lesser-known R. Nash on my watch list anyway.
The other R. Nash line combined for six points, with Rick Nash himself scoring a goal. Nash has scored three goals in seven games as a Bruin, but David Krejci has scored five goals in those seven games (including two on Saturday) and Jake DeBrusk has racked up eight points over that span. So the Nash linemates have been helped out by the Nash trade a little more than Nash himself has been helped. Riley Nash and DeBrusk are potential late-season adds, since the Bruins and Panthers have more games left than any other team.
Another two helpers for Ryan Spooner, giving him 12 points (2g-10a) in just seven games as a Ranger. Sometimes it’s all about opportunity, as Spooner’s icetime as a Ranger is about two minutes higher than his icetime as a Bruin. You could say that Spooner and Kevin Hayes have formed a poor man’s version of the Stastny-Laine post-trade deadline combo.
Hayes has shown flashes of brilliance through his four-year career, but with a goal on Saturday he has now reached 20 goals for the first time in his career. Since the Spooner acquisition, Hayes has five goals and seven points in seven games. Back when I covered the Rick Nash trade analysis, I had no idea that there would be such a positive trickle-down effect on Hayes, let alone that the deal would provide a major boost for Spooner (to be honest, I wasn’t sure what the deal would do for Spooner). It is early, but so far the trade has been a home run for Spooner and Hayes’ value.
In his first game as a Florida Panther, Frank Vatrano scored a goal while playing on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck. The Huberdeau-Trocheck combo is a strong second line for the Panthers, so if Vatrano can stick there he could provide some sneaky late-season fantasy value. Remember that the Panthers and Bruins have more games left than any other team. Although he’s only 23 years old, Vatrano has been held back in terms of being able to translate his AHL success. Vatrano scored 36 goals in 36 AHL games back in 2015-16. Yes, you read that right.
I heard someone on a hockey broadcast the other day say that the Avalanche are basically a one-man team, which is why Nathan MacKinnon is a serious MVP candidate. The one-man team part of that sentence is not true, as Mikko Rantanen is closing in on 70 points. Rantanen scored a goal and added two assists with a plus-2 on Saturday, giving him 69 points in just 67 games. Given the fact that no one would touch MacKinnon until the later rounds of fantasy drafts, Rantanen would have been a steal for those who rolled the dice on him. To give you an idea how quickly Rantanen has ascended, he was drafted in just 6 percent of Yahoo leagues before the season. Six percent!
Speaking of MacKinnon, his nine penalty minutes may have been just as valuable for multicategory leagues as his two assists. MacKinnon was in a first-period fight with Jordan Martinook.
With fantasy teams in do-or-die mode, it’s probably safe to drop Kyle Okposo, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. Not a good situation in Buffalo, where the Sabres are so hard up for scorers that Scott Wilson was on the first-unit power play on Saturday.
Is there a goaltending controversy in Washington? Philipp Grubauer is proving why the backup is often more popular than the starter, as he has posted significantly better numbers than Holtby this season. In his second consecutive start, Grubauer stopped all 24 shots he faced in a 2-0 shutout over the Sharks, giving him wins in five of his last six starts. Meanwhile, Holtby has been pulled in two of his last three starts.
Could Grubauer be between the pipes for Monday’s Ovechkin-Laine matchup? And if this continues, could the Caps turn to Grubauer to start the playoffs as they attempt to finally get over the hump? Surprisingly, Grubauer is owned in just 20 percent of Yahoo leagues. With all my goaltending injuries this week, I would have killed for the opportunity to add him to my roster.
Seven goals for the Blues on Saturday. Not a single point from Brayden Schenn, who has been held without a point in three games and without a goal in eight games. He simply hasn’t been involved in the offense enough, as he has taken just 13 shots over his last eight games. I hinted at this a couple days ago, but I’m going to come right out and say it: Feel free to drop him in shallow leagues if you need to replace him with someone who is scoring.
Someone who did score on Saturday: Jaden Schwartz, with a goal and two assists with a plus-3. That gives him 49 points (20g-29a) and a plus-20 in just 48 games, including seven points over his last five games. You may wonder if Schwartz is capable of more after being slowed by various injuries throughout his career. However, Schwartz has actually been fortunate with a shooting percentage of nearly 18 percent.
The definition of goaltender interference might not be clear, but I can tell you that this is not goaltender interference:
In the late game, Connor McDavid scored two goals and added an assist, extending his point streak to seven games. He’s scored six goals over those seven games and appears to be making a late push for the Art Ross Trophy.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.