Vegas Sweeps Away the Kings, Caps Finally Win in OT, Gulutzan Fired, plus more…
What more do you need to prove that the Vegas Golden Knights are for real? I’ll admit that I picked the Kings to win this series, albeit in seven games. The Sharks should be a tougher test for the Golden Knights, assuming that they can finish the job against the Ducks. But I’m less likely to pick against Vegas now, as they proved they were a much faster team than the Kings and could also meet their level of toughness. Yes, Vegas is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that could come out of the West. This bubble may not burst for a while yet.
Marc-Andre Fleury was a King killer in this short series, allowing just three goals in the entire series. For years the rule for Stanley Cup contenders was that you need great goaltending. Vegas has that covered. If he hadn’t missed two months of the regular season, he might have even been one of the Vezina nominees (more on that later).
So who came up small for the Kings? Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson were all held without a point in this series. Thanks for coming out if your playoff pool included multiple Kings. In spite of superb efforts from Jonathan Quick this series and Anze Kopitar this entire season, the Kings are clearly a team that was built for yesterday's NHL.
The Capitals needed that one badly. Lars Eller was credited with the overtime winner at 9:00 of the second overtime period in the Capitals’ 3-2 win over Columbus in Game 3. It looks like the puck went off his toe and into the net. Here is the goal.
An encouraging start for Braden Holtby, who stopped 33 of 35 shots he faced in the win. That may seem like a lot of work but remember that it is over an extra period and a half of hockey. Still, a goalie can only stop the shots he faces. Holtby seems to be back in as the Caps’ starting goalie, even though his draft stock next season will be significantly lower than it has been in recent seasons.
Your icetime leader for this game was Matt Niskanen, who logged 37 minutes playing four and a half periods. Those weren’t easy minutes either, as that included over five minutes of killing penalties.
Artemi Panarin is simply amazing. With a goal and an assist on Tuesday, he’s now up to seven points in just three games, all of which are multipoint games. Maybe not a Pastrnak-like outburst, but the Bread Man is still tied for second in playoff scoring. If the Jackets can advance past the Capitals, he could be a difference maker in this season’s playoffs. Remember that Panarin had racked up 30 points over his last 18 regular-season games.
See his goal below on a rush with Cam Atkinson.
Vezina Trophy nominee Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 30 shots he faced in the Jets’ 2-0 win over Minnesota in Game 4. Aside from Game 3, where Hellebuyck’s and the Jets’ game-day routine was thrown off by having to travel the morning of the game, Hellebuyck has allowed just three goals combined in Games 1, 2 and 4.
Mark Scheifele scored both goals for the Jets. Entering this game, he had not been a significant performer in the Jets’ offense, scoring just one goal and no assists over his first three games.
In case you missed it, the Calgary Flames relieved Glen Gulutzan and his assistants of their coaching duties on Tuesday. So who will be the Flames’ next coach? Alain Vigneault? Dave Tippett? Bill Peters (who has to decide by Friday whether to exercise his opt-out with the Hurricanes)? Someone else?
Whether or not it’s the coach’s fault when he is fired is usually up for debate. But whenever a coach is fired, his decisions are always scrutinized. Here’s an interesting article from Flames Nation, which included analysis on some of Gulutzan’s player deployment decisions. It’s a lengthy read, but some of the notable takeaways include the overuse of Troy Brouwer on the power play and T.J. Brodie at even strength.
In spite of spending considerable time on the man advantage, Brouwer did not score a single power-play goal. With just six goals all season (76 games), Brouwer shouldn’t have been anywhere near the power play. Particularly when said power play was 29th in the league with a 16% success rate. Meanwhile, Brodie led the Flames in even-strength icetime with at least half a minute more per game than the likes of Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. Brodie was paired with Travis Hamonic 80 percent of the time with the two combining for a minus-25.
Lack of adjustments when a team is struggling can be just cause for dismissal for an NHL coach. I’d expect that a new coach will help the fantasy value of Matthew Tkachuk, who managed to score ten power-play goals even though Gulutzan didn’t use him on the first-unit power play all the time. I’d also expect more Giordano and Hamilton from the new coach, whoever that may be.
Which of the following teams that won Game 3 after being down 0-2 has the best chance of winning its series?
— Ian Gooding (@Ian_Gooding) April 17, 2018
On Monday night I put this out there as a point of discussion for this edition of the Ramblings. Remember when you were ready to stick a fork in the Leafs after Game 2? Although I’m sure “none of the above” would have won the poll had it been added.
Now that the Capitals have been added to that group of teams that won their first game of the series in Game 3, do you like their chances better than those of the Leafs? During my last Ramblings I mentioned that there were six teams down 2-0 and that statistically, one of those teams would bounce back to win that series. So if you don’t think that team will be the Avalanche or Devils (or the Wild down 3-1), then either the Leafs or Capitals will win their series. That might sound crazy considering the state of the Leafs after Game 2 and the reputation of the Capitals, but it could happen.
A number of injury news items on Tuesday:
Unless the Wild can stage a miraculous comeback against the Jets, we’ve probably seen the last of Zach Parise this season. He’s week to week with a fractured sternum. Tyler Ennis took Parise’s spot in the lineup for Game 4, skating on a line with Charlie Coyle and Matt Cullen while playing just seven minutes.
Patric Hornqvist is expected to miss Game 4 with an upper-body injury. It’s worth mentioning that Jake Guentzel filled Hornqvist’s role on the first-unit power play in practice, while Dominik Simon took Hornqvist’s spot on the Guentzel-Sidney Crosby line. Only Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin scored more power-play goals than Hornqvist (15 PPG) this season.
You definitely don’t want to see this kind of injury at practice. Sean Couturier left practice after taking this hit from Radko Gudas. At the time of this writing, there was no update on his Game 4 status.
Connor Hellebuyck, Pekka Rinne, and Andrei Vasilevskiy are your Vezina Trophy finalists. I’ll take credit for telling you for your draft that you should target Hellebuyck anyway in spite of the big contract that Steve Mason signed with the Jets. Just the same, I’ll take the blame for telling you that Rinne would regress and Juuse Saros would play a much more significant role in the Preds’ goaltending situation. In this strange unpredictable season of goalies, Rinne should be the favorite to win the Vezina.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.