Ramblings: Bruins, Caps Win; Norris Finalists; Peripheral Stats; William Karlsson – April 20

Michael Clifford


In a pretty shocking turn of events, Patrice Bergeron did not dress for the Bruins on Thursday night with what the team described as an upper-body injury. We won’t get more of an update other than day-to-day. It is the playoffs, after all.

Riley Nash took Bergeron’s spot on the top line. Boston didn’t draw a power play so if Bergeron were to miss the next game, there’s no real telling who would take his spot on the top unit.


Sometimes, the better team wins. Sometimes they don’t. The Leafs were the better team in Game 4 but defensive miscues and a stellar performance from Tuukka Rask has Boston ahead 3-1 in the series after a 3-1 win. Rask made 31 saves to back the Bruins while David Pastrnak managed a pair of assists to boost his playoff total to a whopping 11 points in four contests.

Every once in a while during a playoff run, your goalie has to steal a game, and Rask did just that.


Sometimes, the better team loses. Sometimes they don’t. The Caps were the better team in Game 4 and received their just desserts with a 4-1 win to tie their series with Columbus at two apiece. Washington received goals from Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, and TJ Oshie before Evgeny Kuznetsov nailed the coffin with an empty-net marker.

It was a huge game for the Washington top line as they combined for seven points and had 16 shots on goal. Columbus had 16 shots on goal in the second and third period combined.

I was a little bit surprised at Thomas Vanek’s usage tonight. I get that John Tortorella probably (read: definitely) doesn’t trust him defensively, but they were down two goals halfway through the game and Vanek had under 10 minutes in total ice time on the night. You may not trust him defensively, but at that point, you need to score goals more than you need to prevent them and Vanek can do just that.

My crush on Josh Anderson continues to grow. The team’s only goal was a shot of his that was tipped by Boone Jenner, and he had at least two other very good looks. By my amateur eyes, it was his best game of the series. If he can find his form that he had earlier in the season, it could make the difference in a very tight series.


The Norris Trophy finalists were announced and they are Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty, and PK Subban. This is the second consecutive season as a finalist for Hedman, the fourth season for total Doughty, and the third for Subban.

I will say that Subban getting the nod here surprised me a little bit. Not that he didn’t have a great season – he did – but he had to drag Alexei Emelin all over the ice for most of the season; they were by far the most-used defence pair for Nashville at five-on-five. The results were very good but that was mostly thank to stellar goaltending behind them from Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Beyond having to skate with a human ankle weight for a partner, Subban is on a team with a lot of other very good blue liners. I figured it might be a case where there were so many good players it would be tough for voters to single one out. I stand corrected.

No real problem for me here with these nominations, though. I do wonder if John Klingberg would have been a finalist had the Stars not vomited all over themselves over the final 20-ish games. I know some people think of him as solely an offensive defenceman but he had a solid defensive season as well. I also think this is the last season where Seth Jones isn’t at least in the half-dozen blue liners constantly in the conversation for the Norris.


Going back over the season is always a fun time of year. Sometimes you catch things you missed, remember things you forgot, or are just flat-out taken aback by something you find.

Talking about a player’s “floor” is a favourite topic in the fantasy game, particularly in daily fantasy. Looking for players who can provide any kind of security is important; banking points is a way to help ensure you don’t lose your shirt every night.

A “floor” is a tricky concept because anything can happen on a given night. In DFS, even the mighty Brent Burns – the guy who has the highest floor of anyone in hockey – had a few nights where he was an absolute dud. Those are the exceptions, though.

I wanted to show some of the players who had the highest floor from the past season when considering just shots and blocked shots. I’m going to split them up between defencemen and forwards for obvious reasons. Included in the sample are all players who managed at least 750 minutes in ice time this year at all strengths. It is also per game rather than a per-minute rate. All data from Natural Stat Trick.



Tyler Seguin, Our Fearless Leader

My assumption is that most people would expect Alex Ovechkin to lead in this regard. The guy is a shot machine. While he graded out very well (second), it was Tyler Seguin who provided the most shots and blocked shots per games played:

The difference being, really, a few blocked shots. So, thanks for that, Ken Hitchcock.

With Dallas underperforming and missing playoffs, I think it can get lost just how good Seguin is. I know fantasy owners won’t forget – I assume he’ll be a late first-round pick next year – but he scored a career-high 40 goals in 2017-18. In the five years since being traded to Dallas, he’s the only player to average 30 goals, 40 assists, and 275 shots on goals.


Auston Matthews Looms

Lurking just outside the top-10 forwards was AM34 at 12th. The thing is, he should be a lot higher. His shot rate per game declined nearly 13 percent from his rookie season. Had he maintained his 3.4 shots on goal per game, he’d be in the top-5 on this list. All the same, not bad company:

We have all summer to debate where Matthews should be drafted next year but that is another topic for another day.

As a side note: I’m sure it warms Dobber’s heart to see Cam Atkinson in the company of names like MacKinnon, Matthews, and McDavid.


The Also-Rans

I don’t mean this as a disparaging term. They are players who were either undervalued by their team or cast aside at some other point. Despite the thought among some people at different points in time, they all provided a solid floor this year:

These guys finished 19th, 20th, and 21st respectively among all forwards.

I won’t go too much further into these three as I’ve discussed them at length over the last few weeks but it just goes to show that players can provide value in different situations.



Have Faith in Edmonton

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Brent Burns had the most shots+blocked shots per game this year in the league. I don’t think there’s reason to think that’ll change anytime soon. Alex Edler finished second but I don’t think it’ll be a surprise to fantasy owners paying attention. Third, however, may be a bit more of a shock:

Hello there, Oscar.

Following a 38-point season in 2016-17 that saw him take over the top power-play unit, I think many expected a big fantasy season from him this year. He came nowhere close to fulfilling those expectations. Now, we would find out he had been playing injured basically the entire season. I hope he’s back at 100 percent come September.

There will be changes coming to Edmonton. My fear is if they don’t trade Klefbom, they bring in another defenceman who can run a power-play unit. That would hurt Klefbom’s overall value for 2018-19. All that said, despite the lack of point production last season, he provided a nice safety net in some peripherals. We’ll see what management does over the summer. They’d be idiots to trade him but that’s not saying much for this franchise.


Changing of the Guard in Winnipeg

For years, outside of Brent Burns, Dustin Byfuglien was the gold standard for peripheral production. From 2013 through 2017, Byfuglien averaged 98 blocks and 254 shots on goal per 82 games. Add the 50 point seasons with a bevy of penalty minutes and hefty hit totals, and it’s easy to see why he was a constant fantasy favourite.

Though the blocked shots remained stout, the shots on goal tailed off for Byfuglien to 2.80 per game, his lowest mark since his Chicago days. A drop in ice time can explain that. Here’s the thing: Jacob Trouba also had a drop in ice time this year compared to last year by three full minutes and his shots on goal per game went up. Both averaged 4.57 shots+blocked shots last year, but things were different this year:

A full, healthy season from Trouba in this lineup should bring a lot of fantasy goodness. I know it seems I sing his praises too often but he is really, really good. Hopefully the injured season he just had is the last we see for a while and he comes at a good price at the draft table.


Per 60 Minutes

Over a couple Ramblings this week, I discussed both Ryan Pulock and Stephen Johns, particularly what they brought in the fantasy game this year. You can read the Ramblings on Pulock here and on Johns here.

Here are the top-10 defencemen by shots+blocked shots this season, on a per 60-minute basis. Burns, Edler, and Klefbeom stay at or near the top with Roman Josi and Jacob Trouba showing well. Expectedly, Radko Gudas and Kris Russell are near the top. Pulock and Johns, however, were both top-10 players in this regard:

Like I mentioned in those posts, I’m wary of full fantasy value because they’re both blocked by one (or more) defencemen for any meaningful power-play time. But if their coaches can give them 20 minutes a night next year, they can be peripheral monsters. For those in multi-cat leagues, just make sure to keep them in mind.

One other guy I want to mention before I drop the subject is Michal Kempny. Acquired from Chicago by Washington as insurance, he’s been used sparingly on the blue line for the Caps, either with limited ice time or as an outright scratch.

We’ll see if they bring him back next year. They’ll lose John Carlson but they still have Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov, as well as a burgeoning Christian Djoos. This year, however, between his two teams, Kempny had the 13th-highest shots+blocked shots rate per 60 minutest this year, sandwiched between Dougie Hamilton and Seth Jones.

I’m not sure he earns more ice time next year but Kempny has had productive peripherals in the minutes he has been given. Should he earn more ice time, there is probably a decent fantasy asset here. He won’t be if he continues to play 16-17 minutes a night, however.


Congrats to the Golden Knights on a remarkable season. They had some help at the expansion draft (thanks, Florida!) but this is a team that could be a playoff team for years to come should their prospects pan out. I imagine they’ll be signing both Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to long-term contracts this summer, which would lock up a big chunk of their core for the next few years.

William Karlsson remains the, er, wild card. He obviously had a monster season with 43 goals and he’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He won’t repeat his 23 percent shooting and that’s something Vegas needs to worry about when negotiating a new contract.

I’m not so sure there’s a huge overpayment coming, though. They’re buying RFA years where they weren’t with Jonathan Marchessault, and JAM signed a deal with a $5-million AAV for the next six years. And Marchessault, with a 30-goal season last year, has more of a track record of success. Maybe Karlsson exceeds Marchessault’s AAV but I don’t think it’s going to be by much. Then again, predicting GM behaviour can be a fool’s errand.


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