We had a wild game in Canada’s capital Wednesday night that featured a lot of goals and an equal amount of nastiness.
The first note was that not only did Brady Tkachuk score his first career NHL goal, he managed a pair of them. Truth be told, his power play unit looked much better than the first one and they even started earning some extra ice time. It was a nice game all around for the rookie.
It was the Philly top line that really showed up in this one, though. One night after getting embarrassed at home, Jakub Voracek had a pair of goals and five points, Claude Giroux had one and one, Sean Couturier added another tally en route to a 7-4 win.
The Flyers blue line did a lot of work on the scoresheet as Shayne Gostisbehere had two assists, Radko Gudas had three, while Robert Hagg scored his second goal of the season. Hagg only had three all of last year.
Maxime Lajoie continued his torrid start for Ottawa adding another two goals and assist to his stellar performance so far this season. He also earned over 20 minutes for the second time in four games, playing at least 18:30 in all four contests to date. Of all the early-season goings on, the rookie blue liner having five points in four games has to be near the top of the list.
Nolan Patrick seemed to be injured after a hit in the first period and only played a few minutes in Wednesday night’s game. He left the game, did not return, and the team is calling it an upper-body injury. We may know more on Thursday.
Ryan Kesler made a surprise return for the Ducks as he had not been cleared medically as of Wednesday afternoon but was in the lineup Wednesday night. If you drafted him, now is the time to activate him. With Getzlaf still injured, he should see a lot of ice time.
The Coyotes won their Wednesday night matchup in Anaheim with a 3-2 shootout victory. Dylan Strome scored his first of the season – the first of Arizona's season too – with Brad Richardson scoring shorthanded. Antti Raanta saved 23 of 25 on the march to the shootout victory.
Kesler scored for Anaheim in his first game this season for the Ducks.
As has been the case for the Coyotes so far this year, they switched up their lines in-game. For the third period, Strome was put together with Clayton Keller. I'm sure this is a pairing fantasy owners would like to see skating alongside each other for a few games to see how things go.
We had a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final with Vegas going into Washington. The Caps would prevail 5-2 largely thanks to their power play.
This was the Evgeny Kuznetsov show all game long. He made a couple of very nice plays to set up Alex Ovechkin for a pair of goals. His best was probably this one, using his edges and exercising patience, waiting for the lane to open:
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) October 11, 2018
Kuznetsov figured in all four goals, having one tally and three assists. Two of the team’s four goals came with the man advantage.
One important note from this game on the Vegas side of things: about mid-way through the third period, needing a goal, the Golden Knights stacked their top PP unit with the top line, Max Pacioretty, and Shea Theodore. They have always used to separate PP units with nearly equal ice time. It could have just been for this game needing a goal, but it’s something to monitor in the coming games.
For what it’s worth (probably a lot), Bob McKenzie said last night it could me more of a week-to-week thing. We shall see.
Well, that didn’t take long:
#Isles place Jan Kovar on unconditional waivers.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) October 10, 2018
Too bad it didn’t work out. The Islanders need all the help they can get.
We’re a week into the season. We have a couple dozen weeks left. What is true today will not necessarily be true tomorrow, or a week from now, or a month from now.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some early surprises. Sometimes these surprises lead to good things – Jake DeBrusk looking great early in 2017-18 bode well for his season – and sometimes they’re meaningless.
Here are a few things early in the season that are surprising, at least to me. This is as of Wednesday afternoon, so we’re not counting Wednesday night’s games.
Patrick Kane leads the league in shot attempts
Not only does the dynamic Chicago winger lead the league in shot attempts (34), he’s done so playing just three games whereas names like Evander Kane (32), Mitch Marner (25), and John Tavares (25) have all played four games.
It’s not necessarily a surprise that Kane is among the league leaders in this regard; he did finish top-10 last year. But that top-10 finish had him 260 attempts behind first place (Brent Burns). That margin of 260 was roughly half of Kane’s final total (515). So, yeah, he normally shoots a lot, but he doesn’t shoot this much.
The thing is, Kane is averaging a lot of ice so far as well, clocking in just shy of 22:30 a game. He won’t keep up over six shots per game, but if he maintains anywhere near that level of ice time, don’t be surprised to see a career-best shot total come from his campaign.
Los Angeles looks awful.
It has been kind of a tough schedule to open, with games against Winnipeg and San Jose bookending a game with Detroit. But the Kings have been outshot a total of 110-63 in those three games. If they fancy themselves as contenders, this is not the impression to make out of the gate.
Their showing so far is a bit surprising, at least to me. Adding Ilya Kovalchuk and having a healthy Jeff Carter was supposed to make a difference. They’re older players, sure, but still very good. Team depth is an issue but the top half of the roster up front and on the blue line still looks solid. And they were throttled by Detroit, only being bailed out by their goaltending. Not a recipe for long-term success.
Alex Edler is second among defencemen in PP points
Given that we knew Morgan Rielly would be running the new-look Leafs PP, his leading the league’s defencemen in PP points isn’t a surprise. Edler having three PPs himself, however, is.
Vancouver has looked probably as expected to most: the top line is snakebit early but looks fine, Elias Pettersson looks fantastic, and the rest of the team looks pretty bad. But that top line, with Elias Pettersson, is all Edler needs to have fantasy value.
Power play points are going to be crucial for Edler moving forward and despite the early success, the team is struggling for shot generation. This is something to keep an eye on over the next couple weeks. If Edler can manage a few more PPs in the next five or six games, and shot generation for the Canucks doesn’t improve, that would be the time for fantasy owners to trade him. That injury history is always lurking in the shadows anyway.
Speaking of Vancouver, don’t be fooled by Loui Eriksson’s start
Three points in three games for the veteran winger is a nice way to begin the campaign. He also has one (1!) shot on goal in those three games and has been given fewer than 12 minutes per game in that span. I’m sure a lot of people will point to the HE PLAYS WITH PETTERSSON sign, but those minutes cannot sustain fantasy value for anyone playing anywhere.
If you have Eriksson on your roster, chances are he was a throwaway pick very late in a deep draft. Maybe you can trade him for something useful now because if his role doesn’t improve, he’ll have no value in a month.
It’s still early so there isn’t really a lot to discuss, especially on slow three-game nights like Wednesday night. I thought I would dig through the Dobber forums and answer some questions posed there.
Question 1: Buchnevich or Labanc, points-only?
Question taken from here.
To me, this isn’t close. In my preseason projections, I had Buchnevich at 55.0 points even and Labanc at 45.6 points. There has been nothing so far this season that makes me think Labanc can increase his scoring by 25 percent to become the better option.
Yes, Labanc is off to a great start with five points in four game. He’s also still playing roughly as many minutes as he did last year and unless San Jose sustains four or five more key injuries, he won’t come anywhere close to the top PP unit.
Buchnevich, on the other hand, is earning about a minute more per game so far this season compared to 2017-18 and will be on the top PP unit. There is a disparity in the quality of the teams but that top line for the Rangers is still very good and as long as Buchnevich remains in his current role, he’s the superior points-only option.
Question taken from here.
My preseason projections had Gallagher ahead of Lindholm in goals (27.6 to 17.1) but the disparity in assists brought their point totals fairly close with Gallagher still having a small edge (53.6 to 51.3). The projection for Lindholm was done with the assumption that he’d play 50 percent of the season on the top line and 50 percent of the season in the middle-6 while bouncing between the two PP units.
This is clearly all about Lindholm’s role. He’s skating with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan both at five-on-five and on the PP. If that sustains itself for the vast majority of the season, rather than just half the season, that will more than make up for the disparity in shots on goal in this scoring format. If he’s off the top line and top PP unit by American Thanksgiving, though, Gallagher has the clear edge.
As noted by FHG in that particular forum thread, Lindholm likely has the coach’s trust given his early usage and their prior relationship. This gives the edge to Lindholm for however long he maintains his role.
Question 3: A lot of people are bailing on Kevin Shattenkirk
There were multiple questions about him.
I understand the desire to get ahead of this before it snowballs out of control, seeing as he played under 10 minutes in the team’s last game and looks to be a healthy scratch on Thursday.
Here’s the thing: this is a new coach sending a message to a young team. Expectations aren’t high for the Rangers but an NHL coach doesn’t think in terms of losing. They have to mix winning with developing younger players. This is a message to the younger players that says ‘Even if you’re a 10-year veteran all star, if you don’t pull your weight, we’ll find someone else that will.’ Shattenkirk cracked 20 minutes in each of the first two games before that insane 8-5 game in Carolina.
Don’t bail on Shattenkirk. He’ll be back after the Thursday scratch and back in his usual role. If other people in your league are looking to bail on him, now is the time to buy him for cheap.