Let’s get around the league to catch up on some injury and lineup notes.
This is a huge blow for Vegas, a team already missing Nate Schmidt for the next month or so as well. They are a good team but only so many guys missing can be sustained. For now, expect lines from the last couple games to persist, including the power play.
Michael Matheson was suspended two games for his hit on Elias Pettersson. Matheson wasn’t overly relevant outside of deeper leagues, but this should make the Panthers rely on their top two defencemen in Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle a little bit more.
Justin Schultz is expected to miss at least four months after surgery to repair a leg fracture which occurred Saturday night. Bad news for a guy who turned his career around after being traded from Edmonton.
Something to note is that with Schultz out, Juuso Riikola saw more minutes at five-on-five than Jack Johnson in that game. Riikola also maintained his second-unit PP status. I don’t know if he’ll have much fantasy relevance given that the second unit will clearly be used considerably less, but he played nearly 19 minutes against Montreal. It may not be long until he’s fantasy-relevant.
Adam Gaudette was called up by the Canucks given all their injuries, now including Jay Beagle who will miss six weeks. He’ll be slotted on the second line for now in Pettersson’s spot but there’s not much to write home about. It’s more about who takes over Pettersson’s PP spot on the top unit.
Nick Bjugstad is being called day-to-day by the Panthers and Denis Malgin took his spot on the top line in Florida for practice. Bjugstad did practice, though, so it doesn’t look like anything serious to worry about.
Toronto cruised to a home victory over Los Angels by a 4-1 margin. To be honest, this was probably the best the Kings have looked all year… and they still lost. In particular, the line of Pearson-Kempe-Toffoli looked dangerous all night.
Though the Kings played well, there is so much skill in the Toronto lineup that one mistake is a goal in the back of your net. This happened when Zach Hyman managed to force a play and in the ensuing tic-tac play, Mitch Marner scored from John Tavares. A missed drop-pass intended for Anze Kopitar turned into a 2v1 for Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen. The result was the second goal for Kapanen on the night.
The Los Angeles power play is still a disaster. Why John Stevens won’t just play Kopitar-Kovalchuk-Carter-Toffoli together is beyond me. They deserve what they’re getting.
Garrett Sparks started for the Leafs as Frederik Andersen is day-to-day with a knee injury. It doesn’t seem too serious, but we’ll pass along updates.
Speaking of a better effort, Minnesota lost 4-2 in Nashville but they looked much better than they did when they got dumpstered by the Hurricanes on the weekend. The Preds got goals from Mattias Ekholm, Craig Smith (on the power play), and a breakaway marker from Filip Forsberg and Miikka Salomaki. Mikko Koivu and Matt Dumba (PPG) replied for the Wild.
Forsberg now has four goals and six points in six games to start the year. It’s not the scorching start like some other players but it’s nice to see him get the jump right out of the gate. He’s fully capable of maintaining a point per game this year. Let’s see if he can do it.
It was a big night for the Habs offensively. Jonathan Drouin picked up a pair of goals (his first tallies of the year) while Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, and Charles Hudon also marked a tally. Tatar had a couple of assists as well in the 7-3 win.
Tomas Plekanec also scored, doing so in his 1000th game in the NHL. Just 17 more to reach 1000 in a Habs uniform.
This Detroit team is bad. Good grief.
Maybe Max Lajoie will never stop scoring? He tallied his fourth goal of the season for Ottawa, with Mikkel Boedker, Brady Tkachuk, and Zack Smith adding goals as well en route to a 4-1 win. Ottawa played a pretty even game with Dallas.
Stars coach Jim Montgomery did what he said he was going to do: he pulled his goalie very early, taking Ben Bishop out with just under 8 minutes left. It was an offensive zone draw with his to line. They spent about a minute in the zone and then on an ensuing faceoff in the neutral zone, he put Bishop back in. It’ll be fun to watch this progress through the year.
You can read the math behind optimal goalie pull decisions here.
This early in the season is when avoiding panic moves is paramount, same with getting to confident about any player. Monday was Day 13 of the NHL season. Just for a quick revision of how much things can change, the following things were true on Day 13 of the NHL season in 2017-18 (all below via Nat Stat Trick):
- Filip Forsberg had five PP points in five games; he had 16 in his next 62 games.
- Brandon Saad had six goals in his first six games; he managed 12 in his next 76 games.
- TJ Oshie had five goals in his first six games, putting up just 13 more over the balance of his season.
- Mike Green had four PP points in his first six games, tallying just nine in his next 60 contests.
- TJ Brodie was a point-per-game defenceman through six games but scored just 26 more over the rest of the year.
There are obviously many situations like this but it’s just for a quick reminder about how easily we can get excited about a quick start. If someone manages eight points in five games in the middle of January, no one cares. Do it at the start of the season and fantasy owners get all hot and bothered.
All the same, it’s important to realize as early as possible where your offseason assumptions were wrong and begin adjusting them. In July and August, we have no idea what every lineup will look like. We have to think along with 31 coaches and try the best we can using historical information. I suppose no one really saw Warren Foegele playing alongside Jordan Staal for nearly every minute at five-on-five, but we should start using that as an assumption.
Here are some other assumptions I’m going to start using for my rest-of-season projections based off what we’ve seen so far this year.
This was supposed to be the breakout year for Jesse Puljujarvi. He played about a third of a season two years ago, was moved to a middle-six role last year, and this year he was supposed to unleash on the NHL.
Through three games, Puljujarvi is 10:25 at even strength per game. That’s slightly less than Drake Caggiula (10:28). It’s over four minutes per game less than Ty Rattie (who is now on the top PP unit, by the way). Overall, he’s averaging over a minute and a half less per game this year than 2017-18.
It’s pretty clear Todd McLellan either doesn’t trust him or doesn’t like him. I wouldn’t expect much to change until a new coach is brought in. Maybe he’ll put Poolparty on the top line here soon, as he should, but whether it lasts is unclear. Until further notice, he’s a non-factor for me in 12-team non-keeper leagues.
A new coach presumably meant a new role for the centre in the last year of his contract. At the least, he has been a mainstay on the top PP unit, something he wasn’t last year. As long as that maintains, he should have some fantasy relevance in some leagues.
He’s not being given that much more ice time though, clocking in under 14 minutes a night. That can affect everything from face-off wins, to shot totals, to production. He might have a consistent role on the PP, but that doesn’t mean his role has significantly changed.
It all means this is the end of the road for Spezza and fantasy relevance. He can still be used in deeper leagues but, at best, will be a Joe Thornton-type of fantasy option: lots of assists and PP production but little else. Before throwing him on your fantasy roster, be sure you need what he brings and don’t need what he doesn’t.
I mentioned this last week, but it appears that Lindholm is pretty much locked on the top line and top PP unit. I know he got moved around a bit, and I have a feeling that will last until the Calgary goaltending settles down, if it ever does. Nothing gets a coach changing his lines like bad goaltending.
Anyway, I’ve adjusted my projections for Lindholm to go from 50% top-line usage to 75%. Same on the PP. It’s added a little over eight points to his final-season tally, bringing him a shade under 60 points, with a similar points projection to wingers like Viktor Arvidsson and Cam Atkinson.
Here’s the thing. Anyone who read my stuff in the offseason knows I thought DeBrusk would at least get a crack at the top PP unit. Once it was clear Ryan Donato would start there, I got a little nervous. My preseason projection had DeBrusk spending just 25 percent of his total PP time on the top unit, and his final projection was 12.3 PPPs. It’s not as if I had him being overly-reliant on PP production for fantasy value.
But it’s clear that he’s nowhere near getting to the top PP unit. When Donato was a healthy scratch, Anders Bjork was moved to the top PP unit. When Donato returned, they left Bjork on the top PP unit. That means the assumption should be that DeBrusk is, at best, third in the pecking order to get that coveted fourth-forward spot on Boston’s top power play. In other words, his time there will be extremely limited.
I moved his PP assumption down to 10 percent of time spent on the top unit and it’s dropped two PPPs off his total, bringing my projection for him to 49 total points. Still good, but his fantasy value his starting to be chipped away.
My preseason projection for Chabot was just a shade under 34 points, right in line with fellow young blue liner Charlie McAvoy, and in the same range as names like Aaron Ekblad and Jeff Petry. In other words, in good company.
But holy crap Chabot has looked great early this year. I’ve admittedly watched more Sens games than I’d like to, but he always stands out. I know the narrative is around Maxime Lajoie, and he is a great story, but Chabot looks every bit the cornerstone defenceman. In return, he’s earned top-pair minutes at even strength and is the top defenceman on the PP (though those minutes are a bit more mixed).
All told, Chabot is playing about four more minutes per game this year than last and he’ll probably earn more as the season goes on. His current scoring pace obviously won’t maintain but he’s driving the bus for the Sens, and I don’t think that stops anytime soon.
When the Erik Karlsson trade was announced, the first thing that popped in my head was how this was going to affect the power play. For years, Burns had been the focal point, ripping shots at will. That helped push him over 300 shots per season for three years. My assumption had been that Karlsson would be a facilitator on the PP with Burns retaining his shot-ripping role.
It hasn’t quite worked that way. Burns’s shot rate on the PP is his lowest in a decade, about 25 percent lower than last year. He’s lost about three minutes per game at five-on-five (which I did not anticipate) and concurrently has managed a four-year low in shot rate. Shooting less at all strengths and losing 5v5 minutes to only be playing more on the PK (about two minutes per game more) means that his negligible change in overall TOI from last year (only about 30 seconds less) is misleading. The loss in 5v5 time is almost entirely made up from the increase in PK minutes which is obviously horrific for his production potential.
There is cause for concern here. He’s playing 16:47 per game at even strength. That could lead to a loss of six or seven points alone. Unless that production is made up on the power play, this could be a very down year from what we had been expecting from him.