Ramblings: Rantanen, Aho, Burns, Barzal, Drouin, and Tampa’s Nuclear Option (Oct. 27)
I’d like to take a moment to congratulate a couple of the Dobber boys. First, to Steve Laidlaw. Stevie has been editing my work and managing this site for years. His work has always spoken for itself. He’s been a tremendous leader and content creator. His presence on the site will be sorely missed. We wish you all the best, pal.
Secondly, to Ian Gooding. Ian has been equally instrumental in my early work not showing up with a few dozen errors. He’s been churning out top-notch ramblings for years and will be terrific in his new role as Managing Editor.
It’s not too often that a team plays a must-win game in October, but that’s exactly what the Colorado Avalanche faced on Friday evening. Their playoff lives weren’t on the line. They weren’t looking to end a lengthy slide to save some jobs. They weren’t looking to exact revenge on the team that beat them in a seven-game Cup final the spring before.
No, they were playing the Ottawa Senators. As we all know, the Avs own the Senators’ top pick in the 2019 draft. A pick many forecasted to provide tasty odds to snag a Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko. Surprisingly, the Sens are off to a reasonable start. And that simply won’t do for Colorado fans and those who love to pile on the Sens for inept ownership and management.
It was the Sens who came out rolling first though. Ryan Dzingel popped an early tally. Thomas Chabot and Chris Tierney with the assists. Tierney just continues to roll on with his new squad. He’s up to 10 points in nine games. He’s seeing 2:18 on the man-advantage and is already halfway to matching his career-high for PPPs with four on the year.
Keep him on the roster while the heater lasts. He’s definitely tracking for some career-highs with this early action and improved deployment.
Chabot isn’t doing too poorly either as the Karlsson replacement. Three goals and 11 points in nine contests for the 21-year-old. Over three minutes on the top power-play unit, but it’s his five-on-five production that’s the most impressive. Nine of his 11 points have come at evens.
We saw the potential in junior. It’s manifesting itself into NHL production now.
In the end, it was the Avalanche who took over. They scored five unanswered goals to take the game 6-3. It’s a big surprise where the offense came from too. Gabriel Landeskog and Nate MacKinnon each had a goal and two assists, while Mikko Rantanen chipped in with a goal and three helpers.
That places Rantanen as your new league leader in points (20) and assists (15). MacKinnon sits second (18) and Landeskog (15) is tied for fifth.
That line is giving the Boston trio a serious run as the best line in hockey.
We had a rare non-weekend 3:00 pm PST start time on Friday as the Lightning and Golden Knights faced off in the desert.
Tyler Johnson got things rolling quickly with an unassisted tally just three minutes in. It was his first point in five games. Johnson had a hat trick and a two-assist game early but had been icy in every other contest. Not exactly the model of consistency. This despite the fact he’d been lining up next to Kucherov for the last little while.
Shea Theodore evened things up a couple of minutes later when he blasted home a one-timer. It’s the first of the year for the talented blueliner. And just his second point in 10 games to go along with a minus-9 rating. Not the type of production many were hoping for from the QB on Vegas’ top power play.
Theodore has been shooting the puck a good deal which should hopefully be indicative of some further production coming soon. He put five shots on net on Friday evening and has averaged 3.83 over the last six contests.
TBay has been tossing Stamkos-Point-Kucherov on after a penalty kill lately. It’s as insane as you might expect. It took all of 30-seconds to produce a Point tally assisted by the other two.
Loading up big lines is usually frowned upon in this league. It leaves most teams exposed to a lack of depth and easy matchup games for opposition coaches. But this is something I’d like to see more from Jon Cooper. Call it the nuclear option if you like, but god damn that’s a line that could threaten the Boston and Colorado units as the best on the planet.
William Karlsson made it close with his third of the year but the Bolts held on for a 3-2 victory. Vegas slips to 4-5-1 on the season. That’s the second-worst point percentage in the Pacific division.
The good fortune bender of 2017-18 is officially over.
A couple of lengthy point streaks were extending in the San Jose – Carolina game. Sebastian Aho extended his season-long point streak to 10 games and 15 points. That total lands him in a tie for fifth in NHL scoring.
Aho is driving the bus in Carolina. He’s sporting a Corsi rating of 64% in all situations, playing 19 minutes a game, and rocking a 4.87 points-per-60 output. He’s on a heater, no doubt. But this is a player capable of sustaining a point-per-game over the long haul.
Brent Burns grabbed a couple of early assists to extend his point streak to seven games and 12 points. He’s seeing nearly a minute less of even-strength ice compared to last season, but his production hasn’t given it away.
Meanwhile, Timo Meier continued his strong third season. The Swiss winger tallied a goal to extend his streak to seven games and eight points. I was championing Meier as a breakout candidate this offseason and he’s making me look smart.
Through 10 games, the recently turned 22-year-old has six goals and nine points. He’s been a terror around the net – similar to how he spent his one season in Halifax. While he’s not getting top power play minutes, he is seeing top-line even-strength minutes and that means prolonged exposure to either Burns or Karlsson virtually every time he’s on the ice at five-on-five.
This kid is for real.
The Canes rallied from down 2-0 and 3-1 to take the game 4-3 in a shootout. That pushes Carolina to the top of the Metropolitan division. They’ve done it with a combination of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney in net.
PS. Where is Erik Karlsson? Despite an assist tonight he was not particularly good. Six assists in 10 games with four of them coming on the PP. There's plenty of grace time for him in San Jose, but fantasy owners can't be overly excited.
Mat Barzal has seven shots in eight games to start his season. Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to a few elite distributors who are allergic to putting pucks on net. Joe Thornton and Henrik Sedin being the most recent examples. But even those two would manage to flirt with two shots per game in their hay days.
Barzal managed to put up 2.1 as a rookie a season ago. But this year you can’t pay him to rip the biscuit. Many expected this year to be challenging for the 21-year-old. He lost his insulation. His leader, captain and one of the best power play producers in the world. He’s the guy now.
The hope was he’d be able to come close to replicating his production as a sophomore. Finding the back of the net a few more times would go a long way in climbing that mountain. While we’re just 10 percent through the season, he’s on pace to join a rare group of front-line centres who failed to hit triple digit shots on goal in a season.
In the last 30 years, we’ve seen it happen just six times.
2000-01 – Adam Oates 72 shots in 81 games (13+69)
2016-17 – Joe Thornton 81 shots in 79 games (7+43)
1998-99 – Igor Larionov 83 shots in 75 games (14+49)
1999-00 – Adam Oates 93 shots in 82 games (15+56)
2014-15 – Mike Ribeiro 96 shots in 82 games (14+47)
2016-17 – Henrik Sedin 99 shots in 82 games (15+35)
There’s plenty of time for Barzal to start firing the puck more, and he’s still clicking at a point-per-game early on. But owners should be watching those SOG totals. Barzal will need to be the offensive leader on this team, and keeping defense schemes honest with the threat of a shot will go a long way in that.
I had a request to dig into Jonathan Drouin’s early success. As a man of the people, I’m happy to oblige.
We know the story: Drouin was as high-flying as you could ask for coming out of junior. He was tapped third overall on draft day and carried the hype of a future superstar. Fast-forward five years and he hasn’t come close to meeting his expectations.
So far in 2018-19, the 23-year-old has three goals and seven points in nine games. He went scoreless in his first three contests before ending a five-game point streak on Thursday night. But is this a sign of things to come in Montreal?
Some stats of note: 71 percent of production has come on the man-advantage. He’s converting on 15.8 percent of his shots while barely putting two on net per game. His career average before this year was 10.7 percent. He’s receiving 4:26 per game on the power play which is great, but the even-strength production is a concern.
It’s not unreasonable to expect a player with his deployment and skill set to continue to play at a 0.7 point-per-game pace. Id’ say that’s the high-water mark for realistic expectations this season.
Watch out for Jaro Halak in Boston. The former starting netminder may have eyes for the full-time crease job with the Bruins with his and Rask's early season play.
Here's a look at the stats:
Tuuka Rask: 3-2-0 0.901 SV% 3.38 GAA
Jaroslav Halak: 3-0-2 0.945 SV% 1.43 GAA
Bruce Cassidy proved he wouldn't shy away from cutting into Rask's workload when he ran with Anton Khudobin for stretches this year. Halak could prove to be one of the better waiver wire grabs this season. Or not. Who knows with goalies.
Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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