Great Night for Scoring, But Not For Goalies
Simple straightforward title here. It was a great night for numerous top shooters. Not so much for certain key goalies. But that’s the kind of season it’s been.
If you’re sitting here wondering why it’s difficult to find great goaltending, look no further than the scoring numbers. So far in the 2018-19 season, a total of 48 players (minimum 10 games) are scoring at least a point per game. Compare that to last season (2017-18), when 24 players scored at a point per game, and the season before (2016-17), when only 8 finished the season at a point per game.
Obviously this season’s number will drop as players regress over a larger sample size. But maybe the NHL’s goaltending equipment changes are having the intended effects on goalies. There will be other factors at play, but there’s no denying that this is a risky time to be investing major salary cap or auction dollars on a goalie. If you’re happy with your goaltending right now, then you are one of the lucky ones.
So let’s marvel at the exploits of some scorers while drowning our sorrows in reflecting on the goalies.
Jack Eichel scored twice in the first period of Saturday’s matinee game, giving him multiple points four times over his last five games and two goals in each of his last two games. Before the two 2-goal efforts, Eichel had scored just five goals all season. The difference has been Eichel’s ability to shoot more, as he has taken 19 shots over his past three games. So if Eichel can continue to shoot the puck more, we’ll continue to see a lot more goals, as his shooting percentage is still only around 7 percent. As much as Eichel’s scoring total is in the top 10 now, there’s actually room to grow even further.
The Flyers responded to Eichel’s goals with six unanswered goals to earn a 6-2 win. Claude Giroux led the charge, scoring a goal and adding three assists. Giroux has now scored goals in three consecutive games with seven points and a plus-7 over that span. Going back even further, Giroux now has seven multipoint games in his last 15 games.
James van Riemsdyk was mentioned by Flyers’ faithful as one player who needed to start producing after signing his lucrative offseason contract. Entering this game, JVR had scored just one goal over his first ten games. Fortunately, he scored a goal and added an assist in the Flyers’ win. A lot more should be expected from van Riemsdyk, who had averaged 32 goals per season over his previous two seasons in Toronto.
One goalie with a less-than-stellar performance on Saturday (and more are on the way): Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed five goals on 25 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Kings. Flower has sputtered a bit recently, allowing at least three goals in five of his last six games. Fleury’s save percentage is down to .908 this season from .927 in last season’s storybook run. Really, it’s his league-leading 16 wins (tied with the goalie mentioned next) and five shutouts that are keeping his fantasy value afloat.
Fleury is tied for the league lead in wins with another goalie who struggled on Saturday. Frederik Andersen allowed six goals on 28 shots before being pulled in the third period of the Leafs’ 6-3 loss to Boston. Perhaps Andersen was due for a stinker, as he has been saving the Leafs’ bacon recently. Andersen had posted four consecutive wins, but he had to work for all of them, facing at least 40 shots in each of those games. Andersen’s goals allowed total won’t always be ideal given the number of shots the team in front of him gives up, but his .926 save percentage places him among the league’s best.
The Bruins had been having trouble scoring goals recently with just five goals over their last four games. Torey Krug was one Bruin who was able to break his funk on Saturday, scoring his first goal of the season while adding two assists. In spite of the lack of goals, Krug has been remarkably consistent with assists (eight over his last eight games) and power-play points (four over his last six games).
With Matt Duchene now on IR, centers Chris Tierney and Colin White both received 19 minutes of icetime on Saturday. This is a bump of over two minutes for Tierney and over four minutes for White, who also saw time on the first-unit power play.
Another goalie who didn’t exactly help fantasy teams on Saturday (although you were warned) was Semyon Varlamov. The Avalanche netminder allowed five goals on 23 shots before getting the hook in the second period. Philipp Grubauer allowed two more goals to give the Lightning an eventual touchdown. It’s been a rough week for Varlamov, who has allowed 11 goals over two games facing the Lightning and Penguins. This after pitching a shutout last Sunday against Detroit. Maybe it’s better to save him for matchups against easier teams?
The Avalanche/Lightning game was projected to be a high-scoring game, and it was – for one of the teams anyway. Steven Stamkos led the Lightning charge on Saturday, scoring two first-period goals and adding two assists with a plus-3. Stammer may not be the sharpshooter that he once was, but he’s still scoring at a point-per-game pace with 31 points in 30 games.
Ondrej Palat scored his first goal since last season’s playoffs, then scored another. It took 15 games for Palat to finally hit the twine. He has decent linemates in Stamkos and Yanni Gourde, so he might not be a terrible option going forward.
Some more good news for the Bolts: Andrei Vasilevskiy could return to the lineup as a backup in mid-December. For those of you who doubted that Louis Domingue could hold the fort while Vas was out, Domingue is now third in the NHL with 13 wins, including five consecutive wins. If a starting goalie on a top team goes down and your league counts goalie wins, don’t waste any time in adding the backup, even if his track record is suspect. Unfortunately, Domingue should only see spot starts once Vasilevskiy is back in the lineup.
Huby Dooby Doo indeed. Jonathan Huberdeau scored a goal and added two assists in 24 minutes of icetime on Saturday (Aleksander Barkov had nearly 27 minutes!) Over his last ten games, Huberdeau has 19 points (4g-15a) with multiple points in seven of his last eight games. He’s also at over a point per game (34 points in 28 games). And the Panthers wanted to put him on the second-unit power play?
With a goal and two assists of his own on Saturday, Keith Yandle has eight points (1g-7a) in his past six games. He’s also quietly been scoring at a point-per-game pace (28 points in 28 games). Most importantly in multicategory leagues, Yandle leads all players – not just defensemen – with 19 power-play points. The Panthers as a team have scored 31 power-play goals, tied for the league lead with state rival Tampa Bay. Hmmm… that five-forward power-play experiment by the Panthers didn’t seem to be the way to go.
With a goal and an assist on Saturday, Alex Ovechkin’s point streak has now reached 11 games.
It wasn’t a bad night for every goalie. Braden Holtby stopped all 28 shots he faced in the Capitals’ 4-0 win over Columbus. Holtby owners needed a strong start, as he had allowed 13 goals over his previous three starts.
Back to the struggling goalies, though. Sergei Bobrovsky has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. After allowing eight goals on Tuesday to Calgary, Bob allowed three goals on 13 shots before John Tortorella decided to yank him. The only saving grace for Bobrovsky owners was that Torts removed him early so that he wouldn’t eat more goals as opposed to allowing him to see if he could work through it. Thanks, Torts. Bobrovsky owners don’t like eating goals, you know. By the way, Torts seemed to be in a better mood after the eight-goal performance than he was tonight.
Earlier this season I predicted that the Calgary Flames could be a top team if they could ever find some goaltending. Well, Mike Smith now has six consecutive wins. And now the Flames are the top team in the Western Conference, thanks to a 5-2 win over Nashville. Smith’s solid recent play over his six consecutive wins (1.59 GAA, .936 SV%) should serve as an example to the owners of struggling starting goalies to simply hang in there. Though it does help that the Flames have limited their opponents to an average of fewer than 25 shots per game over those last six games.
With Mark Giordano serving the first game of his two-game suspension, rookie Rasmus Andersson played top-pair minutes (22:59) along with T.J. Brodie and recorded an assist. This was just Andersson’s second point in 27 games. Don’t be fooled, though. There’s been scoring at other levels, so there’s some fantasy upside here (Dobber Prospects profile here).
I’m running out of things to say on Elias Lindholm’s amazing season. With another goal on Saturday, Lindholm now has five goals in his past four games and has now tied his goal total from all of last season (16) in less than half the number of games. It helps that his linemates are no slouches, either. With two assists, Johnny Gaudreau now has a six-game point streak in which he has posted 11 points (4g-7a).
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.