The Stars have broken up their lines, moving Jamie Benn to the second line with Martin Hanzal. That’s not a huge surprise. The surprising news here is they broke up their power play and moved Benn to the second unit. The team is apparently going to go with split, and equal, power play units. This is very bad for the fantasy value of all the big guns, which means most of the fantasy-relevant players. We’ll see if things change once John Klingberg returns.
Jordan Kyrou was sent down by the Blues. It’s a numbers game considering the depth the team has up front and he did have just two points in 11 games. But he only cracked the 10-minute mark in 5/11 of his games which makes it hard to show off his skills consistently. He’s very talented and should be a big piece of this team for 2019 and beyond.
Josh Ho-Sang was set to be in the lineup for the Islanders on Wednesday, taking part in the game-day skate on the third line. And then he was scratched. Whatever your feelings on how good or bad Ho-Sang is as a player, the Islanders look bad here. Play him or trade him. Don't call the kid up just to sit in the press box and watch non-NHLers like Johnston stumble around the ice like 20-year olds heading to the bar at last call.
Paul Stastny has been skating with the team and there was hope he’d be back for Wednesday night’s game against the Islanders. He’s close to returning but fantasy owners will have wait another game as he did not dress.
Oscar Klefbom blocked a shot in Tuesday night’s game against the Avalanche, forcing him from the contest. Ryan Rishaug reported that it’s believed Klefbom had X-Rays on Wednesday to determine the extent of the damage on what he suspects is a finger(s) injury. Darnell Nurse is the pickup to make in the meantime.
Matt Murray was activated off the injured reserve on Wednesday morning with Tristan Jarry returning to the AHL. Let’s hope that Murray can get his health, and his season, on track. It’d be a shame to see his career go in the other direction after such a spectacular start.
Sometimes I wonder if, when he’s healthy, if the Bruins wouldn’t be better served having Patrice Bergeron on the second line? David Krejci can easily slide in his role and it would help balance their scoring a bit more once Jake DeBrusk returns. Then again, it’s hard to break up the best line in the NHL.
The Golden Knights took a 3-2 win from the Islanders in a fairly drowsy affair at the Coliseum. Vegas’s top line did much of the damage as Jonathan Marchessault scored a power play goal very early in the game and William Karlsson sniped one past Robin Lehner. After a slow start to the season that saw Karlsson score just 4 goals in 20 games, he now has 7 in his last 13 and is on pace for 27 this year. Again, this is the regression we expected from last year but that line is still talented enough where Karlsson is a threat to score 30. Colin Miller’s assist on Marchessault’s goal was his eighth power-play point of the season, nearly halfway to his total last year (17).
Nick Leddy had five shots on goal for the Islanders in this game, his first game with more than three shots this season. In fact, it’s his first game with more than three shots since March 2nd of last season, a span of 44 games.
For the first time since October, the Chicago Blackhawks won a game by three or more goals in their 6-3 win over Pittsburgh. Sure, two of those goals came in the final 62 seconds with the empty net, but who’s counting?
Both those empty net goals were figured into by Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews, giving the former one goal and one assist and giving the latter one goal and two assists. Brent Seabrook also had 1-1, giving him 14 points on the season. He might not be very useful in real hockey anymore, but in fantasy leagues with real-time stats, he’s as relevant as ever.
Pittsburgh’s goals were all scored by Bryan Rust, his second career hat trick, and first multi-goal game in 11 months. Kris Letang had seven shots on net and is now on pace for over 270 shots on goal, which would be a career-high.
The Philadelphia Flyers absolutely choked away a game they had completely in hand. Leading 5-3 with 70 seconds left, the Flames got goals from Rasmus Andersson and Sean Monahan about a minute apart to force overtime with 7 seconds left. Johnny Gaudreau completed the overtime comeback win with his 13th goal of the season.
It was a huge night for the big guns from the Flames as Monahan had two goals and an assist, Gaudreau had a goal and two assists, Matthew Tkachuk had four helpers, and Mark Giordano also had a goal and two assists. That game pushed both Monahan and Gaudreau into the top-10 (including ties) in league scoring, and pushed Giordano over a point-per-game pace with 32 in 30.
Why do the Flyers keep losing? Well:
Man it just blows my fucking mind that Hakstol chooses to throw Andrew MacDonald out there for 22 minutes and also run Provorov into the ground instead of perhaps giving Sanheim more than 10 minutes a night pic.twitter.com/aQYtRzMj0S
— Scott T. (@NHLFlyera) December 13, 2018
Ice time distribution like that is unlikely to lead to a happy ending.
Speaking of comebacks, the Stars led the Ducks 3-1 with four minutes left in the second period. Anaheim would end up winning 6-3, reeling off five straight goals. Ondrej Kase completed a hat trick, Brandon Montour put up four points (1-3) in the third period alone, and Jakob Silfverberg scored a goal in his fourth straight game.
Miro Heiskanen scored for the Stars, giving him 6 goals and 16 points in 31 games. He is now on pace for about 15 goals and 40 points, something that hasn’t been done by a teenage defenceman since Phil Housley back in the mid-80s. Pretty good!
I went digging around some power play stuff on Wednesday. Here are some interesting names to look into.
Allow me to wax poetic about Patrik Laine, the man with 101 goals, for a little while, will you?
As we sit here on Wednesday afternoon, Laine has 21 goals in 30 games, and that includes two separate stretches of 5+ games without a goal. Streaky? Probably. But most goal scorers are streaky. Scoring goals is hard, you just take them when you can get them. He needs just 19 goals to set the post-1980s goal-scoring record through the age of 20 (Steven Stamkos had 119).
What Laine is doing on the power play this year is absurd. Case in point:
Patrik Laine is scoring 5 goals per 60 minutes on 5v4 PPs. That rate is higher than five *teams* (CBJ, PHI, NYI, LAK, CHI). https://t.co/3V9XUI5XEc
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) December 12, 2018
For the record, the only player to score over 4.5 goals per 60 minutes at 5v4 in a single season (minimum 200 minutes played) in the Behind the Net era (since 2007) is Alex Ovechkin, who accomplished the feat in both 2012-13 and 2014-15.
The thing about this goal scoring: his shooting percentage at 5v4 isn’t that extreme. He sits at 23.7 percent currently, which is lower than last year’s mark of 24.6. His shooting percentage is around the top 20 percent league wide, sitting 35th out of 177 forwards with 50+ minutes this year. In other words, a percentage bender isn’t the reason for his success.
When he’s on the ice for 5v4 PPs, Laine is landing 21.1 shots per 60 minutes. That is the reason for his success; his shot rate is fifth overall in the league at 5v4, behind only John Tavares, David Pastrnak, Cam Atkinson, and Mika Zibanejad. That mark is up considerably from his first two seasons where he managed 16.4 shots/60 in both.
At five-on-five, not much has changed. His shot rates are about where they were for his prior two campaigns, as are his shooting percentages and individual points percentages. In other words, the difference for Laine this year has been the power play.
The question is whether he can maintain what he’s doing. The answer is… probably?
On the season, the Jets top PP unit has been absolutely lethal. With Laine, Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler on the ice, the Jets are taking over 125.8 shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5v4. Only the Toronto power play is higher. The resulting 70.1 shots per 60 minutes on net means Laine is taking about 30 percent of the shots. As long as the team’s shot rate maintains, meaning Laine’s shot rate maintains, there’s no reason to think this can’t continue.
Sometimes we just need to take a step back and enjoy what we’re watching. It can be hard to do that playing fantasy hockey because constant analysis of situations and players is necessary, but it’s worth it in this case. Laine is performing and producing at literal historical levels and he’s doing so without being lucky. We should count ourselves blessed.
While going over Laine’s power play production this season, I noticed a couple players who are pretty much at the other end of the spectrum from the dynamic Finn: Mika Zibanejad and Brock Boeser. Let’s start with the latter first.
Boeser missed some games but he’s played 20 and has yet to score a power play goal. Allow me to repeat: the guy who scored 12 PP goals in his first 71 career games has zero through 20 games this season. His shot rates are consistent with his prior performances. So what’s the deal?
Well, his shot locations aren’t any different. HockeyViz allows us to look through each player’s shot location heat map, and here is 2017-18:
And here is his 2018-19:
That hasn’t changed. So we have a player who has yet to score a goal at 5v4 (or just the PP in general) but has consistent shot rates and locations. Without going back through the tape of every Canucks PP Boeser has been a part of this season, it seems he’s getting fairly unlucky.
Despite not having a PP goal yet this year, Boeser has 9 goals and 17 points in 20 games. He’s landing three shots on goal per game and the data about shots and shot location on the PP seem normal. In one-year leagues, maybe it’s worth looking to see if the Boeser owner is seeing the shine wear off a little bit. Not that it’s a buy-low situation, but a chance to buy cheaper than he should be. Just a thought.
The other guy to discuss is Zibanejad. He’s currently on pace for 71 points, which would smash is previous career-best of 51, the only time he’s cracked 50 points. He’s on that pace despite shooting 9.6 percent, the lowest for him in any season since the lockout year. Over those five seasons, he averaged 12 percent. Why the drop in shooting percentage? The power play.
This may surprise a few people, but Zibanejad has 14 power play goals last year and he’s not on pace for even half that many this year with just two so far. He is top-5 in shot rate at 5v4 this year among all forwards but is shooting just 6.9 percent. In his first two seasons with the Rangers, he averaged an 18.9 percent conversion rate. In other words, I expect there will be a huge power play scoring binge coming over the final 50 games. As in, don’t be surprised if he scores 10+ PP goals the rest of the season.
It’s another buying opportunity. Like Boeser, Zibanejad’s production is still pretty good and he, too, is averaging over three shots on goal per game. It never hurts to ask the Zibanejad owner in your league what it might take to acquire him.