Ramblings: Harsh Words in Big D, Goalie Overuse, World Juniors (Dec 29)
Hey, why not preorder your Midseason Guide here? DobberHockey staff are working on this feverishly so it’ll be available for you on January 11. You’ll find second-half projections, sleepers, advanced stats, historical trends, prospects, and more.
I’m currently working on the goaltending piece. As I do with any large assignment (writing or otherwise), I tend to start with the easy and work my way out to the more difficult. So when projecting the goaltending situations for 31 teams, I’m starting with the more predictable situations and working my way out to the more difficult. That means I’m getting the workhorse starters like Craig Anderson, John Gibson, and Carey Price out of the way.
Wait, what… all three are dealing with injuries?* Now I’m not trying to suggest that all three goalies’ injuries are due to overuse, but goalies who are overused become more susceptible to injuries. Whenever a goalie who starts a ton of games is injured, I tend to wonder when teams will start managing goaltending minutes the same way major league baseball teams now manage their pitchers’ pitch counts.
So who could be in danger of overuse? Marc-Andre Fleury is your league leader with 35 games played. As much as his fantasy owners have been able to count on him for starts and wins, he’s one of the league’s older goalies at 34. He missed two months with a concussion last season and also suffered two concussions in 2015-16, which is something for you to keep in the back of your mind.
I’m also looking at Frederik Andersen, who is only one win behind Fleury and among the top 5 in games played. Andersen has started 66 games in each of the previous two seasons, so he has a track record of durability. But what concerns me is the high volume of shots that the Leafs face on a nightly basis. If you’re a Fleury or Andersen owner and Malcolm Subban or Garret Sparks happens to start, don’t be dismayed. Consider it necessary rest for your goalie.
*Gibson and Price are on my 9-year-old son’s fantasy team, his very first team and a team he drafted only a few days ago. Welcome to fantasy hockey, son.
I don’t read about these types of comments in hockey as often as in other professional sports – maybe because of the more polite nature of hockey culture. Yet on Friday, Stars’ CEO Jim Lites ripped into Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin with a few choice words (Dallas News). Benn’s $9.5 million cap hit is within the league’s top 10 at the moment; while Seguin will move into that group starting next season, which is when his new contract with a $9.85 million cap hit kicks in. Although neither Benn nor Seguin are having terrible seasons, the article mentions some interesting names with whom the two Stars are currently tied with in points – most of whom would have been drafted below Benn or Seguin.
Seguin is tied for 57th in the league with players like Alex DeBrincat, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kevin Hayes and Gustav Nyquist. Benn is tied for 67th in the league with players like Zach Parise, Patrik Laine, Tomas Hertl and Jonathan Drouin.
It’s all well and good for ownership to say that the team’s star players are underperforming. After all, ownership is paying a truckload of cash for these two players and has a right not to be happy if the investment is underperforming. But his choice of words – particularly with those words being expressed publicly – is inappropriate and completely over the top. I do acknowledge this is entertaining for those of us watching from afar, though.
The simple fact is that while the team has been built around Benn and Seguin (and Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg), the Stars have not possessed enough secondary scoring to push them to among the NHL’s elite. How this affects Benn’s or Seguin’s production remains to be seen, but the contract amounts, terms, and no-movement clauses will not make them easy players to trade if it turns out they are not happy with Lites’ criticism and want to get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of Big D.
Something else to consider about Benn:
Jamie Benn is going to be 30 in the summer. The Stars can't get 25 year old Jamie Benn back again. I wonder if they know that.
— Draglikepull (@draglikepull) December 28, 2018
Benn’s PTS/GP rate since the 2015-16 season: 1.09, 0.90, 0.96, 0.79 this season (65-point pace). Still very good this season, but not elite and obviously not good enough for Stars’ ownership.
Tomas Tatar scored two goals, his 13th and 14th of the season, in the Canadiens’ 5-3 win over Florida. Tatar has now recorded multiple points in consecutive games after being held without a point in his previous six games. Despite the recent slump, Tatar has exceeded expectations in Montreal and is on pace for 30 goals and 60 points.
With the aforementioned Price on IR and not on the Canadiens’ three-game road trip, Antti Niemi stopped 23 of 26 shots to earn his first win in over a month. Despite earning the win, his 4.01 GAA and .877 SV% on the season still won’t inspire much confidence among Habs’ faithful. Avoid reaching for any Montreal goalie on Saturday, as they will be visiting the high-scoring Lightning.
Mathew Barzal scored two goals and added an assist in the Islanders’ 6-3 win over the Senators. This was Barzal’s first three-point game of the season, although he recorded nine of them last season. He now has points in three consecutive games.
Here’s one of Barzal’s goals:
Down 3-1 at one point.
— NHL (@NHL) December 29, 2018
Barzal, Tavares, and the rest of the Islanders head into Toronto tomorrow to face the Leafs. What’s that you say? Tavares is now a Leaf? Oh, that means Tavares will be facing his former team for the first time. I’m sure we’ll talk about that tomorrow. Do we call that a revenge game for the Islanders?
Thomas Chabot left Friday’s game with an upper-body injury. He is expected to miss Saturday’s game against Washington. With Saturday such a busy day for games (Columbus is the only team not playing), you won’t have a difficult time finding a replacement.
Speaking of John Tavares, he wasn’t looking ahead to Saturday’s game and was clearly focused on the task at hand on Friday. JT scored two goals in the Leafs’ 4-2 win over Columbus, giving him multiple points in five consecutive games and seven goals over his last six games. He’s now pushed his way up to 26 goals, which ties him for second with Jeff Skinner in that category. Not that there was much concern, but the Tavares signing has so far been everything the Leafs hoped it would be.
Not to be outdone, Tavares’ linemate Mitch Marner scored a goal and added two assists. Marner has now posted three points in three of his last four games with points in five of his last six games. Marner has now moved into the top 5 in scoring with 53 points (13g-40a) in 38 games.
The Bruins will be without three of their regulars on Saturday, as Brad Marchand will be sidelined with an upper-body injury, Charlie McAvoy is sidelined with a lower-body injury, and David Backes has been suspended for three games. Despite the injuries, Marchand and McAvoy still remain possibilities for the Winter Classic on January 1.
I just returned from the Russia/Czech Republic World Junior game, which the Russians took by a score of 2-1. Strange scoring anomaly, as both of Russia’s goals were shorthanded. Nikolai Kovalenko, a sixth-round pick of Colorado, scored one of Russia’s goals and was named Russia’s game MVP. Goalie Lukas Dostal, a third-round pick of Anaheim, was named the Czech game MVP, stopping 26 of 28 shots.
Although he did not score a point, Klim Kostin had the look and feel of Russia’s most dominant offensive player. He’s not exactly taking the AHL by storm (11 points in 28 games), but keeper leaguers should stay patient as he is at least another season or two away, particularly since he is a power forward (6-3, 215). The Blues might be headed for a rebuild, so he should be in their plans regardless. Alexander Romanov, a second-round pick of Montreal, grabbed my attention as well with an effective two-way game from the blueline.
Although this game wasn’t filled with scoring, it was a unique experience for me personally, as it was my first-ever World Junior game. It was a mostly nonpartisan crowd, although there were pockets who were cheering for either the Czech Republic or Russia and got louder as the game went on. I’m looking forward to the rest of this tournament, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend any more games in person.
In the other World Junior game on Friday, the US had its way with Kazakhstan, firing 68 shots en route to an 8-2 win. Flyers’ first-round pick Joel Farabee posted a hat trick, while Jason Robertson (2017 2nd round pick, Dallas) recorded four assists and was named player of the game. Projected 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes was held out of the game for precautionary reasons, but it’s not like the US needed him for this one.
For more on the World Juniors, you’ll want to check out the Dobber Prospects Ramblings, which provide a number of interesting and unique perspectives on the tournament.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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