Ramblings: Leafs’ Goaltending, Barzal Steals Show, Karlsson Heating Up (Dec 30)
Either I possess incredible fortune-telling skills, or I jinxed Frederik Andersen (Saturday Ramblings). Whatever it is, the well-used Leafs’ starting goalie is now day-to-day with a groin injury. Because Saturday callup Kasimir Kaskisuo is clearly not NHL ready (.866 SV% in the AHL), the Leafs acquired veteran backup Michael Hutchinson from the Panthers for a 2020 fifth-round pick. This is a small price to pay for the Leafs, who badly needed a goalie for the AHL Marlies. If Andersen is out for more than a few days, expect Hutchinson to be called up right away. Although Hutchinson isn’t having a spectacular year in the AHL (.906 SV%), he had a stellar campaign for the Manitoba Moose last season (2.08 GAA, .935 SV%).
When you add in the kind of game Garret Sparks had on Saturday (four goals allowed on 24 shots), I could see Hutchinson competing for starts on the big club if Andersen isn’t back soon. Sparks was playing his second game on back-to-back nights, but by no means has he solidified himself as a goalie who can carry a team at the NHL level.
Three of those four goals came from the stick of Mathew Barzal, all in the second period. (By the way, do Isles’ fans call him the new girlfriend and Tavares the ex?) Barzal now has three-point games on back-to-back nights with points in four consecutive games. As a follower noted on Twitter, Barzal has been shooting the puck more. Over his first 19 games Barzal took only 34 shots (less than two per game), while over his last 18 games he has taken 52 shots (nearly three shots per game). Or to put it another way, Barzal scored just three goals prior to December 15. Since then he has rattled off seven goals in seven games while taking 24 shots (over three per game). Yes, the buy-low window has slammed shut.
In case you haven’t noticed, Robin Lehner is on a roll. With his 36-save blanking of the Leafs, Lehner has now posted wins on back-to-back nights and has now won four consecutive games. Over those four wins he has allowed just two goals (granted, Friday’s win was in relief). As expected, this goalie battle has been a seesaw, with Lehner holding the upper hand at the moment. If Lehner can stay healthy, then he is a goalie worth owning (only 38% owned in Yahoo leagues). Especially if the now over-.500 (and by over-.500 I mean real .500, where OT/SO losses are considered losses and not ties) Islanders are serious about winning.
Obviously John Tavares was held without a point in his first match against his old team, as were his new teammates. That wasn’t from lack of trying, as Tavares took five shots on goal.
Not long ago, the Dobber Facebook page had a poll about which young goalie will create the biggest impact for his NHL team this year: Mackenzie Blackwood or Carter Hart. Given the results of the poll, I’m wondering how many respondents would change their vote today.
If you wouldn’t change your response, then you might not have noticed that Blackwood has now posted two consecutive wins after the Christmas break, both of which he had to make plenty of saves. Following his 40-save performance in a 5-2 win over Boston on Thursday, Blackwood delivered a 37-save shutout win over the Hurricanes. He may not have been on the Devils’ radar this season, but the potential long-term injury to Cory Schneider means that he could be in the NHL to stay (Keith Kinkaid is a UFA after this season). Blackwood has actually posted more wins after Christmas 2018 (two) than Schneider had posted in all of 2018 (zero).
By the way, I’ll acknowledge that Hart’s game wasn’t bad. He simply allowed two third-period goals in a 2-1 loss to the Panthers, stopping 34 of 36 shots he faced. My point is that if the voting took place again today, it would be a lot closer.
You’d think that the Christmas break would have been a time for players to heal up so that your lineups would be fresh and full for a while. Nope. In fact, it seems as though there are even more injuries now than ever before. One example is Dustin Byfuglien, who left Saturday’s game against Minnesota in the second period with a possible ankle injury.
I’m sure we’ll find out more about the Byfuglien injury in the coming days, but I also seem to remember that Josh Morrissey’s icetime took off when Big Buff was out of the lineup. At the time Morrissey’s Yahoo ownership was somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 percent (if I remember correctly), yet now it is up to 67 percent. Even though Morrissey has been held without a point over his last four games and his power-play time hasn’t been great recently, he’s someone you’ll want in your starting lineup if Byfuglien misses time.
More unfortunate injury news, but at least this is the kind we can plan around: Thomas Chabot is expected to be out for the next three weeks with an upper-body injury from Friday’s game. The Sens had only one power-play opportunity, and it appeared as expected Maxime Lajoie received the first-unit minutes. Recent callup Christian Wolanin also received minutes and might be worth keeping an eye on (18 points in 26 AHL games).
In just his second NHL game, Capitals’ defenseman Tyler Lewington completed the Gordie Howe hat trick of a goal, an assist, and a fight.
This section of the Ramblings is brought to you by the Keeping Karlsson podcast. Okay, it isn’t actually, but it may as well have been. Erik Karlsson scored a goal and three assists with a plus-5, while Melker Karlsson scored two goals in the Sharks’ 7-4 win over the Oilers. Although Melker now has goals in back-to-back games, I’ll focus on the Karlsson that the podcast has in mind.
Karlsson was listed in the most recent Cage Match Tournament on underachievers – players who will never reach a certain point total again. I probably spent more time thinking about whether Karlsson would reach 70+ points again than I did about any other player possibly not reaching another “never again” level. In the end I elected not to “vote” for Karlsson, meaning that I think he could reach 70 again in his career.
But in spite of the four-point effort on Saturday and the nine-game point streak, I don’t think he’ll reach 70 points this season. Not with the Sharks, anyway. I think it could still happen with a different team next season – the right team where he would be the only defenseman on PP1. But Karlsson has the momentum and ability to prove me wrong with a strong second half, so this prediction is by no means a lead pipe lock. Karlsson currently has 30 points in 38 games, which puts him on pace for 65 points.
This week's Geek of the Week dives into much more detail about Karlsson and the kind of season he's been having in San Jose.
Jamie Benn was held without a point and Tyler Seguin was held to one assist on Saturday. But Jim Lites’ comments seemed to light a fire under the rest of the team, as they handled the Red Wings with a score of 5-1. I’m sure the Stars players will downplay the comments, and Lites will think that his outspokenness totally worked. So it will be interesting to see where this goes and whether the Stars make the playoffs.
Dylan Larkin scored the lone goal for the Wings on Saturday, extending his point streak to 13 games. He’s been remarkably consistent with exactly one point in each of his last 10 games. Almost at the midpoint of the season, Larkin is currently on pace for 78 points, which would be a career high.
With two goals and an assist on Saturday, Adam Erne now has six points (3g-3a) over his last four games. The Lightning have their obvious star scorers such as Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, but they are great at finding these depth players like Erne. He might be worth a flier at some point if he is moved onto one of the top lines and/or is given more power-play time. But over half a point per game isn’t bad at all for a depth piece.
Speaking of Kucherov, he scored a goal and added an assist on Saturday. He’s now grabbed the NHL scoring lead with 63 points, which includes a 10-game point streak and multiple points in each of his last five games. Over those five games he has accrued 15 points.
Sidney Crosby scored a goal and two assists on Saturday, giving him three consecutive games of multiple points (eight points over that span). To the guy on Twitter who earlier this week pointed out that Crosby has fewer points than Morgan Rielly, if he happens to be reading: That is no longer the case, and I’m willing to suggest that it won’t be the case again this season. Crosby won’t win the Art Ross this season, but he is doing just fine.
Kris Letang recorded three assists, which gives him eight points over his last seven games. On one of my teams, I’ve lost Chabot and possibly Byfuglien to injuries within 24 hours (along with Frederik Andersen in net). So now I have to remain hopeful that Letang stays healthy, which isn’t easy to do. These are the kinds of issues that keep fantasy owners up all night.
With a goal and two assists against Nashville on Saturday, Chris Kreider has goals in four consecutive games (five goals over that span). Kreider is a player I consistently target in my league that counts hits, and he’s delivering again this season. He’s already scored 20 goals (career high 28), and his 82 hits is tops among all Rangers’ forwards.
The Blackhawks have been playing better recently, winning five of their last six games, with Patrick Kane leading the charge. Kane followed up a hat trick on Thursday with two goals and an assist on Saturday. He’s now on a seven-game point streak in which he has 13 points (6g-7a). Since December 5, only Kucherov and Connor McDavid have more points than Kane (17 points in 12 games).
Because the Anaheim Ducks are coached by Randy Carlyle, they are basically on lockdown when it comes to providing starting goalie information. So it might have been a bit of a surprise that John Gibson started on Saturday even though he left Thursday’s game with an injury. If you were able to sneak Gibson into your lineup, though, it wasn’t worth it, as he allowed five goals on 30 shots in an eventual 5-4 overtime loss to Arizona. Get him back into your lineup anyway.
Jacob Markstrom earned another win on Saturday, stopping 31 of 33 shots. I’ll just put this out here for debate, but before December I was afraid to let Markstrom anywhere near my team. But how quickly things can change…
Wanna hear something crazy?
Since the start of December, Markstrom has been the best goalie in the NHL.
He's 8-1-0 with a .943 save percentage.
— Jason Brough (@JasonBroughTSN) December 30, 2018
Since this is scheduled to be my last Ramblings of 2018, I’d like to wish all of you a safe and happy new year. Thank you all for reading and for your support and feedback at Dobber Hockey. I hope you find continued success with your fantasy teams in 2019.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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