Jack Eichel was on the ice for practice with Buffalo on Monday but did not take part in the typical practice line rushes. We’ll get an update Tuesday morning. That would indicate to me that it’ll be at least one more game before he returns.
Sam Reinhart did not skate at all with the flu.
Robby Fabbri was a healthy scratch for the St. Louis Blues on Monday night. Now, as I’ve iterated often, they have a lot of forward depth so that’s not totally shocking in and of itself. In the context that Tyler Bozak missed the game with an injury and the team went with 11 forwards and 7 defencemen against Philadelphia rather than dress Fabbri is a huge concern.
I’m still bullish on Fabbri’s future; we’ve seen him be very good in long stretches before. But it seems like the plug can be pulled on his 2018-19 fantasy relevance. Maybe he needs a full year to really get his legs back under him after all the injuries.
Nick Bjugstad looks ready to return later this week for the Panthers if all goes well with his next medical update. If you’re in a weekly league, he probably won’t help much but he’s someone to keep in mind for next week provided he can make his way to the top-6. If he can’t, he’s waiver fodder.
Filip Forsberg has been close to returning and on Monday he was activated off the injured reserve and played against Montreal*. He started the game on the fourth line but eventually found his way back up to his usual top line spot.
*Editor's note: it was Toronto, not Montreal, that Forsberg faced.
This hit on Connor McDavid from Sunday night drives me crazy:
Ref looking right at it. pic.twitter.com/qEkg3tJ6RT
— Phil Landry (esksfans.com) (@esksfans) January 7, 2019
Those are the types of plays that can break someone’s neck. Those little cross-checks from behind serve a purpose: put the opposition off balance in order to retrieve the puck, which is the point of any hit. The problem is you’re putting a player off balance by driving them head-first into the boards. I wish the NHL Department of Player Safety would throw the book at garbage plays like this, especially if they have any intention of protecting star players.
Vladimir Tarasenko had never scored against the Flyers, so naturally he did on Monday night in St. Louis’s 3-0 win. Credit the shutout to Jordan Binnington in his first career NHL start. Brayden Schenn had the team’s first goal, the game winner against Philadelphia. Once again, the Schenn-Schwartz-Tarasenko line is rolling as it did for much of last year. The trio was shooting percentage under 4 percent before this game at five-on-five, it’s going to go nowhere but up. As long as those three are together, they all have fantasy value in most leagues. They are a very potent offensive line.
Nashville mostly smothered the Leafs in their 4-0 win. Toronto had a few chances and a goal called back on an offsides but Pekka Rinne stopped all 18 shots he faced. P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Kevin Fiala, and Colton Sissons all scored. That gives Ekholm 29 points on the year, five shy of tying his career best. Seems pretty certain he’ll break it. What a contract.
Shea Weber took a stick to the face in the first period and looked injured. He finished the period but did not finish the game. Keep an eye for more of an update sometime Tuesday.
The Calgary top line did what they've often done over the last month and that's carry the team to a win, this time in Philadelphia. Johnny Gaudreau had a pair of goals, Elias Lindholm had a pair of assists, and Sean Monahan had one of each in the team’s win. Since the start of December, Gaudreau has 35 points in 18 games, Monahan has 27, and Lindholm has 24. Obviously they won’t keep that pace for the balance of the season but it’s been an incredible five weeks or so for this trio.
Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist in the loss. His team is pretty bad but Kane is on pace for over 100 points. That’s an incredible individual season.
Erik Karlsson racked up three assists in San Jose’s 3-1 win over Los Angeles. From December 7 through January 7, Karlsson put up 1 goal and 22 assists in 13 games. In those 13 games, he’s averaging four shots on goal per game. He’s now on pace for well over 70 points and he’s still shooting just 2.1 percent. His career average going into this year was 6.8 percent, his three-year average was 6.3 percent, and he has never been below 4.5 percent in a single season, and that mark was set in his rookie year. In other words, he’s now on pace for over 70 points and he still has a lot of positive regression to go in regards to goal scoring. Remember earlier this year when some people were wondering what was wrong with him? It was a more innocent time.
As we sit on the night of January 7th, the Philadelphia Flyers rank 29th in goals scored per 60 mintues of five-on-four action. Last year, they ranked 18th. The year before that they were 15th, and 17th in 2015-16. So, while they hadn’t been great at 5v4 over the previous few seasons, they had never been this bad. According to our Dobber Tools, by far their most-common four-man forward unit is Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Wayne Simmonds. With those four on the ice this year, Philly is scoring 5.05 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-four, which is better than their team as a whole, but still not very good. Claude Giroux is on pace to lead the Flyers with 22 power play points, being the only player on pace to crack 20 PPPs; last year the team had three guys with more than 30. What’s going on?
With the four aforementioned players on the ice at 5v4, the team is shooting an even 7 percent, which is extremely low. That would be a low shooting percentage for a line at even strength. Last year with those exact same four guys on the ice, they shot 12.8 percent and scored over 9 goals per 60 minutes. The shot attempt rate of those four last year (131 per 60 minutes) was actually lower than this year (139). With Shayne Gostisbehere’s shot rate fairly constant (within about 1.6 shot attempts per 60 minutes), it’s not as if the additional shots are coming from the blue line, or a higher rate of them. The forwards just aren’t scoring.
This was their shot map in 2017-18 with those four forwards on the ice (from Hockey Viz):
And this is 2018-19:
The roles of Giroux and Simmonds are basically unchanged, but Couturier has moved closer to the net for his shots and Voracek has moved farther away. As you’d suspect, Couturier’s shooting percentage has risen (15.8 percent) from last year (13.7 percent) but Voracek’s has cratered (8.1 percent to 3.7 percent). Voracek is landing 12.6 shots per 60 minutes, which means he’s landing about 18 percent of the group’s shots on the PP. Defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere is landing about 16.5 shots per 60 minutes on the PP. With him on the ice with those four attackers, the team lands 72.2 shots per 60 minutes. So, Voracek and Gostisbehere are landing 29.1 shots per 60 minutes combined, or over 40 percent of Philly’s shots on goal are effectively coming from areas that would be considered the point.
The Flyers have the talent to ice one of the top power plays in the league. We’ve seen in recent seasons, with basically the same personnel and setup, that they can do much better than they are. But their pre-shot movement needs to improve to get to better shooting areas, particularly on Voracek’s part. The shooting percentage should rebound modestly, but if they really want to turn it on in the second half, Voracek at least needs shoot less and pass more, or get himself to better shooting areas.
Am I the only one still bewildered by Brandon Pirri’s demotion over the weekend? The guy had nine goals in nine games for the Knights in his brief career with the team dating to last season. What more does a guy have to do than score a goal per game? I get that they want to keep the “integrity” of the team but this really reminds me of the Vadim Shipachyov situation from last year, and Shea Theodore to an extent. Both players were kept in the minors so the team wouldn’t have to lose marginal NHLers to waivers. Since 2013, Pirr’s one of the top-30 scorers in the league at five-on-five on a per 60-minute basis. And it’s over 2500 minutes, which is over two seasons’ worth of data. We don’t need much more to know how good he is. It was just a weird move for a team that’s been struggling to score all year.
Speaking of Shea Theodore, I sent this tweet out over the weekend:
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) January 6, 2019
Let’s go through that picture by picture.
The first bit of data shows how Theodore has performed for the Knights both with and without Deryk Engelland as his partner since last season, his primary defence partner. With Engelland, the pairing is very respectable in driving the play. Without Engelland but with Theodore, Vegas’s on-ice numbers are elite but they’re bad when Engelland is on the ice without Theodore. In other words, we have about 100 games of data with Vegas showing that Theodore has been great at driving the play, even dragging a fringe bottom-pair guy to solid numbers.
That’s just straight points/60 minutes at 5v5. Among all defencemen in the league with 1000 minutes played since the start of 2017-18, Theodore has produced at a top-pair rate, in line with guys like Jeff Petry (mostly sans Shea Weber) and Dustin Byfuglien. That’s very impressive company to keep.
This shows Vegas’s unblocked shot attempt rates for compared to the league average with Theodore on the ice. Red areas are above-average compared to the league. The team generates above-average shot rates even with him off the ice, but when he’s on the ice it gets even more dramatic, particularly in the danger areas in front of the net and extending to the slot.
This shows Vegas’s unblocked shot attempt rates against compared to the league average with Theodore on the ice. The blue areas are below league average, meaning that’s where the team really does a good job at limiting shots against. You’ll notice he keeps the area in front of the net fairly tidy, forcing the opposition often to the outside.
This isn’t a wholly comprehensive look at Theodore, but this is a snapshot of what he’s done in over 100 games with Vegas. At this point, we have a pretty good idea of who he is, particularly when we look at his pedigree and his 50-plus games with the Ducks. Theodore, by what I can tell from his numbers and from the games I’ve watched, has the look of a true top-pair guy.
Fantasy-wise, there is tremendous upside here in points-only leagues. However, Vegas continues to be a team to split their power play time, as both he and Colin Miller are very close in PPTOI per game. It’ll be hard for Theodore to rack 20-plus power play points in this deployment, meaning we won’t see 60-point seasons anytime soon. But he should be a reliable 40-point guy with weak peripherals. For now, I consider him a high-end Jake Gardiner-type player for fantasy. There is upside beyond that comparable, however.