Ramblings: McDavid Dragging Anchors, Karlsson, Wheeler, Pirri, & What’s Up With Ghost? (Jan. 9)
A nice slate of games tonight so we won't waste any time getting into the action.
The Caps and Flyers squared off on Tuesday evening in a battle of teams on the opposite ends of the division. Despite Nicklas Backstrom being sidelined with a bug, the results were as you'd expect.
Jakub Vrana potted two goals, an assist and four shots on goal in just 14:20 of ice. The difference was that with Backstrom out he got to take a turn on the team's top power-play unit. His 3:10 on PPTOI represented 55 percent of the team's man-advantage ice. That's a season-high for the 22-year-old. He also set a career-high in goals with his 14th of the season. Vrana has witnessed his point-per-game output increase in each of his three campaigns and is on pace to break 40-points in 2018-19.
He's a player that's always had a great deal of skill. It's just a matter of receiving sustained prime ice.
Jakub Voracek scored a goal and added an assist in the loss. He has four points in his last four games. Perhaps we're seeing him warm up a tad? His current 65-point pace is a letdown for those who drafted him on the heels of an 85-point 2017-18.
Phoenix Copley stopped 37 of 40 in the 5-3 win.
Speaking of the Flyers, where have all the Shayne Gostisbehere points gone? After no points on Tuesday, he's on pace for just 32 this year. The 25-year-old led all blueliners in power-play points a season ago with 33. This year, he has eight through 43 contests. Ghost has just one power-play point (an assist on January 3rd) in the last 23 games. This, despite averaging over three minutes of power-play ice each night.
It boggles the mind.
As a team, the Flyers have witnessed their man-advantage conversion rate dip from the middle of the pack at 20.7 percent in 2017-18, to a basement-level 13.1 percent this season. That’s clearly contributing to the issue. However, the difference between a player like Claude Giroux – who is also feeling the power play crunch, and Gostisbehere, is that Giroux has improved his even-strength production.
In 82 games a season ago, Giroux produced 65 EVP or 0.76 even-strength points-per-game. In 2018-19, he’s already racked up 35 EVP in 42 games, or 0.83 even-strength points-per-game. Meanwhile, Gostisbehere produced 32 EVP in 78 games in 2017-18 (0.41) but is producing at nearly half that rate (0.21) in 43 games this season.
Yes, his metrics are below his career average, but not demonstrably so.
The good news? Gostisbehere has 40 shots on the power-play this season. That total leads the Flyers by a good margin and sits tied with Roman Josi for tops amongst blueliners in the NHL. He scored seven power-play markers on 86 PPSOG last season – or an 8.14 conversion rate. That would lead us to believe his five percent mark on the PP this season is due for a market correction. However, he clicked at just 3.18 percent in 2016-17.
At this point, any hopes of a second-half turnaround are likely built on just that – hope. He’s proven to be an elite producer in two of his four season-long career. Here’s hoping he wakes up soon.
Tuukka Rask and the Bruins shutout the Wild 4-0 in one of the early affairs. Rask has now won four straight while allowing just five goals. Jaroslav Halak has done a fine job of threatening (and stealing) the starting gig in Beantown but Rask is heating up just as the Bruins had hoped for. Halak owners can hold on for a bit longer, but the shine is likely running out on his star.
Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand each had a goal and two helpers while David Pastrnak had a rare night off the scoreboard. I can't harp on it every week, but what Patrice Bergeron is doing at 33 years old is something. He's missed time with an injury (as we expected) but the team's captain is clicking at 115-point pace through 27 games played. All the while shutting down opponents and seeing two minutes of shorthanded time a night.
He's a first ballot Hall of Famer in my books.
Dallas beat the Blues 3-1 on the back of Tyler Seguin and his two goals and an assist. Make it six goals and 10 points for Seguin in the six games since his team's CEO called him many, many insulting expletives. It appears a fire has been lit. Maybe not so much for the captain, Jamie Benn though. The 29-year-old power forward has just two goals over that span. He's on pace for his lowest statistical output since his rookie season.
Ben Bishop continues his strong year. He stopped 23 of 24 to up his save percentage to 0.922 on the year. That's good for a top-10 spot amongst regulars. Dallas will need him to be at his best if they hope to scratch and claw their way to a playoff birth.
John Klingberg helped out with a goal and an assist. That's six points in his last five games. It took four or five contests after returning from injury to get warmed up, but the 26-year-old Swede looks nice and toasty now.
Another loss for St. Louis and another pointless night for Vladimir Tarasenko. He's also on pace for his lowest output since his rookie season. However, let's not forget the shoulder injury that robbed him of his off-season training. With the Blues looking like an oil tanker down the stretch, it'll be difficult for him to put together a real second-half. However, there's little reason to believe we've seen the last of the dominating Russian's skill.
He'll be a great buy-low option for 2019-20.
In a match-up that I had circled for tonight, the Avs and Jets did not disappoint.
It was Colorado that came out gunning. They peppered the Jets and had them hemmed in their own zone for much of the first period. But it was Winnipeg who ended the frame up 2-1. The goals just kept on coming in the back 40 as the Jets ended the night with a 7-4 victory.
Blake Wheeler led the way with a shorthanded tally and three assists. That gives him 48 helpers on the season, trailing only Nikita Kucherov. There's been some concerning talk regarding the 32-year-old's mediocre five-on-five production, but he remains an animal on the man-advantage. Tonight, he was a force all over the rink.
Nate MacKinnon (0+2), Tyson Barrie (0+2), Gabe Landeskog (2+0), and Mikko Rantanen (0+1) were all buzzing on Tuesday. Who am I kidding, that group is buzzing every night. Unfortunately for the Avs, the rest of the squad isn't. Colorado has now lost 11 of their last 14 games.
The Panthers got pumped 5-1 by the Penguins on Tuesday. Apparently head coach, Bob Boughner didn't enjoy what he saw from some of his star players. He sat down Keith Yandle, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman for the entire third period. Message sent.
Roberto Luongo's tough season continues. He let in four goals on 16 shots before getting the hook. A sub-.900 39-year-old is not ideal for anyone.
Jake Guentzel continues to roll out on the top power-play unit ahead of Patric Hornqvist. The 24-year-old has five points on a current four-game streak and is on pace to break his career-highs set last season in a few short weeks. I've been a proponent of Guentzel's since he stepped foot in the American League. It was all about him seeing prime ice, and he's seeing it now.
Get him if you can.
Casual 1+1 for Sidney Crosby tonight. The Penguins' captain has been on quite the roll of late. He has 21 points in his last 13 games and is on pace for his best season since the concussion-shortened 2012-13 campaign where he recorded 56 points in 36 games.
31-year-old Sid is feeling it.
With a goal and an assist in Tampa Bay's shutout victory over Columbus, Nikita Kucherov is up to 71 points in 43 games. I don't even know where to begin.
We haven't seen a player click along at this pace since Jaromir Jagr posted 70 in 38 back in 1999-00. If the talented Russian maintains his pace he'll finish the season with 135 points. We haven't had a player break 130 since the mid-90's when Lemieux and Jagr were running roughshod.
Kuch is right there with Connor McDavid as the best fantasy asset in the world.
Here was the lineup for the Oilers tonight.
I can’t help but feel we’re being robbed here. Once upon a time, we witnessed Crosby’s prime years go up in smoke. That was the result of some nasty concussions and difficult to lay blame upon. What we're witnessing in Edmonton right now is a thoroughbred horse attempt to drag around two ship anchors. It’s the complete opposite of cool beans.
And there's a clear figure to point our fingers at.
The only hope (I know, more hope) is that Chiarelli is gone before long and whoever comes in has the ability to right the ship quickly. Because if they can’t, we’ll be looking back on Connor McDavid’s prime years and wondering what could have been if he were surrounded by legitimate NHL talent.
McDavid did his part as usual on Tuesday. He set up Alex Chiasson for a power play tally and was creating with his feet and hands on most shifts. And as per usual, it wasn't enough as the Sharks blew out the Oilers 7-2.
After a shutout on Sunday, Talbot was yanked after allowing four goals on 17 shots. Not exactly a momentum builder. Fortunately, Mikko Koskinen didn't fare much better.
On the brighter side of things, Erik Karlsson kept his mojo nice and warm in sunny California.
Erik Karlsson is just the 5th blueliner in NHL history to post at least one assist in 14+ straight appearances.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 9, 2019
The others: Paul Coffey (17 GP in 1985-86), Brian Leetch (15 GP in 1991-92), Phil Housley (14 GP in 1992-93) and Bobby Orr (14 GP in 1970-71). #NHLStats #EDMvsSJS pic.twitter.com/wSqyk8nJlT
With three assists in the contest, Karlsson now has 25 points on a ridiculous 14-game streak. He's up to 41 points in 43 contests.
He's all the way back now.
Brent Burns tacked on a goal and an assist himself. That brings him to 49 points in 45 games to lead all blueliners in points, and assists (41). His 17 primary assists at even-strength are nearly double his next closest competitors – EK and Carlson, who each have nine.
Evander Kane had two goals and an assist. That extended his streak to six-games and 10 points.
Brandon Pirri was back up with the Golden Knights against the Rangers on Tuesday. The 27-year-old was skating next to Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch on the team's second line and skating on one of the evenly-distributed power play units. This move was facilitated by a Reilly Smith injury and an elevation of Max Pacioretty to line one.
In a surprise to literally no one, Pirri found the back of the net yet again. Seven goals and 10 points in eight games for Vegas this year. There's no reason this guy should be anywhere near the real-life waiver wire, let alone the fantasy wire. Pick him up, people, the stream is calling.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 stops in the 4-2 victory. He's been the low-key fantasy pick of the year. The 33-year-old is running away with the wins and shutouts lead and he does it all with a smile on his face.
He's an easy guy to root for.
Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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