Ramblings: Rangers/Hurricanes, Slumping Goal Scorers (Feb 9)
Yeah, we’re in that weird part of the schedule now. Just one game on Friday night after 14 were played on Thursday night and 14 are about to be played on Saturday night. While it is imbalanced like that, fantasy owners would be wise to look for teams that play on so-called “off nights.” You can check out my Ramblings from a week ago for the full schedule, but two of the top three teams when it comes to off nights from February 2 to 16 faced each other in the NHL’s lone game on Friday night.
These “off nights”, which result in the Rangers playing on slow days again on Sunday this week and on Friday and Sunday next week, should generate additional interest in the likes of Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes and even onetime keeper stash Anthony DeAngelo. On the Canes’ side, I added Jaccob Slavin and Petr Mrazek for Friday’s game (along with Hayes, who I picked up earlier in the week). I added Mrazek simply because I desperately need goalie help this week, a move that paid off (more on that shortly). I added Slavin because he entered Friday’s game with seven points in his last seven games.
Before I get into the Hurricanes/Rangers highlights, the off-night teams to target from this Sunday to next Sunday are the aforementioned Rangers, Buffalo, New Jersey, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Anaheim (the traditional king of off-nights), who each play three times on off-nights. For more on planning your schedule, be sure to check out this week’s Looking Ahead, a column that appears every Friday.
Okay, so now let’s discuss that lone game on Friday night: the Hurricanes and the Rangers. It looked like there wasn’t going to be anything to talk about scoring-wise until the third period, when Warren Foegele scored the eventual game winner at 6:43. Andrei Svechnikov and Brock McGinn scored empty-netters to ice a 3-0 victory for the Hurricanes. McGinn ended the game with two points, giving him five points in his last five games and seven points in his last eight games. Svechnikov’s goal was his 14th of the season, which gives him four points in his last three games. He now sits in second among NHL rookies in goals, “just” 11 behind leader Elias Pettersson.
Mrazek turned out to be the star of Friday’s game, stopping all 27 shots he faced in earning a 3-0 shutout win. Mrazek gave way to Curtis McElhinney for the previous two games, but the shutout win might earn him another start on Sunday against a struggling Devils squad. Mrazek entered this game with just one quality start in his past six games, and I’d still expect him to split starts with McElhinney the rest of the way.
Slavin didn’t finish with any points, but he did finish the game with a plus-3 and three blocked shots. Since January 20 he is a plus-8 to go with the seven points in his last eight games. I still think he’s a better real-life option than a fantasy option, but no one on the Canes logs more minutes than Slavin (23:02 TOI).
Because of the shutout, Zuccarello’s point streak ended at nine games. He has logged at least 20 minutes of icetime in each of his last seven games. If he is traded at the deadline, I wouldn’t expect him to reach that number on a nightly basis with his new team.
Neal Pionk, the Rangers’ leading scorer among defensemen, was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. Pionk has just one assist since December 23, a span of 14 games. Pionk has been slowed by a lower-body injury that resulted from blocking a shot in a game just after Christmas (New York Post), but he was having a fine season before that with 19 points over his first 32 games. The recent struggles of Pionk combined with the underachieving Kevin Shattenkirk have resulted in the Rangers trying a five-forward power play at one point this season.
Artemi Panarin has decided to change agents, opting for the same agent as Sergei Bobrovsky. Panarin has also decided that he would like to become a free agent this summer, regardless of whether a team trades for him at the deadline. The only prediction I’ll make when it comes to Panarin is that he’ll be playing for a different team next season. Seems like a safe bet, doesn’t it?
We’ve covered the trials and tribulations of Patrik Laine’s lack of goal scoring recently (more on Laine in the most recent Frozen Tools Forensics). Laine’s season total of 25 goals is about what we would expect as a whole, but his recent slump of just two goals in his last 22 games (dating back to mid-December) seems especially concerning. Yet he’s hardly the only scorer owned in most fantasy leagues that is having trouble turning on the red light. Here are three more forwards that are stuck in the same rut at the moment.
Would you consider Granlund hot or cold at the moment? If you value assists, you’d consider him hot, as he has five of those in the last five games. Bruce Boudreau doesn’t seem to care, though, as he identified Granlund as ice cold with two goals in his past 37 games. During Granlund’s breakout two seasons ago, I suspected that he had experienced some good luck in the shooting percentage department with a near-15 percent shooting accuracy. This season Granlund is shooting more in line with career average of 10 percent while his current goal total (12) puts him on pace to finish under 20 goals for the first time in three seasons.
Don’t panic if you’re in a roto league, though. For starters, Granlund may experience better puck luck soon. In addition, both his 32 assists and 15 power-play points lead the Wild, and his current shot total (124) puts him on pace to finish with around the same number of shots he took over the previous two seasons. This is a case of a coach expressing frustration over his team’s inability to rise above the pack of teams that are drifting aimlessly around the wild-card spots in the Western Conference. Besides, Granlund’s career assist total is over double his career goal total. Hopefully you understood that ratio when you drafted him.
If you’re wondering about how Mikko Koivu’s season-ending injury might affect Granlund, 34 percent of Granlund’s even-strength icetime has been spent with Koivu. Yet only 18 percent of Granlund’s even-strength points have been with Koivu on the ice. Eric Staal has been Granlund’s preferred center this season, so Granlund’s production shouldn’t be impacted much by Koivu’s absence unless Staal is moved onto another line. Unless the Wild suddenly plummet in the standings and thus decide to become sellers, I can’t see a scenario where Staal is traded.
Like Granlund, Horvat is a widely owned fantasy forward mired in a goal-scoring slump. The Canucks’ two-way center has hit the twine just once in his last 17 games. Injuries to Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter have thrust Horvat into defensive roles at times this season. For a player who is expected to take on a significant role in the Canucks’ scoring attack, Horvat’s offensive zone starts (40.6%) seem quite low. In fact, the Canucks lean on Horvat so much that he leads the entire NHL in both faceoffs and faceoffs won.
Horvat’s season shooting percentage (11.1%) isn’t far off from his career percentage, but he has been taking more shots over the last ten games (3.8 per game) than he has over the first half of the season (2.76 per game). Both Sutter and Beagle are back in the lineup, so Horvat can assume a role on the second line again, since we can safely assume that Elias Pettersson is the Canucks’ first-line center. That might mean the likes of Antoine Roussel and Jake Virtanen are his regular wingers, but it could be worse if you consider the Canucks’ massive stockpile of bottom-6 forwards. It’s best to be patient with Horvat, but perhaps limit your expectations fantasy-wise.
Here’s a player who hasn’t recorded a point in eight games (let alone a goal) and has a shooting percentage that is several points higher than his career average. How did that happen? Johnson scored 18 goals over his first 38 games, but he has not been able to score a goal over his last 14 games. His lack of goal scoring recently can be attributed to a lack of shots – just 14 shots over his last 11 games.
If the last paragraph painted a bleak picture, then this paragraph will predict a more positive outlook. Johnson has recently been lining up with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, both of whom occupy spots in the top 10 of NHL scoring. Johnson has logged 52 percent of his even-strength minutes and 60 percent of his even-strength point totals with this duo, while the Kucherov/Point duo has been more productive even-strength with Johnson on their line than without. So I’d expect Johnson to stay there, which should mean that he’ll break out of his goal-scoring slump sooner rather than later.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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