Ramblings: Tavares Revenge For Isles, Kuemper Keeps It Up (Mar 1)
The Islanders experienced the ultimate revenge game on Thursday, spanking the Leafs by a score of 6-1. Unlike many nights when John Tavares was a member of the Islanders, it was a total team effort, as every Isles’ forward recorded at least one point. The ex-Islanders’ forward? Zero points on five shots on goal.
As you probably already know, perceptions of Tavares to Islanders’ fans completely changed when he decided to fulfill his childhood dream and play for the Maple Leafs. Even though the jersey that Tavares wears has changed, his fantasy value hasn’t changed much.
For example, if you adjust the scoring inflation that many skaters are experiencing, Tavares’ place in the scoring race (in the top 25) is comparable to his place last season (in the top 20). JT is on pace for more goals and shots and better plus/minus, so the gains to his fantasy value are there. However, his power-play point total is down, which may be the result of a power-play unit that has struggled at times. Tavares has been a PPTOI leader for both the Islanders and Leafs, but he has averaged about 30 fewer seconds of power-play time this season.
The Dear John video was kind of cringe-worthy, but this is top-drawer chanting from Islanders’ fans.
Here’s the long-awaited Tavares video tribute.
The Islanders now have 81 points, just one fewer than the Leafs with a game in hand. Immediately after the Tavares signing, how many would have predicted these two teams would be practically neck and neck in the standings? No one, that’s who!
Fantasy owners who bailed on Jake DeBrusk a few weeks ago are probably regretting it now, as he is now handling a very hot stick. With another goal on Thursday, he now has seven goals over his past eight games. Prior to this run, DeBrusk had gone 13 games without a goal. DeBrusk hasn’t even found his way onto the top line as an injury replacement to David Pastrnak, but instead he has been on what would appear to be the second line with David Krejci and new Bruin Marcus Johansson. Krejci himself has been on a roll recently with 14 points over his last 11 games.
With two goals on Thursday, Travis Sanheim now has eight points over his last eight games. He also logged 24:16 of icetime (in an OT game, mind you) on the top pair with Ivan Provorov. Scott Gordon is clearly showing confidence in the second-year d-man. Under Dave Hakstol, Sanheim averaged just over 16 minutes per game, but he is up to an average of 21:25 per game since Gordon took over as head coach. Sanheim is owned in just 8 percent of Yahoo leagues, in case you’re wondering. Don’t assume that Sanheim will supplant Shayne Gostisbehere on the first-unit power play, yet Sanheim seems to be arriving as a bona fide NHL defenseman.
Since arriving for his second tour of duty in Edmonton, Sam Gagner has scored three goals in seven games, with these three goals all within his last five games. Before you go running to your waiver wire, Gagner played just 8:52 and was on a line with Brad Malone and Ty Rattie along with second-unit power-play duties on Thursday. Nevertheless, if you’re Edmonton, what have you got to lose by sticking him on the first-unit power play, similar to the way he was used in Columbus two seasons ago?
I’m not a huge fan of the Coyotes’ offense. I mean, with four goals on Thursday, veteran penalty killer and faceoff specialist Brad Richardson is now the team’s goal-scoring leader (16). That’s in spite of Richardson averaging SIX SECONDS of power-play time per game. So it’s no wonder the the Coyotes are a bottom-5 team in offense. In fairness, the Coyotes have battled their share of injuries, and they may have another one on their hands as Derek Stepan left the game with what looked like a knee injury.
What I do like about the Coyotes, though, is their defensive play. I don’t think we spend enough time talking about defensive systems in terms of goalies to target. With goal scoring on the rise, a few teams have emerged from the abyss as possessing strong goaltending tandems. The Islanders have been the surprise poster child with Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss. The “bunch of jerks” Hurricanes have also risen with the tandem of Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek (at least his more recent play). The Coyotes’ strong goaltending system dates back to last season, though, with Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper both posting strong numbers. All three of these teams are in the top 10 in goals against.
I’ve mentioned in the past that Raanta didn’t receive enough credit for his ratios (2.24 GAA, .930 SV%) last season. This season has been a writeoff for Raanta because of injury, but Darcy Kuemper has been quietly getting the job done. Kuemper earned another win on Thursday, stopping 37 of 39 shots he faced in a 5-2 win over the Canucks. Kuemper has now won six games in a row, allowing just ten goals over that span.
Kuemper’s solid play goes back even further than that. Since January 1, only the white-hot Jordan Binnington has posted more wins (15) than Kuemper (14). Kuemper also has a 2.31 GAA and .925 SV% over that span, numbers that are a sight for sore eyes if you have been struggling with your goaltending. No, you’re not delusional if you think you can enter your fantasy playoffs with Kuemper as your second goalie. In fact, I think I might do it.
Back to the Coyotes’ offense for a minute. Richardson’s linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Richard Panik each recorded three assists on Richardson’s goals. Hinostroza now has six points over his last five games. Good on Richardson for what he accomplished on Thursday and this season, as he scored just three goals all of last season (76 GP).
Is Elias Pettersson hitting a rookie wall? He hasn’t scored a goal in his last six games. The Canucks have been ravaged by injuries during the second half, which eventually puts more pressure on the healthy players to score. Petey has frequently been skating over 20 minutes a night, so I’m wondering if the grind of playing a long NHL season for the first time is starting to take its toll.
Canucks’ fans were happy to get something back – anything at all, even a bag of pucks – for Erik Gudbranson. So maybe it was a bonus that Tanner Pearson scored his first goal as a Canuck on Thursday, or at least it was one of the few bright spots for the Canucks. Pearson is getting his chance to play on the top line with Pettersson, so you could add him in a deeper league in the hopes that a new team will provide a short-term spark. I have to at least say that he’s looked okay so far. You can also check out the Pearson trade fantasy impact.
Well, I was wrong about Reilly Smith losing his spot on the Golden Knights’ top line because of the Mark Stone acquisition. Not only is Smith still skating with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, but he scored a pair of goals in the Knights’ shootout win over the Panthers. He probably doesn’t deserve to lose that spot right now anyway, as he has now posted 11 points in his last 10 games.
That means Stone will have to make it work on the Paul Stastny – Max Pacioretty unit (and Alex Tuch gets demoted). Stone has yet to record a point in his two games with his new team, but let’s give him a little time to get acclimatized. After all, the long-term contract suggests that he will be there for a while.
In a losing cause, Jonathan Huberdeau scored a goal and added three assists. Huby is on fire, piling up 13 points in his last seven games. That’ll help if you are in a battle to make your fantasy playoffs.
Also in this game, Mike Hoffman scored goals number 29 and 30 on the season. As consistent a goal scorer as Hoffman has been, this is the first time he has reached 30 goals in spite of scoring at least 20 in his previous four seasons. I’m sure glad I didn’t trade him in my keeper league when the you-know-what hit the fan in Ottawa last season. I don’t make a habit out of trading players for pennies on the dollar, though. Even when my fellow owners like to tease me with those kinds of offers.
Anze Kopitar hasn’t had the greatest season, as he is on pace for around 60 points after reaching 92 last season. After a four-game point drought, at least he gave his owners sometime to be satisfied with on Thursday, scoring two goals and adding an assist while logging his usual 20-plus minutes. Don’t get too optimistic about Kopitar (or any of the Kings) in the short-term, though, as Adam Daly-Frey describes in his Looking Ahead piece this week.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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