Ramblings: An update on Nikita Gusev’s plans. Also, Bobrovsky! Labanc, Donato, Mantha, Little Bert and more (Apr 01)
Now available for pre-sale – the 13th annual Interactive Playoff Draft List. Pre-order it here. It will be Friday April 5 – yep, this coming Friday. If you bought the Ultimate Fantasy Pack in the summer, this will be included in that purchase. It is not included in the Keeper Fantasy Pack.
Only one thing can stop the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning. And that’s a white-hot, molten-lava-hot goaltender. And right now there is none hotter than two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. In fact, he’s been so hot that he’s carried the Blue Jackets into seventh place, shooting right past the eight-spot where they would have faced Tampa. Nine Quality Starts in his last 11 games, four shutouts in his last seven games, and just seven goals allowed in seven games.
Bobrovsky’s numbers since March 5: 9-2-0, 1.27 GAA, 0.957 SV%, 9 QS
He has started 18 consecutive games, easily the most this season and it seemed as though the steady, heavy workload finally got him into the zone. If things end this way, the defending Cup Champions would have their hands full. The bottom line right now is that Washington is the second seed, Columbus is the seventh seed, but just eight point separate them – two extra wins and four extra OTL. Not as big of a gap as you think. Nightmares of Jaro Halak back when he was with Montreal?
Cam Atkinson was held off the score sheet Sunday, but good on him for scoring two Saturday, including his 40th. He had 38 goals on March 9 and nine games later only managed one more. It would have been a damn shame if he fell short. I think he’s a 35-goal scorer without Panarin, but not 40. With Panarin leaving (likely), this was Atkinson’s shot and he got there.
Atkinson’s usual linemate, Pierre-Luc Dubois, was the offensive start notching three points. Matt Duchene took over PLD’s spot on the top line, with Dubois centering an effective line with the hot Josh Anderson and Ryan Dzingel.
Oliver Bjorkstrand has put together a five-game points streak and he has seven goals in his last seven contests. It’s been a disappointing season for Bjorkstrand but suddenly surging late to top 20 goals is a promising consolation. John Tortorella must be thrilled with the fact that he’s had 25 SOG over the last five games. Bjorkstrand turns 24 next week. With the exodus of players likely happening in the offseason, I think it’s very likely that Bjorkstrand finds himself on the top line next season and is a very strong sleeper candidate.
Very pleased to get two minutes of Dan Milstein’s time via Skype. Milstein is the agent for KHL superstar Nikita Gusev, whose NHL rights belong to the Vegas Golden Knights. Gusev was the 2017-18 KHL MVP, he was the Top Forward at the 2018 Olympics en route to helping Russia win Gold, and he led the KHL in scoring this season by a wide margin with 82 points in 62 games. He has 15 points in 13 playoff games for SKA St. Petersburg. Needless to say, a decision to join the NHL would be headline news in hockey circles let alone in our fantasy hockey world. Here I ask the million dollar question – will he come to the NHL next season?
Now that we have this information, we know exactly what we need to do in keeper leagues when it comes to Gusev.
Speaking of hot goaltenders, Matt Murray has five Quality Starts in his last six games. After a rough start he’s going to wind up having a pretty good season. But check out these numbers from December 15 onwards:
36GP, 24-8-4, 2.31 GAA, 0.931 SV%, 26 QS for a 72.2 QS%
In beating Carolina Sunday, the Penguins are helping Columbus to not face the Lightning. And in the process, as I note above, could be handing their nemesis the Capitals a tough go of things against Bobrovsky.
The latest on the Penguins injuries:
Evgeni Malkin, Zach Aston-Reese and Kris Letang are back skating. I don’t see any of those three missing playoff time and I have a hunch that at least Malkin and Letang will get into the last game of the season.
Conor Garland has just two points in eight games since signing his contract extension, plus an alarming eight healthy scratches. The return of Christian Dvorak has really hurt Garland’s odds of getting into the lineup, even though they play different positions. The Coyotes will lose on Richard Panik next season (UFA) and they will have Nick Schmaltz back. It’s hard to get a feel for where Garland fits in for 2019-20, but I suspect he will be a depth guy for another season, showing us signs – in spurts – of what he can do down the road.
Ryan Donato was pointless on Sunday and a minus-3. He has one assist and is minus-6 over his last four games, and is minus-8 with three points over his last six games. Prior to that he was plus-4 with 13 points in 13 games. It’s the ‘new team’ adrenalin. He joined Boston out of college and had nine points in 12 games, and was plus-2. Then he couldn’t stick with the team in the fall and when he did play he didn’t score much and was minus-11 with Boston. He joins the Wild and bam, 13 points in 13 games. Now he’s tailing off again. Still a great player and a top prospect, but this just emphasizes that you shouldn’t raise expectations too high for him next year. I think he’ll get there eventually, but the sudden surge early on was too much, too soon.
Per Michael Russo, The Minnesota Wild is reportedly in on (and favored) to sign a pair of highly-touted NCAA free agents. Defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and center Nico Sturm. Schuldt. Those of you who picked up my Midseason Guide were already aware of these two as they were profiled in the NCAA free agents section. The Habs are also in on the offensive QB Schuldt, who plays with Ryan Poehling with St. Cloud State. Sturm is a leader and team captain, a two-way guy who may not end up getting into the top six but is a quality depth guy with a bit of upside.
Speaking of Poehling, the Habs signed him to an ELC on the weekend. They also signed Cayden Primeau. The latter will spend at least three years in the AHL, perhaps seeing spot backup duty in Year 4. He’s still only 19. Poehling on the other hand could make the team in the fall, but the more likely scenario is one full AHL season before making the jump. He just turned 20 a couple of months ago. He is probably Montreal’s second best prospect (behind Nick Suzuki). You can read our fantasy hockey scouting report on Poehling here, and on Primeau here.
Toronto prospect defenseman Calle Rosen has been dynamite for the Marlies this season with 46 points in 54 games. I think he was an astute signing by the Leafs and they were wise to get him acclimated to the North American game in the AHL. I am impressed with his commitment to put in the time down there as a 25-year-old. The team recalled him on the weekend and if they don’t get Jake Gardiner back he could slot into the lineup. I think he’ll be Gardiner’s replacement next season and could be a decent dark horse. Here is our fantasy scouting report and PNHLe chart on him.
If you missed my note on Ryan Strome Saturday when I subbed in for Gooding, you can check it out here. He picked up another pair of points Sunday and is still rolling now that the Rangers have fewer offensive options since the trade deadline.
Also on Saturday – I raved about Anthony Mantha replacing Gustav Nyquist on Detroit’s top line and boy did he (and that entire line) make me look good on Sunday. Mantha put on a clinic when he notched five points. Larkin had a pair and Bertuzzi continues to roll with three more points. For Little Bert (I had called his Uncle Todd “Big Bert” so…), it is now three consecutive three-point games. Very much draftable in the fall and if this line continues to click even at a normal rate, the two offensive guns could really drag Little Bert’s points upward. Very bullish on this guy because of his linemates. I hate drafting and making decisions based on linemates, but I do make exceptions when they clearly work and I have a strong hunch that the line will continue for more than just a few months. That’s where I’m at with Bertuzzi.
Taro Hirose’s one-game slump is finally over. That never-ending nightmare finally did end about a minute into the third period Sunday. So now his NHL career consists of seven games with a point, one game without a point.
My Dobbernomics decisions Sunday were terrible flops. Spending big on Sidney Crosby (zero points), streaming in Jaroslav Halak and Carter Hart (both losses), playing a cheap Jacob Larsson for two weekend games because he had a good few games prior (negative points)…Wow, my plan for a late surge into the Top 25 has really flopped. I should finish in the Top 50, but nothing worked out for me in that game this weekend.
The Flames clinched the Western Conference top seed on Sunday. They gave up 46 shots…over Mike Smith’s last three starts. Just 15 shots faced by Smith on Sunday. With the surging second-half Blues, the ridiculously deep Predators and the two-season Cinderella story Golden Knights, nobody is taking Calgary seriously when it comes to playoff hockey. But I think they should. As the top seed they get to play the bottom wildcard team in the West. You know…that team that is going to get a seed almost by default? By literally backing into the playoff picture? While nine East teams have 92 points already, eighth place in the west has 85 – and that’s who Calgary gets. That’s practically a free round right there, they’re already in the Final 8.
Calgary’s depth in all areas is underrated. Johnny Hockey was the only player to get two points on Sunday – 13 other players had one.
Kevin Labanc has 28 points in his last 31 games with nine of them on the power play and crazy 3.7 Pts/60 in that span. Boy oh boy we’re gonna see some fourth year magic from this guy in 2019-20.
BOBROVSKY! YOU’RE BACK ON THE FORCE, BOBROVSKY!
See you next Monday, ya bunch of Fools