Ramblings: Schwartz/Pietrangelo are back, top goalie playoff performers , the post-mortem for the Isles and more (May 069)
One more team was eliminated last week. Here are my thoughts the team, the players, and what the future holds…
New York Islanders
By the point, we all know the book on Barry Trotz. He’ll take a team that on paper you’d think is ranked in one range (let’s say, for this year’s Islanders and many of his Nashville teams – 15th to 20th) and coaches them to better results (let’s say 10th to 15th, and stealing a playoff round). He does this with a sound team-based system that is defensively responsible. This generally drags the point totals down among the forwards as the offense gets spread out, and it makes the goaltenders almost Vezina-worthy. You saw this over the years going back to Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason, Pekka Rinne, Braden Holtby and now Robin Lehner (and even Thomas Greiss, for that matter). Nothing we saw in the playoffs changed this perception. In fact, it lifted Lehner’s stock even higher, if anything. I’m not so certain if Lehner signs with a different team under a different coach, he does quite so well.
That’s not to say he won’t be great – he has his act together now and seems to be in the zone. He is a very talented netminder and until this season had not ever tapped into that potential. And on a different team he would get more starts, so shedding that shared net situation would more than make up for any value lost at not winning the William Jennings Trophy again. So while he won’t put up the .930 SV% under a different coach, I think overall his fantasy value will improve.
As for the coming summer, the Islanders have six key unrestricted free agents including Lehner. Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl and Luca Sbisa. They will have something in the neighborhood of $35 million in cap space to replace these players and can certainly afford to re-sign Lehner. This team will have a completely different look next year. And to think they have $5.5 million locked in to pay Andrew Ladd for each of the next four seasons, ouch…
In Game 5 of the Winnipeg series Jaden Schwartz scored with 15 seconds left in the game to win it for the Blues. Through those first nearly five full games he had managed just one point. And that was the story of his season in a nutshell. His 36 points was his worst performance since being a rookie in 2012-13. That key goal certainly brought the confidence back and I wonder if it’s a turning point for his career. If he missed that shot would he continue squeezing the stick too hard? Would the tailspin drag on through the postseason and then into next year? We will never know, because the puck went in and Schwartz can do no wrong now. He has 10 points in his last eight games. He did have a 10-points-in-eight-games run back in November/December, so it’s obviously a little early to anoint him as truly “back”, but if the Blues can take it to the next round and allow him to continue building confidence then things will look promising for Schwartz owners. Now if only he can fix that ‘miss 15 games every year’ thing…
Sammy Blais with a goal and nine Hits on just 12:20 of ice time. Methinks someone really wants to stay in the lineup. It was Blais’ first career playoff game. He was in for Robby Fabbri, who was scratched because he didn’t produce a point in four games and has just one in eight.
Jordan Binnington faced 23 shots Sunday, the second-fewest of these playoffs. I wonder if St. Louis clamping down and playing a tighter game is a reflection of their noticing that his play has come down to earth lately. He has allowed 13 goals on the last 146 shots faced. The 0.911 SV% isn’t horrible (though it is 13th out of the 17 goalies who have played at least three games in the postseason), but it is not the greatness he had been giving us up to that point.
Alex Pietrangelo tallied his 10th point of these playoffs (12 games). It took him 22 games in the regular season to get his 10th point. The “my wife had triplets” effect is starting to fade, and he’s a buy-low player for this offseason.
Top SV% of the playoffs, minimum three games played:
1. Curtis McElhinney 0.947
2. Robin Lehner 0.936
3. Tuukka Rask 0.932
4. Philipp Grubauer 0.932
5. Ben Bishop 0.929
6. Sergei Bobrovsky 0.928
7. Frederik Andersen 0.922
That’s the cutoff for me in terms of goalies who have stepped it up in the postseason. All other goalies posted 0.917 or lower.
Here is the controversy of Sunday’s game. Colton Parayko with a laser that hit Ben Bishop in the collar. Bishop goes straight to the ice, and is still writhing as the Blues score. He left the game. Should the refs have blown this dead immediately? The game was still tight at 2-1 at the time…
After rookie Roope Hintz tallied three points, scoring twice back in Game 2, the Blues have held him to one point in four games and he’s a minus-3. His ice time Sunday was 12:58. Overall though, Hintz is trending upwards nicely. Besides eight points in 12 playoff games he finished the year with 13 points in the final quarter (20 games). Coach Jim Montgomery really likes playing him on the top line or at worst the second line. His upside isn’t all that high, perhaps something in the mid-60s, but looking at the Dallas pipeline I don’t see anyone taking this from him next season.
The Blue Jackets have a couple of very talented prospect goaltenders in their system, and there was much ado about their signing of Elvis Merzlikins (for good reason). And now, just over the weekend they signed Daniil Tarasov. While Tarasov is only 20 years old, he is 6-5 and is considered to have a higher ceiling than Merzlikins. Tarasov will play in the AHL next season and how well he adapts to the North American game will determine the speed in which he graduates to the Jackets. I like the timing here. With Merzlikins I think the timing is off. He’s ready now, but because he is unproven I just can’t see the Blue Jackets turning to him full time. Which means they turn to free agency (Lehner?). Which means they sign a goalie for at least three years, maybe more. Which means Merzlikins’ window closes by the time that tenure ends. But with Tarasov, the window just starts to open then – thus my belief that the timing works out well for him. You can read our scouting report on Merzlikins here and Tarasov here.
Kaapo Kakko has announced that he will join Team Finland at the World Championship that begins May 10. Team Finland plays Team USA (i.e. Jack Hughes) on May 13. Our scouting report on Kakko is here and for Hughes – here.
Me, taking a stab at line combos for Team Canada:
Team Canada at #IIHFWorlds:— Dobber (@DobberHockey) April 29, 2019
Marchessault – Tavares – Stone
Bertuzzi – Couturier – Reinhart
Mantha – D. Strome – Turris
Henrique – Cirelli – Joseph
Chabot – Stecher
Nurse – Montour
Theodore – Fabbro
Now up in the shop – you can pre-order all of this year’s products, including the Keeper League Fantasy Pack and the Ultimate Fantasy Pack. The first item – The Fantasy Prospects Report – will be out on June 1 at 3pm.
And big Congratulations to our old pal Jeff Angus. Jeff, the first managing editor of DobberHockey, tied the knot on the weekend!
See you next Monday.