It was a tall order on Tuesday night for San Jose. Let alone being down 3-2 in the series and having to go into St. Louis, they would do so without Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, and Erik Karlsson. At least Pavelski was a game-time decision; both Hertl and Karlsson weren’t even in St. Louis.
The Blues came out strong and scored 92 seconds into the game and made it 2-0 late in the first on a Vladimir Tarasenko power-play goal. Tank’s tally was setup by a perfect no-look pass from Colton Parayko:
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) May 22, 2019
It’s hard to see it happening as long as Alex Pietrangelo is around, but it would be some nice to see Parayko get consistent top PP minutes. A guy can dream.
San Jose made a push, particularly in the third period, but would never overcome the deficit, losing 5-1. St. Louis is on its way to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in nearly 50 years.
I’ll have more on the Sharks, the season, and the offseason in a Ramblings later this week.
Full credit to the Blues and Craig Berube here. It feels like a lifetime ago when this team was last in the league and had poor shot rates to back it up. Berube (and Jordan Binnington) helped turn this team around in a big way in the second half, along with the rest of the roster filling in their roles. This is a squad that needed every player on the roster to contribute and they did so all postseason.
One of those role players, Sammy Blais, is a guy to keep tabs on in hits leagues next year. I wrote about him in the Dobber Midseason Guide and he didn’t really come through in the second half, but has done so in the playoffs. This is a guy who can put up gigantic hit totals while chipping in some goals.
The Hurricanes are more than deep enough on the blue line to sustain de Haan missing a month or two of the regular season, especially when considering Jake Bean could be on the roster next year. Martinook should be fine by July so I’m not worried about him next year, either. Obviously, it’s not great news for de Haan, but all told, things could be a lot worse for Carolina.
I shouldn’t just gloss over Bean here; de Haan’s injury opens a spot on the left side of the blue line and Bean looks ready to at least try to establish himself in the NHL. I think he’s far enough down the depth chart that there isn’t much fantasy value in 2019-20 but it’s an opportunity for the young defenceman to make his mark.
It also appears as though Carolina wants to bring back their goaltending tandem from this year. Whether that actually happens, we’ll see.
I absolutely will not post the video but Dylan Larkin took a slap shot to the testicles in USA's game against Canada at the World Championships. It occurred in the first period, after which he left the game and did not return. He was in severe pain on the bench, quite literally on all fours on the ground. Once there's an update, we'll pass it along.
For anyone who has read my Ramblings going back four years now, you know that Valeri Nichushkin has been a player I’ve been enamoured with. The problem is that since his rookie season, he hasn’t really done much, posting nine goals and 40 points in 144 games. While there’s a reasonable amount of hits and shots thrown in, outside of very deep leagues, a guy giving you 25 points and 80 hits really doesn’t bring much to the fantasy table.
Can he turn it around? Let’s see if we can draw anything positive from his 2018-19 season.
The goal total is what sticks out the most, obviously, as he failed to score in his 57 games played. Even with the bagel in the goal column, it’s not like he would have given much with just 65 shots on goal. It wasn’t just a function of very little ice time, either, as he managed his lowest shot rate at five-on-five of his career (9.91), and by a good margin (10.91 in his rookie year). Quite frankly, a guy shooting that little while playing bottom-6 minutes and sparse secondary PP time is very unlikely to be fantasy relevant. There just aren’t enough goals scored by most teams’ third and fourth lines to boost assist totals for a player that isn’t shooting. Even if he were to get very lucky and manage 30 assists – which would be a very high total for someone in his position – he could struggle for 10 goals. And a 10-30 season with decent peripherals being the ceiling for a player isn’t really much to write home about.
Can he be more than a 10-30 guy? I’m not so sure.
Let’s be fair with Nichushkin here: his hockey card stats make his season look worse than it really was. It’s tough to handwave zero goals and 10 assists in 57 games but he was about even at driving the play offensively for Dallas. That means relative to his teammates, he was about an average Dallas Stars forward at driving offence. That’s not great by any means but it certainly makes him look a bit better than just spouting goals and assists. His numbers on the ice are backed up by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM model when it comes to driving shot attempts:
Just slightly below average by corsifor (not nearly as good by expected goals for). What does stick out is how good he was defensively. This isn’t anything new for Nichushkin, really, as he’s been able to put up good defensive numbers every season he’s been in the NHL.
I don’t want to completely give up on Nichushkin but it really does seem the ship has sailed on his being fantasy-relevant in the vast majority of fantasy leagues. Very deep leagues/dynasties are a different story, but almost every other type of league he’s not really a target to be rostered. This is a case where I think his real-world value far exceed his fantasy value. It’s not always easy to say, “I was wrong about this player,” but I was definitely wrong about Nichushkin. He could have a nice NHL season, but unless there’s a dramatic shift in the way he plays, it seems like he’s on the verge of being the next Nikolai Kulemin rather than a prolific scoring winger.
I wanted to quickly point out a very salient point from our very own Jokke Nevalainen:
Doug Armstrong doesn't get enough credit for the moves he's made. Letting Backes walk at age 32 wasn't a popular decision but we've seen why he made it.
He got great returns for Stastny, Shattenkirk and Reaves. He used those returns to get Schenn and O'Reilly and didn't overpay.
— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) May 20, 2019
He might get overlooked sometimes given the lack of playoff success for St. Louis despite making the postseason nearly every year, but there have been a lot of good moves and draft picks of late. I thought his offseason was great with the trade for Ryan O’Reilly, signing Tyler Bozak for a reasonable contract, bringing Patrick Maroon in on a cheap deal (though that was mostly because of Maroon’s situation, I assume), as well as bringing back David Perron. As Jokke pointed out in a subsequent tweet, the drafting of guys like Colton Parayko and Robert Thomas has paid off in spades.
Despite all the free agent signings in the offseason, there’s still a lot of cap flexibility here. They don’t really have many significant RFAs outside of Jordan Binnington and the only significant UFAs are Maroon and Carl Gunnarsson, and even then, they’re not key cogs to the team, more complementary pieces. As long as a crippling contract isn’t signed this summer, they shouldn’t have problem with their cap down the road.
It’s been a really nice job done by Armstrong over his Blues tenure but the 2018 offseason is what he’ll be remembered for. With the team on their way to their first Cup Final in nearly 40 years, that he’ll be remembered for the 2018 offseason is a fair assessment. But the solid job Armstrong has done to get the team to this point goes back years. And with the young guys they have in their system, this is a team that should continue to be a threat for years to come.
While we’re on the Blues, what are cap league owners doing with Alex Pietrangelo? He has one year left on his current contract but next year is his age-30 season. That means his new deal kicks in for his age-31 season, and his new deal is going to be an expensive one. I don’t think he gets Drew Doughty-type money, but it seems entirely possible he gets something close to John Carlson’s. Do cap league owners want a defenceman making $8M+ when that contract kicks in at 31 years old? This summer might be the time to move him. What do you guys think? If you’re a Pietrangelo cap league owner, I want to hear from you in the comments.
Final thing on the Blues: don’t forget about Jordan Kyrou. This is a guy I’m very high on. (I realize the irony of this just a couple paragraphs following my admission of completely missing on Nichushkin.) He had a wonderful first pro season in the AHL with 43 points in 47 games and showed his flashes of brilliance in his stints in the NHL. He’ll probably be on the third line in 2019-20 but I do wonder if they at least start him in the AHL to start the year and have him be a November call-up or something along those lines. I think once he gets back to the NHL, he’s there to stay, and he’ll show his offensive brilliance.
Even though he’s clearly playing with a bad injury – which is why he was out for Game 6 – we still need to give a little bit of shine to Erik Karlsson. Going into Tuesday night, he was near the top of the league’s leaderboard in primary assist rate at five-on-five these playoffs, he trails only Brent Burns in driving shot attempts among San Jose blue liners, and he’s surpassed Burns in power play production per minute this postseason.
That Karlsson is still playing well when he can barely turn just speaks to how talented he is. The issue for fantasy owners is whether Karlsson’s injury lingers into next year. We’ll eventually find out how severe the injury is, and I’m just hoping it’s not something that keeps him from offseason workouts or even training camp.
It’s kind of a weird situation, right? Here’s a generational defenceman who is about to hit free agency for the first time and there’s the potential of a lingering injury. Does it affect what he gets on the market? It’s going to be a fascinating summer.