Only two games on the NHL schedule on Friday, so let’s dive right in.
The Devils/Penguins game was a high-shooting affair, as the teams combined for nearly 80 shots. Tristan Jarry saved 36 of 37 shots he faced in the Penguins’ 4-1 win over Jersey. Jarry has now earned wins in back-to-back games to go with a sparkling 1.80 GAA and .945 SV% in six games. He’s established himself as a solid streaming backup, even with the Penguins’ laundry list of injuries.
Meanwhile, Mackenzie Blackwood was pulled after allowing two goals in 25 seconds early in the third period. Allowing four goals on 36 shots isn’t terrible, but perhaps John Hynes wanted to give Blackwood a little rest and Louis Domingue his first game action as a Devil. New Jersey is back at it Saturday against the Red Wings, so don’t be surprised if Blackwood makes his seventh consecutive start in that one.
Jake Guentzel scored for the third time in four games, and he currently has points in all four of those games (six points over that span). Sidney who? Guentzel is still on the Pens’ top line, only now it’s with Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust.
By the way, Rust now has a four-game point streak of his own, and he’s averaged four shots over his last six games. He’s now owned in one-third of Yahoo leagues, so fantasy owners are catching on to his deployment and point-per-game production this season. Once the Pens start getting healthy, then you might want to consider selling high or dropping outright. Then again, the Pens never seem to be completely healthy.
Without Kris Letang AND Justin Schultz on Friday, the Pens opted to use… Brian Dumoulin on their first-unit power play. Dumoulin has decent banger peripherals and a league-leading plus-17, yet he’s never going to be a lights-out scoring option. The Pens also have a young blueliner named John Marino who scored on Friday while taking five shots. Marino has a four-game point streak and points in seven of his last nine games while averaging nearly 22 minutes per game. The Penguins seem to be raving about his overall play. I dunno… maybe see what Marino can do on the first-unit power play while Letang and Schultz are out?
Some good news for the Devils: Taylor Hall broke his string of nine consecutive games without a goal.
Break up the Ottawa Senators, who had now won three games in a row and are 7-2 in their past nine games! This goes to show how much parity there is in today’s salary-cap NHL. Even the teams that constantly get dumped on (like Ottawa) are capable of winning games in stretches. It might also be the fact that a team like Ottawa plays under virtually no pressure, while a certain provincial neighbor who just fired their well-known coach is currently under the microscope like no one else.
You see Anthony Duclair’s name on the waiver wire, yet you might try to ignore him. However, Duclair scored a power-play goal and added an assist on Friday, giving him four goals and six points over his last four games. He’s playing on Ottawa’s first-unit power play (for what it’s worth), and is playing regular overall minutes (16:35 TOI) for what seems like the first time in his career. If you think he’s simply experiencing good luck, his advanced stats seem to check out fine. Maybe you were burned when you added him as a prospect a few years ago, and you notice that he's now on his fifth NHL team. Ottawa might have been the only team left that had any reason to give the now-24-year-old this kind of opportunity, and he’s making the most of it. I’d be perfectly okay with adding him in a deeper league.
The Sens’ recent run of success means that Anders Nilsson has piled up the wins. Three in a row and six of his last seven games, to be exact. Nilsson also has a 2.13 GAA and .935 SV% in seven November games. Three-quarters of Yahoo leagues still aren’t buying into Nilsson, but keep riding that train as long as you can if you’ve already rolled the dice with him. Would a matchup against low-scoring Columbus on Monday give you incentive to add him?
Jacob Trouba has been a massive disappointment for fantasy owners expecting him to be everything on the Rangers’ blueline. However, he had a nice roto effort on Friday, scoring a goal, firing six shots, and dishing five hits. That’s something. Trouba snapped a six-game pointless drought, while the goal was his first since opening night.
I recently listened to an interesting podcast at InGoal Magazine in which former NHL goalie Steve Valiquette was interviewed. If you fast forward to about the 57:30 mark, Valiquette describes his work running Clear Sight Analytics in determining teams that are easy environments and tough environments for goalies in terms of shot quality. He appears to be calculating a save percentage differential, which is the difference between the goalie’s actual save percentage and the team’s (environment’s) expected save percentage.
InGoal Magazine contributor Kevin Woodley also explains this observation further in this interview on TSN 1040.
Here are the teams Valiquette listed in terms of toughest and easiest goaltending environments:
Easiest: NYI, CBJ, ARI, CAR, EDM
Toughest: FLA, SJ, NYR, COL, PHI, VAN
Here are some observations from a fantasy perspective:
The Islanders, Coyotes, and to a lesser extent the Hurricanes shouldn’t come as a surprise by now as easy environments. The Blue Jackets and Oilers are more surprising.
The fact that Columbus is second on the list might be an indictment on Joonas Korpisalo’s ability as an NHL goalie, although it’s worth mentioning that he has a decent 2.58 GAA and .913 SV% during November. Everything else remaining equal, Korpisalo’s fantasy value would decline even further with a move out of Columbus. If the Blue Jackets acquire a true number one starting goalie, that goalie could be a sneaky-good add in fantasy leagues, particularly if this goalie is currently a backup or a timeshare currently. Of the starting goalies in the easiest environments, Korpisalo’s season numbers (3.04 GAA, .897 SV%) stand out as the worst.
Could Dave Tippett be this season’s version of Barry Trotz? The Oilers are also currently a top-10 team in terms of goals allowed (2.79 GA/GP), yet many fantasy owners are expecting the bottom to fall out from Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith. Maybe their season numbers gravitate closer to career numbers, yet Tippett’s system could prevent these two goalies from damaging your goaltending numbers to the extent you might think.
Joel Quenneville is considered a strong defensive-minded coach, so perhaps he has been unsuccessful in implementing his own system. It’s ironic and now entirely possible that Sergei Bobrovsky’s fantasy value may have declined with the move from Columbus to Florida.
Maybe Martin Jones isn’t as bad a goalie as you thought. I’ll just park that here.
The one system that Valiquette spent the most time discussing was that of the Rangers, his former team. Henrik Lundqvist ranked very high in terms of save percentage differential, which would mean that his goaltending skills may not have eroded as much as we might think. Lundqvist on a different team might be a better fantasy goalie, which makes me wonder if he still has one more contract in him once he becomes a UFA in 2021 (or if he is traded at the 2021 deadline if the Rangers are still in their rebuild).
Of the seven goalies from each of the toughest environments that have played in at least 10 games (Bobrovsky, Jones, Lundqvist, Philipp Grubauer, Carter Hart, Brian Elliott, Jacob Markstrom), only Grubauer (.916 SV%) and Elliott (.913 SV%) have a save percentage above .910. Compare that to the goalies in the easy environments. Of the seven goalies to play at least 10 games in an easy environment (Thomas Greiss, Semyon Varlamov, Korpisalo, Darcy Kuemper, Petr Mrazek, Koskinen, Smith) only Mrazek (.902 SV%) and Korpisalo had a save percentage below .910.
When evaluating fantasy goalies, remember that environment matters.
Speaking of goalies, here’s your confirmed starters for Saturday via Goalie Post:
Braden Holtby (vs. Vancouver) – Get your lineup set early. This game starts at 9:30 a.m. for the folks in Vancouver. Not usual hockey-watching time. Start Holtby with confidence, as this is far from an ideal start time for the Canucks, who have cooled off considerably in November.
Carter Hart (vs. Calgary) – This game starts a half hour after the Vancouver/Washington game. I’m starting to think that the east coast teams deliberately set early home games when their opponent plays its home games 2-3 time zones away. The Flames have lost six in a row, so you know what to do here.
Antti Raanta (@ Los Angeles) – Raanta pitched a shutout against LA on Monday, so he gets rewarded with another start against the Kings while Darcy Kuemper gets the Oilers on Sunday. Raanta’s splits are noticeably better at home than on the road, so he might not have as much of an easy time in this one as you would think.
Alexandar Georgiev (@ Montreal) – Like Lundqvist, Georgiev was identified as having a strong save percentage differential. That might be worth keeping in mind should he move to a team with a better goaltending environment. Still, there’s that current goalie environment issue, the Rangers are playing the second of back-to-backs, and they are on the road.
One more reason to check out Frozen Tools…
The revived Fantasy Team Manager tool will be going live this weekend. All of the important stuff is done. Now it's about fine-tuning and testing. https://t.co/UMjxp4FWka
— FrozenTools (@FrozenTools) November 23, 2019
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.