The Leafs welcomed back Mitch Marner to practice on Monday. It’s his first time with the team since suffering that gnarly ankle injury weeks back. The earliest initial timeline would have had him back for this weekend but it appears he may beat that by a day or two.
Buffalo is heading on a road trip here soon, and they may get Kyle Okposo back for it. You’ll remember he suffered a concussion a couple weeks ago and with his history, it was a huge concern. It seems like he’s recovering well and could be back a few games from now. All the best to him.
Gabriel Landeskog was skating with the team in a non-contact jersey, another point of progress for him. It won’t be long now until he returns to the lineup and the battle station will be fully operational. Imagine Taylor Hall actually being traded to the Avs? Whew.
The Habs will be without Victor Mete for a couple weeks due to an ankle injury. While I’m not sure there are a lot of Mete fantasy owners out there, this all but ensures 25 minutes a night for Ben Chiarot moving forward.
Martin Necas was a late scratch for Carolina’s last game, and he didn’t practice on Monday, either. When we know more, we’ll let you know. Let’s just hope this isn’t anything serious because he was having a nice rookie season with 16 points in 26 games, playing mostly down the lineup. He certainly looked every bit the future top-line forward fantasy owners hope he can be.
With Rasmus Dahlin still missing from the lineup, it seemed likely the Sabres just turn to Rasmus Ristolainen for top power play duties. While they did for the first couple games, it was Henri Jokiharju who ran the power play on Monday night. He’s a very good puck-moving defenceman even this early in his career so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with this opportunity.
Also Mark Borowiecki witnessed a car break in yesterday in Gastown. Clotheslined the guy off his bike when dude tried to flee. About to meet cops to give back the bag which had passports in it.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) December 2, 2019
A game between the Golden Knights and Rangers went about as you’d expect, with Vegas posting a 4-1 win and dominating the adjusted shot share.
Alex Tuch scored twice in the first four minutes of the game, which was all Vegas needed. He had five total shots and is now up to 26 shots in 12 games while playing fewer than 15 minutes a night.
In a surprise move, Chris Kreider was moved back to the top line with Mika Zibanejad. He had been skating on the third line for some reason but is now back where he belongs. He’s also getting power-play time so let’s hope starts to heat up here soon.
Buffalo absolutely laid waste to New Jersey 7-1. Not sure where New Jersey goes from here but that situation is not tenable.
Jack Eichel got his customary three points (1+2) but the depth largely did the damage. Conor Sheary had a pair of goals, Jeff Skinner had one and one with seven shots, Johan Larsson had a trio of helpers, while Jokiharju scored a goal on the power play. Hopefully he gets some more run in that role.
This was 5-0 after the first period. Not much to glean here.
Jordan Eberle scored his first two goals of the year, one of them coming on the power play, in New York’s 4-1 win over Detroit. Ryan Pulock was the story, though, with three assists, two shots, two blocks, and a hit for an extremely productive fantasy night.
Following his 38-save shutout of the Blackhawks on Monday night, Jake Allen’s save percentage on the season is up to .926. It has been a nice rebound season for the 29-year old netminder.
We are fully settled into the NHL season. The time for ‘it’s still early’ has long passed and the time for honest consideration about where your fantasy teams stand is necessary. Part of that honest consideration is knowing where players and teams in the league itself stand – that’s why I’m here.
Were I to ask someone who follows the NHL’s more advanced metrics which three teams led the NHL in expected goal share at 5-on-5 in November, it may be a stretch for them to get to Pittsburgh-Dallas-Carolina. The biggest reasons being Pittsburgh spent the month wondering which players were even healthy while Dallas’s horrific start to the year wouldn’t likely lead us to them being one of the best teams the following month. That Columbus was fourth in the league in xGF% (54.8 percent) is certainly interesting.
The Jackets did this largely through defence, as they were fourth in expected goals against and high-danger chances against at 5-on-5 after Halloween. But they were pretty good defensively in October as well, which means the reason for a jump in 5-on-5 expected goal share in an increase in offensive metrics rather than defensive ones.
That increased offense was led by Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had 13 points in 14 games. The weird part about that? He only shot 8.9 percent at all strengths. Typically, when we see guys go on sustained hot streaks, they’re largely driven by both individual and team results. That’s not necessarily the case here, which means we haven’t seen a true scorching-hot streak yet from Bjorkstrand. He’s also putting up over three shots per game playing less than 17 minutes a night. Imagine what he could do with more ice time?
I’m not entirely sure what to take away from the fact that Ottawa was sixth in expected goal share for the previous month. Here’s another one: only four teams had a lower expected goal against rate, and they were Pittsburgh, Nashville, Minnesota, and Columbus. Yes, the 2019-20 Ottawa Senators had the fifth-lowest expected goal against rate in the league for an entire month. As we sit here on Monday afternoon, so far this season, Ottawa has as many ROWs (regulation and overtime wins) as Tampa Bay and Nashville, and more than Vegas and Florida. The main reason why they’re so far down the standings is they’ve had literally one game go to overtime, which means they’re not picking up as many loser points as the rest of the league. That may actually help them get to the lottery again.
It’s too early to talk about season-end individual trophies, but if the Sens are still putting up results like this a month from now, it won’t be too early to talk about D.J. Smith for the Jack Adams. I know he won’t get it because making the playoffs is an unspoken pre-requisite for such an award, but he’s doing an unbelievable job with a team largely void of proven NHLers. They still need a lot more talent, especially up front, but things are moving along. There is legitimate cause for hope, Sens fans.
I still worry about Malkin’s long-term effectiveness, but he was a big reason the Penguins managed to go 4-3-3 after Crosby’s injury. He tied for third in points at 5-on-5, trailing only Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid. He was 7th in total points (including PP/PK), but like Bjorkstrand, he didn’t have a very high shooting percentage (9.3 percent). Again, that’s very unusual for a guy with such a hot streak and shows how much Malkin still has to go for a true monster hot streak.
This isn’t a mirage, either. I mean, he’s putting up monster numbers in terms of driving offence so far this year (from Evolving Hockey):
He really is doing a lot of carrying offensively, with his expected goals and high-danger chances at 3.35 and 14.75, respectively. Those are both huge numbers and while I wouldn’t expect them to sustain, it does show, once again, that this isn’t a mirage.
The question with Malkin, as always, is whether he can maintain this for a season. He’s already missed nearly a month, and I’m sure they don’t want to have to play him over 20 minutes a night. Crosby coming back in a few weeks should help, obviously.
Just enjoy Malkin while he’s doing his thing. It really is quite unique to watch a guy put a team on his back; there are maybe five guys who can do it, and none of them outside of Pittsburgh are over 30. It’s a special, special thing.
Hey, so, reuniting Meier with Tomas Hertl has been a pretty good idea? From what I can tell, Meier’s last game on Logan Couture’s wing was November 2nd, also the fifth game in a five-game losing streak. Since November 3rd, Meier has 14 points in 13 games, putting up nearly three shots per game in that span, adding a whopping 29 total hits. It was a great month for Meier, and hopefully you guys bought low on him when we told you to.
The shooting percentages with Meier and Hertl on the ice are a bit high and will regress, but they’re putting up very good underlying offensive numbers (expected goals rates not far off Malkin’s that we just discussed). It’s not to say that is entirely the result of just moving Meier to Hertl’s line – there was a good read at Yahoo from Ryan Lambert about how much Radim Simek has helped the blue line, and in turn the entire team – but I can’t see this pairing of forwards changing anytime soon.
Whether Radim Simek’s return is something the team can build off for the rest of the year remains to be seen. There are still a lot of concerns here: top-6 Patrick Marleau, Vlasic’s falling-off-a-cliff decline, and the goaltending all remain significant issues. But as long as Marleau stays far away from that line, they stand a good chance of sustained success.
I still don’t really know what to make of Makar here because we haven’t really seen anything like this before. The guy is literally a point-per-game rookie as a defenceman. Two guys in the history of the NHL have done that for a full season (Mark Howe and Brian Leetch), and none have done it outside of the 1980s.
The one thing we can say is he probably won’t be a point-per-game defenceman this year. He’s shooting nearly 20 percent himself at 5-on-5 (forwards can’t sustain that for a season, let alone defencemen) and the team is shooting over 13 percent with him on the ice. Both of those will decline but the one caveat is additional ice time. He’s sitting at 20 minutes a night on the season, but has seen a lot of recent games over 24 minutes. If he can get that TOI boost consistently, then we could be looking at a real, real special season.