Ramblings: An Underrated Star Returns With a Bang, Goalie Controversy Thoughts, Kubalik Kontinues (Jan 20)

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The Midseason Guide was released last weekend. Click on the link to see screen shots of much of what you get. At the very least – take a look. Maybe you’ll see it can help you.

The projections are still in the PDF, but I have also added them to a spreadsheet. There will be a coupon code in the PDF that allows you to get that spreadsheet for free, so don’t buy it. This was the only way I could add a spreadsheet without putting it into your accounts one at a time. I had a bit of a minor screw-up with that coupon code: for the first six hours after the Guide was released, I had the wrong code in there. The correct one is there now. You can re-download the Guide to get the correct code if you didn’t already. As you can imagine, lots of brain farts can occur in the hours leading up to a 226-page document’s completion and release!

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Just put in my PHWA votes for the annual Midseason NHL awards. I’ll let you know how I voted next week. Announcement of the winners to come out on Thursday.

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Don’t forget – the bye weeks begin this week so add/drop/adjust your rosters accordingly.

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Columbus is on a run of 15-2-4 after a win Sunday in front of starter Matiss Kivlenieks. The latter was making his NHL debut after Elvis Merzlikins was given a day off. Elvis had started 10 straight and has become the story of fantasy hockey so far in 2020. In looking at Elvis in the summer, between he likely coaching style that was ahead for this team as well as the fact that he was a Top 5 prospect goaltender in the world for my money, I became pretty bullish. And when Korpisalo went down, while Columbus fans panicked I felt that Elvis would do even better. The coaching system, as it stands now, is fantastic for goalies – any goalie. I have very little respect for Korpisalo after last year’s debacle, and after seeing what the coaching system did for him it’s no surprise that Kivlenieks grabbed the win here (stopped 30 of 31). Kivlenieks has yet to see a pro hockey (other than ECHL) save percentage above 0.900. Two years ago for Cleveland he was at 0.891, last season it was 0.873 (but 0.923 for Kalamazoo of the ECHL) and this year in 16 AHL games he’s at 0.896. And his NHL number after one game: 0.969. Anyway, Kivlenieks is not a Golden Boy so his opportunities will be few and far between in terms of an NHL future. Meanwhile, Elvis and Korpisalo are both third-round draft picks and are both 25 years old. Contracts are similar. So the higher Golden Boy comes down to the numbers. Elvis has a career 0.928 SV% (19 games) while Korpisalo is at 0.908 SV% (122 career games), or 0.913 in 32 games this season. Any way you slice it, Merzlikins has been the better guy with the brighter future. The Blue Jackets will put all their eggs in that basket now. Torts is a good guy, so I’m sure he’ll employ the “you shouldn’t lose your job just for getting hurt, when you were doing your job well” philosophy. So when Korpi gets back I’m sure he’ll get the start and the two will rotate until a winner emerges. But we all know that winner will be Elvis.

The Jackets are flying right now and when Cam Atkinson returned he came back like a house on fire. Five points in two games, though was pointless Sunday. But another guy made his return on that day and he picked up where Wham Bam Cam left off – Oliver Bjorkstrand.

When last we saw young Oliver, he had 17 points in 17 games and then was sidelined for “four-to-six weeks”. It turned out to be four weeks – and he now has 19 points in 18 games. He will emerge as the next big star player for this team. You and I see it now, but it will be about year before the national media and most fans catch on. STAR.

Here was Columbus’ line combos with their two star scorers back in the lineup Sunday:

Frq

EV – FORWARDS

CF

CA

CF%

18.3%

BJORKSTRAND,OLIVER – DUBOIS,PIERRE-LUC – NYQUIST,GUSTAV

14

12

53.8

 

14.9%

LILJA,JAKOB – NASH,RILEY – ROBINSON,ERIC

5

9

35.7

 

13.3%

ATKINSON,CAM – NYQUIST,GUSTAV – WENNBERG,ALEXANDER

10

7

58.8

 

12.4%

ATKINSON,CAM – BEMSTROM,EMIL – WENNBERG,ALEXANDER

3

9

25.0

 

10.4%

FOLIGNO,NICK – GERBE,NATHAN – JENNER,BOONE

4

4

50.0

 

               

 

There was some line juggling as you can see. And yes, that’s Frozen Tools now showing CF% (Chances For, Chances Against) for each line combo in the game. Gerbe has now faded down the lineup, but his line is still effective and I think he has (and deserves) a home on the playing roster even if it’s just in a depth role.

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Columbus after 50 games with Panarin and Bobrovsky on their team last year: 28-19-3 (59)

Columbus after 50 games with Korpisalo/Elvis and Nyquist on their team now: 26-16-8 (60)

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It would have been great to see my two favorite prospect goalies from the summer go head to head. Favorite No.1, Igor Shesterkin, got the start for the Rangers. Favorite No.2, Elvis, did not get the start for the Jackets. Shesterkin took the loss but DobberHockey records it as a Quality Start (SV% above league average). He allowed two goals on 31 shots.

The Rangers need to do something here, as King Henrik Lundqvist has started just two games since December 27. And he’s very much a goalie who plays better with regular action (as most goalies are). Three goalies rarely go a month.

Kaapo Kakko has points in just one of his last 15 games and his ice time is starting to slide. Seeing 12 minutes per game is starting to become a regular thing with him now.

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Patrick Kane picked up his 1000th career point midway through the third period of his 953rd game. He became the youngest US player to reach 1000 points (nearly a full year younger than Jeremy Roenick was when he did it). The only active player to reach that milestone at a younger age than Kane’s 31 years and 61 days is Sidney Crosby (29 years, 193 days). Kane also now has a 10-game points streak and it’s the seventh time in his career that he’s done that.

And don’t look now, but the Blackhawks are suddenly in the playoff hunt. They’ve won five in a row and they have a Vezina candidate in Robin Lehner between the pipes. They also have the Cup winning core still together, and now it seems they have a soon-to-be 35-goal scorer?

Dominik Kubalik was given a “gimme” on Sunday, out there with a two-goal lead and an empty net on the other end. But he still scored his 21st goal – his 10th goal in his last eight games and 15th in 21 games. He needs 14 in 34 to get to 35 goals on the season. His rookie season. If a player scores 35 goals as a rookie, his ticket is punched. It means he’ll get all the ice time and prime linemates in the world next season, setting him up to avoid a sophomore slump.

Erik Gustafsson picked up two points for the second consecutive contest. He’s partnering with Connor Murphy, which seems to be working much better than when he was paired with Duncan Keith earlier in the season. I also find that he gets his most points on the power play when he is out there with another defenseman. So far 82.9% of his PP shifts have been with four forwards, and that doesn’t work for him. He’s best with a second defenseman. And ideally don’t saddle him with Keith. Put him with Adam Boqvist or even Murphy and I think he’ll do much better. As things stand now, he’s off the top power play and Boqvist is on it. Hell, the last three games Gustafsson is almost off the power play altogether.

Boqvist, for what it’s worth, has seen over 52 minutes of PP time and has two PP points.

Murphy, for what it’s worth, has seven points in his last 10 games (24 SOG, 30 BLKS, 21 Hits, plus-6)

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Justin Williams held to his reputation on Sunday. Mr. Game 7 made his season debut for the Hurricanes and when the game went to a shootout he scored the deciding goal.

Here were the line combos for Carolina with Mr. Game 7 in the lineup:

Freq

EV – FORWARDS

CF

CA

CF%

22.7%

NIEDERREITER,NINO – STAAL,JORDAN – SVECHNIKOV,ANDREI

14

10

58.3

21.8%

MCGINN,BROCK – WALLMARK,LUCAS – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

10

10

50.0

19.4%

AHO,SEBASTIAN – FOEGELE,WARREN – TERAVAINEN,TEUVO

13

9

59.1

17.5%

DZINGEL,RYAN – HAULA,ERIK – NECAS,MARTIN

7

8

46.7

1.4%

NIEDERREITER,NINO – SVECHNIKOV,ANDREI – WALLMARK,LUCAS

1

0

100.0

 

It seemed to be a pretty effective setup and Foegele was not knocked down the lineup like I expected – top line for him. Williams was not a part of the power play. Jordan Martinook was the healthy scratch.

Jaccob Slavin manned the power play (80%) with Jake Gardiner (the other 20%) taking the second unit.

Goalie controversy in Carolina? Since November 16:

James Reimer: 9-2-1, 2.14 GAA, 0.931 SV%, 3 SO, 10 QS, 76.9 QS%

Petr Mrazek: 8-9-1, 2.65 GAA, 0.904 SV%, 1 SO, 9 QS, 50.0 QS%

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The Penguins do it again. Backs against the wall. Down 3-0 early, they come back to win 4-3. The announcers tell us that the smart move would have been to pull Matt Murray after the first period. But Murray closed the door big time after that, stopping all 24 shots that he faced to steal the win. You want goalie controversy? How about this since December 28:

Matt Murray: 5-0-0, 2.55 GAA, 0.925 SV%, 4 QS, 80.0 QS%

Tristan Jarry: 11-4-1, 2.23 GAA, 0.925 SV%, 9 QS, 56.3 QS%

Brandon Tanev had himself a nice fantasy game Sunday – an assist, plus-1, 5 Hits, 3 BLKS.

Sidney Crosby has eight points in four games since his return.

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See you next Monday.