Justin Schultz was in a regular jersey for the Penguins in practice on Monday. He’s been out over a month with a lower-body injury. The team has a game Tuesday night in Philadelphia and then is off until after the All-Star Game. It would make sense that they give him that extra week to work on his own and get as close to game shape as possible. It’s not as if they’re falling out of playoff contention and absolutely need every game from him at the moment.

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Staying with the Penguins, Dominik Kahun has been diagnosed with a concussion. As mentioned, the Penguins are going to hit their break after a game on Tuesday night so Kahun will have lots of time off to recuperate for the stretch run. Of course, concussions are a fickle thing, so how much time he’ll actually need to recover is not certain.

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If you haven’t picked up your copy of the Dobber Midseason Guide, what are you waiting for? Whether gearing up for a championship, loading for next year, or taking part in a midseason league, there’s something for everyone.

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Both Frans Nielsen and Mike Green left Detroit’s Monday afternoon loss in Colorado with an upper-body injury, though there was no update on either postgame. Not that either player has a lot of fantasy value this year, but this could change Detroit’s approach to the trade deadline if Green’s is a serious injury.

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We had a pretty good game – or at least an exciting comeback – over the weekend between Vegas and Montreal. The latter had a two-goal lead with two minutes left on the clock and blew it, only to win in the shootout. Watching the game, it stood out to me just how good Jonathan Marchessault is. I know, hot take and all, but what I noticed is that it seems Marchessault does something positive for his team every shift. Maybe something unexpected, even. Whether it’s digging out a puck on the boards, batting a pass out of mid-air, or a backcheck to break up an opportunity, it seems like he manages to contribute something to his squad every time he hits the ice. There’s no floating or half-inspired backcheck efforts. I’m not foolish enough to think he plays at 100 percent speed every shift, but he seems to pick his moments to have an impact. It’s impressive.

Anyway, that got me looking up some of his stats this year and here’s something that stuck out to me: he’s second among all players in the league (minimum 50 minutes at 5-on-4) in shot rate on the power play behind teammate Max Pacioretty. Despite that shot rate, Marchessault has just three PP goals on the year because he’s shooting 5.41 percent. Now, we certainly wouldn’t expect a guy who can score 25-30 goals a year playing 17-18 minutes a night to shoot five percent on the power play, and that probably improves over the balance of the season. On the other hand, he shot just 9.1 percent last year with the man advantage, and 7.58 percent the year before. So, yeah, 5.4 percent is low for him – it’s low for any forward on the power play – but this is now his third straight season of a sub-10 percent PP shooting percentage.

Gerard Gallant is gone so maybe Peter DeBoer will have some ideas to get more out of certain PP contributors. With that said, from 2016-19, the Sharks were only slightly better (6.82) than the Golden Knights (6.67) in generating goals per 60 minutes with the man advantage. Maybe there won’t be a change.

All this is to say Marchessault is a very good fantasy asset, especially in leagues counting hits, but he’s still not reaching his potential. If anything can happen to unlock his PP production, he could threaten double-digit PP goals and really take that next step. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t, but the potential is there.

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Rangers practice had Brendan Lemieux on the top line and Pavel Buchnevich listed as a “fill-in” on the second line for Artemi Panarin. That would indicate that Buchnevich could be on his way to another healthy scratch. Before I freak out, I’m going to see what Tuesday brings, but this sort of thing would fall right in line with Quinn’s coaching methods.

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A fun read from the staff at The Athletic as they polled players from around the league to find who they the think is the best player, dirtiest player, most reliable goalie etc.

I won’t give away the work but what I found interesting is that Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau were first and second for most underrated player in the NHL. Considering they play on the same team, often on the same line, it struck me as curious.

A lot of this has to be tied to a lack of playoff success. Here’s how I think about the hierarchy of hockey media:

  • Local media only concerned with their team through the season, and most hockey fans are only concerned with their team. That fantasy hockey doesn’t have the same penetration in mainstream hockey coverage as fantasy football makes it unlikely that casual fans branch out beyond their team. All that makes sense.
  • The national media has to cover teams and games that will generate the most views/clicks/ad revenue, and that’s infrequently going to involve the Florida Panthers. Rather, it’s going to be the established franchises, with a dash of those who’ve had recent playoff success (Vegas, Nashville, Tampa Bay). The Panthers don’t fit either criteria. 
  • The national media covers playoff teams with relative thoroughness once the postseason rolls around, but when you’re in your seventh NHL season and have six total playoff games to your name, that coverage isn’t going to extend to you.

It’s probably not fair but the whole point of this entire league is to get to the playoffs and make a run for the Stanley Cup. Almost never doing that is going to leave the shine off you unless you’re a generational talent.

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Anders Bjork was lined up on the second line for Boston again in practice on Monday morning, which means it appears he’ll line up on the second line for his eighth straight game on Tuesday. That kind of stability on Boston’s RW2 has been lacking basically through the entire David Pastrnak era, which is why they’ve brought in a number of players to try there, the latest being Brett Ritchie and Charlie Coyle. Maybe it could be Bjork, though?

Bjork was never expected to be an impact player at the NHL level, which is why he was a fifth-round pick in 2014, but he did have a good college career and has put up solid production rates in small AHL samples. Bjork’s issue is he’s not a shooter. In fact, his shot attempt rate this year is lower than his rookie year, and his rookie year (11.51/60 minutes) was below the league average (12.87). Maybe he can help their depth woes by setting up Jake DeBrusk or David Krejci, but he won’t be scoring a lot of goals himself, barring a high shooting percentage.

All the same, in hits leagues, with some more ice time, Bjork can put up maybe a hit per game with some assists, if all goes right. He won’t have much value outside of deeper leagues, though, especially considering how often Boston’s middle-six lines change.

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Just a small note while looking this up (data from Natural Stat Trick).

The league-wide average shot attempt rate per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 among forwards in 2017-18 was 12.87 (minimum 800 minutes), fell to 12.74/60 in 2018-19, and is down to 12.23 in 2019-20. Here’s the kicker: the league-wide goals/60 rate per forward meeting our criteria in 2017-18 was 0.72 but this season it’s up to 0.75. So, forwards are shooting less than they were two years ago but they’re scoring more than they were two years ago. That tells us, obviously, that shot attempt shooting percentage (CorsiSH%) is up.  

Why would that be? Well, to the next point…

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Travis Yost had an article at TSN that discussed the rise in goal scoring we’ve seen in the NHL the last few years, but more importantly about why goal scoring rates are outpacing expected goal rates to such a large degree. In a perfect world, actual goals scored would match expected goals scored, but this is not such a world, and goal rates are increasing faster than expected goal rates season by season. The question is why this is happening.

There are a number of explanations offered in the article and I recommend readers going through it. These sorts of models are the basis of many fantasy hockey (be it season-long or daily) projections, myself included, and figuring out what’s going on is important to being able to do our jobs better.

My guess is there has been a marked increase in both royal road passes (across the seam in the offensive zone) and behind-the-net passes (from behind the net to somewhere in the slot area, not the point). Those passes tend to lead to shots that have a higher opportunity to go in, which is why I think 5-on-5 scoring is up. I’m going to try to find the data sometime this week to see if this is indeed the case.