The Professional Hockey Writers Association announced its midseason awards on Thursday. You can view the full list of awards and nominees at the PHWA website. Not all of these are traditional awards (like the Rod Langway Award), but they make for great debate anyway.
Our very own Dobber also voted on the awards, which you can view via his Twitter account.
The rest of my ballot…
Slavin was my last cut on the Langway decision (i.e. 4th)
Bishop was my last cut on the Vezina decision
Couturier was my last cut on the Selke analysis pic.twitter.com/R2b227nTev
— Dobber (@DobberHockey) January 23, 2020
Here are your participants for the NHL Skills Competition tomorrow.
The NHL announced the participants of the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka that will showcase hockey's top talent in St. Louis on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).https://t.co/3LfA131S9k
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) January 24, 2020
Here’s my picks for each. Let’s see if I get a single one of these correct.
Fastest Skater: Connor McDavid
NHL Save Streak: Jacob Markstrom
Accuracy Shooting: Leon Draisaitl
Women’s 3-on-3: Canada
Hardest Shot: Shea Weber
NHL Shooting Stars: David Pastrnak
I’ll be sure to post a video or two tomorrow of the top highlights.
Since the Midseason Guide is now two weeks old, it’s time to revisit a few goaltending situations I wrote about. A lot can change from week to week, especially with injury updates and the up-and-down play of goalies. I won’t be updating all 31 goalie situations here, but just certain ones that seemed to have changed over the past two weeks.
I’ll start with this one because a Twitter follower asked me about this one earlier this week, more specifically whether Matt Murray is about to win the starting job back from Tristan Jarry. Murray has won his last five starts, more recently games on Friday against Detroit and Sunday against Boston. In fact, if you go further back, Murray has won all five of his starts since the Christmas break. Meanwhile, Jarry was in net for the Pens’ last game, a 3-0 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday.
Compare Murray and Jarry over that span (from Frozen Tools):
Name GP W L OTL GAA SV% QS
TRISTAN JARRY 9 5 3 1 2.64 0.912 5
MATT MURRAY 5 5 0 0 2.55 0.925 4
Although Murray has won five in a row (with 2-3-game gaps between starts, until recently), Jarry’s numbers aren’t that much worse than Murray’s. Since November 22, Jarry has outstarted Murray at about a 2:1 ratio, but I see this evolving into more of a timeshare after the All-Star break. The contract matters, as Murray still holds the larger financial investment ($3.75 million vs. $675,000). However, Jarry is the goalie with the ticket to the All-Star Game, so does it make sense to bench your All-Star goalie down the stretch?
Jarry has been the better goalie over the entire season, which is why I’m not quite ready to proclaim Murray as the starter again (at least not yet). I see this as a potential 50/50 split down the stretch, which doesn’t actually differ much from my original projection. Not the most ideal situation, but both goalies are a strong bet to win from game to game with the hobbled Penguins playing better than expected.
Take this for what it’s worth, but Darcy Kuemper has been removed from IR, according to the NHL’s official media site. This is in line with the original projection for his injury, so to the best of my knowledge, fantasy owners should prepare to have him back next week.
Kuemper’s injury meant a golden opportunity was handed to Antti Raanta, who has had a strong run with the Coyotes when he hasn’t been injured. Yet since Kuemper’s injury a month ago, Raanta hasn’t been able to make a case for more starts once Kuemper returns, stumbling with a 4-5-0 record with a 3.30 GAA and .900 SV% over the past month. Raanta has even battled a brief injury of his own, which gave third-stringer Adin Hill a run of starts this month.
I projected about a 60/40 split in favor of Kuemper once he returns. However, I’d adjust that to at least a 2:1 split for Kuemper once he returns, and might even be willing to round that up to 70/30. Kuemper was making a serious push for the Vezina Trophy before his injury, and he could still even be in the running once all is said and done (he was listed as a midseason finalist from the PHWA, which is discussed earlier). In fact, I think Raanta is trending toward being a backup because of his injury history and recent struggles, but a strong one at that.
The Coyotes have fallen out of first place in the Pacific Division to a Western Conference wild card spot. So in order to get back to their bread and butter of a stout defensive system, expect them to lean heavily on Kuemper as they attempt to secure a playoff spot down the stretch.
At the time of writing, Elvis Merzlikins had won four of his first five games after taking over from the injury Joonas Korpisalo. So I said that if Elvis continues his strong play it could make things interesting when Korpisalo returns. Fast forward to the All-Star break, and Merzlikins is the league’s hottest goalie. Wanna know how hot? Elvis leads all goalies since December 31 with nine wins, and is third in goals-against average and second in save percentage among goalies that have made at least two starts (1.65 GAA, .951 SV%).
I would fully expect Merzlikins to make a massive jump up Dobber’s Top 100 Keeper League Goaltenders. In fact, I’m surprised that Dobber has ranked him so low considering the way that Dobber has pumped Elvis’ tires. Yet when no one believed in Elvis, Dobber did. You may remember in the preseason guide that Dobber predicted that Merzlikins would start more games than Korpisalo. Could that happen even when Korpisalo returns? Absolutely.
The John Tortorella-led Blue Jackets have developed one of the league’s strongest defensive systems, yet there’s an argument that Korpisalo hasn’t taken full advantage of that, particularly with a 3.04 GAA and .897 SV%. Granted, Merzlikins wasn’t any better that quarter as the backup during that span. During that quarter, it looked like the Blue Jackets needed to trade for a starting goalie because they didn’t have one. Now it looks like they have two of them.
You may remember that not long after Korpisalo was injured, he was named to the All-Star Game. That might also count for something when Korpisalo returns, which on the original 4-6-week timeline was expected to be around mid-February. Merzlikins should carry the mail until then, but this could very well be a timeshare once Korpisalo returns, at least in the beginning. After that, I’m willing to go with Dobber’s projection that Elvis will eventually emerge as the better goalie. It might take a few games for Torts to make up his mind on that, though.
Want me to discuss something other than goalies tomorrow? Reply in the comments with a player or two you would like me to discuss, and I’ll try to get to it.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.