Jack Campbell’s debut in a Toronto uniform might not have been sparkling numbers-wise, but it got the Leafs a much-needed W. Campbell made 26 saves to backstop the Leafs to a 5-4 overtime win over Anaheim, allowing the Leafs to move ahead of Florida for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (although the Panthers have two games in hand). Since Frederik Andersen won’t be ready to return on Saturday, Campbell could very well be back between the pipes today (Saturday) in Montreal.
Also in his Leafs debut, Kyle Clifford was held without a point but took two minor penalties with two shots and three hits. Clifford played 12:03 while on a line with Kasperi Kapanen and Jason Spezza.
Toronto’s collection of $10 million-plus-per-season forwards provided return on investment on Friday. Auston Matthews led the way with a goal and three assists, John Tavares scored two goals with an assist, while Mitch Marner chipped in with three assists.
Matthews’ goal was his 40th of the season, which pulls him into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead. With David Pastrnak hot on their heels with 38 goals, it’s quite possible that we’ll see three 50-goal scorers this season. You’d have to go all the way back to 2009-10 for the last time that many players reached the 50-goal mark, when Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and Ovechkin pulled off that feat.
Because of illness, William Nylander didn’t play on Friday. As a result, his nine-game point streak technically comes to an end.
Over the past month, I feel like I’ve written about Elvis Merzlikins so often in the Ramblings that I’m running out of Elvis jokes. So any stellar game performance should come as no surprise by now, especially a 16-game shutout against the hapless Red Wings. So that’s 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 wins in a row for the king of rock and roll, who since December 31 has made easy work of NHL opponents with a 12-2-0 record, a 1.51 GAA, and .953 SV%. What’s more, Elvis has five shutouts over his last eight appearances. The puck must seem like a beach ball to him.
— David Satriano (@davidsatriano) February 8, 2020
I don’t know when exactly Joonas Korpisalo is returning, although he travelled with the Blue Jackets last weekend. In the meantime, Merzlikins is a matchup-proof must-start. At this juncture, I don’t see how John Tortorella sits the hot hand even when Korpisalo returns.
Cam Atkinson isn’t having nearly the same level of success as his goalie, as he was held without a point for the sixth consecutive game. An encouraging sign is that Atkinson did fire eight shots on Friday and was also a plus-2. In fact, Atkinson has averaged nearly four shots per game since returning from injury eight games ago. That places him in the top 10 over that span. At the same time, his 5-on-5 SH% has dipped a tad low to 6.2%. Expect the goals to start coming soon again.
Alexander Radulov left Friday’s game against Minnesota after colliding with teammate Denis Gurianov. After the game, the Stars didn’t have an update on Radulov aside from admitting he has an upper-body injury. Radulov’s status for Saturday’s game against St. Louis should be in doubt.
— Dr. Harjas Grewal (@Harjas_Grewal) February 8, 2020
Now for a good-news injury update: Aleksander Barkov is expected to return to the Panthers lineup today (Saturday) against Pittsburgh after missing three games with a lower-body (possible knee) injury. Get him back into your lineup.
The Sabres won, but Jeff Skinner was held off the scoresheet… again. That's now eight games without a point and 17 games without a goal, dating all the way back to December 2. To add insult to injury, Skinner played just 10:20 in this game, which is what happens when you play on the fourth line. I'd normally say that another team should free him from the mess that is Buffalo, but that's not happening with his $9 million per year long-term contract. At this point he's droppable in shallow leagues and should probably be benched in most other leagues.
With a goal and an assist on Friday, Mika Zibanejad has 16 points (6g-10a) over his last 12 games. Because of an injury that sidelined him for a month, Zibanejad can’t be evaluated by his production over an entire season. On a per-game basis, his 1.18 PTS/GP is currently 15th in the league, ahead of the likes of Crosby, Stamkos, Ovechkin, and Barkov. For that reason, I don’t plan to move him down the Roto Rankings (please feel free to weigh in on the rankings, by the way).
I’m going to go on a little rant about plus-minus now. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t mind it as much as many others who seem to think it should be banished completely from the hockey statistical universe or who are at least prepared to describe its limitations at length. I know I go back a long way with plus/minus, since I’m old enough to remember the Emery Edge award and Wayne Gretzky putting up a plus-100 one season. So you'll never hear me saying that you should never ever use the plus/minus stat.
Plus minus is still in some of my leagues. In one league, it carries very little weight in overall scoring. In another, league members weren't interested in changing any of the categories. It's far from ideal but I prefer it over GWG or SHG or some other random stat.
— Ian Gooding (@Ian_Gooding) August 20, 2019
Yes, I’m aware of how plus/minus is misleading and how it’s avoided in advanced stats articles like hot dogs at a typical five-star restaurant. Yet I mention it in my articles (like yesterday) because many leagues still count it. Remember, it’s easy to calculate, and it’s easy to look up on a boxscore, which also makes it easy to write about!
When I brought up removing it in one of my leagues, fantasy owners either wanted to keep it or were indifferent to removing it. So I kept it.
Mentioning that a player such as Andreas Athanasiou has a very low plus minus is not meant to disparage the player. And yes, Filip Hronek could be a plus player on a much better team. Yet what if I told you that the quality of a player’s team will have to factor into the selection of the player? You have to do that in playoff pools, so what’s the big deal about factoring in team quality into a regular-season pool?
Still don’t like plus-minus? Don’t include it in your league, or lobby your owner to remove it. Set up your league in a way that makes you and your league members happy. Keeping plus/minus in my leagues keeps my league members happy.
Saturday goalie starts, according to Goalie Post:
Laurent Brossoit (vs. OTT): The Winnipeg backup’s numbers are significantly worse than last season. He’s allowed an average of one more goal per game, but that should be somewhat expected given the losses on the Jets’ defense. Regardless, he gets a nice home cupcake matchup against an Ottawa offense which is unsurprisingly in the bottom third of the league.
Tuukka Rask (vs. ARI): Start with confidence against an Arizona offense that is also bottom-third.
Cal Petersen (@ NJ): The Jack Campbell trade has officially opened a spot for Petersen (Fantasy Take on Campbell trade). Petersen posted an impressive .924 SV% in 11 games last season. The Kings aren’t great defensively, but the Devils aren’t great overall. This has the potential for a sneaky-good stream option with some futures possibility.
Brian Elliott (@WAS): Elliott has posted two shutouts in his past four games. He’s also allowed four goals in the other two games over that span. Which Elliott will show up on Saturday? A road matchup against Washington suggests that he might have another rough go.
Mike Smith (vs. NSH): What if I told you that Smith has won six of his last seven games, with the other game being an overtime loss? Smith has posted okay ratios over that span (2.68 GAA, .917 SV%). Still, he’s not a bad option if you need a win, as too many Preds scorers are underachieving this season.
Don’t forget to check Goalie Post throughout the day for more starting goalie updates. As well, have you signed up for their email notifications?
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.