Hey fellow Dobber readers. I'm filling for Ian this week as he was attending the Canucks-Bruins game on Saturday night. It's also my first-ever ramblings, so please be gentle.
Let's start with the big news of the day. Playing the Devils, Alexander Ovechkin scored his 700th NHL goal. I remember a few years back when he turned 30 years old. There was much debate about his future, as he was coming off a 33-goal, 69-point season, and fantasy general managers were preparing themselves for his decline. However, the greatest goal scorer in NHL history has been able to keep up a torrid pace the last few years. When you think of how close he is to Wayne Gretzky's all-time goal scoring record, remember that he lost a season and a half to two lockouts. He easily could be hovering around 760 goals right about now if there were no work stoppages.
My favourite story about Ovechkin was when he was finally able to shut up the naysayers when he won the Stanley Cup. For years, I've heard from a few players that you could never win a Cup with Ovi as your star player. The same nonsense was spouted about Phil Kessel and a few others. Hopefully, the last few years have been enough to shut up those people.
While it wasn't on the same level as Ovi, teammate Garnet Hathaway notched a season-high nine hits. The Caps winger now has 37 hits in 10 February games, and makes a great option if you need hits in banger leagues. The Caps play Sunday afternoon (note the early noon EST start) against Pittsburgh, so if you need hits to try to win your week, he is owned in two per cent of Yahoo pools and should be available on your waiver wire.
On the winning side, Devils defenseman Damon Severson had two points, including a power-play goal that turned out to be the game-winner, in the Devils' 3-2 victory over Washington. Severson took over the Devils power-play duties on Dec. 31, and he has eight man-advantage points since then. In that time, the Devils have scored a power-play goal at a 20 per cent clip (17th in the league). Before that, they were scoring at a 14.6 per cent rate, which ranked 29th. Don't expect him to be losing that spot any time soon.
Let's talk about what might have been the second-biggest story of the day, when the Leafs lost to a 42-year-old Zamboni driver. That may sound like a punchline to many a Leafs joke over the years, but the Hurricanes had to turn to emergency backup goalie David Ayres when both James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were knocked out the game (the Canes also lost defenseman Brett Pesce as well). Ayres let in goals on his first two shots, but then shut the door the rest of the way, picking up the victory. With the win, he's already been a better fantasy own than Cory Schneider, Garrett Sparks and Calvin Pickard combined.
Aside from the game, what do these goalie injuries mean for the Canes? If both goalies are out long-term, expect the Canes to be busy at the trade deadline to find some help. However, if it's a short-term thing, look for Alex Nedeljkovic to get called up from the AHL and get in for a couple of games. Going into yesterday's action, the Canes' prospect has a 15-10-2 record with four shutouts, a 2.51 GAA and .905 SV %. Carolina plays Tuesday and not again until Friday, so there won't be too many games lost for Reimer or Mrazek if it's a short-term injury.
As for the Leafs, after an initial honeymoon period with coach Sheldon Keefe, Toronto is now 8-9-3 in their last 20 games. Frederik Andersen let in all six goals in the loss, and has allowed at least three goals in 16 of his last 22 games. According to hockey-reference, he's also allowed five goals in eight games this season (which only trails Carter Hutton's nine).
Matt Niskanen found his way onto the scoreboard once again, notching an assist in a 4-2 win. That's 12 points in the last 12 games for the Flyers defensemen. In those 12 games, he also has 21 shots, two power-play points, 23 hits and 10 blocked shots. Not normally an option for many fantasy league general managers, Niskanen already has 31 points on the campaign, and is on pace for 42 points.
One of the main reasons for his bit-of-a-surprise season is his power-play production. His 11 power-play points this year matches what he had in the previous three years combined. He is averaging 2:04 man-advantage minutes per night on the second unit. It will be interesting to see if he stays in that spot once Shayne Gostisbehere returns from injury. Ghost is known for his offense, but he won't be usurping Ivan Provorov off the top unit, so there's a chance he takes Niskanen's spot instead.
Carey Price made 30 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. While many Habs fans are upset over his usage, it's great if you own him in fantasy. Price has started 15 straight games and 18 of the team's past 19. In those 18 games, he is 10-7-1 with a 2.16 GAA, a .930 SV % and three shutouts. He's also averaged 29 saves per game. He may be overworked, but it's better than having a goalie that is in a timeshare.
Max Domi also potted two goals, which is big news for a guy who had only one goal in 23 games before Saturday's tilt. He is now on pace for 51 points, a massive drop-off from last year's 72.
On the losing side, Tkachuk had an excellent game for banger leagues with 19 PIM, three shots and nine hits. He now has 33 PIM in his last two games.
Last week, FamSSJR pointed out this tidbit on Twitter.
The NHL only began recording hits in 2005-06, so it's hard to get data from before then. However, getting a 300-shot, 300-hit season is remarkable. I was actually surprised someone like Dustin Brown never snuck in there. Right now, Tkachuk is on pace for 304 shots and 347 hits. Throw in the 104 PIM he already has, and it's easy to overlook the fact that he is on pace for only 50 points.
In other Sens news, Thomas Chabot left the game early in the first period and did not return. He may miss the next two games but isn't expected to miss a lot of time.
Evander Kane was back in action Saturday after a three-game suspension, but he was a minus-two with four shots against the Rangers. He did see almost four minutes of power-play time, so it's just a matter of time before he's back to his old self.
Teammate Brent Burns has had one of the best fantasy hockey months of any player. On Saturday, he took 10 shots to go with an assist. In his last 10 games, he has three goals, 10 points, 46 shots, four power-play points, five hits and 22 blocked shots while averaging 27 minutes a night. It may be too late to save the season for many fantasy hockey general managers, but he's heating up just at the right time for those fighting for a championship.
Meanwhile, for the Rangers, Jesper Fast scored two goals, including the game winner, to go along with six shots. That gives him 27 points on the season, which is a little disappointing considering he's playing mostly with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome at even strength. Both Panarin and Strome had two assists each. Strome is a restricted free agent this summer, and he's on pace for 74 points, and it will be very interesting to see what kind of contract he might command.
In case you missed the news, Ryan Ellis made his return from a concussion on Friday night. It was his first game back since getting elbowed in the head by Corey Perry during the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Ellis was on pace for a 55-plus-point season before the injury.
He was excellent in Saturday's game against Columbus, notching an assist, a plus-two, four shots and three blocked shot in almost 24 minutes of ice time. He also scored in the shootout (I know there are at least a few leagues that count shootout goals).
I mentioned this in my top 10 column on Monday, but it appears as if Juuse Saros has taken full control of the Nashville net. Pekka Rinne has only started four games in all of February, and has just a 1-2-1 record. Saros has started seven games, and has a 5-2 record. Rinne hasn't been bad in those four games, but with Nashville fighting for a playoff spot, they are going with the winning goalie. Right now, that's Saros. Nashville still has five back-to-backs this season, but not until March 2-3. It's quite possible we don't see Rinne play again until then.
Clayton Keller had two goals and an assist and Connor Garland posted two goals and two assists in 7-3 romping over Tampa Bay. However, these two seem on different paths.
Keller's ice time is just 16:15 per night, down almost two full minutes from a year ago. He's also been on the second power-play unit since the middle of January. The Coyotes have played 17 games since Jan. 14. Compare the numbers between the two since then:
Keller: Three goals, five assists, minus-three, 8 PIM, 38 shots, three power-play points, 15:02 TOI, 2:22 PPTOI
Garland: Seven goals, eight assists, minus-three, 10 PIM, 43 shots, three power-play points, 16:34 TOI, 3:14 PPTOI
While Keller is playing with Phil Kessel, Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz, Garland is playing with Taylor Hall. This may all be fleeting, but you have to go with the hotter player in Garland if you have a choice between the two.
Jack Eichel scored two goals for Buffalo, but the story there, at least from a fantasy hockey point-of-view, may be how great Rasmus Ristolainen has been the past week. With two assists Saturday (both on the power play), the Sabres' defenseman is on a four-game point streak with six points in that span. He's also a plus-seven, has seven shots, three power-play points, nine hits and five blocked shots.
One thing that helps is that Ristolainen has been on Sabres' top power-play unit since the calendar flipped to 2020. The Sabres run the top unit with three forwards and two defensemen, so there's been no loss in value to Rasmus Dahlin.
In the Vancouver-Boston game (which I'm sure Ian enjoyed), Tyler Toffoli scored twice late to finish with two goals, an assist, plus-three and five shots. Toffoli now has four points in two games with the Canucks, and is playing with J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson at both even strength and on the power play. Toffoli is still available in 57 per cent of Yahoo leagues, so make sure to check if he's still available in yours.