Ramblings: The Crop of Rookies, Bobrovsky’s Future, Late-Season Surges (Mar 02)
We plan to implement the new DobberHockey website after the changes, based on your suggestions and the notes from myself and some of my other colleagues here, in about a week. New logo and everything. Again, what you see presently is a bare bones website – but it's a clean and modern one, so the changes and fixes are simple. We are absolutely in the home stretch.
The $8M man Jacob Trouba saw just 18:09. He's taking a lot of heat from Rangers fans for that contract, but he's been 'the' defensive defenseman for the Rangers. He gets most of the defensive zone starts against tougher opponents, has been a top penalty killer, and he's been saddled with Brendan Smith as a D partner at even strength. His 5on5 S% sits at career-low 7.1%, so some bad puck luck is at play. But because DeAngelo is so good on the PP (5.8 PPPts/60), Trouba is doomed to be the second-unit guy for the foreseeable future. So while I see a rebound season for him next year, that rebound will be held to 40 to 43 points due to his PP production being cut in half from his Winnipeg days.
Another three points on Sunday gives Mika Zibanejad 28 points in his last 18 games. That's enough to push his 82-game pace to 103 points! He's missed 13 contests this season, but he could end up with 87 points. All three of his points Sunday were on the power play. With Chris Kreider sidelined, his linemates were Pavel Buchnevich and Phillip Di Giuseppe.
Travis Konecny picked up a pair of points Sunday, giving him 12 in his last six contests. His last three points have come on the power play.
The other Travis on the Flyers – Travis Sanheim – is looking like a sneaky pickup for next year. He's showing what he can do when Shayne Gostisbehere is out of the lineup. Two assists on Sunday give Sanheim seven points in 10 games. He had just 16 points all year long prior to this run.
I had projected in the preseason Guide a 72-point season for Jack Hughes and a 54-point season for Kaapo Kakko. Oops. This is obviously a year in which the top drafted prospects were not as ready as we thought. The issue is relativity. Relative to their draft class and the players they played with, things looked promising. But Hughes is struggling with the size of his opponents and Kakko is learning that fancy moves won't catch NHLers flatfooted the same way they used to. Hughes sits 14th in rookie scoring (21 points) right now while Kakko sits 15th (20 points). Combined, the two of them boast a minus-47 rating. They are the only rookies to reach minus-20 (or even minus-15, for that matter). And neither one of them has 20 Hits.
Kakko saw just over nine minutes of ice time on Sunday in the loss.
Adam Fox leads all rookies with a plus-20 rating, while Dominik Kubalik not only leads with 29 goals, but he also has 73 Hits and is a plus-3. Quinn Hughes, Jack's brother, was just named the NHL's rookie of the month for February. Hughes had 15 points in 13 games, and his 13 assists in a single month hasn't been done by a Vancouver defenseman since Jeff Brown back in 1995. Quinn is the first rookie in the NHL to reach 50 points this year, and that's the first time in NHL history that a defenseman was the first rookie to reach 50 in a season.
Sergei Bobrovsky was hurt in warmups and didn't start the game for the Panthers – but goaltending wasn't their problem Sunday. They got shut out 3-0 by Cam Talbot and the Flames. Florida is 4-9-2 in their last 15 – a little ridiculous for a team dying to get into the playoffs. I can't believe I was trying so hard to gather Florida players in my keeper last summer (it has a postseason contest each year as well, with the players carrying over from the season roster to the playoff one). Good thing most GMs in my league resisted my inquiries.
Looking closer at Sergei Bobrovsky, I'm still pretty confident in the 31-year-old finding his game next season (see Florida? I'm already looking ahead to next season, that's how insignificant you've become down the stretch). He had a rocky start, and although he hasn't returned to his normal self, he has certainly improved. Since November 16, Bob is 17-15-2, 3.08 and 0.907 with 52.9 QS%. As I said – not great, but still better than that horrible start. Overall his SV% is 0.900 and to me that paints him in a pretty dark shade, which means – buy low. His owners might be desperate. In 2015-16 he had a 0.908 SV% and he bounced back to 0.931 the following year. But the team around him needs a culture change. Joel Quenneville is going to get more of his fingerprints on the team that he wants to coach for next year and hopefully that includes more character guys and better depth in general.
The Flames are really pushing for David Rittich to step up and take over that goaltending job. The organization knows him, they've brought him along, he's in his prime (27) and if he can be their legit starter then team brass can breathe a sigh of relief. But Rittich hasn't done that. Every time he gets on any kind of a role he hits a bump. He started four straight games and had settled into a pattern of starting three out of every four games as of early January. But his last two saw him give up four goals, and then Talbot comes in and gets a shutout. The team is clinging to the third spot in the Pacific and are just three points ahead of two teams that are outside of the Wild Card spot. With Calgary having played 67 games – that's two more games than Vancouver, which pretty much means Vancouver has that third slot and the Flames really are battling for Wild Card status. I dressed Rittich for this week over Ben Bishop, but I'm not overly comfortable about that. Desperate teams do anything they can to win, and that Talbot shutout could change some upcoming decisions. The Flames were outshot 38-28 and won 3-0.
Mark Giordano had three assists on Sunday. Erik Gustafsson is still their PP guy, but he's starting to become a specialist for Calgary. His ice time was down to 15:41 due to not a lot of power plays given. Gustafsson has two points in four games for the Flames now – one of them on the power play. The team hasn't been drawing a lot of penalties lately, so reserve your Gustafsson judgement for now until this situation is back to normal.
The Canucks took a 3-1 lead into the 12th minute against a Columbus team that is playing with five or six AHL forwards, the hot dog vendor, you, your cousin, and two ushers. Ryan Murray picked two assists in his return to the lineup, his first game in over two months. Because the Jackets are hurting, Murray was given over 20 minutes of ice time and was on the second PP unit.
Emil Bemstrom has points in four of his last five games and, as a result of all the injuries, is seeing his ice time eke upwards. It is clear that John Tortorella wants to keep his ice time to around 10 minutes, but circumstances are seeing that increase, reaching 16:49 Sunday. He's only seen that much ice time twice before in his NHL career.
In a somewhat uncommon statistical anomaly, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller each picked up three points…and yet their linemate Tyler Toffoli was held off the score sheet. After points in four straight for Vancouver and six straight overall, TT has been shut out for two consecutive games.
Now that Alex Ovechkin has that 700th goal out of the way, he's once again finding it easy to score. Two more on Sunday give him five goals in his last six games. He's going to beat last year's 51, and if he reaches 54 goals it will be his highest total since 2008-09. He's 34 years old, but don't make the mistake of trading him away in your keeper league because of his age. For generational players like this you subtract five from his age and worry about a decline from that point. I'll worry when he's 37.
You've probably forgotten by now, but Kevin Fiala had just one points in his first eight games. He was also a healthy scratch for a game early on, and suffered an injury that cost him four games. So on November 1st he was still sitting with one point. Huge congrats to you if you acquired him that day. He has 48 points in 52 games since then, including his two points on Sunday. If he stays healthy, to me he is a very strong candidate to top 70 points next season on a team without many big scorers around him. He hit out the Breakout Threshold late last season. So he was a preseason target joining Anthony Beauvillier, Jakub Vrana and Oliver Bjorkstrand (among others) as players who were BT candidates that paid off.
Jesper Bratt had two points Sunday, giving him eight points in seven games. He has really taken off since lining up with Pavel Zacha and Nikita Gusev. I love that the three of them are clicking late in the season, so perhaps by August/September their owners will have forgotten the hot run and instead make judgments based on end-of-year stats. Zacha scored twice and has seven points in 10 games, while Gusev tallied an assist and has a six-game points streak going.
Cory Schneider a shutout? Cory Schneider a three-game run in which he is 2-0-1? I don't think anybody saw this coming. Very happy for him. Amazing! A 34-save shutout for the formerly down-and-out veteran. His big contract will see to it that he's with the team next season, and this late run will probably convince team brass not to buy him out (if indeed they were looking at that option).
See you Monday.
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