Ramblings: Jayce, Zibby, Talbot v. Rittich, Fleury v. Lehner, Francouz v. Grubauer, Bert’s back, and more (Mar 09)
Jayce Hawryluk, after a pair of games to get settled in, is finding his groove with his new team the Senators. I've always liked Hawryluk as a prospect, not for his tremendous upside but because I felt he had underrated upside. He has also been one of those guys who really picks up his game the bigger it gets. He's not a big player but he's a gritty one and I thought the Panthers made a huge mistake when they placed him on waivers. He's recently turned 24 and I think he's carving himself a spot into Ottawa's future plans. The franchise is stockpiled with high picks and top prospects, so getting a spot in the top six is a pretty tall order. But a spot on the third line with impressive PIM and point totals for that role is within easy reach for him. And I wouldn't bet the house on him not pulling off surprise numbers in three or four years either – he's that clutch player you can't count out. He has six points in his last seven games and he is fitting right in with Nick Paul (power forward) and Anthony Duclair (goal scorer). It's the right chemistry mix both on paper and on ice.
Mika Zibanejad is a better player than I took him for – but Artemi Panarin has certainly helped bring the boosted offense out of him. I acquired Zibby at the deadline along with Anze Kopitar in my keeper league and it cost me Jakub Vrana, Nicklas Backstrom and Ondrej Palat. I was reluctant to part with Vrana, as I felt that a year from now he'd be the best player in this deal in terms of points. But I was in a dead heat at first place and I needed to close it out. Needless to say – it's closed out. With the locks slammed shut, boards nailed over it and a sofa shoved in front of it. Thank you Zibanejad for giving me what I think is now an insurmountable lead. I'm worried about his proneness to injury but, hell, it looks like with 70-game seasons he's still going to be a 90-point player.
One thing to note about Zibby – in the four games without his trusted linemate Chris Kreider, he has nine goals and 10 points.
Zibanejad also has goals in 16 of his last 20 games! At the 35-game mark he had 18 goals. He has 21 goals in 20 games since then, giving him 39 on the season. In fact, if he continues this for another 14 games (i.e. 14 goals), he would end the year with 53. According to the overall pace of NHLers that would put him fourth in goal scoring behind David Pastrnak (on pace for 57), Alex Ovechkin (on pace for 57) and Auston Matthews (on pace for 55).
The Cam Talbot versus David Rittich battle that I flagged for you last week is now a full-blown goaltender controversy now. In fact, if anything it has now settled in Talbot's favor. Rittich has been really struggling of late while Talbot has been red hot. It was Rittich who got the start Sunday and coughed up the winning goal with 1:10 left in regulation. In all, he gave up four goals on 31 shots. He's give up four goals in three straight starts and in five of his last seven starts. Meanwhile, Talbot has one three in a row and has allowed no more than two goals in any of those contests.
At the other end of the 5-3 Vegas win over Calgary is another goaltender controversy.
In one corner, the champion. Three Stanley Cups. A $7M AAV in each of his next two seasons. Closing in on 500 career wings. And he has billboards and banners all over town. He is the face of the franchise.
In the other corner, the challenger. A formerly highly-touted prospect who struggled and disappointed. But has since come back after beating his personal demons. He is fighting for respect and fighting for a long-term contract. Performance-wise, he has arguably been the third or fourth best goaltender in the entire league over the past 17 months.
Fleury: 1-2-0, 2.71 GAA and 0.886 SV%
Lehner: 3-0-0, 1.67 GAA and 0.940 SV%
Things would have to be more lopsided than this for Fleury to lose his job in the playoffs. But he'll be kept on a very short leash and my prediction is that Lehner takes over at some point – early – and leads them deep.
This is interesting. A goalie I had on my watchlist, Chicago's Ivan Nalimov, has finally crossed the pond. He's no Shesterkin by any stretch, but he's a good goaltender, with decent KHL numbers and he joins a club with no set future between the pipes. He doesn't have any track record in terms of logging a ton of starts – his career high is 39 – so pencil him in as a potential backup or possible 1A/1B guy in a couple of years. He's 25, so we won't have to wait long to see. Nalimov signed a PTO with Rockford and you can read more on him here.
Jake Allen picked up his second SO of the season against the Hawks Sunday. He's turned into a very good backup goaltender. As long as a team isn't forced to try him as their starter, it looks like he'll be a great NHL asset. His problem has never been a lack of Quality Starts. His QS% has always been fine and very much comparable across all NHL goalies. No, his problem was the Really Bad Starts. He single handedly loses every sixth game. Last year it was every fourth game. This year it's been every eighth game. Keep him as a backup and you avoid a lot of that. Overall, Allen's numbers this season are better than Jordan Binnington's. But Binnington, at least so far, has held his RBS numbers down to one in every 10 games. And that puts a great team like the Blues in a position to win the other nine.
Brayden Schenn is riding a seven-game points streak (nine points). Linemate Jaden Schwartz is also hot with 11 points in his last eight games. Sammy Blais was on that line with them Sunday and that helped him snap a seven-game pointless drought. He picked up an assist, eight Hits, 2 PIM and was plus-2.
Tyler Bertuzzi is apparently back on track. I sat on him all season long until my tenuous hold on top spot (a different keeper league than the one I noted above) couldn't carry his ass a moment longer. He picked up four points Sunday and it was his second-straight game with a point. If you recall, Bertuzzi went on a huge run late last year when he posted four consecutive three-point games in late March. After 20 points in the first 20 games, Bertuzzi made us fantasy owners suffer with his 22 points in 48 games after that. I held onto him until February 24 when I just "had" to drop him and blow my waiver budget on Andreas Athanasiou. Oops. I would have been seriously lucky had the other owner outbid me on that one and I was "stuck" keeping Bertuzzi.
Upon further analysis, Bertuzzi's drop is directly attributed to the Anthony Mantha injury. As long as he has Dylan Larkin and Mantha on his line, Bertuzzi is a productive player. I should have delved deeper on that one before the decision to drop him was made.
Yanni Gourde had two points in the game against Detroit and he's quietly put up 10 points in 13 games. He's still on the third line and secondary PP unit so I don't see this as sustainable, but as you know – he's surprised us before.
Carolina prospect Morgan Geekie got into his first NHL game and picked up both his first NHL goal and first NHL assist. He ended up with three points on the day. He has 42 points in 55 AHL games with Charlotte and I had him still two to three years away and with second-line upside. I'm still firm on that upside, but I think he could be ready by middle of next year. He's a likely third-line, but as noted I think he 'could' do better with chemistry with the right teammates. Read up on Geekie here.
Alex Nedeljkovic picked up his first NHL win of the season. He's actually settled in quite nicely after a bit of a rocky first game (four goals allowed on 16 shots). In three games since, he's allowed seven goals on 88 shots for a 0.914 SV%. He looks like a safe start for the week as James Reimer is a ways off and Petr Mrazek is out with a concussion. Mrazek is probably the best bet to return first, but my guess is that it won't be before the weekend.
Conor Sheary was terrible in his first three games back with the Penguins despite playing with Sidney Crosby right away. But in four games since then, he has four points. He's still playing with Crosby and Jason Zucker.
Tristan Jarry has lost four consecutive games and has given up at least five goals in three of those contests. His numbers are coming back down to earth, which likely stems from the fact that he's no longer starting multiple games in a row. That's often key for a goaltender. Sitting out games often hurts their rhythm.
Since February 22:
Tristan Jarry: 1-1-1, 4.52, 0.845
Matt Murray: 2-3-0, 3.49, 0.866
Murray is getting those multiple starts because he has the Golden Boy status between the two. But he's not playing so well that Jarry can't steal the job from him with a great game. But Jarry needs to have that great game while coming in cold.
Since February 2, Bryan Rust has 10 points in 17 games and is minus-4. That's the Bryan Rust we know. But his early-season heroics were so great that no amount of slumping will tarnish those beautiful overall numbers.
The streaky Jakob Silfverberg picked up three points on Sunday. If history is any indication, he'll have a hot run in the final month of the season. That will be enough to convince us fantasy owners that he's worth keeping for next year…where he'll then be free to let us down again with another ridiculous 30-game slump. You heard it here first.
Three goals and four points in seven games with Anaheim so far. That's the line on Danton Heinen, who had been a breakout favorite of mine in the offseason last summer (though admittedly my expectation was for the second half more than right from the get-go). He played with Ryan Getzlaf and Sonny Milano, so you know where the Ducks have their hopes when it comes to his future there.
The Ducks have been very consistent with putting Christian Djoos out there for the top PP unit, rolling a four-forward group with Djoos as the QB. He scored his first goal with his new team Sunday and has two points in seven games so far. The 25-year-old really needs to make this count.
Vladislav Namestnikov, who has proven he can thrive playing with stars before, was on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. He picked up two points and has four points in his last four games.
The Pavel Francouz/Philipp Grubauer situation is also an interesting one, as Francouz has at times been the better goaltender. Francouz has had five Really Bad Starts this year, which has pulled his overall numbers down. Four of those terrible starts happened before the New Year. Since January 1:
Francouz: 9-3-3, 2.41 GAA and 0.917 SV%
Grubauer: 8-3-1, 2.14 GAA, 0.925 SV%
I think the Avs lean on Grubauer after he returns in a week or so.
See you next Monday.
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