Ramblings: Round Robin and Play-In games, Day 3 – August 4

Michael Clifford

2020-08-04

These are my first Ramblings since the NHL officially returned, meaning post-exhibition games. I just want to pass along some thoughts on the weekend games before reviewing what happened in Monday's contests.

First, it sure seems to me there's a difference in intensity between the round robin games and the play-in games. That should have been expected. The teams in the round robin play for seeding, and it could be important. Certainly, a team like Colorado would rather play Arizona than Edmonton. But teams don't know who is going to get through and who isn't. It's not like the opponents have already been determined, so why go all-out to play Columbus instead of the N.Y. Islanders? Or Minnesota instead of Arizona? Is the difference in matchup really worth a debilitating injury to a key player, especially if you can't guarantee a certain matchup? Just something to keep in mind for daily leagues.

Also, all the penalties. There were close to eight penalties per game through the first two days of these early rounds/playoffs/whatever. The regular season average, per Hockey Reference, was under six per game. To my eyes, the referees were also letting a fair amount of clutching and grabbing go, which they usually seem to do in playoffs anyway. That means there should be even more penalties called. I have no idea if this changes as the playoffs wear on and players get in game shape, but it's not as if they had a typical off-season, either.

It seems like teams are having a tough time scoring, at least early on, and at least outside of the Edmonton/Chicago series. That would seem to favour defence-first rosters like Columbus and Minnesota, both of whom took the first game in their respective play-ins. Does this maintain for the next week? Who knows. It seems like everything changes on a daily basis.

One final note: I honestly have no idea what's going on with Nashville. The top line of Johansen-Forsberg-Arvidsson was one of the best in the world for a few years, and then cratered in 2019-20. Matt Duchene has been basically invisible. The third line – which had been arguably their best line all year – didn't look like much in Game 1. They have a Norris finalist in Roman Josi, and a guy who may have been the best overall defenceman in the league this year in Ryan Ellis. This team under-performed all year, it seems to have carried into the playoffs, and I can’t seem to find a reason (a little help, anyone?). I guess they won't be sweeping Arizona, like I had predicted in before the postseason.

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The Rangers fell 4-1 to the Hurricanes in Game 2, which pushes New York to the brink of elimination.

Andre Svechnikov was responsible for most of the damage, becoming the first player in Hurricanes/Whalers history to register a hat trick in a playoff game. Svech now has six goals and nine points in 11 career playoff games while averaging under 15 minutes per game. He just turned 20 years old in March. The sky is truly the limit for this kid. He's an elite keeper asset in multi-cat leagues. Before trading him away, please check with your local fantasy analyst.

On the bright side for the Rangers, Kakko has looked good-to-great in the first two games, depending on which shifts you watch. He looks stronger on the puck, and he looks faster in his decision-making. I wrote before the playoffs that I was considering rookies to be second-year players because of the timing of the games and the long layoff. If this is the Kakko that shows up for the 2020-21 season, he could start making good on his talent. Do not eschew him in next year's drafts just because of a poor 2019-20.

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All of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, and Mason Appleton were out of the lineup on Monday for the Jets. This was a fascinating tweet that came across my timeline:

 

 

That is an absurd amount of talent. That's at least three perennial all-stars, four defencemen from their top-6, and what would effectively be their top-3 centres. All in one year (yes I know Hayes was a deadline trade). This is like watching the Florida Marlins in any season after they won a championship.

Anyway, Winnipeg looked… fine? in the game on Monday. Either that or Calgary played incredibly poorly. It's hard to tell the difference sometimes. They went with a top line of Copp-Wheeler-Connor with a second line of Ehlers-Eakin-Perreault.

It was a gutty 3-2 win where Nikolaj Ehlers scored a third period power-play goal to push them over the top. Adam Lowry had a goal and an assist while Elias Lindholm and Sam Bennett replied for Calgary. One thing of note: Dylan DeMelo led Winnipeg defencemen in ice time. He could be a value in daily leagues moving forward.

Johnny Gaudreau tried to sidestep a hit from Neal Pionk midway through the third period but Pionk still got a piece of him. The point of this story is that Gaudreau went to the bench looking like he was either holding his wrist or his side. He stayed on the bench and finished the game. He looked mostly fine afterwards, but that's something to keep an eye on the next couple days.

And shoutout Jansen Harkins on his first career NHL playoff goal. Or should I say…

HARKINS! THE HERALD ANGELS SING; GLORY TO OUR NEW-FOUND KING.

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John Carlson did not play in Monday's contest against Washington. We don't get injury updates in the anymore which means we don't know exactly what's wrong, but he practiced on Saturday (sat out Sunday), so it's likely more precautionary than anything. In the meantime, Dmitry Orlov was running the top PP unit.

I think Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov are ready for the real postseason:

 

 

Absolutely filthy all around.

This game went to a shootout because the round robin rules have different rules from the play-ins because why not. The Lightning won in the shootout.

At the least, Braden Holtby looked fine in net. He needs to look like 2018 Holtby if the Caps want to win another Cup, rather than the Since 2018 Holtby.

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Funny enough, as I talk about how lax some of the round robin games are, Dallas-Vegas was not like that. It wasn't quite to the intensity of a playoff game but it sure seemed like both teams were out to prove something.

Max Pacioretty was out of the lineup and Chandler Stephenson took his spot on a line with Karlsson and Stone. That line did a lot of the damage as both Stephenson and Stone found the back of the net in the 5-3 win. Karlsson had a helper and scored the empty-net insurance goal.

It was a really good game. We had a pretty even first despite a 1-0 Vegas lead, Dallas had an onslaught in the second to go up 3-1, and then Vegas scored three goals in a matter of minutes late in the third to go up 4-3. That kind of back-and-forth combined with a bit of nastiness made for a fine tilt. Both teams look ready for the postseason, though Dallas will want to tidy things up when they have a two-goal lead.

More importantly:

 

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Pittsburgh evened the series with Montreal at one game apiece following their 3-1 win on Monday night. Carey Price did his best to drag the Habs to another win, stopping 35 of 37 pucks but Matt Murray turned aside 26 of 27 shots and that was enough on this night. Montreal went 0-3 on the power play and have failed to tally a power-play goal in the series. (Pittsburgh went 0-5, by the way, and are 1-12.)

Sidney Crosby scored the game's first goal and has sure looked himself in the first two games. That exhibition performance feels it occurred around the same time as the Burning of Rome.  Jason Zucker and Jake Guentzel got the others.

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I went to bed at 4-3 Edmonton. Woke up to 6-3 Edmonton. That feels about right.

McDavid went nuclear with two goals in the first five minutes of the game, completing the hat trick before the end of the second period. Every game is going to be like this, and it’s awesome.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 6 3 5 8
JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 6 1 6 7
ALEXANDER RADULOV DAL 7 1 6 7
MATTIAS JANMARK DAL 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency PIT Players
23.6% PATRIC HORNQVIST EVGENI MALKIN JASON ZUCKER
16.3% ZACH ASTON-REESE TEDDY BLUEGER BRANDON TANEV
15.9% SIDNEY CROSBY JAKE GUENTZEL BRYAN RUST

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