Ramblings: Tarasenko leaves the bubble: Allen; new Flyers looks; injuries – August 19

Michael Clifford

2020-08-19

Vladimir Tarasenko has left the NHL playoff bubble to return to St. Louis for further evaluations on his shoulder. At this point, that's all the information that was given.

This is a huge blow for St. Louis's long-term prospects in this postseason. Their first-round matchup is down to a best-of-three and any team can beat any team in a best-of-three. As far as getting past – presumably – both of Vegas and Colorado after this round without Tarasenko? Outlook not good.

We'll see what the update says – whenever we get one – but it's a tough day for Blues fans. At least they already have their Cup to fall back on.

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Jake Allen, the St. Louis goaltender who has seemingly saved their playoff run, is from my hometown. I would like to think I've watched more of his games than any other goalie, at least with the intention of actually studying the goalie. I will say this much about the two games he's played in lieu of Jordan Binnington: he looks like a completely different netminder.

Just watching those games, I have never seen Allen move as quickly as he is, nor with the level of tracking the play. Sometimes I think goalies rely too much on size and athleticism rather than reading the play, but Allen seemed to be doing that whenever the Canucks would cross into the offensive zone. And his lateral movements were the best I can ever remember seeing.

This is something to keep in mind for 2020-21 fantasy drafts. If Allen can lead them to a comeback in the first round, that's something that could go a long way to solidifying himself as the starter next year. Or at least the guy that's going to get the first crack at being starter. I would love to hear from goalie experts on what they see out of him in this series so far.

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The Flyers took a 3-1 series lead with probably the least entertaining game of the first round so far.

James van Riemsdyk was a scratch for the Flyers, and in general, their entire lineup was switched around. Claude Giroux was on the third line, Michael Raffl on the top line, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel was also scratched along with JvR. I guess it worked because they won the game 2-0. Carter Hart posted another shutout, though the Habs didn't generate much quality on this particular afternoon.

It's worth noting that Jonathan Drouin – who has played maybe one good half-game so far this entire postseason – was yeeted to the fourth line and then benched, while Brendan Gallagher was also benched in the third period. It's Muller behind the bench now with Claude Julien taking his medical leave. Maybe Gallagher was injured, and if that's the case, so be it. It was just very weird to see the team's best winger benched in a playoff game that was still within reach.

The Philadelphia Flyers have scored five goals in four games and have a 3-1 series lead. Carter Hart, who managed a 29-save shutout in this one, has been lights out. A shutout every night might be a bit much to ask, but he certainly has looked every bit the goalie of their future – and present – over the last year.

Barring a miracle, the Habs are going to bow out of the first round by the end of the week. There are a couple of very good young pieces in Suzuki and Kotkaniemi, they have Gallagher, and they have a couple of good contracts on the blue line, but they need an offensive overhaul. Tatar will be gone in a year (if he's not traded in the off-season), Lehkonen and Byron are bottom-6 options, Drouin looks like he hasn't taken a step forward in three years, and Domi's future with the team is not a certainty yet. They need scoring on the wing, and they need it sooner rather than later. Bergevin going out and signing a bevy of fourth liners isn't going to cut it.

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The Dallas Stars took a 3-2 series lead over Calgary with a rather uninspired 2-1 win on Tuesday. For whatever reason, this game was missing a little bit of the intensity of prior contests. Perhaps Matthew Tkachuk, who was out again for this one, is more important to the entertainment factor beyond just scoring goals and causing mayhem.

Mikael Backlund scored Calgary's only goal and they're going to need more of that if they want to get back in the series and eventually win it. Their top line of Monahan-Gaudreau-Lindholm has one goal between them in five games. That they've even won two in this series despite the top line doing next to nothing speaks to how well Cam Talbot is playing.

The Stars look a bit different than they have for most of the playoffs, in that they're generating more offence. It's fair to wonder if it's just the quality of the team. As mentioned, the top line has done nothing and the second line is missing their best player. Remember, Calgary looked unstoppable against a porous Winnipeg team. History does tend to repeat itself.

For the fourth time this series, Taylor Fedun played under nine minutes in total TOI. The Stars are basically running two defence pairs right now. It seems to be working, so who are we to argue with them.

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Those who read my Ramblings and have for years, know that I thought the 2018-19 Islanders team wildly overachieved. I will say this much: the 2019-20 Islanders might be the best Islanders team I've seen in my lifetime. They have two legitimate scoring lines, a legitimate third line, good energy guys, and good goaltending. The blue line may be a bit suspect, but few teams are strong everywhere. I'm excited to watch this team for the rest of the postseason and in years to come.

The Islanders took a 2-0 lead in Game 4, holding the Caps on the brink of elimination. A pair of second-period goals from Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov brought the game to 2-2, and brought some energy to the Caps that was lacking through at least the first 20 minutes of the contest.

Ovechkin added another to take the lead and seal it for the Caps. Washington pushes us to a Game 5 thanks to two goals from Ovi and a stellar appearance from Braden Holtby.

Nicklas Backstrom did not play.

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Vegas reserved their table for two in the second round with a 4-3 with over Chicago, taking the series 4-1. The game saw the return of Paul Stastny, a Vegas team with its full roster for the first time, and Corey Crawford facing nearly 40 shots again.

I don’t think this outcome is a surprise to many; our entire experts’ panel picked the Blackhawks to bow out in anywhere from four to seven games. Vegas it a true Cup contender, while Chicago is trying to reload fast enough to make another run.

I’ll have a more on Chicago in tomorrow’s Ramblings, but if we’re robbed of a Vegas/Colorado Western Conference Final, I’ll be very disappointed.

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Dale Hawerchuk, Hockey Hall of Famer who played with both Winnipeg and Buffalo, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 57.

Hawerchuk may be one of the more unheralded players of the 1980s, especially among the younger generation (which includes myself). He put up 929 points from his rookie season through 1990, posting the same points/game rate in that span as Mark Messier. He was also on the line with Gretzky and Lemieux when they scored the winning goal in the '87 Canada Cup. After his career, he moved to be a junior coach with the Barrie Colts, helping mould future NHL stars.

He was a special player and by all accounts, a special person. Condolences to his friends and family.

 

UPCOMING GAMES

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HOT PLAYERS

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LINE COMBOS

  Frequency NYI Players
24.1% JOSH BAILEY ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER BROCK NELSON
14.3% MATHEW BARZAL CAL CLUTTERBUCK ANDERS LEE
13.9% JORDAN EBERLE MATT MARTIN JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU

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