Ramblings: Greiss Shutout Wins Game 7, Nelson Powers Isles Scoring, Flyers Offense Runs Dry (Sept 6)
All of the conference finalists are now set after the completion of the third and final Game 7. Dallas and Vegas will face off today (Sunday), while the NY Islanders and Tampa Bay will begin their series on Monday.
NY Islanders 4, Philadelphia 0 (NY Islanders win series 4-3)
Barry Trotz decided to switch out the struggling Semyon Varlamov, instead turning to Thomas Greiss in net for Game 7. The move paid off, as Greiss stopped all 16 shots to earn the shutout. Greiss wasn't overly busy, as the Islanders thoroughly dominated this game. The question for Game 1 against Tampa Bay is now whether Trotz decides to stick with the hotter hand in Greiss.
Varlamov had a standout August, posting a 9-2-0 record with a 1.69 GAA and .935 SV%. However, his last two starts (Games 5 and 6) resulted in a 3.23 GAA and .857 SV%, both of which were overtime losses. Trotz didn't have time to let his starting goalie try to figure things out in a do-or-die Game 7, which necessitated the switch to Greiss that paid off. Expect Trotz to keep his goalies on a short leash, as Greiss will likely be replaced at the first sign of trouble. Tampa Bay's high-octane offense will provide a real test to whoever is in net for the Isles, but they've been up to the challenge for whoever they have faced so far.
If the Islanders can sneak past the Lightning, you could be taking this tweet more seriously than you might be now. In my playoff pool, Brock Nelson was drafted with pick number… (looks down) … 101. And it might have been even lower had the league rules not stated you have to pick one player from every team (including play-in teams). Yet Nelson is right outside the top 10 in playoff scoring with 15 points (7g-8a) in 16 games. He was also the offensive star for the Islanders in Game 7, scoring a goal and adding two assists. Nelson has been centering the Isles' top-producing line in the playoffs, which also includes Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier.
A closer look at Nelson's stats shows that his points-per-game totals have crept up over the past two seasons, from 0.43 PTS/GP in 2017-18 to 0.65 PTS/GP in 2018-19 to 0.79 PTS/GP in 2019-20. The first jump is a result of John Tavares leaving the Island, where Nelson's icetime increased from 14:43 to 17:58. The progression continued in 2019-20, where the soon-to-be 29-year-old Nelson produced at a similar pace to Gabriel Landeskog, Taylor Hall, and Brock Boeser. Even if the playoff performance doesn't result in another value increase next season (which I don't think it will), Nelson is still an undervalued fantasy asset.
After the Canucks were eliminated on Friday, the Islanders are now the only play-in team remaining in the playoffs. With the uncertainty of how the return to play would look, I bet many would have thought there would have been more play-in teams remaining by the conference final.
After missing Game 6 with a sprained MCL, Sean Couturier was back in the lineup for Game 7, replacing Derek Grant. It was to no avail, as the Flyers were hardly able to generate anything positive in this game, let alone goals. After finishing first in the Eastern Conference round-robin, the Flyers were a popular pick to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Final when the panel made its Round 1 predictions. Yet it seemed as though they barely made it past Montreal, and they needed overtime in all three of their wins in this series.
Your best players need to be your best players to win in the playoffs, and that did not happen for Philly. Kevin Hayes signed for a boatload of money last summer, but I doubt he should be expected to carry the offensive load for the Flyers. Yet there he was leading the Flyers in playoff scoring (13 points in 16 games). No Flyer had more than nine points during the playoffs. Couturier scored just two goals, while Claude Giroux scored just one goal. Travis Konecny, the regular-season team leader in goals and points, did not even pick up a single goal. That's a lot of production that was left on the table. Those who focused on Flyers in their playoff pools were likely left disappointed, but facing Carey Price and an air-tight Barry Trotz-led defense did them in. So did an 0-for-13 power play against the Islanders.
One game might not seem like much when the NHL is trying to crack down on hits to the head, but suspensions in the playoffs are usually shorter given the importance of the games. Vegas' offense should be just fine without Reaves (no goals and four assists in 15 playoff games).
According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, Pierre McGuire has been in discussions with the Arizona Coyotes about their GM role. There would be no shortage of discussion about that hire, to say the least.
Shortly after Game 7 finished, I posted the Conference Final picks from our writers. I spent a very short time thinking about them and ended up going with the favorites in both. The funny thing is, I remembered that at the start of the season I had picked the Lightning and Golden Knights to meet in the Stanley Cup Final (2019-20 Season Predictions). If both these teams advance, maybe I'm not that bad at this "picking teams" thing.
I took Tampa in 7 over the Islanders because I've had a good feeling about the Bolts since they got past Columbus. Yet these are not your father's Islanders of Bossy, Trottier, and Potvin. This is a focused team that is not only strong defensively, but has also bought into the system of Barry Trotz. I could see the Isles pushing Tampa to the limit here, but ultimately talent wins out. If your reason for picking Tampa is that the Islanders aren't strong offensively, keep in mind that the Isles are third in playoff goals per game played (3.33 GF/GP) and first among remaining teams.
I took Vegas in 6 over Dallas because the Golden Knights check the boxes of being both fast and physical. Again, if you're taking Vegas because Dallas doesn't score enough, keep in mind that the Stars are right behind the Islanders in playoff goals per game (3.31 GF/GP). The Golden Knights have looked like a team focused on the Stanley Cup right from the start of the play-in. It would have taken them fewer than seven games to oust Vancouver had it not been for the Canucks' hot goaltending. In addition, I think Colorado would have beaten Dallas had it not been for all of Colorado's injuries.
For more fantasy hockey discussion, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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