Ramblings: Killorn suspension; Schmidt’s shooting; McDonagh’s postseason; Couturier for Selke – September 11

Michael Clifford

2020-09-11

I saw Ian tweeting yesterday about fantasy baseball and how hard it has been to keep people interested. I've found similar things in some (not all) of my leagues, and I wonder if that's going to be something that translates to the NHL whenever the next season starts. Especially when we're in the throes of flu season and there are a million things for parents to worry about on a daily basis that doesn't in any way, shape, or form have to do with fantasy hockey.

It's easy to see how people would be disinterested in fantasy hockey next year. One thing I will say is that for those who think they may not have motivation but keep some skin in the game, there are things called best ball leagues that were offered last year. Those are leagues where you draft and hold, there are no trades or waivers. It's an easier way to stay in fantasy hockey without having to commit the hours necessary to win a typical league. There'll be mentions of it in these Ramblings as we approach the actual next regular season.

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Sean Couturier took home his first (but I'm sure not his last) Selke Trophy has the NHL's top defensive forward (or two-way forward, or forward demonstrating defensive skill, etc) with 117 first place votes. In second place was Patrice Bergeron with 21 first place votes. In other words, it wasn't really close.

Ryan O'Reilly took bronze with 11 first place votes.

No qualms from me here. I didn't have Couturier first but I had him top-5 and anyone that gets that high on my board is fine. The fun comes in who else got a first-place vote, namely Auston Matthews, Artemi Panarin, and Nick Bonino:

 

 

Fine players, all, to be sure. I do think there were clearly better options.

Regardless, Couturier is one of the top players in the game and this just further cements that. Next stop: Hart Trophy (in a future season).

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Just wanted to highlight what a good playoffs Ryan McDonagh is having. He had the game-winning assist on Wednesday night, a crisp, super-clean royal road pass to Nikita Kucherov to push a very short-handed Tampa team over New York and take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Not only is McDonagh leading the Lightning in ice time per game while on the penalty kill, he's leading the entire team in ice time per game, period. Yes, he's averaged more TOI per game than Victor Hedman (by only a handful of seconds, and Hedman was injured during a game a while back, but still).

It's just been awesome to see McDonagh kind of turn things around. Not that he was flat-out bad in the regular season, it just wasn't his usual self, and that was partly due to injury. Regardless, he's looked much more his normal self, and that's been a very welcome development for the Lightning.

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This isn't related to fantasy hockey but the latest edition of EA Sports NHL will come out next month, and there should be lots of hockey fans that gobble it up. I just want to make one request: can future editions of NHL 202? include the old Free 4 All format where it was 1v1v1v1 in the offensive zone and you had to score five goals before any of your opponents? That was the most fun I've had playing NHL video games in the last 20 years. Everything over the last decade has been essentially the same game. It's time for something fresh.

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Jamie Oleksiak scored on a breakaway in the waning seconds of the second period to give Dallas a 1-0 lead heading into the final frame of Game 3 between the Stars and Golden Knights. That's a weird sentence to type, but I swear I saw it on my television.

We had a wild third period, as the teams carried a 2-2 game into overtime. But the tying goal, scored by Mark Stone, deflected off him as he bumped into Stars goalie Anton Khudobin. The goal stood, but things didn't end there.

Khudobin, a few minutes later, made a pair of 10-bell, stretching pad saves to keep the game tied. But he seemed to hurt himself stretching on one of the saves. He stayed in the game, however.

With seconds left on the clock in the third, a failed Nate Schmidt clear led to a 3-on-1 for Dallas on which Robin Lehner made a sliding save on Jamie Benn. Lehner was slow to get up, though, and seemed to be favouring the right side of his body. Both goalies were now in question for overtime.

Both returned, but a great wrist shot from Alex Radulov gave the Stars the win just 31 seconds into the extra period. Dallas is up 2-1, though both starting goalies and their status are up in the air.

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One name that has been bandied about in trade talks has been Patrik Laine. It kind of makes sense as he has one year left on his bridge deal, teams are expecting a flat cap for at least one season beyond 2020-21, and the roster has 55 percent of the cap (about $45.2M) tied up in seven players for 2021-22 (CapFriendly). That is without a single defenceman signed beyond 2020-21 (outside of ELCs) except Josh Morrissey, and without a long-term deal for Laine. If they were to sign Laine for, say, a little less than Mitch Marner, they would have about two-thirds of their cap tied up in 2021-22 with about two-thirds of the roster left to fill out, including almost the entire blue line.

As Cam pointed out in his Ramblings a couple days ago, Laine is one of very few players to ever score 40 goals in a season before the age of 22. Beyond that, there are only 11 players since 1980 to have reached 125 career goals by the end of their age-21 season, and Laine is seventh on that list with 138. Since the 1994 lockout, there are three: Stamkos, Crosby, Laine.

But there's more to hockey than just goals and points. Laine isn't very good defensively and he has not improved in this area in his career. It's great that he can score 40 goals, but if the team gives so much back the other way that his value drops down to that of, say, a good, two-way 25-goal winger, then it changes how we should value Laine. Those are the calculations teams need to make if they intend on acquiring Laine.

The same goes for fantasy hockey, by the way. Unless it's a points-only league, a player has several categories, and they need to contribute something in most of those categories to be valuable. There are going to be lessons abound for the team that potentially trades for Laine, fantasy lessons included.

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I'm not the only person saying this but this season it sure feels different for Tampa Bay, right? This is a franchise that now has five Conference Finals appearances in the last decade, with a Cup Final appearance in there, and another one two wins away. Despite that, zero Cups since the 2004-05 lockout. They are, quite simply, the San Jose of the East.

But after beating Columbus, who swept them last year, and beating Boston, who has been the other Eastern powerhouse this decade, and after that emotional 2-1 win with nine forwards on Wednesday night, it just feels different, doesn't it? The team is playing extremely well, but that had been the case in prior seasons. Often times, good teams need bounces to survive in the playoffs. This time around, it just feels like Tampa is getting the bounces.

(They are, by the way, leading all teams in 5-on-5 PDO since the start of the first round. They are getting bounces.)

There are still six more games to win, but I find my fandom sliding over to the Bolts of late.

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On that note, Alex Killorn received an additional game's suspension for his hit on Brock Nelson in Game 2. Killorn will be out for Game 3, and we don't have (and won't get) an update on Brayden Point.

Yes, it sure does feel as if this is Tampa Bay's season to finally break through. They need their stars healthy if they want to do that, and this is starting to be a lot to overcome.

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I was going over some of the playoff stats and something jumped out to me: Shea Theodore is second in shot attempts per 60 minutes among defencemen in the playoffs (after the play-ins). But anyone who's watched the Golden Knights this postseason could probably guess that. What surprised me was who was in 10th place: Nate Schmidt at 15.1 shot attempts/60 at all strengths. (Natural Stat Trick).

The reason for pointing that out is that Schmidt has never had a season where he shot above 10.6 shot attempts/60 minutes. A 42 percent jump in shot rate is… extreme. We're also just talking about a 14-game sample where over a third of those games were against the Blackhawks.

All the same, it reminds me of Ryan Ellis. Up until the 2017-18 regular season, Ellis had never launched 12 or more shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. But, in the 2017 playoffs, he landed 12 shot attempts/60 minutes. Then, in 2017-18, Ellis posted a career-high shot rate which was followed not long after his second-highest shot rate in 2019-20.

Schmidt has never been a volume shooter, which is why this is notable. Ellis, too, was never a volume shooter, until all of a sudden he was, at the age of 27. Schmidt, by the way, just finished his age-28 season.

All the digital ink will be spilled on Theodore and his performance, and rightly so. It's also going to inflate his value going into next season, where he may or may not be a value. I do think that Schmidt is trending in the right direction, as is the whole team. He doesn't hit much, so that's a concern in multi-cat leagues, but he's not someone to eschew.

 

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 ARI Players
25.7% LAWSON CROUSE CLAYTON KELLER DEREK STEPAN
19.9% TAYLOR HALL VINNIE HINOSTROZA CARL SODERBERG
17.7% CHRISTIAN DVORAK BARRETT HAYTON PHIL KESSEL

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