Ramblings: Khudobin Leading Stars Closer To Final, Players Whose Value Increased During the Postseason (Sept 13)
After the first round of the playoffs (and maybe even before), the general consensus was that Colorado and Vegas were on a collision course to meet in the Western Conference Final. Now the Dallas Stars are only one win away from shoving both of those teams to the side and earning a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
Dallas 2, Vegas 1 (Dallas leads series 3-1)
With every win, Anton Khudobin's value on the free agent market is increasing. The 34-year-old goalie won't net the same price tag as Jacob Markstrom or Robin Lehner because he's never been "the guy" anywhere up to this point. However, numerous teams will be looking to improve their goaltending situation without breaking the bank. These aren't teams that will have the same level of defensive structure that the Stars have, so his fantasy value won't necessarily increase with more starts somewhere else. Just something to look out for if he decides to move on from Dallas.
As for the present, Khudobin is looking pretty darned good. He stopped 32 of 33 shots to lead the Stars to the win, which was his fourth in five games. Khudobin had to face a 5-on-3 for over a minute late in the third period, where he was able to prevent the Golden Knights from scoring.
Later in the Ramblings, I discuss some players whose value has increased during the postseason. You could definitely add Khudobin's name to that list for what he has accomplished in the return to play.
Jamie Benn's second-period power-play goal turned out to be the game winner. Benn now has goals in back-to-back games and points in four of his last five games. The Stars captain also fired ten shots over the last two games after being held without a shot in his previous two games. During the postseason, he's bumped up his scoring rate from 0.57 PTS/GP to 0.85 PTS/GP. The more physical style of play in the postseason seems to suit Benn, who is third on the Stars with 67 hits.
Before the game, GM Jim Nill suggested that the permanent coaching job belongs to Rick Bowness if he wants it. Yeah, I don't know what more he would need to do to earn it. I've had multiple people tell me they are cheering for the Stars because they'd like to see their 65-year-old bench boss win a Stanley Cup.
Vegas has hit a wall in terms of scoring with just six goals in their four games with Dallas. This is a malaise that has carried over from the Vancouver series, as they've now only scored ten goals over their last seven games. Two of the goals against the Canucks were empty-netters in Game 7, so they've only been able to put eight goals past a live goalie over their last seven games. They've taken a minimum of 32 shots over the last three games and lead shots attempts 140-82 over the last two games. Taking shots and controlling play hasn't been an issue.
The only Vegas goal in this game was from Alec Martinez. That means that linemates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith are now both without a goal in ten consecutive games. Marchessault has taken 29 shots over that span, while Smith has taken 26 shots. This is slightly below Marchessault's season pace and slightly above Smith's. They've been running into some hot goalies that they clearly can't solve.
Mark Stone left the game in the second period after blocking a shot with his foot. He was able to return early in the third period (see below), although he clearly looked hobbled once he was back in. Since Vegas is now facing elimination, I wouldn't be surprised if Stone is out there at half speed for Game 5, even if it's as a decoy or simply inspiration.
The Carolina Hurricanes traded the signing rights of UFA-to-be Joel Edmundson to Montreal for a fifth-round pick in the upcoming draft. In his only season with the Canes, Edmundson recorded 20 points in 68 games while finishing second on the team in hits (118) and tied for second in blocked shots (91). If Edmundson decides to sign with Montreal, this will look like a decent trade for the Habs, who already have another fifth-round pick along with three picks in both the second and fourth rounds. I suspect there will be more trades involving pending UFAs before free agency begins next month.
Lou Lamoriello won the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award, beating out Julien BriseBois and Jim Nill. He might be best known as the GM that let John Tavares get away, but he and the Islanders have recovered quite nicely. Lamoriello was able to retain all of free agents Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Jordan Eberle last summer, as well as acquire key players Andy Greene and Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the deadline. Oh, and don't forget about his hiring of Barry Trotz, who has brought the most out of this Islanders team.
In yesterday's Ramblings, I listed three players whose fantasy value have increased since the postseason began. All of those players are still active in the playoffs, so the book hasn't been completely written on their playoff performance. Here are three more players who have also stood out during the playoffs, although their teams have since been eliminated. Even though they are no longer in the bubble, they helped their fantasy stock with their postseason performance.
Hart shouldn't be blamed for the Flyers' exit in the second round. That has more to do with the team's inability to score (2.38 GF/GP during the postseason), particularly on the power play (7.7 PP%). Hart's postseason 2.23 GAA, .926 SV%, and +6.68 goals saved above expectation were even stronger than his regular-season numbers, all of which is par for the course for the upward trajectory of the 22-year-old goalie.
Hart is ranked #6 on Dobber's most recent Top 100 Keeper Goalies, a ranking that has increased two spots since July. You would have been able to draft him somewhere in the 70-80 range in 2019-20 drafts, but you'll need a higher pick than that come 2020-21 draft season.
There may not have been a player who benefitted more from the 2019-20 season being rescued than Price. Many hockey fans scoffed when Price was named the toughest goalie in an NHL player's poll, especially with a very ordinary 2.77 GAA and .910 SV% over the past three seasons and a negative goals saved above average in both 2017-18 and 2019-20. Maybe this was just playoff Price again, where he provides more bang for the buck on his massive long-term contract. However, a 1.78 GAA and .936 SV% looked like signs he could return to dominant form.
Don't discount the presence of Jake Allen as providing Price with the extra rest he needs. Price started both games of a back-to-back four times in 2019-20, which is something we probably won't see with Allen now in the fold. Price allowed a total of 15 goals in the second game of those four back-to-backs.
In spite of the Avalanche's earlier-than-expected exit, Burakovsky emerged as a scoring star. In fact, his 1.13 PTS/GP is presently the sixth-highest among players who had played at least 10 postseason games. Only three of his 17 points were on the power play, so he clearly made the most of his opportunities in spite of what was mainly second-unit power-play time.
If you followed him during the regular season, then the production spike shouldn't have come as a huge surprise. Burakovsky scored 45 points in just 58 games for a 0.78 PTS/GP pace, by far the highest of his career. That put him on a similar pace to the likes of Elias Lindholm, Bo Horvat, and Claude Giroux. One word of caution: his 19.4% shooting percentage during the regular season is significantly higher than the 10-14% he has averaged throughout his career. And that shooting percentage was even higher during the postseason. Even with a goal regression, there should be enough assists to get your attention.
For more fantasy hockey discussion, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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