Eastern Edge: A Wing and a Prayer

by Russ on December 19, 2017


With the Red Wings amazing 25-year playoff streak finally broken last spring, Detroit can focus on the future instead of making the playoffs. Obviously, every team’s goal should be to win the Stanley Cup, not just qualify for the playoffs. Detroit hasn’t had a realistic shot at winning the cup for a good number of years, so at least now the team can draft and develop their young talent without the pressure of the streak.


Detroit is 2-4-4 over their last 10 games. They have had some trouble scoring of late, with only 13 goals over their last six matches. The Wings leading scorer, Dylan Larkin, has only two points in his last six contests even though he’s been lining up with Tomas Tatar and Anthony Mantha, two pretty decent offensive players. Tatar has three points in his last six games, while Mantha has no points over that stretch.  Mantha is the Wings second leading point getter, so his recent slump is mildly concerning. I’m still a believer in his abilities, so I see this as a minor blip and look for him to get back to his scoring ways sooner rather than later.


During the last six games, the venerable Henrik Zetterberg leads Detroit with five points. His most recent linemates have been Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader. Nyquist has three points in his last six matches, while Abdelkader has one point over his last eight contests. Nyquist is on pace for a 38-point campaign, which is off his last three seasons of 48, 43 and 54 points. Abdelkader has never been a high end point producer, but in rotisserie leagues that count hits and penalty minutes, he’s a useful player. He’s on pace for 85 penalty minutes and 185 hits in addition to 47 points, which would be a career best. Expect around 40 points, along with some nice peripherals when all is said and done.


Mike Green had a very hot start to the season, recording 17 points in his first 19 games to kick off the year.  He’s had one point in the 13 contests since. Green is a long way from the guy who recorded back to back 73 and 76 point seasons. Overall, he is on pace for 46 points, but after the last two years of 36 and 35 points in Detroit, I am comfortable pegging him to finish in the same range again this season. At best, because it’s a contract year, I could see 40 points tops.


Heading into last night’s game, the Flyers were tied for last place in the Metropolitan division. The loss to the Kings ended a six game winning streak. Both the Flyers and Red Wings will need multiple winning streaks and a lot of luck to punch their tickets to the post season dance. If I was a betting man, and I’m not, I would not put much money on either of these two teams to make the playoffs this year.


Leading the way over the last two weeks, Jakub Voracek has 11 points in eight games. Last night’s goal snapped a streak of 10 games without a goal. Of his 10 assists, half of those came via the power play. Heading into last night’s game, he did have 25 shots (plus another five in Monday’s match), but zero goals, so he was overdue. With 41 points in 34 games, the pace over his last 11 games shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Who he has been playing with over the last few games has changed from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier to Valtteri Filppula and Michael Raffl.


It’s not that surprising then, that Raffl has three goals and six points in his last eight contests, good for third best on the team over the last two weeks. Interestingly, none of those six points were scored on the man advantage, but all three of his goals were game winners. After no points in the first 22 games, Raffl has all nine of his points over the last 12 matches. This is obviously due to a change of linemates.


Valtteri Filppula has five points in his last eight games. As mentioned with Raffl, this is due primarily to playing with the talented Jakub Voracek. The 33-year-old Finn has 16 points in 33 games on the season and is clearly in his twilight years as a productive fantasy player. He does get second unit man advantage minutes, but only has four power play points on the season. As long as both Raffl and Filppula line up with Voracek, it might not be a bad idea to ride the hot hands.


Don’t look now, but goaltender Brian Elliott has strung together a very decent run. Not counting last night’s loss, Elliott had won his last six games, allowing two goals or less in each contest while recording a 0.949 save percentage. I still don’t trust Elliott or the Flyers to maintain this run, however, if you are into taking chances or you are desperate for goaltending starts, it might not be the worst scenario to look at Elliott and hope for the best.


Claude Giroux has been lining up with Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds. Giroux has eight points in as many games, while Simmonds has five points and Couturier four. These numbers are not all that surprising for any of these three.


Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has six points over the last eight contests. Five of those points came with the man advantage. That’s not really unexpected as 16 of his 25 points on the season are power play points.  Ghost is currently scoring at a 68 point pace, well ahead of last year’s 42 and his rookie campaign pace of 59 points. With the way he’s being deployed, I actually believe that he can finish with close to 60 points this year.


Rookie Nolan Patrick started the year with six points in his first 15 games, but has fallen off the mark recently.  Over his last nine contests, he has exactly zero points while averaging just north of 11 minutes of ice time per game during that period. Counting on highly drafted rookies is something I avoid on draft day in my one year leagues. Let someone else assume the risk unless you can get them near the end of your draft.


Thanks for reading.