December 6, 2015

by steve laidlaw on December 6, 2015

Turris hurt, Hellebuyck rolling, Weber scores a hat-trick and more.

 

On his way to a league-leading fifth shutout, Devan Dubnyk went down with an injury to his right knee and did not return. Looked like just a tweak to me but you never know. Terrible timing as the Wild were beginning to round into form with all of their guys back healthy. We saw last year what this team looks like without Dubnyk and it is not pretty.

Darcy Kuemper did seal the shutout in relief but I don’t think anyone has much confidence in him. More importantly, Mike Yeo said the injury is not serious. Maybe if you are a Dubnyk owner you snag Kuemper as a precaution but it doesn’t seem like a necessary move.

Jason Pominville scored his third in four games and had six shots. Starting to come around.

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I am not panicking yet but Nathan MacKinnon has been without a point in four straight games. I watched some of those games and he was still doing an excellent job of driving play alongside Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, he just hasn’t been involved in the few goals the Avalanche have gotten.

Last night the Avalanche got creamed, getting outshot 44-20 so it isn’t a good example but they were right in the other three games.

It does feel like opponents are starting to load up on the Avalanche top line a lot more and given this slump has come during all road games it’s no surprise. Opposing coaches have used the last change to get their best checkers against the top line.

The Avalanche return home on Monday but the Wild are following them so maybe this won’t be a great homecoming.

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Kyle Turris went down in the Senators game. Also looks to be a right knee injury. This one looks pretty bad, like there is some serious ligament damage there. We’ll wait for word but this could really screw the Senators.

On the plus side, Erik Karlsson already has his name engraved on the Norris so he’ll help carry the load as he did once again last night. As will the sublime Mark Stone who needs to be mentioned in here somewhere.

Mika Zibanejad returned after missing one game after that hit to the head from Radko Gudas. He will have to step up big time if Turris misses significant time. I preferred Zibanejad as second-line center while nabbing minutes on the top power-play unit though. Not sure I like the idea of having opponents loading up against his line.

Oh and it was just two days ago we that we talked about Mike Hoffman’s 40-goal potential. That probably goes out the window without Turris. Don’t get me wrong, Hoffman is still a beauty. In fact, he scored again last night, though that was before the Turris injury. Things need to go perfectly to hit 40 and a Turris injury is definitely not perfection.

Bobby Ryan’s re-emergence takes a hit here too.

And let’s not forget about Craig Anderson, who was already getting pelted with more rubber than any goalie in the league. Losing his #1 centerman will not help matters.

I know I sound like Chicken Little here and the sky is certainly not falling. But fantasy hockey is all about the margins. If every guy on the team takes a small hit – say 5-10 points over the rest of the season – that will affect the outcome of a lot of leagues.

Potential under-the-radar winner: Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Funny story, I just discarded him like moldy bread because he’d surpassed the games-played limit for prospects in our league. Had a good chuckle about it too. I have Turris in this league. Are the fantasy hockey gods really that spiteful?

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I’m going to talk about Connor Hellebuyck for a second. And just a second. This is not for the converted. I loathe when people ask me to talk about when obvious studs have a great night just because they have them on their team. I’m not here to blow smoke up your ass. If you’ve Seguin and Benn. Congrats. They are wonderful and everybody knows it. And while it feels like everyone should be on board with the best goalie in the Jets’ system (note: I’ve been saying this for over a year), there are plenty of leagues out there where he sits unowned. 81% of Yahoo! leagues as I type this up.

He is 3-0 with some disgusting numbers and is making some brilliant saves. It’s all there, for him. He has the tools and the talent. This is a team with playoff aspirations and goalie woes (Ondrej Pavelec, *sigh*). He is grabbing this situation by the balls. I don’t know how the Jets keep him around when Pavelec returns but I don’t see how the send Hellebuyck down if he keeps playing well.

Let’s go people. It’s time to punch your one way ticket to Hellebuyck.

Also on the Jets’ front, Blake Wheeler continues to roll. Quietly a point-per-game player a quarter of the way into the season. Andrew Berkshire with a great look at how Wheeler’s elite play is unique among stars:

Wheeler creates the second-most scoring chances on the Jets, after Nikolaj Ehlers, but he does it by getting to loose pucks and winning battles more often than not. Wheeler leads all Jets players in offensive zone loose puck recoveries, and ranks seventh in the entire league.

This isn’t some Dustin Penner mirage either. Wheeler has been good for a while but now he’s reached another gear. His shooting percentage is a little high at 12.0% but it’s only 0.6% higher than his career average. His 5-on-5 on-ice shooting percentage is a perfectly acceptable 9.5%. There’s no statistical aberration that sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s just a good player playing great.

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Just when you thought Jake Allen was running with the Blues’ starting job he loses 4-1 to the Leafs. Yes, that really happened. That makes three of the last four games with three goals or more allowed. Blame the whole team for part of this slump but once again the door is opening for that rascal, Brian Elliott. I think Allen needs a couple more stinkers before it gets blown wide open again though.

Allen got yanked for just under three minutes last night and went off to the dressing room. Didn’t seem like anything was wrong, Hitchcock just pulled him. Elliott faced no shots in relief before Allen was returned to the crease. Crazy situation.

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Nazem Kadri finally delivered the kind of fantasy hockey night that I have been trumpeting him as capable of for weeks. Two goals, a fight (with David Backes of all people), four SOG, two hits, two blocked shots and a pile of faceoff wins. Stats, you have been filled.

Kadri’s shot pace has fallen off its lofty heights but he remains on pace for over 300 SOG. I still believe there is time for him to heat up and take a run at 30 goals.

I thought we might have seen the last of Garrett Sparks after he was eviscerated by the Jets the other night but James Reimer re-aggravated his injury and will miss the next couple of games. Welcome back into the good books Sparks!

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Kudos to all you folks out there who went in deep with Milan Lucic, I couldn’t do it. I kept looking at his ludicrously optimistic rating the pre-draft rankings for my leagues on Fantasy Hockey Geek, using the Dobber projections and I just couldn’t buy in.

Lucic has found a home alongside Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli and as it turns out, skating with those two snipers is a pretty good deal. With two more goals last night, Lucic’s shooting percentage has climbed to 23.1%. It pays to be banging in all of those rebounds. Obviously, he won’t be sustaining that shooting percentage but some more assists will be added to the ledger, one would suspect. All told, his 52-point pace is probably right on the money.

The reason I avoided Lucic: I kept having visions of Dustin Brown fumbling and bumbling his way through the past few disappointing seasons and thought the same might happen to Lucic. It still may yet, but right now that is not the case.

Sadly, I have Chris Kunitz on a couple of rosters and these leagues are deep enough where I won’t simply drop him. Kunitz is going full blown Dustin Brown on us. He did have a three-point effort last night and a couple of points the game before. Not a bad little binge. He is still owned in 48% of Yahoo! leagues but in how many of those did his binge rest on the bench. Pretty sure he is sitting on mine in the Dobber Experts League.

Kunitz is back to riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby but is that really as peachy a deployment as it sounds anymore. Only one SOG for Kunitz over the past two games, by the way, so it’s not like Crosby has him gaining opportunities aplenty.

Back to the Kings, however.

There is a running narrative that Jonathan Quick is only a mediocre goaltender who has been propped up by some great Kings teams. I’ve floated the notion out there to various degrees. The main piece of evidence is Quick’s highly average career save percentage of 0.915. He certainly won’t be winning any Vezina’s with those numbers.

Quick has just one season in his career with a save percentage higher than 0.918, which doubled as that ludicrous season where he started 69 games and held a goals-against average under 2.00. He hasn’t come close to repeating that feat. Instead, he has just been steady in that 0.915 range. Count that as a strike against him in fantasy hockey but let’s not tarnish his legacy with fantasy crap. He is a great goalie who may not be quite top-10 guy in fantasy for whatever reason. But put the chips down in the playoffs and tell me you don’t want Quick in net.

Marian Gaborik may be coming on, he has points in four of the last five games. Five points in that span. 19 SOG as well.

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You really must see Eric Staal’s reaction to having a goal waived off. That’s what I look like checking the box scores after every Hurricanes game.

Don’t look now but Jeff Skinner is almost lukewarm! Two goals last night and four in the past seven games. His shooting percentage is now up to 9.3%, nearly his career rate. He is on pace for 22 goals now, which, considering his surroundings, is downright respectable.

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Shea Weber with the first hat-trick by a defenseman in Predators history but it was all for naught.

The miserly play of Pekka Rinne continues to be a story. I’m not sure Rinne is playing that poorly as I haven’t caught enough Nashville action to weigh in but I do know that in 22 appearances Rinne has given us just 11 quality starts. Just not reliable right now.

Rinne might be the biggest buy-low goalie on the market now that Sergei Bobrovsky and Tuukka Rask (more on the Bruins later) have righted their ships. You can safely bet that Rinne owners are disgruntled right now. Remember, Rinne was ranked in the top five in just about every fantasy publication so you cannot act like you aren’t interested.

Back to Weber, he might be just about the only Predator meeting expectations and it could be smoke and mirrors. I’ve talked before about how Weber defers a ton of the puck-moving and rushing to Roman Josi, which is why the latter emerged last season. I won’t go so far as to call him an overqualified Mark Methot but you get the idea. Point being, there isn’t some other level where Weber gets more than the 30 or so assists he gets every year.

What determines Weber’s ultimate fate is what comes of that bomb of a shot he has. Double-digit goals are a lock. But does he do 15 like last year or 20+ like the year before? He is up to nine now, while shooting 13.2%, which is definitely on the high side (he is an 8.0% career shooter.) This kind of head start puts another 20-goal season within reach.

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Big offensive explosion for the Red Wings but I’ve spilled enough ink on them this week.

If you want to read someone else on the Wings, however, here is a piece from Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert sharing a sentiment I have expressed a few times that Pavel Datsyuk is saving the Wings.

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Claude Julien decided to send a message scratching Colin Miller, Dennis Seidenberg and Jimmy Hayes last night. Message received! The Bruins walloped the Canucks 4-0.

Rask needed just 17 saves for his third shutout of the year.

The Bruins lost Adam McQuaid to injury, which is barely fantasy relevant but you can imagine the scratches from last game get back in there with this injury. So breathe a sigh of relief, Miller owners.

It would be easy to poupou Brad Marchand’s continued scoring onslaught because of his 17.8% shooting but this guy carries a 15.4% career shooting percentage. This is not outside the realm of possibility. If you’ve been tracking Marchand, the biggest boost he has received is that he finally gets power-play time. Three of his 13 goals have come on the man-advantage and all those added minutes have helped him up his shot rate.

Last season Marchand set a career high with 180 SOG. He has 73 SOG already and is on pace for nearly 250 on the season. He isn’t going to score 40 goals this year but he should easily clear 30 if this volume of shooting continues.

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The Canucks were probably an easy target. On Friday, Daniel Sedin was saying that the Canucks should be in “panic mode”. They have now lost five in a row, Ryan Miller has plummeted back to Earth and the only guys who can generate any offense are the Sedins. The Canucks are tied for LAST in the NHL with just nine wins. Yes, let’s panic.

I should mention that Alex Edler continues to be an enticing option through all of this. He does skate on the top PP unit with the Sedins, after all, and is quietly rebounding to what looks like a 45-point level. I am in talks to acquire him in a couple of leagues. Not sure it will go anywhere but I remain a fan.

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Signs of life for Nikita Kucherov with his first multi-goal game of the season. Let this be a reminder of how quickly it can happen for him. Assuming the Lightning can ever get healthy, Kucherov could be five strong games from the Triplets away from being back on track for a 60-point season.

Obviously you can’t make your pitch to acquire him after last night’s showing but let’s say he runs quiet for a couple of games. Take a stab then. I remain a big fan.

Ben Bishop had to leave the game in third period after taking a stick through the mask and into the eye area. Jon Cooper said he would be fine. Maybe he doesn’t get the back-to-back start as they go again tonight but he probably won’t miss significant time.

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.