Ramblings: Mrazek, Doan, Blues lines… (Jan. 5)

by steve laidlaw on January 5, 2016

Mrazek taking over in Detroit, Barrie explodes, Doan's scoring binge continues and more.

Petr Mrazek has been the goalie of record in seven of the Red Wings’ last eight games, showing clear dominance of the Detroit creasing heading into 2016. Politics, and a run of good play kept Jimmy Howard in the game but we are seeing that as the Red Wings have started to play worse Mrazek has taken hold.

Not much else to report from this rock fight where the teams combined for 43 shots and just one goal.

That lone goal was scored by Dylan Larkin and it was a beauty.

Just when you thought Larkin was slowing down, bam, he is on a three-game scoring streak. I’m not sure he can be held down for extended periods. He is just too damned fast. Eventually he is going to victimize teams with his speed but it’s not like he’s Michael Grabner, there is a real nuanced game built around that speed. Can’t say enough about Larkin, he’s so damned good.

For instance, check out the Red Wings lines from last night:














This looks like a great arrangement for Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist who went cold skating on the third line but it would seemingly hurt Larkin, except it hasn’t. Now I’m wondering what Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader do now that they have to “settle” for Nyquist as their linemate. Ridiculous, of course but these are things that Larkin makes you think.

Those top two lines, are how the Red Wings finished last season and they were lethal, particularly the Tatar/Pavel Datsyuk combination.

I do wonder if where we are at these days if the Red Wings’ total lack of mobile puck-movers on the back end precludes them from being an elite scoring team. That is no doubt a factor but is probably too simplistic. There are grander things afoot. Still, I look at Mike Green being money poorly spent and Niklas Kronwall growing rapidly more limited and it looks a little like a fortress withering away at its foundation.

 I had a friend ask me whether to drop Kronwall or Jake Muzzin in a multi-category setup. I didn’t text him in time, so he dropped Muzzin. He chose poorly.

I am actually intrigued by Kronwall’s scoring over the past month or so where he has nine points in his last 18 games, a 40-point pace. Other than the points, Kronwall just isn’t doing anything of interest for someone in a multi-category league. He’s a worrisome minus-11 with less SOG than he has games played and isn’t doing much shot blocking or hitting (last night notwithstanding). I could probably name 50 defensemen I’d rather own in a multi-category setup and yet Kronwall’s ownership sits at 66 percent. Two thirds of leagues are deep enough to require his services? I am skeptical.


Mike Cammalleri missed his second straight contest due to an upper-body injury. They still aren’t releasing details because the league is growing ever more paranoid. It’s a real shame that the NHL doesn’t respect its fans (particularly those participating in fantasy) enough to mandate detailed injury reports. I mean, they have a freaking partnership with Draft Kings and teams still get away with this upper/lower-body, day-to-day non-sense.

Granted, in the NFL, the league which I contrasting with as I make these complaints, doesn’t always have the best information either. Some coaches, like Bill Belichick for instance, will list players as injured when they aren’t just to provide misinformation.

Anyhow, Cammalleri reportedly had a doctor’s appointment yesterday to make sure his situation isn’t more serious. Still no word on how that went.

Without Cammalleri the Devils’ offense is largely non-existent. Kyle Palmieri did fire five SOG, making sure to provide at least something for his fantasy owners. He and Travis Zajac were the only Devil forwards over 20 minutes played.


Speaking of rock fights, another 1-0 game to report on with Cam Ward and Cam Talbot somehow combining to stop every puck they faced in regulation and ultimately 55 of 56 overall.

I don’t think you can wipe away everything that went down in the first two months of the season but in nine appearances since the start of December (and it should be noted that Talbot didn’t make his first appearance that month until the 14th) Talbot has carried a 0.937 save percentage, which is pretty darned good.

In four games since Brad Hunt has been called up Justin Schultz has 62 seconds of power-play time. Good. He doesn’t deserve power-play time. Schultz did somehow manage to lead all Oilers with 23:17 in ice time despite just 47 seconds of usage on special teams. He didn’t have any turnovers, let alone the costly ones that have so frequently plagued him so let’s call this a positive. Not for his fantasy value, mind you, but rather just for Schultz becoming a reasonable NHL player.

Someone really needs to go back and do an oral history or compile a bunch of quotes from all the pieces lauding the defense factory that was the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team from 2009-10 because so many of those guys were hyped and most have flopped. Kudos to Wisconsin for having six defensemen on that team who were drafted and played in the NHL but thus far Ryan McDonagh is the only one who has lived up to the billing.

Back to the present day. Hunt, manning the Oilers’ top power-play unit, has been held scoreless through four games but after firing five SOG last night has 11 SOG in that span. Colour me intrigued but he is probably just a placeholder until Oscar Klefbom returns from injury.


With Phillipe Di Giuseppe on the shelf Brock McGinn was recalled and thrust onto a line with Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner. I have been excited about McGinn as a potential multi-category stud for a few years but it turns out Di Giuseppe was what I was really hoping for out of McGinn. McGinn is like the name brand version that is actually worse.


Upheaval once again in St. Louis as the lines were shifted once more. Check out what monstrosity Hitchcock cooked up in the lab for last night:














Poor David Backes was already slowing down with just three points in his last eight games after scoring 12 in his previous 16 but now he has to contend with a recovering Patrik Berglund and whatever rudimentary offensive skills Magnus Paajarvi has. Not good. Backes does still act as the net-front presence on the top PP unit but these linemates stink. When will Jaden Schwartz be back? Not ‘til after the All-Star break? Ah shucks.

A goal and seven SOG for Kevin Shattenkirk. After going scoreless in his first three games returning from injury Shatternkirk hasn’t been held off the scoresheet for more than one consecutive game, a truly extraordinary run of reliability.

If you are curious why I haven’t been mentioning Alex Steen much it’s because I have been treating him a bit like a shutout, hoping that if I don’t mention him he won’t be broken. Steen has skated 80 games in a season just once in his career and if he can make that a second time he has a good shot at breaking 70-point barrier. Just an exquisite player.


The Senators lost Mika Zibanejad early in the first period after the centerman took a high stick to the face. He did not return. It was in the eye area. Word is he will get checked out for long term damage today.

Combining the Zibanejad injury with a trip to overtime, Kyle Turris skated over 25 minutes in this one. He notched an assist.

Since being recalled Max McCormick has 19 penalty minutes in five games and also has 11 SOG in that span. At bare minimum we are dealing with someone who can get you PIM in a flash but we may be looking at the development of a multi-category stud.

We haven’t yet seen Jared Cowen in 2016 as he has been scratched for the past few games. Seems inevitable that he will be moved but I wouldn’t be shocked if it took until the summer. That is less because his cap hit is onerous and more because he has a year left that will give some teams pause.

Cowen’s deal is one that escalates in salary too so while his cap hit is only $3.1 million annually he will earn $4.5 million next season, which is added motivation for Senators to move on.

In video game land we could totally work a deal where the Senators deal Cowen for disgruntled forward Jonathan Drouin but there is much more to consider here in the real world.


Speaking of baseless Drouin trade ideas. I threw a few up on Twitter the past few days:

Cal Clutterbuck and a third round pick for Drouin. This of course is the package that fetched a 20-year-old Nino Niederreiter so I wasn’t particularly serious with it.

More seriously, however:

Leo Komarov and a second for Drouin.


Ryan Ellis and a lottery protected first for Drouin and a second.

Again, these are just random ideas. I think it was one of the TSN insiders that suggested the Lightning really ought to clear some salary in any deal involving Drouin. Matt Carle strikes me as the guy with the contract they would most like to move, even if they have to eat a percentage of it.


Tyson Barrie went supernova last night with two goals and two assists. Three of the points came on the power play. Barrie already sees plenty of minutes but he was helped along by Erik Johnson going down in the second period with a lower-body injury.

We should find out more about Johnson’s status later today but if he misses any time look for Barrie and Francois Beauchemin to benefit.

New lines for the Avalanche last night:














I am just happy to see Matt Duchene back on the wing where he belongs. It just seems he is so much more effective there. I don’t know how happy I would be as a Gabriel Landeskog owner seeing these lines but there they are.

First win for Semyon Varlamov in two weeks. Mind you, because of the Christmas layoff it was only actually four straight losses and he had been playing unconscious for the two weeks prior. Let’s see if this sparks another hot streak.


No Jeff Carter once again but no worries, it means more time with the Anze KopitarTyler Toffoli duo. How it took until now for those two to be paired together is beyond me but it has been complete magic. Eight goals in the past 10 games for Toffoli.


After another hot start from Louis Domingue, Dobber wants to declare himself the victor of our debate from a couple of weeks back. I’ll concede that Domingue has done well in limited action but I am thinking long term on this one. Short term, you certainly would have been rewarded by following Dobber’s advice. On that front it’s a hit. Still not certain he is a hit long term.

Speaking of things that may not continue long term: this goal binge from Shane Doan! Seven goals in four games?!?!?! Nine goals in 10 games since returning from injury!?!?!! This is something else indeed.

Doan’s shooting percentage has rocketed up to 19.7%, nearly double his career rate. At 39, Doan’s shooting rates should be fairly well defined but here he is on pace for a career high in goals.

I will point out that Doan is capitalizing on the absence of Martin Hanzal, the normal net-front guy on the top power-play unit. Given Hanzal’s propensity for injury, we just might see more of this from Doan, even as the shooting percentage comes back to normal.

Also caught up in this whirlwind: Antoine Vermette, who has nine points in his last 13 games.

My recommendation is to sell high on all of the above and I don’t think you’ll find too many folks who will disagree. You’ll just need the right sales pitch.


The final verdict on Johnny Boychuk is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury.


Nothing certain but don’t be surprised if Chris Kreider misses tonight’s game after getting a cut on his hand on Saturday. He did not practice yesterday and is day-to-day.


Curtis McElhinney has been sent to the IR with a sprained ankle. With Sergei Bobrovsky still on the shelf that means the Blue Jackets have their full AHL tandem of Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo tending goal at the NHL level. I’d prefer not to start either of them in my fantasy league. Only Bob will do.


Adam Gretz with a look at the changes Sidney Crosby has made to get his offense going:

A month-and-a-half later and he is now taking more than 25 percent of the Penguins' shot attempts when he is on the ice for the season, the same level he was at during his peak years in 2010 and 2011 when he was scoring at a 50-goal pace every year. He has also averaged 3.5 shots on goal per game since Nov. 25. Those are significant changes, and it's not a coincidence that his overall production has skyrocketed since then. After Saturday's game he now has 18 points in the 16 games over that stretch, including eight goals (a 40-goal pace over 82 games).

Looking for at least a point-per-game pace from Crosby the rest of the way.


Ian Gooding’s latest lets you know which goalies to start and which goalies to sit this week.


For more help in your fantasy hockey pool in the second half of the season pick up the Dobber Hockey Mid-Season Guide for $9.99. The Mid-Season Guide will be out January 8th.

You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.