November 21, 2015

by steve laidlaw on November 21, 2015

How Toews and Hossa are missing Sharp and Saad, Price makes his return and more.

It took a 39-save shutout but Sergei Bobrovsky is now on the right side of .900 in terms of save percentage and 3.00 for goals-against average and please, may he never look back. I know it was bleak but I hope you hung in there. I am expecting top-10 numbers out of Bobrovsky the rest of the way, if not better. You can bet there will be hiccups but the worst is behind us.

What makes last night’s performance all the more insane was that the Blue Jackets were forced to play with four defensemen after losing both Fedor Tyutin and Cody Goloubef to injury. No word on Tyutin’s status but Goloubef appears to be headed to the shelf for a while after having his jaw broken by a deflected shot. And so begins the Jackets’ annual battle with the injury bug.

If you want to be a pessimist, all these injuries might stretch the Jackets so thin that Bobrovsky has another meltdown. But let’s not go there.

David Savard and Jack Johnson were forced into Ryan-Suter-esque minutes with these injuries both coming in the first period. They are John Tortorella’s favourites so don’t be shocked if their load increases long term.

That is great news for Savard owners. Another positive, Savard has yet to score a goal despite boosting his shot rate to 2.0 per game. This is a guy who scored 11 goals last season and has averaged 7.6 goals per season as a professional. He is due.

What is crazy is that you will find Savard available in the majority of Yahoo! pools at just 16% owned. Savard is on pace for 35 points without having scored a goal. Add five goals to that mix and he hits 40.

It is probably the nasty plus/minus scaring folks off but again, the worst is behind us for this team. Savard probably won’t help you in the plus/minus category but he will not finish minus-40 or something crazy like that. No reason that Savard should be owned in so few leagues.

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Colin Wilson skated just 10:32 last night with no power-play time. As best I can tell this was not the result of an injury. He is simply in the dog house. Check out Nashville’s lines from last night:

Frequency

Strength

Line Combination

19.07%

EV

FORSBERG,FILIP – RIBEIRO,MIKE – SMITH,CRAIG

17.37%

EV

FISHER,MIKE – NEAL,JAMES – SALOMAKI,MIIKKA

13.14%

EV

BOURQUE,GABRIEL – HODGSON,CODY – SISSONS,COLTON

8.05%

EV

FISHER,MIKE – HODGSON,CODY – NEAL,JAMES

8.05%

EV

JARNKROK,CALLE – WATSON,AUSTIN – WILSON,COLIN

 

Yep, that’s Wilson skating on the fourth line and Miikka Salomaki up on the second line.

Wilson has taken a real step backwards after a career-best 20 goals and 42 points last season. He simply cannot find the twine right now with just one goal on the season and a part of the problem is that he isn’t shooting enough having seen his SOG per game fall below 2.0. The other part is that Wilson, a career 12.7% shooter is shooting just 3.1% so he should start finding some goals. Unfortunately, getting buried on the fourth line is not how he will get out of this funk.

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This week I finally dropped Nazem Kadri from my Waiver Wednesday column. It’s not that I stopped believing, au contraire, I have clung to Kadri in one pool and made several attempts to acquire him in others. It’s simply that hooting and hollering about how his luck is bound to turn gets stale if you go about it for too long so I allowed a reprieve for this week. Naturally, Kadri found his second goal of the season, and first power-play marker.

Kadri is on pace for 32 points but given his tremendous shot rate, I believe 55 is in play. I’ve backed off from 60 since he has dug a big hole but 55 means 47 points in the final 62 games, which is totally doable. The Leafs are starting to really play a nice brand of hockey.

Sportsnet has a great look at Kadri’s scoring struggles and why they are unlikely to continue:

According to Sportslogiq data, Kadri is currently producing the 10th-most scoring chances per 20 minutes played in the NHL, so there’s definitely no problem with his shot selection. One idea I’ve heard floated is that Kadri has never shot at this volume before, and it may take some getting used to for him. It’s true that he has nearly doubled his shot rate in all situations compared to the previous four years, up to 4.59 shots on net per 20 minutes played from 2.47, but I don’t think that’s a huge factor, simply because he’s getting to the areas he needs to.

I really need to find out more about this Sportslogiq data. How accurate is it? How applicable is it? I do like the idea of tracking scoring chances however and if there is any accuracy to the data then Kadri is on the right track.

Oh and how about James Reimer? His hot run has the Leafs sniffing around the playoffs, just three back in the Wild Card chase. Oh they totally won’t make it and Reimer is sure to regress but he could help your squad at least temporarily. At 47% owned in Yahoo! leagues folks are starting to catch on.

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Petr Mrazek has done his part, making 33 saves to hold off the Kings for a 3-2 win. Now Jimmy Howard just needs to get thrashed by the Blues tonight and we are setup for an extended run from Mrazek.

The Red Wings do not have another back-to-back until December 10/11, with a six-game home stand between now and then. Will Mrazek get all of those starts? Unlikely, but if he gets four or five of six then it is his job to run with.

Brad Richards made his return to the lineup skating 14:50 in a third-line/second power-play role. Not much fantasy value there.

Mike Green scored his first goal of the season but has found himself back on the second power-play unit, so you win some, you lose some.

Whenever I see Dylan Larkin play, I can’t help but think that there are 14 teams out there kicking themselves for passing on an elite forward but when you look at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Not all of those teams are necessarily kicking themselves.

Florida certainly isn’t after landing Aaron Ekblad. Buffalo with Sam Reinhart, Edmonton with Leon Draisaitl (more on him later), and Calgary with Sam Bennett, round out the top four and all of those are paying dividends.

Then you see Jake Virtanen making an impact for Vancouver, Nikolaj Ehlers in the Calder hunt for Winnipeg and this is starting to shape up as a really great draft class. It is probably too early for this but might we talk about the 2014 draft the same way we talk about 2003 and that loaded draft.

Oh, and for the record, every team except Florida is trading their 2014 selection for Larkin. He is that good. But the aforementioned teams all have a case to be happy with their pick.

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Jeff Carter with a pair last night. He and Tyler Toffoli continue to be just about the entire Kings offense.

Carter’s hot shooting may slow down a little as he is at 15.5%, while his career average is 11.6%. There will be some regression and given Carter’s high shot volume a drop to his career average would knock about 10 goals off his current 39-goal pace. On the plus side, Carter is back to shooting over 3.0 SOG per game after seeing his shot output decline last season.

For those concerned about Anze Kopitar, at least he is chipping away with five points in the last nine games. By no means is that good but these little nibbles are enough to sustain you until the binge you know is coming.

One area where Kopitar can easily pick up some points: the power play. Kopitar is typically good for 25 PPP but has just one thus far. ONE! And the Kings are not even showing their usual struggles on the power play having scored on 20% of their opportunities. Kopitar just has not been getting in on the scoring and that is mostly random.

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Carey Price was indeed back in the net for Montreal and did okay stopping 33 of 36. The Islanders certainly did not want to make Price’s return an easy one.

Only 9:01 in ice time for Alexander Semin last night skating on the fourth line but he did notch an assist and had four SOG. Baby steps:

Check out the Canadiens’ lines:

Frequency

Strength

Line Combination

22.07%

EV

DESHARNAIS,DAVID – FLEISCHMANN,TOMAS – WEISE,DALE

15.72%

EV

GALLAGHER,BRENDAN – PACIORETTY,MAX – PLEKANEC,TOMAS

10.03%

EV

BYRON,PAUL – FLYNN,BRIAN – SEMIN,ALEXANDER

9.03%

EV

PACIORETTY,MAX – PLEKANEC,TOMAS – SMITH-PELLY,DEVANTE

8.36%

EV

BYRON,PAUL – ELLER,LARS – GALCHENYUK,ALEX

6.69%

EV

FLYNN,BRIAN – SEMIN,ALEXANDER – SMITH-PELLY,DEVANTE

4.68%

EV

ELLER,LARS – GALCHENYUK,ALEX – GALLAGHER,BRENDAN

 

The Canadiens have called up Sven Andrighetto after placing Torrey Mitchell on IR. Andrighetto seems destined for the press box but if he draws into the lineup it is fun to think about the damage he might do alongside Alex Galchenyuk on that second line. With his brilliant speed Andrighetto fits right into what Montreal has going on.

Read more on Andrighetto here.

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Brock Nelson with two more goals. That gives him five goals and eight points in the last five games on the Islander top line. This run is unlikely to continue given Jack Capuano’s love of line shuffling but you need to take advantage of this situation while it lasts.

With all the trade rumours swirling there has been some backlash to the notion of Travis Hamonic as a top pairing defenseman. He arguably has not been for the Islanders as that designation falls to Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. At least they are paid that way, anyhow. Nevermind the fact that Hamonic is skating almost two full minutes more per game than either of those two.

Oh and Hamonic just so happens to have bumped Boychuk off the “top pairing” last night skating 25:24 alongside Leddy. He had one of his best games on the stat sheet as well, scoring a goal and landing seven SOG. Was this a showcase or a sign of things to come?

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Great showing by Scott Darling as the Flames hounded the Blackhawks for 37 shots, while conceding just 19. Darling did enough to earn Chicago a point but Johnny Gaudreau would not be denied.

No Jiri Hudler for the Flames as he was out with the flu. That meant Mason Raymond on the top line and he was not terrible firing off four SOG. His performance probably has more to do with his linemates, however.

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The Blackhawks were without both Teuvo Teravainen and Marko Dano. Teravainen was due to injury as he will miss a couple, while Dano was due to illness so he probably gets back in there.

With those two out Andrew Shaw jumped onto the top line and did nothing alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The latter two have really missed having Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad around as common linemates. They’ve missed them a lot more than anticipated.

The Blackhawks are still scoring at a middle-of-the-pack rate but that is pretty much all Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.

Toews is on pace for just 49 points. He probably finishes closer to 60 but it would not surprise if he finishes a little short. Like Kopitar above, Toews could really see a bump on the power play. He has just one PPP despite deployment on the top PP unit. A word of caution, however, Toews has averaged about 14 PPP over the past few seasons so that top unit deployment is not enough to guarantee big production.

Hossa, meanwhile, is on pace for just 37 points and that is before considering his risk for injury. Hossa has already lost three games to injury thus far.

Hossa should pick it up a bit, especially on the goal front as he is shooting just 6.1% despite being a career 12.1% shooter. But Hossa saw a significant drop in his shooting percentage last season, finishing at just 8.9%. It is entirely possible that Hossa is entering another phase of his career as a shooter.

Fortunately, Hossa has too much hockey sense to simply fade away. The Blackhawks need to find a trigger-man to team up with Hossa and Toews, otherwise that line becomes a glorified shutdown unit. There is nothing wrong with that but it results in disappointed fantasy owners.

Barring injury, Hossa likely gets back on track for say 50 points, which is a definite drop from the 60 he has scored the past couple of seasons but is still much better than we are seeing now.

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Leon Draisaitl will not quit producing. I still have modest overall projections for him given his ludicrous 31.4% shooting is certain to come down but I will toss out some praise. Draisaitl looks like an excellent fit alongside Taylor Hall. He has good enough offensive skills to not take away from things but he also understands his role alongside Hall and that is to use his size and speed to drive the net hard and muck it up in the dirty areas. Hall works best with a guy who does not need the puck on his stick to make an impact and clearly Draisaitl is a fit.

Long term, Draisaitl has the makeup of an extreme net-front presence. I would not be surprised if he shot 20% one year just causing mayhem in front of the opposition goal. With enough skills to do damage at even-strength as well Draisaitl has potential to do what Nick Foligno did for Columbus last season, but much more sustainably.

Given Draisaitl’s continued production I am bumping his year-end projection to 45. That is about a half-point-per-game pace from here on out.

I should mention that despite my long term pessimism, I continue to toss Draisaitl into my Daily Fantasy lineups with regularity because of his bargain price tag. Ride the hot streak!

Anders Nilsson has seized control of the Oilers’ crease with starts in six of the last eight games. He has won only three of those but has performed well enough to hang onto the gig. The Oilers have a five-game Eastern road swing coming up, which will be the real test for Nilsson. I have him in the Dobber Experts League but I am not buying stock anywhere else.

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I have been thinking about finding “the next” Devan Dubnyk but I have come to realize that while there are many backups like James Reimer, making noise for their respective teams there really isn’t a team out there that is a goaltender away from being a world-beater.

It really seems that if anything, in this league it’s the goaltenders that are keeping some teams afloat right now. I’m looking at you, Pittsburgh and Anaheim.

The Minnesota Wild were playing a great brand of hockey but just could not get Darcy Kuemper to step up. Enter Dubnyk, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Coincidentally, it might actually be the Arizona Coyotes who could benefit the most from an improvement in goal but it is likely that their hot shooting will regress before they get a chance to trade for goaltending help.

Other options like Buffalo, Ottawa, or Calgary do not make a ton of sense since these teams are not generating quite enough offense on a regular basis.

Winnipeg stands out as a team scoring plenty while receiving a sub-.900 save percentage from their goalies but a huge part of that is the team’s lack of discipline having given up a league-high 82 power-play chances to their opponents and allowing the second most (16) power-play goals against. The Jets could still upgrade in goal but that solution is more likely found in-house with top prospect Connor Hellebuyck literally skating in the same arena with the Jets’ AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose.

Before even looking for goalies who might pop and be a solution for some struggling contender, do even see any destinations that make sense?

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Dobber answers your questions in his latest mailbag.

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Bauer has an interesting new piece of equipment coming out in an effort to prevent concussions. I would need to see some serious studies on the efficacy of this product because it sounds overly optimistic and highly theoretical. Compound that with the fact that it is very difficult to trust these companies when the most expensive helmets they have on the market have been shown to be of lesser quality. This really just looks like a money grab to capitalize on the fear surrounding concussions. Isn’t hockey expensive enough?

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

 

 

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