November 24, 2015

by steve laidlaw on November 24, 2015

What to make of the Predators' scoring woes, Stastny returns, buying Gostisbehere and more.

Goodness gracious are we back in the Barry Trotz era in Nashville? Shutout three times in a row the Predators have now achieved lows on offense never before seen for this franchise. Last night must have been particularly torturous for the Predators and their fans as they really chucked some rubber at Henrik Lundqvist but were turned aside on all efforts. All told, they outshot the Rangers 31-19 but lost 3-0.

The silver lining is that this opens up an opportunity to buy low mainly on Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro who both have just 11 points in 20 games who are both too offensively talented to be kept quiet.

There is an alarming trend taking place however. While the Predators as a whole are continuing to shoot a large number of shots (31.1 per game versus 31.9 last season) a majority of their stars have seen a decline in their shot rate. All of Ribeiro, Forsberg, Mike Fisher, Shea Weber, Craig Smith and Colin Wilson have fallen below last season’s pace.

James Neal, Roman Josi and Seth Jones are among those who have improved their shot rate from last season so it is no surprise that these three are the only ones not slumping.

Fisher, in particular, has gone invisible and not for lack of opportunity. He is skating over 19 minutes per game – more than he averaged last season – alongside Forsberg and Neal, as well as on the top power-play unit. He is barely averaging a shot per game and you have to wonder if there is not an injury nagging him. Fisher is something of a Band-Aid Boy after all.

The Predators have not even been bailed out by Pekka Rinne during this shout streak. He has had three straight flops having allowed 10 goals on just 63 shots. I bet he won’t have another run of 63 shots worse than this the rest of the year. He remains elite.

*

This getting outshot business is nothing new for the Rangers. They are getting outshot by an average of 3.8 shots per game, the second largest disparity in the whole league. If these were the Avalanche or Flames, we would be talking about how unsustainable it all is but because the Rangers have a proven track record, plus a stud in Lundqvist they are getting a bit of a pass.

Mind you, it is not like no one is talking about how the stats do not favour the Rangers. Dig deep enough and you will find some articles.

This situation is reminiscent of the Canadiens last year, when Carey Price carried Montreal to 50 wins despite them getting outshot by an average of 2.6 shots per game. But hey, when you’ve got an elite goalie you can get away with a little more and holy smokes is Lundqvist ever elite! His beautiful mug is plastered all over the NHL leaderboard.

This is probably meaningless but I am throwing it out there anyhow: Lundqvist’s worst month has historically been December with a 2.53 goals-against average and .910 save percentage for his career during this month. Less than a week away.

*

Paul Stastny made his return for the Blues last night. Check out their lines:

18.91%

EV

STASTNY,PAUL – STEEN,ALEXANDER – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

17.41%

EV

JASKIN,DMITRIJ – LEHTERA,JORI – PAAJARVI,MAGNUS

11.44%

EV

BACKES,DAVID – BROUWER,TROY – UPSHALL,SCOTTIE

8.46%

EV

BACKES,DAVID – BROUWER,TROY – FABBRI,ROBBY

5.97%

EV

BRODZIAK,KYLE – FABBRI,ROBBY – OTT,STEVE

 

No points for Stastny or the rest of the top line for that matter but the important thing to note is he is playing there. Jori Lehtera didn’t really do much while Stastny was out but this return means Lehtera can safely be banished to the waiver wire without fear of reprisal.

Scott Gomez was scratched. He did have a nice little run of seven points in seven games that propped his season total to a respectable eight in 16 but this was always the reason to avoid Gomez. Once Stastny returned there would be no room. Mind you, injuries will always pop up and so will Gomez from time to time. He’s like Jason Voorhees.

Jake Allen has started 13 of the last 14 for the Blues. Some of that is Brian Elliott losing time to injury and some of it is Allen just grabbing the starting gig by the horns. Give him wins in nine of those 13. If a team can win at that sort of rate for a full 82 they basically have the President’s Trophy in the bag.

*

22.3%

EV

GIROUX,CLAUDE – RAFFL,MICHAEL – SCHENN,BRAYDEN

17.63%

EV

COUTURIER,SEAN – READ,MATT – SIMMONDS,WAYNE

13.31%

EV

BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – VANDEVELDE,CHRIS – VORACEK,JAKUB

3.6%

SH

BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – VANDEVELDE,CHRIS

2.88%

EV

LAUGHTON,SCOTT – LEIER,TAYLOR – VORACEK,JAKUB

2.88%

EV

BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – SCHENN,BRAYDEN – VANDEVELDE,CHRIS

2.52%

EV

GAGNER,SAM – LAUGHTON,SCOTT – LEIER,TAYLOR

 

Did you spot the ridiculousness of that lineup? Jakub Voracek on the fourth line? Ooooookay.

For what it’s worth Voracek was still out there on the top PP unit and notched a pair of assists. That’s three multi-point games in the last five. The buy low window is closing here.

Sam Gagner left last night’s game with an upper-body injury and did not return.

This is part fluke but Shayne Gostisbehere has two power-play goals and three points in five games since getting called up. When Mark Streit went down there was always a chance Gostisbehere would grab the top PP job and so far he is running with it.

When asked how good Gostisbehere is, I always answer that he is the best fantasy prospect in the Flyers’ system. Even better than Ivan Provorov. Hear me out. Provorov, we’ll be waiting a while for. You don’t get fantasy points playing junior. Gostisbehere is 22 and knocking on the door. Hell, last night’s game winner may have busted it wide open.

Maybe Provorov winds up being better down the road. I don’t want to wait. Gostisbehere could be established by the time Provorov arrives. Just for example, this is now the fourth season since Morgan Rielly’s draft year and only now are we really seeing him make good on his potential.  

Gostisbehere is skating very sheltered minutes right now at just 18:12 per game but the top PP deployment is huge, especially with the talent and track record the Flyers have on the PP. The goals will not come so frequently but there are plenty of assists in Gostisbehere’s future.

*

Haven’t talked Hurricanes in a while so I am making a point to get some digs in there. I am really liking what I have seen from Brett Pesce lately. I admit to being biased as I have him in my salary cap league.

Pesce has two goals and three points in the last two games and has seen his role starting to expand with over 20 minutes of ice time in two of the last three games. He even skated 3:50 on the PP last night, though credit the Flyers’ lack of discipline for some of that.

Pesce has little value to most of you and likely never will. Justin Faulk is the present and future in Carolina while other options like Noah Hanifin eventually brush him aside. Still, there is room for big, mobile puck-movers to claw out some value even if they wind up as secondary guys and Pesce certainly fits the mould. In the right situation maybe he turns into a Cody Franson

Victor Rask is picking up where he left off after a quietly impressive rookie campaign that saw him score 33 points. This season Rask is skating on the top line and top PP unit and is on pace for over 20 goals and 50 points. Crazy, I know.

Rask’s goal pace likely slows a bit. He is shooting 13.0%, which should come down but like most players on the Hurricanes his on-ice shooting percentage at 5on5 is well below average. Even if the shooting regresses a 40-point season should be the cards and that makes for a tremendous step forward.

The downside on Rask is he does literally nothing that impresses you. His one elite skill is winning faceoffs at a hot rate of 55.6%. But with that kind of skillset his future is what, Antoine Vermette?

*

The Oilers’ line of Taylor HallLeon DraisaitlTeddy Purcell had another dominant game but no one was beating Braden Holtby last night. Nonetheless that spells the end of five-game scoring streaks for the former two and a three-game streak for the latter. One of the hottest lines in the league, chilled for at least one night.

Anders Nilsson was solid allowing just one goal in defeat. That was his seventh start in the past nine games. Sadly, only three wins for Nilsson in that stretch. Still, he has given us a quality start (a .910 save percentage or better) in six of his 10 starts. Not bad.

*

Dmitry Orlov is flashing a little bit of his offense with goals in the past two games and a three-game scoring streak. He is now nearly on track for 30 points. I am not hitching my horse to that buggy though. While young and talented Orlov is skating just 14:13 a night with next to no power-play time, just not enough opportunity.

Andre Burakovsky was made a healthy scratch last night. Barry Trotz thinks that Burakovsky “needs to clear his mind.”

“He’s a young guy who’s thinking about a lot of things. I just talked to him about just worrying about his own game and not worrying about all the other stuff. He’s getting frustrated over things he doesn’t need to get frustrated over. He’s over-thinking things.”

Trotz does not have a great track record of bringing along skilled forwards but that does not mean he has no clue what he is doing here. In reality, Burakovsky, despite his talent, has not been fantasy relevant all season. Some of that is deployment – skating 13:00 per game on the third line – but he has had plenty of opportunities with skilled guys like Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He simply isn’t scoring enough and it’s when guys like Burakovsky can reach that 40-point mark that teams like the Capitals become elite so you have to figure that is what Trotz is trying to spark here.

*

The official prognosis on Ondrej Pavelec is a sprained knee. He is out until January at least. Huge opportunity for Connor Hellebuyck here, especially after Michael Hutchinson lost last night.

Hutchinson does have the talent to run with the gig in the short term but he is more of a backup type. Just not consistent enough to say put together a couple of months of great play. Hellebuyck should get a shot and he definitely has enough talent to run with the starting gig.

A word of caution, the Jets simply are not playing good hockey right now so no matter how talented Hellebuyck is this may not be a good situation to be jumping into. On the other hand, maybe a little bit of improved goaltending is what this team needs to get back into a playoff spot.

*

I may be eating some crow for writing off Mikhail Grigorenko. With nine points in 18 games Grigorenko is flashing some ability. Most of those points have come in the past five games during which he has gone from drowning on the fourth line to flourishing in the top six. Give him six points in those five games, all of which he has skated over 15 minutes.

If this kind of deployment continues Grigorenko has potential to finish in that 35-45 point range. Not bad. Although his 15.1% shooting is alarmingly high.

*

Landon Ferraro was plucked off waivers by the Boston Bruins and immediately inserted into the lineup. Only 8:07 of action for Ferraro but he did manage an assist. For what it’s worth, Claude Julien sounds like he is a fan.

I wonder if Ferraro could temporarily crack the top six. Aside from Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson, the Bruins’ wingers are the worst sort of streaky. Maybe Ferraro gets a spin. Probably not but keep a lookout if he does.

Pierre LeBrun has a nice profile on Eriksson and how he has battled back from concussions to become the player the Bruins thought they were acquiring in the Tyler Seguin trade. We’ve talked about this before but a huge part of Eriksson’s bounce-back has been increased deployment on the PP and the amazing effectiveness of that PP.

*

Al Montoya was run over last night and had to undergo the concussion protocol. As a result, Roberto Luongo was called into action. Luongo did fine but it is a bit concerning how much he has been asked to play early on. Despite some great ratios, the wins are not coming at the same rate as last season.

*

Like Voracek above, Anze Kopitar is beginning his rise. Three-game scoring streak. It has to start somewhere.

*

I swung a trade in one of my keeper leagues this weekend sending Ryan Spooner for Justin Schultz. A couple of reasons for the deal:

1. My defense stinks. I have PK Subban, who thank goodness I acquired for Patric Hornqvist early last season because it isn’t good after that. Beyond Subban I have a resurgent Brian Campbell, a scuffling Toby Enstrom, an invisible Jason Garrison and an irrelevant Jakub Kindl. Oh and we start five nightly so I am hardly maximizing my defense position.

2. Schultz has real upside. I would not call myself a believer, per say, but it is undeniable that the Oilers want to give him a shot at being a star player. More importantly, he has puck-moving skills, a good shot, the ability and willingness to jump into the rush, and an opportunity to use these skills on a promising young team. It is worth rolling the dice here, though this is likely the last season that I am willing to do so with Schultz. He is 25, working on his fourth year in the NHL. At some point he either breaks out or he doesn’t.

For what it’s worth, back-to-back 30-point seasons are not a terrible baseline to be coming from. Even if Schultz never improves from that point he still has value, especially considering my defense situation.

3. Spooner was rotting in my minors and rapidly approaching the limit of 100 games played, which would have forced me to call him up or drop him. Better to make a move now, while he is still about 25 games from the limit than to get my back up against the wall and forced to make a drop. Granted, I’ll be dropping someone to fit Schultz into my lineup but at least that’s a move where I am patching a hole rather than just spinning my tires.

I do like Spooner. The wait for him has been arduous for fantasy owners but it is finally paying dividends.

Spooner’s situation is not unlike that of Mathieu Perreault in Winnipeg. A second/third line guy with playmaking skills good enough to get on the top PP unit. If things break right that’s worth 50 points.

Hopefully this is a win-win.

*

Mike Smith remains banged up so now the Coyotes have called up Louis Domingue. The real takeaway is how this is opening the door a little bit for Anders Lindback. Probably not good enough to step through it though.

*

Andrew Hammond’s recovery from injury has stalled, which means plenty more Craig Anderson.

*

Stephen Burtsch with an excellent look at some scouting tools available to anyone with the time and willingness to use them.

*

Brian Trottier pens a letter to his younger self in a great piece for The Players’ Tribune.

*

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