November 8, 2015

by Ian Gooding on November 8, 2015

Ristolainen scores twice, Shattenkirk returns, Allen stands out, plus a lot more…

In Saturday’s first game, Rasmus Ristolainen scored two goals in the Sabres’ 3-2 win over Vancouver. The second goal was the game winner with just 16.8 seconds left in regulation, a goal that as a Canucks’ fan I was not exactly thrilled to see.

But I’ll give credit where credit is due: Ristolainen has the tools to be a solid fantasy blueliner: icetime (24 minutes per game), power-play time (on the Sabres’ second unit), and now point totals (on pace for 40 points this season). As of this writing, he is also a top-15 blueliner in shots on goal. Yes, he is the same guy who was a Buffalo winter-like -32 last season, but this Sabres’ team is actually a much-improved one defensively, which surprised me. If you don’t believe me, read on.

The Sabres were outshot 37-22 in this game, so Linus Ullmark was a deserving second star. Buffalo goalies haven’t gotten fantasy owners excited since Ryan Miller left, but what if I told you that Ullmark now has wins in three of his past four games? With Robin Lehner likely not back until December, Ullmark has outplayed Chad Johnson by a wide margin to be the Sabres’ temporary number one goalie. Ullmark is worth taking a flier on if you need another goalie.

One stat that surprised me when I looked it up: During the first month, the Sabres have given up an average of only 26.8 shots/game, which is surprisingly the third-lowest shots-against total in the NHL. The Sabres’ total of 35.6 shots/game last season was the highest in the NHL. A combination of personnel moves and the work of Dan Bylsma seems to be doing the trick.

By the way, this game was Ryan Miller’s first in Buffalo since he was traded by the Sabres two seasons ago. Because Jacob Markstrom has been sidelined all season, Miller has started all but one game for the Canucks this season. There’s a possibility Miller could play again today (Sunday) in New Jersey, but it definitely won’t be Markstrom, who wouldn’t be able to play three consecutive days after playing back-to-back games on his AHL conditioning stint on Friday and Saturday.

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On my various fantasy teams, Jeff Carter has been one of my hottest players this week. With a goal and an assist on Saturday afternoon against Florida, Carter now has goals in three consecutive games to go with two assists this week. Carter also has five goals over his last seven games. On a team that had trouble scoring early in the season, Carter has emerged as the team’s top scorer with 15 points (7g-8a) in 14 games.

One of the other Ramblers (can’t remember if it was Dobber or Steve) suggested moving Tyler Toffoli to Anze Kopitar’s line to give Kopitar a boost. That may help Kopitar owners (I own him in another league), but I can’t imagine Carter owners would be ecstatic about Carter potentially being stuck with the goalless Brown. At least you can’t blame Brown for trying, since he currently leads the Kings in shots on goal (49). But Brown is playing in the “try” league right now, not the “get it done” league.

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Frank Vatrano scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on Saturday against Montreal. Why that is notable is that he was the AHL’s leading goal scorer at the time of his callup with an astounding 10 goals in 10 games. In 14 minutes of icetime, Vatrano played on a line with David Krejci and Loui Eriksson. Keep an eye on him.

Colin Miller, who assisted on Vatrano’s goal, now has points in six consecutive games. He has reached the 50-point mark in both the OHL and the AHL and is getting some power-play time with the Bruins. I’d like to see his overall icetime increase before I recommend him in anything other than deeper leagues, though. He’s not to be confused with Kevan Miller, another defenseman on the Bruins with less offensive upside.

The unusual stat contributor of the night: David Krejci with three minor penalties. The third penalty proved costly, as it led to the game-winning goal on the power play by David Desharnais with just over a minute to play in regulation.

Speaking of which, that’s another point for Desharnais. And that’s 14 points in 16 games for him, including seven points over his last five games. It’s a good thing that he’s getting power-play time, as he’s averaging just over 12 minutes of even-strength time on that line with Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. That line is bound to cool off, and so will Desharnais, although to a lesser extent than his linemates.

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Your buzzer beater of the night, courtesy of Nicklas Backstrom. Yet another example of why it sucks to be a Leafs’ fan.

Steve provided his take on Morgan Rielly’s situation in yesterday’s Ramblings. I’ll only add that Rielly posted another two assists on Saturday and is up to 10 points in 14 games. Also, he’s still available in more than two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. It’s just a matter of time before he’s logging huge minutes on the Toronto blueline.

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In spite of a 3-2 overtime loss, Andrew Hammond made 43 saves for the Senators. That’s what it’s like to be a goalie for the Senators, who currently allow more shots per game than any other team (34.4 SA/GP). Craig Anderson is no stranger to facing a ton of pucks dating back to his days in Colorado, so he is capable of carrying the load. But if your league counts saves totals, I think that Hammond will turn out to be fairly useful for a backup goalie.

By the way, Mark Stone returned from his two-game suspension. He recorded an assist in just under 21 minutes of icetime.

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Michal Neuvirth recorded a 28-save shutout against the Jets on Saturday. Neuvirth currently has a 1.81 GAA with a .945 SV%, while Steve Mason has a 3.34 GAA with a .902 SV%. I don’t think this necessarily means Neuvirth will steal the starting job, but it definitely means he’ll take a few more starts away from Mason in the near future. As well as Neuvirth has played, something isn’t right with Mason at the moment.

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Also a member of the Saturday shutout club: Devan Dubnyk with a 31-save performance. But it’s not all good for the Wild right now, as Zach Parise is week-to-week with a sprained MCL. So here’s how the Wild’s lines shook out on Saturday:

21.54%  EV           COYLE,CHARLIE – GRANLUND,MIKAEL – POMINVILLE,JASON

21.03%  EV           KOIVU,MIKKO – NIEDERREITER,NINO – ZUCKER,JASON

10.26%  EV           HAULA,ERIK – SCHROEDER,JORDAN – VANEK,THOMAS

6.15%    EV           BERTSCHY,CHRISTOPH – HAULA,ERIK – VANEK,THOMAS

4.62%    PP           GRANLUND,MIKAEL – KOIVU,MIKKO – POMINVILLE,JASON

4.1%      PP           NIEDERREITER,NINO – VANEK,THOMAS – ZUCKER,JASON

The most notable observation to me is the lack of opportunity for Thomas Vanek. Although he was on the second-unit power play, Vanek only played 13:20 total in this game and clearly wasn’t on either of the top two lines.

Injury alert from that game: Ondrej Palat left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury (NHL.com).

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But the most impressive shutout of the night goes to Jake Allen, who needed 45 saves to blank the Predators. Being on a timeshare with Brian Elliott for literally an eternity, Allen might finally be grabbing the starting job and running with it. As an Allen owner in two leagues, I’ve been blessed with wins in five of his last six games.

Even better for the Blues: Kevin Shattenkirk returned to the lineup, but he was held without a point in 19 minutes of icetime. Colton Parayko may finally cool off now that Shattenkirk is back, but he scored a power-play goal anyway in this game. But it’s still worth your while to try to sell high on the rookie blueliner.

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Although he didn’t receive his own shutout, Antti Raanta provided a hard day’s work with 40 saves in a 4-1 win over Arizona. If you play in a deep league and all you have left for waiver-wire goalies is backups, he might be one to consider. In three starts this season (all wins), he has allowed only a combined two goals.

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I almost forgot about Anton Khudobin, who was the fourth goalie to earn a shutout on Saturday. He made 31 saves against the Sharks.

 

 

 

So why do I get the feeling that Patrick Marleau won’t waive his no-movement clause, similar to Joe Thornton? I bet Thornton and Marleau will play there until they’re 70.

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Yes, that’s Sam Bennett with eight points over his last six games. The fact that he is a center with an average of less than 15 minutes per game seems to be holding him back in terms of fantasy ownership. Keeper leagues are probably already onto him, but now deep leaguers could consider adding him. I just added him on my Experts League team (not the Dobber Hockey league) to start ahead of the slumping Elias Lindholm, who has just a goal and no assists in 14 games.

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The Penguins had succeeded on their Western Canada road trip with wins in Vancouver and Edmonton, but they hit a wall in Calgary on Saturday. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang were each held without a point and dinged with a -3. Crosby has been showing signs of life recently, but he still looks a long way from elite. Earlier in the season, I had considered offering the Crosby owner in one league my Tyler Seguin. But now, I would flat out refuse it if that owner offered that same deal to me.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your Sunday.