October 16, 2015

by steve laidlaw on October 16, 2015

Hedman injured, Pietrangelo just filling in, Crosby still scoreless and more…

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Big shutout win for Marc-Andre Fleury. Not only does he stop the Penguins’ slide and get his first victory of the season but he also shuts down a Senators team that has been doing damage offensively. It was really only a matter of time for Fleury as we all knew the wins were coming. This is a nice one for the fantasy owners though, give them a bit more confidence.

The Penguins were without Beau Bennett. No word on how long he’ll be out either, just that it is definitely an injury. No real surprises there.

On the plus side, this created an opening for Daniel Sprong to jump onto the third line and skate double-digits for the first time. He took full advantage scoring a goal and pumping four shots. I really like what he has to offer. Of course, I don’t think it matters how much he produces, he’s still getting sent down before he hits 10 games, especially with both Eric Fehr and Pascal Dupuis back skating.

Think David Perron can hear the footsteps with those two returning? He looked hungry firing seven shots and playing an amped-up version of his tenacious game. Good to see. He was skating with Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist. No points for Perron but Malkin and Hornqvist scored so you know that line was making things happen.

Still no points for Sidney Crosby. Make a really strong pitch for him right now. Like really strong. Your best player (assuming you don’t have Ovechkin in a roto format) plus something else tasty, just to see if you can move the needle. Don’t be insulting, you won’t get him for a song but if you can swing something like Patrick Kane or Steven Stamkos for Crosby after some sizzling starts then this is the time to do it because when it’s mid-season and Crosby is leading the league in scoring you won’t even get a response.

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John Tavares, Anders Lee and Ryan Strome were really buzzing last night. Just a strong performance out of that trio. They combined for two goals and five total points. Strome also had a chance to ice the game with an empty-netter but couldn’t control a bouncing puck on a breakaway. Opportunity missed for fantasy owners right there.

Strong performance by Thomas Greiss stopping 44 of 47 to hang on for the win. He didn’t do nearly enough to shake my confidence in Jaroslav Halak though. Halak should be back this weekend and should still make it to right around 60 starts, even after missing these first four. This says more about my lack of faith in Greiss than it does about my conviction regarding Halak. Greiss just doesn’t seem like a goalie who can carry a team for an extended stretch.

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James Neal got the monkey off his back scoring his first goal and assist of the season while adding five shots. He’s still receiving almost all of his minutes alongside Filip Forsberg, with either Mike Fisher or Mike Ribeiro at center so his linemates are optimal. Neal’s minutes are down to just 16:13 per game, almost two minutes lower than last season when he skated over 18 minutes a night.

Part of this drop is simply because the Predators haven’t drawn many power plays through four games. An increase in chances will help boost Neal’s minutes. Neal took a huge cut in power play time last season compared to his time in Pittsburgh but that’s simply because the Predators roll over their two power play units pretty evenly so there is little chance for him to load up.

Last night is a perfect example, where the second unit with Ribeiro, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones all skated nearly a minute more on the power play than the top unit with Fisher, Forsberg, Neal, Roman Josi and Shea Weber. The Predators have had success with the man advantage this year but last year they stunk and I was hoping they might start to lean on that stacked top unit a little more. So far, no dice, which doesn’t help Neal or any of the other studs on that top unit.

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Missed opportunity for Scott Darling last night. Part of the reason he’s seen action in two of five games thus far is because of the Blackhawks’ heavier early schedule. But part of the reason is also that the Blackhawks have struggled a bit, in particular Corey Crawford. If Darling wants a shot at the starting gig he’s going to have to really take it.

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Good sign for TJ Oshie owners as he scored his first goal and assist as a Capital. He’s skating on the top line with Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov right now. You have to figure he stays there even when Nicklas Backstrom returns. Instead it’s Kuznetsov who gets shuffled down and probably off the top power play as well. I’m still not sure Oshie is more than a 55-point player, even if he gets all the top line minutes in the world. It’ll be tough to keep preaching that if Backstrom and Ovechkin go white hot though.

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Victor Hedman left the game last night against Dallas and did not return. Not this again…

Can I make a recommendation? Let’s sit out Hedman in the fifth game of every season because he got hurt in the fifth game of last season too. Hedman is venturing into Band-Aid Boy territory. No word on his status but apparently he said he felt okay after the game. Fingers crossed.

I suppose the move is to snag Jason Garrison just in case but Garrison didn’t exactly shine when Hedman missed all that time last year.

Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin continue to click like we all hoped they might last year. So far, it’s those two, not the Triplets carrying the offense for Tampa Bay. But where this team gets really dangerous is when both of those lines are clicking. So far, we are still waiting for the Triplets to do much of anything but they have been generating chances from what I’ve seen so it’s only a matter of time.

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Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza are producing big time secondary scoring for the stars. Again, this is what we all hoped for last year. Better late than never. I’m way more confident in this continuing for Spezza for a few reasons. First and foremost, his presence on the top power play. It is just way easier for Spezza to keep producing skating on the top unit rather than the second one like Hemsky is. We’ve also never reached a point where we really thought Spezza was just cooked as a player like we had with Hemsky. Spezza is injury prone and his lack of engagement at times can be frustrating but he’s nowhere near Hemsky’s level in either regard.

I hate to say it but we are all waiting for Hemsky to tweak something and spoil this all. That’s why, if you have him, it’s not even worth shopping him right now. No one is taking him seriously yet and if you peddle him now that’s showing your hand too early. Wait a while. Hope that this continues for a month. Then see what you can pull in because right now you won’t get anyone better. The history with him is too spotty.

If you are invested in the Stars’ goaltending I feel bad for you. Antti Niemi gets a shutout win in the opener so that earns him start number two but after getting shelled the keys get handed over to Kari Lehtonen who has won two in a row so he’ll presumably start until he drops the ball (loses), at which point it’s Niemi’s turn again. And the Stars don’t skate a back-to-back until the first week of November so it could be a lot of this win-and-your-in to start.

The Stars do skate 13 back-to-backs this season though so that’s about a third of the schedule where there is a forced split in the starts. Whether or not that’s good depends on your situation, I suppose.

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Old man Jaromir Jagr is picking up where he left off last season picking up another three points. That gives him six on the season and 24 in 24 games with the Panthers thus far.

The effect Jagr is having there is magnificent. This is a team with a ton of young talent but lacking a rudder to steer the ship. Enter Jagr. His impact, particularly on the power play is irreplaceable. The Panthers were a bottom-10 team in power play efficiency last season finishing with a lowly 16.8% success rate. They are five of 21 on the power play so far, good for 23.8%. That’s a small sample size, so let’s go back to how the team finished last season and include these first four games. The Panthers are still vastly improved clicking 20.5% of their chances with Jagr in the lineup.

What the Panthers won’t do is keep seeing more than five power-play opportunities per game, as they have to open the season. But with Jagr boosting the power play, there is a really opportunity for the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad to have breakouts.

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Taylor Hall had a really loud night on the stat sheet and really looked it on the ice as well. Definitely looked jacked up to be on home ice for the first time. Managed his first goal as well, which is a good sign. He’s been shooting like crazy with 20 shots through four games. That pace seems unsustainable but bears watching.

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The Blues were indeed without Kevin Shattenkirk, which meant Alex Pietrangelo stepped up. Pietrangelo is too big a name to be floating on the waiver wire so maybe the only move here is for Pietrangelo owners to take advantage of the temporary boost to try and sell him for someone a little more productive because when Shattenkirk returns Pietrangelo starts looking more and more like a 35-point defenseman than a defenseman who might get 50.

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Dan Boyle wasn’t shocked to be a healthy scratch on Tuesday and didn’t respond with the best outing last night going minus-three in a 3-0 hockey game. With the kind of money the Rangers have committed they really don’t have any better option than to play Boyle through his struggles but we should definitely all accept that this is the end of fantasy relevance for Boyle and leave it at that.

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Logan Couture was seen on crutches and in a walking boot after practice yesterday. No word on his status at time of publishing but you can’t presume he’ll be playing the next game. That means there’s a spot for someone to jump onto the top power play. Off the cuff I’d say Tomas Hertl but wait and see.

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Confirming what we already knew Johan Franzen is still suffering concussion woes as he will now go on IR. I had him pegged to play just a handful of games this season because his concussions have been so serious but then they had him coming back and playing preseason games so I assumed there had been a big change. Apparently not, so Franzen is back in the books as written off.

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Ruh, roh. Sergei Bobrovsky is now channelling former teammate Ilya Bryzgalov. After Wednesday’s drubbing at the hands of the Senators, Bobrovsky indicated that he had “no confidence right now.” That may be true but he’ll be back out there against the Leafs tonight, which might be the perfect opponent against whom to build some confidence. As I said yesterday, this is the time to buy, not sell, when it comes to Bob.

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Check out Dobber’s latest for Puck Daddy focusing on some widely available players to pluck off the waiver wire.

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These new shirt designs with the logos in the armpits are terrible. I do love the notion of fans of your team getting the logo all sweaty and gross but I don’t want to see any Oilers fans wearing this crap.

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Grantland’s Sean McIndoe longs for the days when the NHL had a waiver draft.

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.