October 22, 2015

by steve laidlaw on October 22, 2015

Giroux gets it going, Krejci front-running, Yakupov is hot and more…

Wild game in Boston with the Bruins jumping all over Michal Neuvirth chasing the Flyers’ backup and eventually building a 4-2 lead only to lose 5-4 in overtime. Steve Mason got the win for Philadelphia and made some impressive stops along the way. He wasn’t perfect but getting the win is a big hurdle for Mason. Doesn’t look like there will be a goalie controversy here.

Claude Giroux scored a pair, including the overtime winner. Word was he struggled early on in this one but everything I saw was classic excellence from Giroux. The frowns for Giroux’s early play likely have something to do with the three minor penalties (technically two but one was a double minor) he took in this one but for fantasy owners that’s all gravy.

Frankly, I don’t mind the penalties from Giroux anyhow. It shows he is engaged. I like when Giroux plays with some snarl. He’s more effective that way.

Mark Streit notched three assists in this one, his first three of the season. The Flyers haven’t found much offense from their defensemen so this is a welcome development.

Sean Couturier was felled by a high hit from Zac Rinaldo and did not return. Possible head injury here.

No Brayden Schenn for the Flyers last night as he has an upper-body injury. Anyone have any insight on the specifics of the injury?

RJ Umberger notched an assist and didn’t look terrible in this one. He appeared to have actual skating abilities, with some sense of how to use them. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a compliment but Umberger was brutal to watch last season. He just wasn’t right physically. I still have no clue what the Flyers were doing swapping him for Scott Hartnell but at least it appears that Umberger can be an effective player this season. Doubtful that he becomes fantasy relevant just yet but he filled in for Schenn pretty well.

*

On the Bruins side this is another ugly one for Tuukka Rask owners to swallow. And I know you are panicking. He’s yet to have a game where he didn’t allow at least three goals.

We’re only five starts in for Rask, though. Remember that. Is Rask not an elite goaltender? You’ve got to trust that over a full season the numbers will reflect that, even if the Bruins continue to mount zero defense against their opponents.

On the flip side, would you accept Rask as a sacrifice to the fantasy gods if it meant David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron continued to go off? I might, even if I own Bergeron in no pools and Krejci in just one. I just like when brilliant players perform brilliantly. A couple more points for each of them as Krejci reclaims the NHL scoring lead.

Krejci won’t keep this up. In fact, I’d be surprised if he cleared a point per game by the end of the season. I do think 70 points is reachable, however. He came ever so close two years ago and then struggled with injuries last season. He’s clearly healthy once again and has the benefit of coaching on his side this time around with Claude Julien electing to load up his top power play unit rather than split time between his two units evenly as in the past. Krejci’s skating more than a minute and a half more on the power play per game than he did last season. That kind of boost could be worth an extra 10 points.

Something to keep in mind with Krejci and the extra power play time: his career high for power-play points is 19. He’s nearly a third of the way there with six thus far. The Bruins have played six games so far. His scoring will absolutely regress but Krejci’s a damn good bet for a career high in PPP. How many might he go for? 25 looks about right.

Loui Eriksson is starting to look like excellent trade bait for the Bruins. A couple of assists gives him five points through six games. He’s finally receiving regular minutes on the top power play unit as well as alongside Bergeron at even strength. Who would have guessed that giving him good linemates would result in production?

Keep in mind the juicy minutes Eriksson is receiving now – 19:23 per game, with 3:28 on the power play – because he won’t be getting this opportunity with whatever team he gets traded to (if/when he happens to get traded.) He may not flop like Antoine Vermette after the trade deadline but it’s almost certain he won’t be as productive.

*

Jonathan Bernier had a splendid performance spoiled by the shootout loss. He stopped 34 of 35 shots in what has to be an encouraging game for those of you stuck relying on the Leaf goaltender.

Not a whole lot to report for the Leafs otherwise. Their lone goal came from PA Parenteau who also skated the fewest minutes of any Leaf in this one. Simply not a relevant player right now.

Nazem Kadri had a pair of glorious opportunities in three-on-three overtime but whiffed on both.

*

Evander Kane scored his first goal as a Sabre, a wonderful solo effort. He fired seven SOG in this one, with four hits. A classic Kane game. We’ll see if this gets him going a little bit.

*

Justin Schultz owners, you were patient and now it paid off: one power-play assist! We’ll see if this is the start of something for Schultz.

Nail Yakupov got a pair of assists and has five points in the last three games. I’m leery of his minutes yet. He skated just 12:45 last night and is averaging just 14:58 with second unit power play time. It’s not ideal for a breakout. But Yakupov doesn’t have to do a ton to “break out”. 45 points would be a huge step. Oh and he’s skating alongside Connor McDavid who is looking unreal at times, particularly on this goal. You don’t want to overreact to the good times though so expect there to be some pull back for Yakupov.

Cam Talbot had a really nice game stopping 28 of 29 for the win. That’ll help keep Anders Nilsson off his back just a bit.

*

Petr Mrazek got the start for Detroit and wasn’t particularly great but he’s in line to get one of the starts this weekend as the Red Wings go back-to-back in Calgary and Vancouver.

Dylan Larkin finally went a game without a point after scoring in each of his first five games. Not bad, rook. Not bad.

It was really nice of Niklas Kronwall to finally fire some shots. He landed four SOG, his first four of the season. You can tell that he’s still really tentative out there though, to the point where his teammates are forcing awkward shots at the net, rather than swinging it to him for a point blast that they know isn’t coming.

Kronwall has never been a huge shooter but he’s toned it down the past couple of seasons. This is some next level gun-shyness though. I don’t know how Kronwall keeps getting the top unit power play chances when he’s so unwilling to shoot. I thought the Red Wings brought in Mike Green to commandeer the top power play unit. I guess not. What sucks is that the end result is two underwhelming fantasy defensemen.

*

Dobber has the take on the coaching change in Columbus. One thing that I wonder about; if John Tortorella has his defensemen blocking all of the shots, will Sergei Bobrovsky see enough rubber to recover his dreadful save percentage? I think Bobrovsky benefits big time here though perhaps not right away. Still a big believer in his skills however.

It will also be interesting to see who among the Jackets’ defensemen buys into the whole shot-blocking scheme the most because there will be big minutes headed to whomever jumps on board. Regardless, you have to figure that players off the Jackets will receive a boost in that category for leagues scoring blocks because so far they are one of the worst shot-blocking teams in the league.

It should be noted that being a team that blocks a ton of shots isn’t necessarily a positive since it also means the other team has the puck in your end. The Colorado Avalanche lead the league in blocked shots, which should tell you everything you need to know about that stat. But the Blue Jackets are already losing so maybe blocking a few more is the key to winning a few games.

*

The Flames have placed Karri Ramo on waivers. We don’t yet know what this means, if anything, for his future or the state of the Flames’ crease but one can presume that Ramo is either off to another team or headed to the minors. The Flames could keep him up after waivers though so maybe they are just seeing if a team wants to take his contract off their hands. What a twist of fate. Two weeks ago this guy was the opening day starter, now he’s on the outs entirely.

Good news for Jonas Hiller owners and for those who are sitting on Joni Ortio. I suggested last season that Ortio was a threat to steal games for the Flames. That never happened as Ramo and Hiller played well enough when healthy to keep Ortio out. That hasn’t been the case this season, however. Hiller still has the big contract and will presumably get every chance to prove he’s the guy in Calgary but he’s lost his starting gig to an up-and-coming goaltender before so let’s not rule it out here.

 

*

Paul Stastny will miss at least the next five weeks with a broken foot. This guy just cannot catch a break. Five weeks is more than enough time for Jori Lehtera to re-cement his place alongside Vladimir Tarasenko, which pushes Stastny into limbo upon his return.

I suppose it’s possible that the Blues struggle in his absence and that this injury ultimately costs Tarasenko a shot at a 90-point superstar breakout. That would mean Stastny gets his job back as soon as he’s ready to return. I think the Blues will get by. Certainly, they aren’t as deep or as potent without Stastny but there’s enough here to fill in while he’s out. So Lehtera becomes a big piece to scoop off the waiver wire. He’s still available in most pools too.

What will be interesting to see is what they do with Alex Steen and Jaden Schwartz. Since Stastny’s injury there has been some experimentation with Schwartz being reunited with Tarasenko and Lehtera with Steen sliding back in the lineup. It probably doesn’t change much either way as both Steen and Schwartz will score in the 55-65 range regardless of even-strength deployment because Steen is not losing his spot on the top power play unit.

*

Lehtera narrowly made my Waiver Wednesday column for Sportsnet but we didn’t yet know Stastny’s status when I wrote the piece. I’d put him at the top of the list of guys to snag.

*

It sounds like Andrei Vasilevskiy could be back in practice next week. I figured he’d be out until at least mid-season. Excellent news, unless you are a Ben Bishop owner. Given the Lightning’s up-and-down beginning there is room for Vasilevskiy to come in and apply some pressure sooner than anticipated.

*

It looks like Radim Vrbata will be back up on the top line with the Sedins tonight. That didn’t take long. Mind you, Vrbata is one of just a few guys who hasn’t seen his team score a single goal at five-on-five while he was on the ice this season. Some other notable names on that list:

Nikita Kucherov

Tyler Johnson

Ondrej Palat

Ryan O’Reilly

Cody Franson

Shea Weber

Loui Eriksson

Ryan Kesler

Matt Duchene

Michael Del Zotto

If you are looking for some players to buy low on, this list is a good start.

Back to Vrbata, however. Brandon Sutter has been pushed to second line center between Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen. I was hoping he’d linger on the top line long enough to achieve RW eligibility in fantasy pools, not to mention continuing to produce points. Now, he’s headed towards limbo. Presumably, Sutter’s spot on the top power play unit is still safe but we’ll wait and see on that.

*

Some good digs in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:

11. As for Murphy, his entry-level deal ends this season and the Hurricanes are building a decent prospect base along the blueline. He’s never held a spot there. Murphy was over 20 minutes the first three games, then dropped to 14:40 and 18:49. Maybe he gets a chance to re-start somewhere else.

I wrote off Murphy years ago. I suppose there is still a chance, but you’d figure if he was going to get one he’d get it on a bad team like the Hurricanes. He did notch an assist on the overtime winner last night, I suppose that’s something. Still not buying stock.

*

Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.