October 27, 2015

by steve laidlaw on October 27, 2015

Ducks shutout once more, Hanzal hurt, Kadri produces and more…

Good news, bad news, for Martin Hanzal owners. He notched a power-play assist as Max Domi opened the scoring. Unfortunately, he left after the first period and did not return.

Word is Hanzal is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. I wish I had more details. What I can say is that it was only a matter of time for Hanzal. He’d be a David Backes-type fantasy commodity if he didn’t get hurt EVERY year. The Coyotes play again tonight and if Hanzal doesn’t go he’s essentially a write-off for the next week as the Coyotes play just once from October 28 to November 5.

The Coyotes are in a world of hurt if Hanzal misses a lot of time. Antoine Vermette is already out with his own lower-body injury. Wouldn’t be shocked if Vermette jumps back in if Hanzal can’t go. And maybe this is where Vermette gains some traction for his few remaining fantasy owners.

Michael Stone is a guy you want to start looking at as his minutes are starting to take off. He skated a team high 25:02 last night and has skated over 22 minutes in the past three games. A big chunk of that has come on the top power play unit as he has joined Oliver Ekman-Larsson as the second defenseman on the power play.

Stone notched a power-play assist last and has a heavy shot that should be utilized well in this role. I could see a 40-point season if everything breaks right but even if he comes up closer to 30 points, he could flash similar production to what Johnny Boychuk did for the Islanders last season.

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James Reimer earned the start for Toronto, in lieu of the struggling Jonathan Bernier. I don’t think either guy stands a great chance of running with the job. The best you could hope for is a run a la Devan Dubnyk that results in a trade to a contender and I’m just not sure Reimer has that in him, while Bernier isn’t getting traded.

Morgan Rielly scored a late goal to help make things interesting for the Leafs, garnering a ton of minutes alongside Dion Phaneuf but he’s still not getting the top power play minutes I need to see to get on board with his fantasy value.

A pair of assists for Nazem Kadri is a nice reward for fantasy owners who have stuck it out thus far. He is shooting the puck far too much (tied with Tyler Seguin at 35 SOG) to not have fantasy value. Kadri has just one goal so far and a 2.9% shooting percentage. He’s an 11.9% shooter, so you just know the pucks are going to start going in.

It might help Kadri’s cause if he had someone with a little more offense skating on his wing other than Leo Komarov. James van Riemsdyk is doing good work on one side with four goals so far but Komarov just isn’t bringing enough scoring.

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Not much fantasy relevance but Thomas Hickey will miss at least a month with a lower-body injury. This does open some roster space where we might see Ryan Pulock called up.

Marek Zidlicky was a healthy scratch over the weekend, and will probably need some maintenance days so that opens up a slot where Pulock might fit in.

Ryan Strome was also a healthy scratch on Saturday. He said that he’s pissed off about it, which is understandable. He was right back on the top line last night but not on the top power play unit. In fact, he even got booted from the second unit for Nikolai Kulemin. It just so happens that that second unit scored without Strome so not necessarily a positive.

In all Strome, looked pretty good though definitely seemed to be deferring too much to John Tavares. I’d bet on a hot run from him over the next little while as players typically respond pretty well from a healthy scratch.

The line of Kulemin, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo was quite lethal combining for a pair of Nielsen goals and six points total. Those worried about Okposo losing his top line role to Strome need not do so. He remains on the top power play unit and remains productive.

Nielsen has also regained his top power play spot at the expense of Strome. At this point, Nielsen’s greater willingness to shoot the puck is an advantage on the power play but you can bet the Islanders mix things up a lot as the season wears on.

One thing I am not liking is Nick Leddy as the lone defenseman on the top power play unit. His lefty shot just doesn’t mesh well with everything running through Tavares on the right side. One-timers are awkward so the shooting lanes are closing on Leddy before he can get shots from the point. Johnny Boychuk or Zidlicky fit so much better there.

Jaroslav Halak notched his second shutout of the season. While his overall numbers look great because he hasn’t allowed a goal in two out of four starts, his other two starts offered sub-optimal fantasy numbers. This is nothing new for Halak, who posted a save percentage under .910 in 25 of his 59 appearances last season. That’s 42% of starts where he wasn’t giving you a league-average performance.

In other words, Halak is only giving you a quality start in three of every five games. Highly unreliable. But it’s great when he performs!

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Joni Ortio made his first start of the season for Calgary and played pretty well despite giving up four goals. He’s absolutely huge and the Islanders seemed to be making a point of trying to beat him up high. The Flames just got outplayed for far too long so it was only a matter of time before Ortio got beat.

Poor Dougie Hamilton continues to struggle. He skated only 16:07 but somehow found a minus-three rating anyhow. Drop immediately.

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I think the Blackhawks have stumbled onto a unique strategy with Duncan Keith out: play rope-a-dope for 60 minutes and then unleash Jonathan Toews at 3-on-3. So far, so good. Toews has closed out a pair of 1-0 wins for Chicago in overtime. Some beauty goals too.

The Blackhawks have just five goals in three games since Keith went down. Maybe this is just small sample size but it looks like the Blackhawks are going to continue to struggle finding offense with their top defenseman out. And really, it could be argued that they were struggling before the injury.

It should be mentioned that the Blackhawks probably should have won this one in regulation. Not because they had the most chances but because they had the best chance foiled by Freddie Andersen kicking the post off its moorings just prior to Artemi Panarin burying one into the open net.

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Of course, if we want to talk struggling offenses, we really should start with the Ducks, who have been shutout five times in nine games and have scored a league low six goals. It’s impressive, really, just how snake-bitten these guys are. For instance, Corey Perry beating Corey Crawford on a breakaway, only to have it ring off the post.

I remain on board with Perry and Ryan Getzlaf as elite fantasy guys. They are producing way too many good chances to give up on. They just outshot the Blackhawks 39-24. They are playing good hockey. The bounces, as they say, just aren’t going their way.

Everyone wants to know when Bruce Boudreau gets fired. Losing again last night can’t help his cause. I can’t help but be reminded of when things started to go south for Boudreau in Washington. Is he the type of coach who will always have an expiration date?

Check out this excellent post recounting Boudreau’s days in Washington and how a run of poor luck drove him to change his coaching strategy for the worse. Definitely something to keep in mind at times like these.

Chris Stewart found himself a healthy scratch last night. With the way the Ducks are failing to score it’s almost better if he sits since he can’t do any negative damage. That being said, Stewart has played reasonably well grading out as one of the top possession guys. This is a team that needs goals, whatever it takes so you can understand the lineup change.

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Mattias Ekholm signed an extension with the Predators locking the defensive defenseman in Nashville for another six years at $3.75 million per. By now you’ve noticed that every defenseman who can skate and chew gum at the same time gets $4 million annually. This comes in under that mark by a bit so it’s probably a good deal.

It is a bit concerning that Nashville is putting such an investment in what is ostensibly their fifth defenseman but it suggests a great confidence in Ekholm. Perhaps there is a move coming to open up more responsibility for Ekholm.

That doesn’t need to be the case, however. If we assume that Seth Jones gets something around $4.5 million on his next deal (he is a restricted free agent this summer so you can see how I came up with that figure) then the bill for Nashville’s six defensemen comes in at $24.6 million. Taken as a fraction of this year’s cap, the Predators are putting just over a third of their financial resources towards their blue line. That makes sense too, considering defensemen make up a third of the team roster.

Of course, Nashville isn’t a cap team. They are spending a full $11 million under this year’s salary cap. It’s hard to see them wanting to spend all the way up to the cap, even if they have a contender. Not only do the Predators have Jones reaching RFA status but they must also re-sign Filip Forsberg this summer.

If the Predators aren’t willing to spend all the way to the cap then their commitments on defense will become disproportional to the roster usage. They don’t need to make a move this year because those extensions don’t kick in until next season but would the Predators start chasing down potential Shea Weber trades this summer?

It would definitely be the prudent move. While Weber is still an awesome defenseman, bringing a ton to the table. One thing he doesn’t provide, is great skill at skating the puck out of the zone. He just isn’t comfortable with that skill. That’s why it’s not all that surprising that Roman Josi has surpassed Weber as the top scorer on the Predators’ defense. When all else fails, Weber defers to Josi to help get the puck out of the zone, which means more transition assists and more opportunities to jump into the rush and score goals. Watch for it, the next Predators game you take in.

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After some optimism that he might return tonight, it looks like Kevin Shattenkirk will not suit up. Looks like one more night of relevance for heavy-shooting Colton Paryako perhaps.

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Just to update you from yesterday, Aleksander Barkov’s injury is a broken hand. He’ll miss 2-4 weeks. We saw this weekend that that meant Nick Bjugstad jumping onto the top line with Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau as that trio shredded the Stars. I prefer Bjugstad on that line as a bigger shooter than Barkov.

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Looks like an MCL sprain for Evander Kane. Just when he was starting to click in the Sabres lineup, bam! Out 4-6 weeks. Such is life with the certified Band-Aid Boy.

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It sure didn’t take long for Mike Green to hit the skids. He’ll miss 2-3 weeks with an upper-body injury.

A part of me wants to advise you to use this as an excuse to dump Green altogether after his dreadful start to the season but I also know that the Red Wings aren’t close to hitting their huge potential since Pavel Datsyuk has yet to play. If the rumours are true and Datsyuk can get back before Christmas, Green’s worth hanging onto, because his second half could be explosive.

Datsyuk has already returned to practice, which is a great sign for a swift return.

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Tuomo Ruutu is out 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. I think it’s safe for fantasy owners to just assume Ruutu always has a broken foot.

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Ian Gooding lets you know which goalies to start and sit this week.

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.