Ramblings: Advantage Capitals and Jets, Analyzing Marchand Suspension Risk (May 6)

by Ian Gooding on May 6, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Advantage Capitals and Jets, Analyzing Marchand Suspension Risk (May 6)

Advantage Capitals and Jets, Analyzing Marchand Suspension Risk

Jakub Vrana scored the game-winner with four minutes and change left in the third period to lead the Capitals to a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh in Game 5 and a 3-2 series lead. The goal was Vrana’s third point of the game, as he had recorded two assists earlier in the game. In just one game, Vrana has proven to be a far superior option on the Capitals’ top line than Devante Smith-Pelly was in Game 4. That would be a pretty good arrangement for Vrana next season, wouldn’t it?

Here’s the Vrana goal, with a well-played assist from Alex Ovechkin:

Speaking of the top line, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a goal and added two assists of his own in this game. Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson and have all scored at least a point per game during these playoffs. It’s fair to say that the Capitals’ top players are doing everything possible to make this playoff run better than the previous ones. But they still have to win one more game.

The injury news is uncertain for the latter two point-per-game scorers as far as Game 6 availability goes. Backstrom left the game with what Barry Trotz called an upper-body injury, while Carlson was evaluated after the game after taking a high hit from Jake Guentzel. Lars Eller moved up to the second line after Backstrom left the game in the third period. Here’s the hit on Carlson:
 


The Capitals will finally have a chance to slay the dragon in Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Monday. Potentially losing both Backstrom and Carlson could be significant, as the Capitals are already going to be without Tom Wilson and Andre Burakovsky. So my prediction is that the battle-tested Pens will take this one, which will set up for an anything-can-happen Game 7. That might not sound promising for Capitals’ fans, but I wouldn’t count them out if the series goes seven. They’ve faced the Pens enough times and eventually the puck has to bounce their way.

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To credit Nashville, their Game 5 effort probably wasn’t as one-sided as it appeared. They were the better team in the first period in spite of ending that period with a 0-0 score. But then the floodgates opened in the second period, which rendered the decibel meter in Nashville irrelevant.

Kyle Connor might be considered the weak link on the Jets’ top line, but it certainly didn’t look that way in Game 5. Connor found the back of the net twice during the Jets’ four-goal explosion during the second period, then added an assist on Mark Scheifele’s goal in the third period. Prior to Game 5, Connor had been having an uneventful playoffs, as he had been held without a goal over his first nine playoff games and had just three assists to his name.

As for that weak link perception, 31 goals and a near 60-point rookie season isn’t weak at all. Having better linemates might boost Connor’s totals, but there’s plenty of scoring to go around in the Peg. Connor spent about 86% of his even-strength minutes with Blake Wheeler and one of Scheifele and Patrik Laine (mostly Scheifele). Expect him to hang around there going forward.

Here are each of Connor’s three points in this game. Stick around for the assist, as it’s a play worth watching:

All in all, that Connor-Schiefele-Wheeler line totaled eight points, including a goal and an assist from Scheifele and three helpers from Wheeler.

The Jets received some good news entering this game, as Mathieu Perreault returned to the lineup after leaving Game 1 of the Minnesota series because of a shoulder injury. Replacing Matt Hendricks in the lineup, Perreault scored a third-period power-play goal in 12:46 of icetime.  

It took six goals this time, but Pekka Rinne was given the mercy yank for the second time in this series and the third time during the playoffs. Game 4 provided proof that the Preds could play the kind of low-scoring game that would help them win, but the goals allowed problem surfaced again in Game 5. So Rinne’s playoff numbers now stand at 3.23 GAA and .897 SV%, which just like after Game 3 are the worst among the eight remaining starting goalies. Not what you expected at all when you drafted him in your playoff pool. If Game 6 is high scoring, I can’t see there being a Game 7 in this series.

Kevin Fiala was back in for Scott Hartnell for Game 5. Maybe scratching the talented Fiala was questionable, but by many accounts Hartnell had a strong game for the Preds in Game 4. Plus a long-held argument is that you don’t mess with a winning lineup, so I’d expect the gritty veteran Hartnell to replace someone other than Fiala for Game 6 as the Preds attempt to return to what made them successful in Game 4.

Roman Josi is not getting it done in playoff pools, which of course I discovered in my own playoff pool. The Preds’ captain has not only been held without a point in the entire second round, but he has also not recorded a point since Game 3 of the first round, which spans a total of eight games. Josi has just two assists in 11 playoff games. His 0.42 points/game over his playoff career is well below his 0.61 points/game regular season career average.

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My latest Twitter question, which was a bit last-minute yet yielded a clear result:
 


We learned on Saturday that the NHL has now officially warned Brad Marchand after his second licking incident during the playoffs. First of all, why does the NHL need to tell a grown man that this behavior is inappropriate? Common sense isn’t as common as it used to be, I suppose. But the NHL has to take part of the blame for Friday’s incident, since Marchand should have been warned the first time it happened.

Marchand isn’t going to change. As much as he might say he needs to focus on scoring and helping his team win, he seems to take pride in being the kind of player that fits his reputation. So the question should be not if he will be suspended again, but when.

So how relevant is Marchand’s suspension history to his fantasy value? We annually knock off a certain number of games missed per season when projecting a Band-Aid Boy, so should we not do the same with Marchand and suspensions? I can remember having these same thoughts when Sean Avery was in his heyday, even though Avery is not at the same level as Marchand ability-wise.

Over his career Marchand has been issued six suspensions for a total of 19 games missed. His first suspension dates back to the 2010-11 season, so these suspensions span eight seasons. That’s an average of just over two games missed per season. More of a minor ding to the numbers than anything, as players often miss that many games due to very minor injuries or the flu or personal reasons and we think nothing of it.  

But the danger here is that with each incident, Marchand is building equity as a repeat offender. So suspensions become potentially longer, bringing up that total. If you believe in the recency effect, Marchand was suspended for five games in January for an elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson. Between that suspension and injury, Marchand played just 68 games, yet with 85 points he owned the league’s fourth-highest point-per-game total (1.25 P/GP). Why can’t he stick to playing hockey?  

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One other bit of Bruins’ news, but it seems important as they face elimination today: Torey Krug will be out for the rest of their series against Tampa Bay with an ankle injury. Nick Holden is expected to replace him in the lineup, while Matt Grzelcyk is expected to receive an icetime boost in a move up to the second pair.   

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