Ramblings: Blues Slumping Without Schwartz (Jan 2)

by steve laidlaw on January 2, 2018

 

Happy New Year!

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The Winter Classic thrust the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers into the limelight on New Year’s Day.

The second lines for both squads did much of the damage.

 JT MillerKevin HayesMichael Grabner got it done for the Rangers, including the overtime winner from Miller.

We pretty well know what we are getting from these three. After an explosive start to last season they settled in to modest paces. Miller is quietly on pace for a 57-point season after putting up 56 a year ago. He probably has another gear with more power play time, but that PP time is not likely forthcoming.

Hayes and Grabner, meanwhile, are going to give you somewhere around 40-points. Hayes’ case is interesting because he is skating the most minutes of his career (17:08 per game), but has seen his PP time fall off to just 35 seconds per game. They are using him entirely in a defensive role, which suits the counterattacking style that has been successful for this line, but has ultimately clipped his offense a bit.

Chris Kreider’s absence hasn’t helped Hayes gain any traction in PP time either. Instead we have seen Jimmy Vesey receive more consistent second unit time.

 The Rangers’ PP has flattened significantly after a hot start. Since Mike Zibanejad first went down with a concussion the Rangers have clicked on just 12.8% of their chances. Their overall average is at 19.0%, but if this slide continues they’ll be in the bottom-third before long. This is a big reason that Zibanejad is scoreless in six games since returning to the lineup.

This hasn’t only affected Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich has been bounced down to the third line and is struggling with only nine points in his last 20 games. I’ve dumped Buchnevich in all my leagues opting for hotter options like Patrick Marleau, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor.

I suspect we’ll see some more runs of hot play from Buchnevich, but if you have the moves and talent available on the waiver wire there’s no reason not to swap him out.

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For Buffalo, the second line with Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo have started to come around. Kane is relatively new on this line and has been productive all year so there isn’t much to discuss. O’Reilly has nine points in the past 11 games, while Okposo has eight.

Surprisingly, most of the production from O’Reilly and Okposo has come absent power-play production. Mind you, the Sabres rank 30th in PP efficiency and have been bad all year, but so much of their scoring came with the man-advantage a year ago that I’d expect a blip in PP scoring to be the reason behind their hot run.

It is worth mentioning that the Sabres have scored a PP goal in back-to-back games, both assisted by Rasmus Ristolainen who also has goals in the past two games.

I don’t think that this blip is enough to get excited about O’Reilly or Okposo, but it bears watching. If the Sabres’ PP starts to take off, then they warrant jumping in on. Otherwise, I’ll need a more prolific run of scoring.

Sam Reinhart scored his first goal in 17 games. He has fallen off entirely, but it’s also worth mentioning that he hasn’t yet shown the sort of flash indicative of immense potential. His career high for points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is a mere 1.7. His per-60 scoring has fallen below 1.0 this season. Of course, the Sabres have been bad through his entire career and this is only his third full pro season. He is only 22 years old. Still, I’d have hoped for at least one season of scoring 2.0 points/60 during some season of his career. That mark has generally been a very good indicator of above-average offensive skill and potential for a breakout in a larger role. Based on his meager career scoring at 5-on-5 I wouldn’t expect him to suddenly emerge. I’d look to move on in keeper leagues, but maybe you want to wait until after the trade deadline, in case something drastic happens.

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I am happy to pass along this tidbit from Ian:

 

I would add that the Bruins, Golden Knights and Senators all sit with 37 games.

How actionable is this information?

It depends on your type of league. In a points-only pool where scoring carries over in trades, there’s little advantage to be gained. There’s no advantage in a rotisserie pool with games-played limits. In head-to-head leagues or those where points don’t carry over in trade then you can capitalize on the games disparity.

Specifically, the Coyotes stink so you probably don’t have an Arizona player on your squad. If you do, you may not get much traction.

The Blues, on the other hand, exploded out of the gates, but have seen their scoring dwindle over the last month, particularly since Jaden Schwartz went down. They have just 18 goals in 11 games without Schwartz. Check out their top scorers since then:

 

 

GP

Points

TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

11

7

BRODZIAK,KYLE

10

5

SCHENN,BRAYDEN

11

5

STEEN,ALEXANDER

11

5

PIETRANGELO,ALEX

7

5

PARAYKO,COLTON

11

4

BERGLUND,PATRIK

11

4

STASTNY,PAUL

11

4

EDMUNDSON,JOEL

11

2

THOMPSON,TAGE

6

2

UPSHALL,SCOTTIE

11

2

JASKIN,DMITRIJ

10

1

SOBOTKA,VLADIMIR

11

1

GUNNARSSON,CARL

10

1

DUNN,VINCE

11

1

PAAJARVI,MAGNUS

10

1

BARBASHEV,IVAN

6

0

BLAIS,SAMMY

1

0

BOUWMEESTER,JAY

2

0

SUNDQVIST,OSKAR

6

0

THORBURN,CHRIS

5

0

BORTUZZO,ROBERT

11

0

SCHMALTZ,JORDAN

4

0

 

Those are some poor results for players who were fantasy MVP candidates through the first two months of the season. Is this all because Schwartz is out? Probably not. The Blues were scoring at unsustainable rates before he went down. Now they’ve got the loss of a star player and some regression to contend with. Schwartz isn’t scheduled to be re-evaluated for another three weeks, but he should help things when he does return.  

Where does this leave they’re remaining players? Tarasenko and Pietrangelo will remain stars, so if you make a swap you need a star in return.

The depth players are more intriguing. Stastny has been a 50-point player with injury woes since landing in St. Louis. You could get a games-played advantage swapping him out for David Krejci. Parayko is in a similar spot as Charlie McAvoy in Boston or Shea Theodore in Vegas.

Schenn is the most challenging case of all. He has been a 50-60 -point guy for years, but is currently coming in at a point-per-game pace. Considering how explosive Schenn has looked; the safe bet is that he’ll score 30 points in the second half. And he remains an elite multi-category option. It’d be tough to find a replacement for that just in an effort to gain a few extra games.

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For those in deeper leagues, it doesn’t look like Matt Niskanen will be available today:

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Don’t expect a huge point total, but Zach Parise has value for the shot volume he can produce.

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Check out my latest fantasy hockey stock market post.

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Switzerland’s coach with a blunt assessment of their chances today:

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.