Blues shine in Yeo’s debut, Spezza hurt, Marleau scores 500th and more.
The Blues throttled the Leafs in their first game under Mike Yeo. That puts us at 2/3 in terms of dead cat bounces following a coach firing. Funnily enough, it was the Panthers who didn’t not bounce after making their coaching change.
We don’t want to jump to conclusions out of the gate. Hell, it’s still too early to assess Doug Weight’s tenure in New York, let alone Yeo’s in St. Louis. What we can do is look at the lines and see if there were any major adjustments:
Nothing particularly novel about that arrangement. The veteran trio of Stastny, Steen and Perron dominated the Leafs, continuing the hot streaks for Stastny and Steen.
Robby Fabbri languishing on the third line wasn’t particularly new either but he has spent half of his shifts this season opposite Vladimir Tarasenko. If that third line deployment becomes permanent then his stock takes a hit.
One interesting wrinkle was Patrik Berglund seeing time as the net-front guy on the Blues’ top power play unit, bumping Stastny to the second unit. They have experimented with this throughout the season so it is by no means new but rather an interesting choice. I don’t think he’s a good fit for this role at all and it also hurts Stastny (his three-point night notwithstanding) but we should be used to Stastny getting bumped by now.
Jake Allen put together a big game stopping 26 of 27 for a win. We need to see a few games of strong play from him before we should have confidence peeling him off our bench.
Morgan Rielly skated 18:31 in his return to the lineup. He saw barely a splash of power play time.
Stick tap to Ondrej Pavelec who has been nothing short of a punching bag for me. He managed to meet his quota of three goals allowed while still stopping 39 shots. Impressive. He was really good last night. Still, he has allowed three goals or more in every single NHL game thus far.
Some of this is systemic. The Jets take too many penalties and stink at killing them. They also play a high-wire style that we all enjoy watching. But no, Pavelec is not good. He has a 4-2-0 record though. I suppose that matters most. We’ll see how long the winning lasts.
The Jets got Mathieu Perreault back in the lineup last night. He returned to his spot on the top power play unit, notching an assist but he was limited to just 8:11 in total ice time, as he skated on the fourth line at even strength. I have no qualms about the Jets turning Perreault into a DH similar to how Sam Gagner is used in Columbus.
Perreault was left with these limited duties because Andrew Copp has clicked well on the top line alongside Mark Scheifele. No line combos are ever permanent but this arrangement limits Perreault’s immediate upside.
Jamie Benn has cranked it up a notch with five goals and 10 points in his last seven games. Of course, he’s scored at a point-per-game rate ever since a poor month of October in which he scored just four points in eight games. Plus, Benn is a superstar, so this is nothing new.
Jason Spezza went down with an injury and it doesn’t sound great:
Jason Spezza is going to "miss some time" Lindy Ruff said "it'll be more than days."— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) February 3, 2017
He was hurt on this huge hit:
spezza gets rocked by lowry pic.twitter.com/lkbVbyoX6C— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) February 3, 2017
Spezza has been struggling all season so maybe this is a bit of good riddance for his fantasy owners. I wouldn’t deem Spezza to be droppable since he gets top PP time for Dallas but if he misses a lot of time this could let you off the hook to find a hotter option.
The Stars have a bunch of intriguing options to fill the Spezza void with. In the past, Cody Eakin has soaked up top unit time when Jamie Benn has been hurt but I don’t think he’s a natural replacement for Spezza. Instead, I’d be looking at Patrick Sharp who has had some big performances over the last month. They could also go with a two-defenseman look and use Julius Honka there.
I’d also expect to see zombie Jiri Hudler back in the lineup after being a “healthy” scratch. I’m not sure what illness Hudler was stricken with earlier this season but it sucked his talent away like the Monstars challenged the Looney Tunes to game of puck.
By the way, who’s not watching that movie?
The Preds top line of Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg took on the Connor McDavid matchup head on and won combining for the only two goals of the game including this pretty bit of passing:
OMG the passing from the Perds!! pic.twitter.com/MOxhrqS5BF— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) February 3, 2017
An off-the-cuff ranking of my favourite lines this season:
1. McDavid + anyone
3. Arvidsson – Johansen – Forsberg
6. Auston Matthews + anyone
Who makes your list?
Pekka Rinne was fantastic last night. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for holding the fort while the Preds figured their shit out.
Since Patrick Marleau’s four-goal eruption he has goals in three of the last four games. Last night he scored his 500th career goal. Quite the milestone. Marleau hasn’t been great but he can still skate well and still contributes on the Sharks’ top PP unit. That PP time ensures he remains fantasy relevant, even on the fringes. I have had Marleau for this entire five-game run of goal-scoring and it has been wonderful. He’ll go quiet again and those of us in shallower leagues will dump him back to the waiver wire but he should always be on your radar.
You can set your watch to Mark Stone’s second-half surge. He had three points last night to give him 24 in his last 28 games. If he keeps this up, this will be the third straight year of dynamite second-half play.
The Flyers benched the kids again, with both Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny sitting out. They also started Michal Neuvirth over Steve Mason. The result: a 3-1 win, which does fantasy owners very little good.
Mark Streit gets bumped up to PP1 any time Gostisbehere is out and he notched an assist in this role last night. I suppose this is informative for DFS purposes but I don’t think I’d be wasting a move to spot-start Streit unless it was a Sunday and I needed points.
Alex Galchenyuk was back in the lineup for the Canadiens. He notched an assist in 16 minutes of action. He did indeed see top unit PP usage so all is well. Check out the Canadiens’ lines:
In case you are wondering, in terms of faceoffs, it was Galchnyuk playing center on that line, not Desharnais.
We talked about it yesterday and indeed the Avalanche did claim Mark Barberio off waivers. They’ve been a disaster, a figurative avalanche but at least they have used their position at the bottom of the standings to pluck these guys for free. They got Matt Nieto in this manner earlier in the season. Just because your team needs a big solution doesn’t mean the small moves don’t still count.
If Barberio or Nieto is a hit, that’s as good as nailing a late-round draft pick. Nail enough of those in a short amount of time and you have a cohort you can contend with. If nothing else, Barberio is an asset you might trade to get another late-round pick. You can never have too many darts.
One thing I wonder about, is how much the Avalanche value Barberio. Sure, they liked him enough to add him for free but how much would it actually take to get him? For instance, assuming you like him as a bottom-four defenseman, would a team ask for him in a package with one of Duchene or Landeskog to help mitigate the loss of the name-brand defenseman that the Avalanche are asking for in return?
The answer is ultimately going to be no. No team is upsetting the applecart mid-season with a trade like this. Always assume no when it comes to NHL trades. This is my fantasy hockey brain concocting trade logic that might work in a fantasy hockey league where player personalities don’t have to mesh and systems don’t have to be learned. Still, it’s fun to think about.
Ultimately, the Avalanche needed a defenseman with a contract for next season to expose in the expansion draft and they may have found it. It could be that they don’t have much interest in Barberio at all beyond his deal for next season.
Tuch is interesting as a former first round pick. He scored at a solid rate in college and has performed okay in his first pro season with 11 goals and 22 points in 34 AHL games. That’s not the mastery of the AHL level I look for from prospects however. He probably needs more seasoning before being ready to contribute fantasy relevant numbers. He could offer some value as a bottom-six winger with the ability to contribute some hits and PIM however.
Interesting article on the value of backup goaltending from Dmitri Filipovic:
The tide turned on the goaltending position just a handful of years ago. Now that we know fatigue considerably erodes effectiveness both in back-to-back situations and over the long haul of a marathon season, we’ve seen teams typically ease up on how frequently they use their No. 1 goalie and opt instead for a more balanced split.
The evidence is clear regarding the efficacy of playing goaltenders on back-to-backs. Filipovic references Eric Tulsky’s work on this from back in 2013. But he doesn’t provide any evidence that “fatigue erodes effectives over the long haul of a marathon season.”
I looked at the concept of workhorse goalies and whether or not they experience any serious wear and tear over a long season and found no conclusion one way or the other. While some goalies did suffer, others thrived on the whole:
On average, goaltenders saw their save percentage drop by .0006 in the months of March and April, a negligible amount. Based on the scatter above, it’s as likely that a goalie who makes 65+ starts will improve in the final weeks of the season as it is that he will decline. Sometimes, these spikes can be huge and sometimes they are negligible.
I am all for having a reliable back up. Even if you are going to use your starter for 70+ games, you still want a good shot at winning the dozen or so where he doesn’t start. Every point matters in the standings, especially if you are a bubble team.
The problem comes in identifying talent. The best backups so far this season are all making under $1M:
NHL Leaders: Back-up goalie SV%
Juuse Saros, NSH: .941
Aaron Dell, SJ: .930
Scott Darling, CHI: .925
Philipp Grubauer, WSH: .924
Anders Nilsson, BUF: .923
You can add Curtis McElhinney to that list at #6 with a 0.922 SV% on the season. Who would have guessed that a guy with a career 0.905 mark would suddenly play elite over 10 appearances? Randomness happens when it comes to goaltending over small samples.
Most of the above list was signed/drafted and developed by their respective teams. There aren’t too many expensive backups around the league but James Reimer and Chad Johnson have performed well, while Jonathan Bernier and Antti Niemi have not. If your major inefficiency is to draft/develop more goaltending talent in-house, I’m not sure you’ve struck on anything teams aren’t already trying to do.
The roster-building inefficiency is to avoid spending much on goaltending, while still getting average or better play from both of your goaltenders. Not an easy task to accomplish but the Sharks, for instance, have nailed it.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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- Ramblings: Landeskog Hat Trick, Leafs Shut Out, Quick Returns, Too-Early Line Stats - October 19
- Injury Ward: Updates on Crawford, Galchenyuk, Pettersson, and more
- Looking Ahead: October 19 - 31
- Frozen Tools Forensics: Early Season Deployment
- Capped: Early Point-Per-Dollar Leaders
- Cage Match: Reilly Smith vs. Viktor Arvidsson
- Ramblings: Lindholm Has Found a Home, Tuch Extended, Kuznetsov, Parise, & The Sabres' Farm (Oct. 20)