Ramblings: Bolts Win Again, Players Getting Benched, and Finding Preseason Value

by Michael Clifford on April 7, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Bolts Win Again, Players Getting Benched, and Finding Preseason Value

Tampa Bay stays in the playoff race, impending scratches, Kyle Okposo, and more.


Just one game on Friday night, but it was a big one. Tampa Bay stays in the playoff race one more day as they won 4-2 in Montreal. That regulation win is their second in as many nights, and puts them one point back of the Leafs for a playoff spot. The Bolts need a lot of help the rest of the way, but they’ve gone 18-7-4 since February 1st. Considering their injuries, it’s been a hell of a run.

For teams to go on a run like Tampa has, they need goaltending. Since the start of this heater, Andrei Vasilevskiy has managed a .924 save percentage in 21 games. A small sample to be sure, but he’s still very young, and has been perfectly adequate to start his career. If the team is healthy in front of him, he could post a Jonathan Quick-like season next year. He also did this against the Habs:

Nikita Kucherov stood out, as he always does, but it’s worth noting Yanni Gourde managed two goals, bookending his team’s scoring on Friday night. He also played over a minute more than Jonathan Drouin, and was fifth among forwards in ice time. Injuries play a small part, but clearly he’s played his way into a role on this team.


I saw a tweet last night that kind of encapsulated what this weekend is going to be like in the NHL.

Of all the playoff teams – and pardon if there’s a mistake here – the following have nothing to play for on Saturday and/or Sunday: Montreal, Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus, the Rangers, Chicago, and Minnesota. Anaheim will have the division wrapped up if the Oilers don’t win in regulation Saturday night in Vancouver. That is at least seven of 16 playoff teams, possibly eight, that will have absolutely nothing at stake to finish out the regular season. The West as a whole is locked up, and six teams in the East are eliminated also. If my math is right, that’s two-thirds of the league that are just trying to play out the season.

This is a huge problem for fantasy owners, both season-long and daily. We will several teams just benching half of their fantasy-relevant roster. We’ve already seen that with the Blackhawks and Rangers over the last few days. I suppose that opens the door for other players, and someone has to score goals, but it makes for a messy weekend. Let’s go over a few players:

  • Two guys that are already out for the weekend are Erik Karlsson and Torey Krug. The latter is a day-to-day thing, according to the team, so hopefully he’s ready for the playoffs.
  • Both John Carlson and Brett Connolly are out Saturday. I’d expect more names added to this list on Sunday for the Caps.
  • Zach Werenski didn’t skate in Columbus’s optional practice on Friday. I’d assume he doesn’t play at least Saturday.
  • The Sharks, even though they can technically catch second in the Pacific, are probably going to be sitting some players on Saturday. Both Logan Couture and Joe Thornton are already ruled out.
  • Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson looks ready to get in the lineup for Boston.
  • Montreal is leaving Price, Pacioretty, Radulov, Markov, Weber, and Emelin at home, meaning they're out against Detroit. 

I’m sure I’m missing some.

Even though we know some players are going to be out, we don’t know how many more, exactly who will take their spot, and what the lineup will look like. Does Brent Burns sit? If so, who takes his minutes? Ottawa plays 2 ½ hours before Boston. If the Senators win their game, the Bruins can’t catch them in the standings. But the game won’t finish in time for Bruce Cassidy to make lineup decisions. Does Patrice Bergeron sit, then? David Krejci? Does everyone play? This is all purely a guessing game, and with the slate on Saturday starting at 12:30 ET, it’s a nightmare for fantasy owners, and particularly DFS players.


We got a report on Kyle Okposo that he is improving from whatever he is suffering from right now. The report is obviously vague, and he does deserve his privacy. It’s just nice to hear good news on that front, and all the best to a full and speedy recovery to the talented winger.


In a Ramblings a couple of days ago, I went through some players that I was avoiding in drafts be it due to draft cost that ended up succeeding this year. As mentioned then, it’s important to figure out where projections went wrong, and how to improve in future seasons.

On the flipside, there are players I was high on in the preseason that proved me right. I do write in other places, and some of those articles are behind paywalls so I can’t produce them here. However, I sent out this tweet before the season:

To be sure, there are some misses in there. There are always going to be misses. I like to think most of these worked out, however. Let’s go through the thought process.

Nikolaj Ehlers

Reason for drafting: Was very productive when playing in the top-6 in his rookie year, and was nearly assured top-6 minutes for his sophomore campaign.

Going back to Ehlers’ rookie season, remember that he was plugged into the bottom-6 for about six weeks a month or so into the season. Other than that, he was very stellar playing in the top-6 with Mark Scheifele. With Drew Stafford gone this year, it was nearly certain that this wouldn’t happen again to Ehlers, and consistent top-6 minutes would let this young star flourish offensively.

And he did.

He hasn’t been a monster fantasy asset. There isn’t a huge amount of power-play points, with just 12 going into the final weekend. There isn’t much for other peripherals, either. All that set aside, 25 goals, 64 points, and nearly 200 shots on goal is a very, very good season for almost any 20-year-old. It’s clear that he and Scheifele good chemistry together, and that should carry into next year.

This season, the on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five is high, coming in over 10 percent. That should fall off next year. However, if he can get a bit more ice time, and produce more on the power play, there’s no reason to think he can’t replicate a 60-point campaign in 2017-18.

Nazem Kadri

Reason for drafting: Bet on regression.

A common mistake in fantasy is to forget (or assume) that regression means decline. A career 10 percent shooter managing 15 percent for a season is likely to regress back the following year. A career 10 percent shooter managing 5 percent for a season is likely to regress back the following year. This happens year in, and year out.

The 2015-16 season saw Kadri, who was a career 12.5 percent shooter to that point and 13 percent on a three-year average, shoot 6.5 percent. That included a massive shot-per-game spike to over 3.4 per game. That could indicate that he started shooting from everywhere like Evander Kane, but his average shot distance, via Corsica Hockey, went from a three-year average of 28.9 feet to 30.3 feet. Yes, he was starting to shoot a bit further away from the net, but it was nothing egregious. There would be a rebound incoming.

That rebound saw the 26-year-old crack the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career, helping him crack the 60-point plateau for the first time as well. All that was done even with a huge ice time decrease, too.

Whether Kadri can do it again next year is another question. But the lesson here is valuable: if an established player, particularly a younger one, deviates significantly from their norm in a negative manner, bet on a rebound.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Reason for drafting: I wrote up on him, and the Blue Jackets in general, before the season here on Dobber. This touched on the goaltending tandem, and this touched on Bobrovsky’s ADP.

I won’t go into detail about what went right here because those two articles explain it well enough. To be clear, the assumption wasn’t that he’d be anything close to the goalie he was this year. It was that he had proven himself to be good enough in the past to warrant being drafted higher than he was, and that Columbus was a better team last year than their record indicated. That’ll be something touched on further in the summer, but betting on talent is usually a good idea.