Ramblings: Brassard Scores Five, Cam Hat-kinson, Puppy Luck (Jan. 26)

by steve laidlaw on January 26, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Brassard Scores Five, Cam Hat-kinson, Puppy Luck (Jan. 26)

Ramblings: Brassard Scores Five, Cam Hat-kinson, Puppy Luck and more.

Wow, Derick Brassard! Five points last night. That’s just the fifth five-point game this season. What an outburst.

Brassard has been chugging along at a decent pace but without Rick Nash scoring at the incredible rate he did last season the Rangers and Brassard have had their wings clipped. Brassard got to 60 points on the strength of 41 assists. That’s not happening this year.

This five-point effort gets Brassard on a 60-point pace but he is doing it with a huge number of goals. Brassard set a career high with 19 goals last season – he is at 17 already. There’s some good fortune playing into this as Brassard is shooting 16%, which is well above his career rate.

Still you have to like Brassard’s chances of getting back to 60 – or close to it – thanks to the goals he has banked.

By the way, no Rick Nash last night either. He was absent for the second straight game. They are calling it a bone bruise, which should see him back after the All-Star break. Nash’s absence makes Brassard’s outburst all the more impressive, even it came against Chad Johnson.

No Dan Boyle either as he was a “healthy scratch”. I throw that in parentheses because at Boyle’s age there’s no way he is ever “healthy” just varying degrees of soreness. With the All-Star break looming being able to give Boyle a full week off will go a long way to having him for the stretch run.

Over 20 minutes for Keith Yandle last night, a rarity. The Sabres gave the Rangers a ton of power-play chances, however, so the minutes spiked for Yandle.

JT Miller continues to take advantage of injuries up front for the Rangers. He has five goals in the last six games having skated over 15 minutes in each of them while filling in for Nash and Chris Kreider. He is certainly making a case for a larger role.

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Zemgus Girgensons returned with a bang for the Sabres scoring two goals after being out the last 10 games due to injury. He was back skating with Jack Eichel who notched assists on both goals.

Eichel is up to 18 points in the last 17 games. It might be happening, folks. Eichel might be burgeoning into a star before our eyes. You don’t want to over-react but this is an extended run of good play worth getting excited about.

*

Cam Atkinson scored a hat-trick to help win another kid a puppy, just a day after Bobby Ryan pulled a similar feat. Do me a favour, if you are going to promise your kid a puppy if a certain player scores, tip me off so I can use him in daily fantasy because this is a gold mine. We are two for two. This is practically a streak! I’m going to have to have some kids just so I can promise them a puppy to get my fantasy team going.

What was truly impressive about Atkinson’s hat-trick is that he scored the third goal on Mike Condon with just 25 seconds left after the Blue Jackets had already iced it by securing a two-goal lead with an empty-netter. It was the rare non-empty-net pile-on goal! I guess when you don’t have much to play for… Fantasy owners rejoice!

I was on the Blue Jackets in daily fantasy last night but had Alexander Wennberg and Scott Hartnell. Just an assist for each of them as it was the second line with Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner that went off. They were probably due. But still, Brandon Saad scored a pair of goals of his own so to get just two assists total out of Wennberg and Hartnell was unfortunate. But that’s the fun of it.

Wennberg has slowed down a bit lately with just two points in the last five games but the overall theme of him centering Saad and Hartnell while skating over 16 minutes a night indicates he continues to be one to pay attention to.

Don’t sleep on the Blue Jackets’ ability to throw up some offensive numbers either. They have had Nick Foligno and Matt Calvert back for a couple of games now so they have their full complement of forwards. This is a heavy team with a ton of talent. No star anymore, mind you, but still a ton of talent. Check out the full set of lines:

27.64%

EV

ATKINSON,CAM – DUBINSKY,BRANDON – JENNER,BOONE

18.7%

EV

HARTNELL,SCOTT – SAAD,BRANDON – WENNBERG,ALEXANDER

18.29%

EV

FOLIGNO,NICK – KARLSSON,WILLIAM – RYCHEL,KERBY

11.38%

EV

BOURQUE,RENE – CALVERT,MATTHEW – CAMPBELL,GREGORY

 

There is still a lot to like here, even without Ryan Johansen. The only question is whether or not the Jackets trade more of this out the door.

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The Blue Jackets are adamant that Sergei Bobrovsky has not been rushed back from his groin injury in either of his previous stints on the IR:

"It’s tough to put this in words, because I’ve been assured that there was no way he came back too early either time," Kekalainen told The Dispatch today. "He was fully healed, with full strength, full range of motion … everything was back to normal. In everybody’s mind who has worked with him, he was not coming back too early at all."

big question, since this is not the first season that Bobrovsky has battled groin issues, is where is the imbalance that is causing these issues or is this just one of those things that simply cannot be avoid and we don’t know enough about to try? I recall an article way back in the day looking at goalies getting their hip joints shaved smooth because they weren’t fitting perfectly and the violent act of moving in and out of the butterfly was causing groin issues. Something to consider?

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Another tough outing for the Habs. The usual suspects are at least producing for their fantasy owners.

PK Subban has nine points in 10 games this month, while Brendan Gallagher has seven in 10. Not much beyond these guys, however.

I thought Tomas Plekanec had a shot at 60 this season with the way he was rolling with Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. He went dead silent when Gallagher went down and while he briefly perked up, Plekanec hasn’t score in four straight and is minus-eight in that span. He should still find his way to 50 easily but 60 is looking like a pipedream.

Everyone wants to see Alex Galchenyuk promoted to the top line in Plekanec’s stead. Maybe that’s a solution but has Galchenyuk earned such a promotion? What stupendous skills has he shown that indicate there will be different results than what Plekanec is doing on the top line? He hasn’t scored in eight straight games. This isn’t a guy who deserves a promotion. The breakout will have to wait another year.

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Petr Mrazek is scorching hot. He has all the momentum going into the second half. He is producing like a top-10 fantasy goalie and is taking a run at the top five. Jimmy Howard still looms but he is becoming less and less of a threat.

Peeking ahead at the Red Wings’ remaining schedule, they have seven back-to-backs left with 33 games left on the schedule. That means seven more starts for Howard, at least but if the Red Wings want to hang in the playoff race they probably need as many wins as they can get. That means we might get 26 more appearances from Mrazek, which would push him to 59 on the season. Those are legit starter figures right there. He probably wins 15 of those final 26, which would leave him with 33 wins on the year. Breakout star.

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Can anyone other than Brock Nelson score for the Islanders right now? He has nine goals in the last 19 games, an impressive run. I don’t trust his shooting percentage (up at 17%) but the fact that Nelson is doing a lot of this scoring without top line or top power-play minutes is a great sign. He is making guys like Anders Lee and Ryan Strome – who were supposed to breakout – look like chumps.

By the way, Lee, got stopped on a breakaway last night, yet another sign of how snake-bitten he is. The shot volume and the excellent opportunities are there he just isn’t finishing. With just six goals on the season Lee’s shooting percentage is half of his normally robust 10.7%. Huge buy-low opportunity here, especially in keeper leagues. I have Lee in one keeper and I’m not taking offers. There is a ton of untapped potential here. I’m thinking Wayne Simmonds or Hartnell-esque upside.

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Speaking of Simmonds, he scored two goals last night in a losing effort. Also had nine SOG. He has really picked it up of late, especially now that he is skating on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

The whole Flyers lineup received a boost when Shayne Gostisbehere joined the team but Simmonds has certainly benefitted. He has scored 12 of his 14 goals in the 30 games since Gostisbehere has been up. That’s a 30-goal pace. Simmonds won’t get there because he scored just two goals in the first 16 games but with Gostisbehere around for the rest of the season he just might take a run anyhow.

Jordan Weal finally made his debut for the Flyers skating just 9:51 with some second unit power-play time. Check out the Flyers’ lines:

25.68%

EV

GIROUX,CLAUDE – SIMMONDS,WAYNE – VORACEK,JAKUB

14.86%

EV

BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – VANDEVELDE,CHRIS – WHITE,RYAN

13.85%

EV

RAFFL,MICHAEL – READ,MATT – SCHENN,BRAYDEN

11.49%

EV

LAUGHTON,SCOTT – UMBERGER,R.J. – WEAL,JORDAN

 

Sean Couturier is still hurt which helped open up a spot for Weal but also note that Sam Gagner, who was called up to fill in for Couturier, was a healthy scratch. Gagner just doesn’t have an NHL future.

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Paging Torey Krug! Just five points in the last 19 games for the talented young defenseman. It really looked like Krug was headed towards a breakout season, which would have been fantastic after getting offered just a one-year deal by the Bruins this summer. He was on his way to 50 points and a huge raise. Now this slump threatens to saddle him into the middle tier for defensemen, which means about $4 million annually, a hefty sum but a 50-point season gets Krug to $5 million, maybe even $6 million per season.

Everything is lining up for Krug situationally. He is skating big minutes, with over 21 a night helping to prove he is a legit top-four defenseman rather than just a power-play specialist. He also should be benefitting from skating on the top power-play unit, especially since the Bruins have been killing since moving to a dominant top unit after years of even play for both groups. Krug sees over 70% of the available power-play minutes in Boston. Krug is actually producing on the power play. Half of his 22 points have come with the man-advantage. He just isn’t scoring much elsewhere.

The return of David Krejci to provide more balance to the Bruins lineup should help Krug but as it stands he appears headed for a third straight 40-point season. That’s nice but not breakout material.

*

The Stars shook up their lines once again:

18.5%

EV

EAKIN,CODY – SHARP,PATRICK – SPEZZA,JASON

16.93%

EV

BENN,JAMIE – NICHUSHKIN,VALERI – SEGUIN,TYLER

16.14%

EV

HEMSKY,ALES – JANMARK,MATTIAS – ROUSSEL,ANTOINE

7.48%

EV

EAVES,PATRICK – FIDDLER,VERNON – SCEVIOUR,COLTON

 

Indeed that is Valeri Nichushkin on the top line. I’m not buying it this time around. He has all the potential in the world but it doesn’t seem that this is going to be the year he makes good. Too inconsistent. You need to get in too early on this talent because you won’t get him once the breakout actually happens but I have jumped in hard twice already this year and am shy to do it once again. Next year I am all for re-opening his case file.

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Ryan Lambert examines what has gone wrong with Pekka Rinne this season:

In the last year or so, his save percentages across medium- and low-quality shots are more or less where they should be — though again, if you're facing fewer low-quality chances, which Rinne is, that cuts out some percentage-padding shots that would otherwise help you considerably — but he's had a lot of difficulty on high-quality chances relative to career norms for much of this season. And that's despite a brief spike in December.

Plenty of fodder here for the “out on Rinne” crowd. I’m going to remain a believer for the long haul, which seemingly bears more explanation. Part of my stance stems from the notion of never wanting to sell low. If you’re a Rinne owner you are mortgaging some other part of your roster to upgrade at this point or you are outright dropping him. The move is to sit on him, only starting him when necessary and waiting for an improvement, which I am presuming will come eventually. Even dead cats bounce.

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Some big news for the injury addled Canucks as Brandon Sutter will make his return tonight. Speculation is that he will fill in on the top line centering Daniel Sedin and Jannik Hansen. That’ll be short lived with Henrik Sedin expected back after the All-Star break but what it really does is push Jared McCann well down the lineup.

With Bo Horvat playing out of his mind as a top-10 scorer this month and Linden Vey looking good on the third line the return of Sutter gives the Canucks (dare we say it?) depth at the center position.

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Paul Maurice has confirmed that Mathieu Perreault will not play tonight. It does appear that Mark Scheifele will be ready to go, however, and perhaps even garner some top unit power-play time with Perreault out.

Worse news for the Jets is that the contract situation with Andrew Ladd seems to have come to ahead. The team simply isn’t willing to meet his demands and so it is becoming more likely that he is dealt by the trade deadline. Ladd has already quietly been moved about the lineup as he struggles through a down season so we do have some idea of what the roster might look like without him and it likely involves Drew Stafford skating with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler.

Ladd leaving would also open up a spot on the top power-play unit though that’s where we get into guessing games about who would take his spot. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

It is important to note how productive Wheeler has been despite the down play of Ladd this season. I wouldn’t expect a trade to have a huge impact on Wheeler’s production even if at first blush you would assume that it would.

*

The Panthers took care of a huge piece of business locking up Sasha Barkov to a six-year extension with a $5.9 million cap hit per season. What a bargain. The Panthers somehow got Barkov to sign for slightly less money than the Oilers got any of their big three to sign for but those deals are basically the same. I don’t think anyone would argue the $6 million annually that the Oilers are paying Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Taylor Hall isn’t worth it. There is a huge chance Barkov outperforms this contract in every season that he is signed for.

What’s crazy is that Barkov will be 26 when this contract runs out. So this free agency sideshow we are looking at with Steven Stamkos could get repeated once Barkov’s deal is up as he’ll be hitting unrestricted free agency at the same age as Stamkos will be. That’s actually a great situation for Barkov as he can sign a massive deal for the span of the end of his prime and then still get one more big deal somewhere in his early 30s. That’s how you play it to maximize your value. So Barkov may have sacrificed a little money on this deal to setup hitting unrestricted free agency at such a young age.

This also sets the salary bar for Aaron Ekblad’s next deal (he has one year left on his entry-level deal). He could certainly command more than Barkov but is he going to upset the applecart and ask for a ton more? I think his next deal comes in around a similar mark.

So, there is a clear window within which the Panthers have a star signed for a below-market deal. They have the rest of this season plus the next six to overspend elsewhere in an effort to win. Let’s see what Dale Tallon can do!

*

The ESPN hockey guys ponder if this version of the Kings is better than their two previous Cup-winning squads.

There are some good arguments to be made. For my money, this team isn’t so much better than their predecessors but rather the Pacific Division is in the worst state is has been in for years. It is interesting that the Kings have just a 10-6-0 record within the division thus far. One would expect to see that record much higher.

One thing that cannot be discounted is how much those previous Kings teams were helped by trade deadline acquisitions like Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik. They may still land someone at the deadline but they already made a huge acquisition in the off-season in Milan Lucic.

You also have to wonder if this version of the Kings isn’t one with a greater sense of urgency after missing last season’s playoffs. They have seemingly been a team with an on/off switch but just couldn’t flick to “on” last year. Perhaps that’s a big reason the Lucic move was made when it was, to give the team help before it was too late. Whatever the case, the Kings have certainly been “on” this season and it is a big reason why they are having their best regular season performance in this era.

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The New York Times with an interesting post on how the morning skate is on its way out of favour in the NHL.

This is probably a good trend. The NHL schedule is too long as it is and the players are no doubt over-trained. Limiting a little wear and tear could go a long way to keeping players healthy.

Removing the morning skate will undoubtedly make life more difficult for fantasy folks, particularly those on the daily fantasy side of things. Little tidbits about new line combos and the day’s starting goaltenders will be tougher to confirm.

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Since there is no hockey for the rest of the week after tonight I am putting together some fantasy hockey All-Star rosters to help fill the rambling space. I have been tweeting out a bunch of different polls to help me build the rosters so give me a follow a @SteveLaidlaw to help contribute and look out for those rosters in the ramblings on Friday and Saturday morning. Also, we have a special guest returning to ramble in my place on Thursday morning so look out for that.

Thanks for reading!