Ramblings: B’s Take Commanding Lead, Kakko Gunning for Top Spot, Nylander, Couture, & Rask (May 15)

by Cam Robinson on May 14, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: B’s Take Commanding Lead, Kakko Gunning for Top Spot, Nylander, Couture, & Rask (May 15)

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Tuukka Rask. The Bs netminder has been spectacular this spring and especially against the Hurricanes. He kept that going in game three of the Eastern Conference final on Tuesday evening. Those Bunch of Jerks came home knowing that a series doesn’t truly get going until one squad loses on home ice. They gave the Bruins a real run but ran into that brick wall once again. Rask stopped 35 of 36 in the 2-1 victory as Boston now has a 3-0 stranglehold.

 

Rask has posted a 0.939 save percentage in 16 games this postseason. He has a .945 clip in the most recent series. That’s tough to overcome. As Dougie Hamilton said postgame of Rask, “If he sees it, he’s gonna save it.”

 

The Canes have been more than a pleasant surprise this spring but it appears that midnight is drawing near and their carriage is turning back into a pumpkin. So much for my glorious 61-1 preseason Cup winning odds I laid on them.

 

Oh, well. 

 

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It was nice to see Andrei Svechnikov out there with the goalie pulled and down a goal late. This kid is going to be a superstar. I beg you not to sleep on him. I like him to push for a solid 30/30 season in 2019-20 with plenty more to come in the future. And if you’re looking for the next piece coming up, Martin Necas just finished a terrific teenaged campaign in the AHL – no easy feat.

 

Those two are earmarked to become a long term duo.

 

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How about that Kaapo Kakko? The 18-year-old is doing everything in his power to become the first Finnish player to be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. His play against proven NHL talent at the World Championships has been breathtaking. The 18-year-old’s five goals are good for a share of the tournament goal-scoring lead through three contests. He’s added 18 shots on goal as well.

 

 

Finland sent a surprisingly weak squad – void of any full-time NHL talent. That has resulted in Kakko becoming the squad’s top offensive weapon. It’s unfair to compare the situation that consensus number one, Jack Hughes has received with the Americans. The Yanks boast a bevy of star talent and Hughes has found himself in a limited role. But Kakko has been coming on strong since December even before scoring the golden goal for Finland to win the World Junior Championship.

 

When I last released my Rankings in April, I had it on good authority that Kakko sat first on about half a dozen teams’ boards. That may be closer to 15 after his recent play.

 

 

New York Rangers GM, Jeff Gorton can hit the Roxy the night before the draft, roll in bleary-eyed and hungover and still be primed to hit a home run. All he has to do is step up to the podium and take whoever remains between Hughes and Kakko.

 

It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

 

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Sticking with the World Championships, it turns out William Nylander may actually still be good at hockey. This despite everything I’ve seen and read the last eight months. The recently-turned 23-year-old leads the jamboree with eight points in three contests and is flashing the high-end skill and confidence that helped thrust him to back-to-back 61-point seasons to begin his career.

 

If you’re looking for a buy-low option, Nylander offers a nice opportunity. The risk is certainly there though. We know the Leafs are in cap trouble and Nylander’s $6.9 million hit may be on the chopping block. Uncertainty scares me. The other issue is that if he does stick around TO, will Mike Babcock consistently play him with Auston Matthews? For some odd reason, he refused to lock those two together in the team’s playoff defeat to the Bruins. This despite them having proven chemistry in the past. 

 

Clearly, sitting out until December affected him greatly. He produced three points in his first 19 games. He scored just one goal on his first 40 shots on net. It’s difficult to step into the middle a season. You’re more than a step behind and that doesn’t get any easier as the play ramps up in the back half. He played from behind the entire year.

 

That said, even while spending the majority of his time outside of the top six, he produced a 59.1% Corsi rating. His shots-per-hour was up to 9.3 which was just a hair behind his career-high set in 2016-17. There were splashes of the skilled player we accustomed to.

 

While it can be unwise to put much stock into a) the results of a short tournament and b) when the results have come against Italy, Norway and the Czechs, it is promising to see Nylander gain a little confidence heading into his offseason.

 

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It's not too often we see players increase their career point-per-game output in the post-season, but Logan Couture has done exactly that. The 30-year-old forward has been a monster in the playoffs since he stepped into the league on a full-time basis nearly a decade ago.

 

A career 0.76 point-per-game producer in the regular season, the former ninth overall pick has saved his best performances for the spring, where he has posted 100 points in 112 games – good for 0.89 points per game. His 96 points in 97 playoff games trail only Sidney Crosby in the previous nine seasons (thanks, Striker). And he's currently leading the 2018-19 post-season in goals (13) and points (19) in just 16 games.

 

 

In the past, it's been a shame he couldn't be counted on for the same level of production in the regular season when fantasy owners give a damn. His 70 points in  81 games this season put a dent in that theory. And perhaps next season may see that transition continue to occur. Both Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are unrestricted free agents this summer. Sure, both could return. Maybe Jumbo hangs them up, but Little Joe returns. But the main point is that the team is passing the reins off. This new forward core features Tomas Hertl (more on him on Thursday evening), Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc. They're led by Couture. 

 

Couture spent 20 percent of his even-strength shifts beside Meier and Hertl and the trio came together to contribute over 30 percent of Couture's 5v5 production. Couts can play the middle of the ice. We're seeing it right now with his playoff success. But he's not the ideal player to do so. He loses far more faceoffs than he wins and seems to thrive when given the freedom that wingers receive. Pairing him with Hertl as the pivot seems like the easy play. 

 

I like Couture to replicate his 70-point pace next season. Even if Erik Karlsson vacates NoCal.

 

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