Ramblings: Capitals and Penguins Pour on the Gravy (Jan 17)

by steve laidlaw on January 17, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Capitals and Penguins Pour on the Gravy (Jan 17)

Capitals and Penguins complete an insane game, Guentzel recalled, Eberle knocking and more.


Oh my goodness that Penguins-Capitals game! 8-7 in overtime, the most goals in a game since 2011. I guess that’s what happens when both teams are without their #1 defenseman.

Kris Letang is out (AGAIN) week-to-week so the Penguins goalies will continue to be fed to the wood chipper. Also, Justin Schultz, who has four assists last night, returns to a featured role.

Meanwhile, John Carlson missed the game for Washington but is expected back for the Caps’ next game on Thursday.

Matt Murray hung in there for a win but it wasn’t without cost. He stopped just three quarters of the 28 shots he faced. If you started Murray (as I did) you’ll be chasing the goalie stats all week. Then again, you could kind of see this coming. The Penguins got banged on by the Caps last week and now didn’t have Letang. Murray has now given up 19 goals in his last four games. His save percentage dropped from 0.925 to 0.916. Good time to make a pitch for his services.

Both Crosby and Malkin went off, which is a “duh” sort of thing. Malkin is up to third in the league in scoring and I’m seeing some back-patting for having projected a big season for him. Sorry, we’re only a little over half-way home and the question with Malkin has never been about his ability to produce points. The question has been about his ability to play games. Malkin has missed an average of 19 games over the past four seasons.

Malkin as Band-Aid Boy is “duh” as well but maybe no back-patting until he finishes the season healthy. Also, predictions, right or wrong, are only worth it if you show your work. You need to be able to assess the processes that informed your choice so you can continue to make strong predictions or correct any mistakes. I’m curious the process involved in assuming this would be the first healthy season for Malkin in a half-decade.

Jake Guentzel is well-positioned to take advantage of Malkin producing. He was called up on Monday morning and re-inserted onto a line with Malkin and Patric Hornqvist. He notched an assist in just 11 minutes of action. Guentzel is a top AHL scorer and has five points in six NHL games.

Guentzel became my #1 waiver wire pickup when news broke that he had been called up. The Penguins are one of three teams (along with Detroit and Boston) to play the favourable Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday schedule this week. Still plenty of time to get Guentzel for the rest of the week.


Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and TJ Oshie remained hot combining for two goals and six points.

Matt Niskanen took advantage of the extra minutes without Carlson, notching a pair of assists. He always pops when Carlson sits but again, Carlson is slated to return for the next game.

The Capitals are the stingiest team in the league but jumped from 1.88 goals against per game to 2.05. That 1.88 mark would have been some legendary stuff so I suppose they were due for a gouging.


Did you get your lineups set for the early games yesterday? I tweeted out a couple of warnings on Sunday night and again Monday morning. One of the many perks of following me on Twitter.


Have you checked out the Midseason Guide yet? It was released on Friday. I haven’t had a chance to dive into it yet but it’s must-have content for anyone in a serious league. No one else in the business provides updated projections at midseason. It’s all part of the constant checking and re-checking of process that I discussed with Malkin earlier.


Thomas Greiss has been solid all season long but he kicked it up another notch once Jaroslav Halak was demoted. Greiss has made six quality starts in seven appearances since Halak was sent down on New Year’s Eve. He recorded his first shutout of the season. We won’t be seeing Halak any time soon, especially if Greiss keeps this up.

The question with Greiss (a pending UFA) is what the Islanders do with him. Obviously, they would love to have Halak recoup his value and trade him but that may not happen. Hell, even if Halak does recoup his value that contract may be unmovable. Would the Islanders throw in the towel at the trade deadline and trade Greiss instead?

Greiss is on the sort of deal that a contender (say St. Louis) could easily bring in to offer some competition for their embattled starter. In the St. Louis example, I know some would argue that Carter Hutton, coming off back-to-back quality starts against the Ducks and Sharks, offers viable competition for the starting gig but I won’t go that far. I still believe in the talent of Jake Allen but I don’t think he’s unimpeachable. Greiss could certainly be an upgrade, and a move to St. Louis would help him rack up some wins.

Such a move would also get Halak back to the NHL. And yes, I still believe in Halak. He was out of his mind at the World Cup, which wasn’t that long ago. Also, Halak has a 0.927 save percentage in four AHL appearances. There’s still talent there.


14 straight games without a goal for David Pastrnak. He’s slowly squashing my 40-goal dreams. The lesson here: mid-season elbow surgery is bad, no matter how minor. He hasn’t scored since the surgery.


Welcome back to the lineup, Tyler Ennis! He skated just 12:52 with no power play time but scored a goal. Check out the Sabres’ lines:





Decent spot for Ennis there. He can get hot with the best of them.

This type of deployment could hurt Evander Kane but I wouldn’t bail out as the Sabres have three more games on the schedule this week.

For a goalie with a 0.922 save percentage on the season, Robin Lehner has been awfully inconsistent posting a quality start in just 53% of his appearances. Anders Nilsson has been pushing hard, although I don’t really view him as a long term threat. Lehner is a legit talent but he might need to go under a Bobrovsky-esque weight loss regime if he’s going to kick the injury bug.


I am high on the Red Wings for this week given the favourable schedule that I mentioned before. My hierarchy of Wings to stream this week (of guys you’d likely find available):

Anthony Mantha

Thomas Vanek (who scored the lone goal yesterday)

Andreas Athanasiou

Gustav Nyquist

Frans Nielsen

Dylan Larkin

Tomas Tatar

Justin Abdelkader

I am done with Tatar. He plays softer than a pile of laundry.


Jordan Eberle’s cold streak continues. Sure, he notched an assist but he’s up to 18 straight games without a goal. Eberle’s been getting chances. He has rang the post in back-to-back games and I’ve lost count of the number of times throughout this scoring slump. Watch him get robbed by Mike Smith:

The goals will start to pour in at some point. He’s knocking on the door. That’s better usage than he saw in any game with the Jets. He also notched a power-play assist.


Alexander Burmistrov made his Coyote debut last night skating 11:42, with 2:15 on the power play.

The power play usage is intriguing but, ultimately, I would not be jumping on Burmistrov in even the deepest of leagues. This is still the Coyotes we are talking about here. Also, the PP time may dry up when Max Domi returns.


That’s back-to-back quality starts for Ben Bishop. I wonder if this may be fool’s gold. We’ve all been waiting for the Lightning to wake up and perhaps this is it but maybe the Lightning are just a bad team.

The Victor HedmanAnton Stralman pairing is only controlling slightly more than half of the shot attempts while on the ice and their other pairings are losing those battles. The Andrej Sustr – Jason Garrison pairing is drowning after treading water last season. Neither Tyler Johnson nor Ondrej Palat have performed well in terms of shot attempt differential.

Their 2-1 win came against a Kings squad short Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar, the latter of whom missed due to illness.

Injuries hang over all of this. Stralman, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have all missed time. As have others in the lineup. But more than anything, the Eastern Conference has also gotten much tougher. The Metro is a gauntlet. There’s no more coasting in with undervalued talent. Other teams are featuring skill on every line now too.

I’m still betting on the infrastructure. I’m betting on Bishop returning some elite play as the Lightning push towards the playoffs these next few months but I am starting to ask the questions because it’s possible that the East has just caught up to the Lightning. I don’t think that means their window has closed but the odds of returning a Cup have significantly diminished.


22 goals for the Sharks in their last six games, and that includes getting shutout by the Blues on Saturday. They are starting to get the depth scoring that makes them scary.

None of their depth guys are explicitly hot and I wouldn’t expect any of them to get there but Mikkel Boedker had that hat-trick last week, Timo Meier scored a goal and an assist yesterday, Kevin Labanc has contributed off-and-on alongside Logan Couture. All of these guys are capable of putting together 15-20- goal seasons. The best teams are the ones who get them scoring consistently. The Sharks haven’t hit that stride but there’s potential.

I really like Meier, unfortunately he’s been dropped to the third line with Chris Tierney and Joel Ward. Not too many points to be had on that line this season.


Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.