Ramblings: Carolina Updates; McLellan in Los Angeles; Pominville; Devon Toews – April 18

by Michael Clifford on April 18, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Carolina Updates; McLellan in Los Angeles; Pominville; Devon Toews – April 18

 

In a surprise to no one, both Andrei Svechnikov and Micheal Ferland were not practicing with the ‘Canes on Wednesday. The former following his fight against Alex Ovechkin, the latter an upper-body injury. On the bright side, Calvin de Haan was practicing with the team. He was on as an extra meaning he may not be ready for Game 4 but he is cleared, so it’s a comfort level thing for de Haan now.   

With Svechnikov and Ferland out of the lineup, the coaching staff loaded the top line with Teravainen, Aho, and Niederreiter. Staal and Williams were flanked by Warren Foegele.

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The Los Angeles Kings held a press conference introducing Todd McLellan as their next head coach. You can read my take on the hiring here.

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Something that caught my eye in Cam Metz’s article a couple days ago in his Eastern Edge column. He wrote about production against expected production from right wingers in the Atlantic division. One guy whose name stood out: Jason Pominville.

In 837 minutes of five-on-five ice time, Pominville posted 2.01 points per 60 minutes. Among the 252 forwards with at least 800 minutes, only 86 forwards managed at least two points per 60 minutes at 5v5. Pominville’s rate was the same as Brayden Schenn and Joe Pavelski. Pominville accomplished this despite playing only about a third of his ice time with Jack Eichel.

Going back three seasons, Pominville’s aggregate points/60 minutes at 5v5 (1.93) is the same as Gustav Nyquist, and higher than other wingers like Pavelski, Alex Radulov, Evander Kane, and Justin Williams.

Now, there is a lot more to hockey than just simply a points rate at five-on-five, but it’s clear that Pominville can still be productive in the NHL in a lesser role, and can do so even in a low-scoring environment. However, he turns 37 in November and it’s a wonder how much he does have left.

I’ll be interested to see where he lands this summer.

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The Selke Trophy finalists were announced Wednesday night:

 

 

I don't have a particular problem with any of the choices. Maybe guys like Crosby, Couturier, and Barkov deserved some recognition but it's not like there's an egregious nomination in there. People may quibble with Bergeron's games played or something. I won't. 

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A couple late goals brought the Leafs within one, but Boston skated out of Toronto with a 6-4 win, evening the series at two games each. David Pastrnak scored two goals less than two minutes apart in the second period, while Auston Matthews would reply with two of his own. Matthews had seven shots on goal and over 21 minutes of ice time in what was probably his best game of the series.

Brad Marchand had a goal and two assists, his second multi-point game of the series. He’s now up to six points in four games.

Charlie McAvoy had a power-play goal and an assist less than seven minutes into the game, his first points of the series.

Here’s a thought I’m starting to come around on: McAvoy should be a guy fantasy owners target this offseason. I suppose a strong playoff performance could change the conversation, but it seems like when discussion about the top young defencemen in the game occurs, McAvoy is often left out. It’s often Dahlin, or Chabot, or Heiskanen, or even Hughes, though he’s less frequent. Cale Makar has now exploded on the scene. It almost seems like McAvoy has been in that conversation so long, going back to the 2017 playoffs when he played 26 minutes a night as a 19-year old, he’s graduated beyond the expectations of a young defenceman. The fact that he’s missed some time also works in favour of muting expectations, even though he’s played over a 40-point/82-game pace for his regular season career. Torey Krug very well may not be around in a year because of an impending cap crunch. The price may be high, as it should be, but maybe not high enough.

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Nashville never got off the ground against Dallas as the Stars took a 4-0 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the first, cruising to a 5-1 win to also even their series at two games apiece. Roope Hintz scored his first two goals of the series, his second multi-goal game of the season, while John Klingberg had three assists to give him five helpers in four games this series.

Pekka Rinne was pulled after the fourth goal.

Not too much to glean from a game that was over with over 45 minutes of game time left.  

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Mike Smith had a stand-out game for the Calgary Flames in Game 4, but Calgary still fell 3-2 in overtime to Colorado, with the Avalanche taking a 3-1 series lead. Smith faced 52 shots total, and made many spectacular saves. I know some fans were worried about Calgary’s goaltending but aside from that Game 3 blowout loss, Smith has been pretty solid in goal. The fault lies with the skaters and that’s not something I think many people, myself included, expected.

Mikko Rantanen scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner. The top guys for Colorado were heavily leaned on as he, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon were all over 27 minutes in ice time while they had three forwards play fewer than 10 minutes, and two with fewer than seven.

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The wounds are still fresh in Tampa Bay but there has been a lot said and a lot more will be said about their sweep. They’ll cover everything from the Lightning choking, to injury issues on the blue line, to guys like Kucherov and Point being pushed off their game. And there are a lot of legitimate reasons why Columbus took the series over the Bolts.

Let’s not lose the sight of two things:

  • Even the most pessimistic models would have had Columbus winning that series roughly once every five chances.
  • Teams usually don’t win a playoff series when they get .856 goaltending.

I think that last point is kind of going overlooked here in the immediate aftermath of Tampa Bay being bounced from the postseason. We can talk about the Columbus forecheck, the lack of scoring from Tampa’s top players, the injuries to either side, whatever. The fact of the matter is that your goaltender saving 86 percent of the shots he faces is unlikely to lead to success.

And bad goaltending happens all the time. Andrei Vasilevskiy is going to be in the mix for the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender of the regular season and he had a couple poor four-game stretches in the regular season. For example, from March 23 – April 1, he posted an .843 in four games. There was a run of four games from December 18 – 29 where he posted an .891. Stretches like this happen, it just happened to be at the worst time possible. If you want to know how important having, at the least, solid goaltending is in the playoffs, just look at the San Jose-Vegas series.

Hopefully there isn’t a knee-jerk reaction from Tampa. This is a very good roster from top to bottom and most of their core is locked up. Hockey is random, teams just need to give themselves as many kicks at the can as they can possibly manage.

On the flipside, I was very pessimistic for the Jackets even after the trade deadline, but their play since has proven themselves true contenders. It’s nice to see a general manager be rewarded for taking a tremendous risk even if I thought the risk was foolish at the time. I’ll take the ‘L’ here and say congrats to the Jackets and their fans. They’re going to be a handful for any team to try to expel from the postseason.

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Speaking of the Columbus deadline acquisitions, Matt Duchene had a fantastic series with seven points in four games. Aside from the seven points, he led the team in adjusted shot share at five-on-five and Columbus outscored Tampa Bay 4-1 when he was on the ice at five-on-five. He didn’t do a whole lot in the regular season post-deadline but his play in the first round made his acquisition completely worth it. What a marvelous series.

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I don’t understand the slander the Penguins are catching. We knew the Islanders were a very good defensive team that had arguably the best goaltending tandem in the NHL this year. Pittsburgh hasn’t missed the playoffs in 13 seasons and have three Stanley Cups in the last decade. They can’t win every year, you know? Maybe the fact that it’s a sweep caught some of us by surprise, but does it really matter if your team gets bounced in the first round in six games rather than four? 

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On the topic of Matt Duchene pulling through, how about Max Pacioretty and Jordan Eberle? Remember when those two were players a franchise couldn’t rely upon for big performances? Pacioretty has 10 points in four games with the Sharks on the verge of elimination while Eberle had four goals and six points in the four-game sweep of the Penguins.

Their respective performances are just a reminder to casual hockey fans that they’re very good players.

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On the topic of the Islanders: is there anyone on that team more unheralded than Devon Toews? He may be playing on the bottom pair but he’s been very good on that bottom pair in the playoffs, sporting a shot share 7.7 percent above the team average, the Islanders outscored the Penguins 3-1 with him on the ice, and he even registered two power play points in the series.

Looking ahead to next season, it’s hard to see a big jump fantasy-wise. They may lose Eberle to free agency and there’s no guarantee that the young prospects like Oliver Wahlstrom or Kieffer Bellows are going to be reliable scorers in 2019-20. Expecting the Islanders to be higher scoring next year than this past season may not be reasonable. At least, not yet. We’ll see what happens to the roster in the summer.  

It’s an interesting situation because Toews has seen some time over the last month or so running the top PP unit. Ultimately, I think that spot belongs to Ryan Pulock in 2019-20 but at the least, the coaching staff sees Toews as a challenger to that spot. Maybe we see a Will Butcher-type season where Toews only plays 18 minutes a night or whatever, but because of the heavy top PP exposure, he can push 40 points.

All the same, it was an impressive rookie season, albeit shortened to fewer than 50 games, and he’s looked as impressive in the playoffs. Having him develop into a top-4 defenceman – and he may be one already – would be a huge boost to this franchise and a winning lottery ticket for dynasty fantasy owners.

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In the fallout of the Tampa series, one player I’m very interested in fantasy-wise, outside of their top stars obviously, is Anthony Cirelli.

It was a stellar season for Cirelli with 19 goals and 39 points, with only one power play point mixed in. I think that’s important to point out: 39 points might not seem like a great total, but he also had just 24 minutes of PP time over the course of the regular season. When looking at his primary points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, he fared better than some players who were often in the top-6 like J.T. Miller and Ondrej Palat.

This Tampa team will look a bit different next season. There is a cap crunch coming with Kucherov’s extension kicking in and Brayden Point due to be re-signed. With all the no-trade clauses on the team, by process of elimination, it seems likely that Miller is traded. Cirelli also centred Steven Stamkos in Game 4. The coaching staff clearly thinks a lot of Cirelli.

I’m still skeptical, of course. Some of the micro-stats like zone entries and exits weren’t great, but his defensive numbers were excellent. In an ideal world, I think Tampa wants to run Point-Stamkos-Cirelli down the middle but this isn’t always an ideal world. I’ll be fascinated to see where Cirelli slots when the exhibition season rolls around.