Ramblings: Clutch Couture, More Trophy Talk (May 1)

by Ian Gooding on May 1, 2019


Even though the San Jose Sharks are up 2-1 in their second-round series, I haven’t been blown away by the way they’ve played so far in these playoffs. Goaltending aside, the Sharks are as deep a team on paper as just about anyone. However, I watched enough of their first-round series to believe that Vegas looked like the stronger team. The Sharks managed to outshoot the Avalanche 31-27 in Game 3, but Colorado is the kind of team that comes at you in waves, particularly the Nathan MacKinnon line. That same power play that handed the Golden Knights the worst five minutes of their short franchise history went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, which is maybe part of the reason they could have looked better in Game 3.

Logan Couture, though, man… he’s carrying the Sharks right now. Stats-wise I know he’s not the only one, but right now he has that mojo, or swagger, or whatever you want to call it that can push this team to victory. Couture’s hat trick in Game 3 gives him a league-leading nine playoff goals. That’s only one shy of his career high of ten playoff goals, which he scored during the 2016 playoffs when the Sharks made it to the final. This might be peak Couture, but the fact is that he’s been clutch for years. Hopefully you were on to that when making your playoff pool picks.
 


Here's Couture's second goal, which turned out to be the game-winner. He scored it barely a minute after the Avalanche tied the game in the third period. How many posts does this hit before it goes in?
 


Lost in the Couture magic was Timo Meier also recording a three-point game. Meier, who seems to make you hold your breath every time he’s about to release his potent shot, has points in five of his last six games.

Getting Joe Pavelski back at some point in the series would really benefit the Sharks. However, I can’t help but think that they have an even higher gear given the amount of talent on that roster.

Matt Nieto continues to provide much-needed secondary scoring for the Avalanche. Ex-Shark Nieto scored again in Game 3, giving him four goals and six points in eight playoff games. A nice deep sleeper in those playoff pools where you’re picking right down to the black aces.

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I don’t know if the numbers will back this, but I have a theory in which teams that win lengthy overtime games (double overtime or longer) tend to win that series. Maybe because the losing team is deflated after a grueling ordeal with nothing to show for their effort. If this is true, then the Columbus Blue Jackets are well on their way to knocking off a second division opponent with a better regular-season record.

Fresh off a double-overtime victory in Game 2, the Jackets were able to edge the Bruins 2-1 in Game 3. Sergei Bobrovsky was the number one cop on the force in Game 3, stopping 36 of 37 shots. Bob had never been an overly strong playoff performer prior to this season, yet he has now posted a 6-0-1 record with a 1.88 GAA and .937 SV% during these playoffs. He stands to earn a truckload of cash this offseason.

By the way, if the Jackets win the Stanley Cup, could they become the NHL’s version of the Florida Marlins? Not to the extent of what the Marlins did when they won the World Series one season and promptly gutted their roster, but the Blue Jackets won’t be the same team. We know they have gone “all in.” To believe they could knock off the Lightning, perhaps even the Bruins, and more teams takes no shortage of confidence and a “nothing to lose” mindset. The Jackets won’t go complete fire sale this offseason, but we don’t know how they will look next season with potentially an altered core.

If you somehow play in a multicat playoff pool, Boone Jenner had the kind of game that you’d appreciate. Jenner scored the goal shown below while adding five shots, three hits, and three blocked shots. Torts was probably happiest about the three blocked shots.
 


This is nothing new for Brad Marchand. He won’t get suspended here, but he might want to be careful about doing anything at least borderline in this series, given his repeat offender status.  
 


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I didn't realize teams still in the playoffs could make trades, but I guess it's possible for an unsigned player. The Hurricanes traded prospect defenseman Adam Fox to the Rangers for a 2019 second-round pick and 2020 conditional third-round pick. Fox subsequently signed an entry-level deal with the Rangers.

It seems like New York is where Fox wanted to play all along after declining to sign with both Calgary and Carolina. The Rangers seem to be that destination team for unsigned college free agents with Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and now Fox inked over the last five years. New York is a big city, and there's opportunity for a young player to play for a team in a rebuild. Fox's addition could cut into the fantasy value of Kevin Shattenkirk, Tony DeAngelo, and Neal Pionk, assuming he can contribute at the NHL level.

Mike Clifford has a Fantasy Take on the Fox trade.

The Rangers might be far from done, according to Elliotte Friedman in his 31 Thoughts (scroll down to #17 specifically).

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I’m following up with my Calder Trophy argument, specifically with the Jordan Binnington debate. I knew that not everyone would agree with my take in last Sunday’s Ramblings, and that’s fine. I can certainly acknowledge the mountains of data that proves that Binnington’s season is historical when compared to other rookie goalies who have played the same number of games. As well, the timing of his callup and the hiring of new coach Craig Berube seemed to be the two driving forces behind the Blues’ turnaround from potential draft lottery winner to competing for a Stanley Cup. No other 2018-19 rookie can claim that feat.

I’m going to list another precedent, though. Specifically, the minimum number of games that Calder Trophy goalies have played. Since the Calder Trophy was first awarded in 1936-37, 15 goalies have won the rookie of the year award. Of those goalies, the one to win it in the fewest games was Tom Barrasso, who won the award in 1983-84 while playing 42 games.

Goalies can’t play every game, but playing in at least half of a team’s games seems to be a worthwhile minimum standard as far as a goalie’s eligibility for the Calder (or the Vezina or Hart, for that matter). New precedents can be set, but I think there’s enough data here to show that there aren’t enough games for Binnington to win the award relative to other rookie seasons, no matter how dominant those games happened to be.

Look, I don’t mean to keep raining on Binnington. He’s had an impressive run. He might even arguably be the league’s most valuable player from January onward. Even the age thing (25) doesn’t matter to me that much. However, do we know that he could have sustained those numbers over a full season? We don’t know that, even with as much predictive data as we have at our disposal. It wouldn’t be fair to the likes of Pettersson, Dahlin, Heiskanen, and other rookies who have experienced the grind of a full NHL season and teams acquiring better scouting reports over time to match up against these players.  

I’ll end this by asking the pro-Binnington crowd: If you believe that Binnington has played enough games, how many games should the minimum number be?

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Time for another league award debate – this one for the Hart Trophy. As you're likely aware, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid, and Sidney Crosby are the three finalists for the Hart Trophy. With zero playoff wins between them this season, it's a good thing for their sake that this is a regular-season award.

For some reason, the "McDavid shouldn't be nominated for the Hart because his team isn't in the playoffs" argument hasn't been as loud this season. I could easily see McDavid piling up another 100-point season while the Oilers miss the playoffs again next season (really, who do you think would fall out of the playoffs in the West for the Oilers to make it?) I know that the Oilers couldn't have fallen much farther in the standings without McDavid given where they were, but do we not reward truly outstanding seasons anymore? It's not McDavid's fault that Oilers' management is incapable of building a contender around him. One player can only do so much.

The funny thing is that there's now the opposite argument for Kucherov in that the Lightning had such a huge lead in the overall standings that they still could have finished first overall without him. Again, the situation that the player is in is not the player's fault. Maybe it's the presence of advanced stats, but sometimes we get to the point where we're overthinking (some of you who have asked me for fantasy advice will know I use this word from time to time). With the kind of season that Kucherov had, I don't know how you don't hand him the Hart.

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.