A nine-game slate for a Sunday is a pleasant surprise from the NHL given their inability to properly schedule almost anything. Here’s where you need to know.
Jack Eichel was announced as “out indefinitely” by the team due to a high-ankle sprain. On the bright side, if there is one, is that it’s not the ankle that kept him out for two months last year. There are eight weeks left in the campaign, and I don’t see much point bring back your franchise centre from such an injury to see if he can push your team from 28th place to 26th over the final 10 days of the season. Phil Housley had this to say:
Housley says there’s a possibility Eichel returns sooner than not. Early timeline is 4-6 weeks #Sabres
— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) February 11, 2018
Fantasy-wise, this is brutal for fantasy owners. Eichel had 21 points in his last 19 games, 53 points on the year, was going to push for 20 power-play points, and was going to soar past 250 shots on goal. You can’t replace that on the waiver wire.
For those that don’t own him in keeper leagues, now is the time to buy if the person who does own him is in the hunt for first place. If that person doesn’t want to move him, so be it, but they should be motivated to do so. Dobber has him as a top-10 keeper skater in his most recent rankings update and I concur. Even if it’s 90 cents on the dollar, now is the best time to go trade for him.
By the way, in Sunday’s game, Evan Rodrigues assumed second-line centre duties with Evander Kane jumping to the top power play. Kane should stay there, Rodrigues I’m much less certain about. It was a game they lose 5-4 to Colorado, a team without their top scorer as well.
Tyson Jost scored a power-play goal here and played 18:43, including over 5:30 of power-play time. He has eight points in 16 games since the calendar turned to 2018 and has averaged over 18 minutes a game over his last four. Hopefully he’s starting to live up to his top-10 pick billing.
The Rangers will be heavily relying on Henrik Lundqvist for the next few weeks:
OFFICIAL: Ondrej Pavelec will be sidelined for 2-3 weeks with a sprained MCL. #NYR
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 11, 2018
Not that it changes much one way or the other for the Rangers but at least Lundqvist owners are guaranteed a lot of starts in the near-term. It could be a decent run despite how bad the team is defensively as the team’s next 10 games include the Islanders, Senators, Flyers, Canadiens, Red Wings, Canucks, and Oilers. There are a lot of winnable games in there, even if they are on the road for most of them.
Otto Somppi, a seventh-round pick of the Lightning in 2016, scored a pretty sick lacrosse-style goal for Halifax:
— Halifax Mooseheads (@HFXMooseheads) February 11, 2018
No particular reason for including it in these Ramblings other than how slick it was.
Sidney Crosby tallied goals 400 and 401 of his career in Pittsburgh’s 4-1 win over St. Louis Sunday afternoon. He had gone 10 games without a goal so he’s been waiting on this for a while, but all the same, congrats to The Kid on finally achieving this mark. Can we still call him The Kid?
Matt Murray stopped 33 of 34 for the win. After a brutal start to the year, he’s managed a .918 save percentage since the calendar turned 2018. With the family issues he’s had off the ice, it’s miraculous he’s playing as well as he is. Kudos to the young man who is performing admirably in an unspeakably difficult time of his life.
Winnipeg looked poised for a win on Sunday afternoon, boasting a mostly-healthy roster and the limping Rangers in town. Of course, as hockey wont to do, things did not go according to plan. Nikolaj Ehlers scored about a minute into the game but that was all the Jets would get on Lundqvist as New York took the game 3-1.
Michael Grabner salted the game away with an empty-netter, his 23rd goal of the year, tying him with Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn in this regard. Mats Zuccarello and Jimmy Vesey had the others. Lundqvist allowed just the one goal on 38 shots. That was the 17th time this season Lundqvist faced at least 35 shots, one fewer than Jaroslav Halak, and four behind Frederik Andersen (via Hockey Reference).
By the way, this was the second time in six games since Jacob Trouba was injured that Dustin Byfuglien had five shots on goal. He also played over 25 minutes for the fourth time in that span. Over his first 38 games of the season, he had just four games of 5+ shots and eight games of 25+ minutes.
Detroit blew a 4-1 third-period lead but managed to defeat the Caps 5-4 in Sunday’s matchup. Tomas Tatar had two goals for the Wings, including the overtime game-winner. Both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had power-play tallies for the Caps.
Honestly, this game was pretty sloppy. Sometimes that happens with weekend afternoon games, but it just seemed like turnover after turnover.
Andre Burakovsky dressed this one and was slotted on the third line but played just 13:02. He looked fine and had a couple chances in overtime to win it. I’m not sure what to make of the Caps wingers right now. I know there’s talk that some are playing through injures, but if Evgeny Kuznetsov isn’t on the ice, the team looks really slow at times. I did not expect that from this roster.
Vancouver absolutely laid waste to Dallas, in Dallas, to the tune of a 6-0 score. This wasn’t a fluke game, either, as the Canucks out-shot the Stars 33-17 through two periods. It was very reminiscent of that game Arizona had a few weeks back in St. Louis.
Jakob Markstrom stopped all 30 shots for the shutout.
Reid Boucher – a favourite around these parts – scored a pair of goals for the Canucks, his first goals of the campaign. He had seven shots on goal total and played 15:33 with some secondary power-play minutes. I wouldn’t run to the wire to grab him now, but there are some who think he holds goal-scoring promise. Keep an eye on his usage for the next few games.
Calgary scored late to sneak away from Brooklyn with a 3-2 win, two of their goals, including the game-winner coming off the stick of Matthew Tkachuk.
The big story is Mike Smith, though. With just a few seconds left in the game, Smith stretched on a wide angle shot from John Tavares and immediately keeled over grabbing his groin. He had to be helped off the ice, not being able to put any weight on his left leg. We obviously don’t have an update right now so maybe it’s just a minor pull. When we know more, you’ll know more. For now, if you have room, and especially if you're a Smith owner, grab David Rittich off the wire.
Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist in New Jersey’s 5-3 loss. That gives him more goals than last year (21) and is well above a point-per-game (56 in 50).
Torey Krug had two tallies in that contest, giving him 10 on the season. His third time in five years with double-digit goals, and this time he did it in 50 games. Not bad. Remember when he couldn’t score a couple years back? Memories…
The Flyers did what few teams do: go into Vegas and win. Valentine’s Day is on Wednesday and that was just the fourth regulation home less for the Golden Knights.
Ondrej Kase scored his 15th goal of the year for the Ducks. He’s shooting over 16 percent, but he’s budding into what a few people hoped he might be: good depth scoring for a good team.
It’s probably getting close to trade deadline time for many of you out there which means some are looking to bolster for the final third while others are bolstering for next year. Some may remember my Ramblings from a while ago where I looked at year-over-year changes in shot rates and expected goals from forwards. I thought it’d be worth going through some players whose shot attempt rates (iCF/60 minutes) have declined as the season as gone on. It’s a good chance to identify players not only to avoid acquiring, but to also sell high on for those fantasy owners with these players on their roster.
These are for forwards with 300 five-on-five minutes played before Christmas and 200 five-on-five minutes played after Christmas. I’ll just pick out a few that stand out.
All data from Natural Stattrick.
Pre-Christmas: 14.73 iCF/60
Post-Christmas: 7.83 iCF/60
Change: -6.90 iCF/60
This is a weird one because Couturier has 21 points in 19 games since the holiday break. But I do wonder how many people realize one thing about that: he’s shooting 23.9 percent overall in that span, and over 14 percent at five-on-five. I shouldn’t need to explain how unsustainable both those numbers are.
The conundrum is the power play. He’s a fixture of a heavily-used, and widely successful, top PP unit. That makes this decision a little tougher. Couturier has basically stopped shooting at five-on-five, and once that shooting percentage comes down, so will his goals. But how much will it affect his production given his role with the man advantage?
I think it’s still worth exploring trading him away. A player with the production of Couturier this year should bring back someone else with similar production rates but may not be overheating their percentages.
Pre-Christmas: 19.36 iCF/60
Post-Christmas: 14.20 iCF/60
Change: -5.16 iCF/60
It has been a pretty steep decline for Anderson. Despite an extra 1:44 of ice time per game between the two splits, Anderson’s shot rate has declined both on a per-minute basis at five-on-five, and on a per-game basis (3.26 to 2.72). A per-game decline of 17 percent despite that much more ice time (over a minute of which came at 5v5) is a huge problem.
One factor has been usage, of course. The line of Panarin-Dubois-Anderson was really good and then coach John Tortorella broke them up. He’s played a fair amount with Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner of late and that’s not where you want him to be if you want offensive production.
In one-year leagues, now might be the time to trade him. If he’s going to be stuck with Dubinsky/Jenner, and only getting secondary power-play minutes, it won’t be long until he’s waiver-wire fodder. It’s sad to say, but there aren’t many players on a team’s bottom-six that are worth hanging onto in 12-team leagues.
Pre-Christmas: 16.97 iCF/60
Post-Christmas: 12.39 iCF/60
Change: -4.58 iCF/60
Over his past 11 games, Staal has 13 points but just two shots on goal per game. That is what makes this decline a little problematic. It’s hard to rely on a player who is shooting over 22 percent. On the flipside, the return of Nino Niederreiter to his line should only help sustain his production to some level. Those two have great chemistry together.
Staal has 50 points in 55 games this season. That’s a higher point total than Sean Monahan, though I doubt Staal fantasy owners will get anything close to the return you’d get for Calgary’s centre. The final note here is that Staal’s ice time has gone down nearly a minute since the holiday break as well.
Fantasy owners have a decision to make. Does Staal maintain solid production now that his top winger has returned to his line, or does his shooting percentage being so high, and shot rates declining, indicate a player who should be moved? I would lean to moving, but it always depends on the return. Don’t just give him away.
Something I wanted to mention about the decline of shot rates among forwards is that given what’s going on across the league, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that some of these rates shrinking:
looking through pre/post x-mas stuff, and league-wide CF/60 is down (58.91 to 58.41) but league-wide iCF/60 among d-men is up (10.41 to 10.45)
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) February 11, 2018
I don’t know how meaningful it is, but since Christmas, defencemen across the league are taking a larger share of the shots than they were before Christmas. It could be a small sample, it could be coaching adjustments, it’s likely a combination of a lot of things. I just thought it would be worth pointing out that even though shot rates among some forwards is declining, it’s not completely attributable to the forward being less involved offensively.
At some point, likely in the summer, I’m going to go back through the years and check year-over-year change for defencemen involvement and whether it changes after the mid-point of the season. Somebody remind me in case I forget.
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