Ramblings: Demko’s cage; Philly’s second line; Hjalmarsson and Hischier injured; recaps – October 15

by Michael Clifford on October 15, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Demko’s cage; Philly’s second line; Hjalmarsson and Hischier injured; recaps – October 15

 

Jacob Markstrom was granted a leave of absence by the team in order to attend to a family matter. Best wishes to Markstrom and his family He is expected to rejoin the team later this week.

The Canucks have four games this week including a back-to-back this weekend. Now, if Markstrom does rejoin the team this weekend, he should take one of those games, but it does seem like this should be a three-game week for Thatcher Demko. They are at home to Detroit tonight before heading on the road for games in St. Louis, New Jersey, and New York to face the Rangers.

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Oliver Wahlstrom was called up by the Islanders for the afternoon game on Monday, with Casey Cizikas injured and Jordan Eberle considered day-to-day. In a small little dig at Josh Ho-Sang, the team gave Ho-Sang’s number-26 to Wahlstrom. I know, Ho-Sang isn’t on the team and is likely just awaiting a trade, but the message is clear here. Lou being Lou.

I only caught a few of Wahlstrom’s shifts but he certainly looked like a guy who was ready offensively for the NHL. Hopefully they leave him up there.

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David Pastrnak went supernova in Boston’s 4-2 home win over Anaheim on Monday afternoon. He scored all four goals for Boston, giving him six goals, eight points, and 21 shots in six games thus far in the regular season. He seems just fine!

Though not as important as Pastrnak’s four goals, Brad Marchand trolling this hard in-game is always fun to see:

 

 

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Nico Hischier left New Jersey’s game on Monday afternoon in the first period and he did not return. Travis Zajac and Jack Hughes spent some time skating with Taylor Hall in the minutes without Hischier, but I imagine we’ll get a more definitive answer on Hischier’s injury and everyone else’s role either today or tomorrow.

New Jersey had an absolute meltdown in that game at home to Florida. They were up 4-1 near the 10-minute mark of the second period and allowed five straight goals, including a pair by Brett Connolly, to give up the lead for good. Losing Hischier would hurt but no team should give up a three-goal lead with less than half the game to go. It’s just another bad game in a line of bad games this team has had to start the year. I think there’s a good team here somewhere, but it may take some time, or a coaching change, for them to really find their groove.

Evgenii Dadonov had a goal and an assist for the Panthers, his third consecutive game with a goal and an assist, and fourth straight game with a goal.

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Thought not a New Jersey-level meltdown, the St. Louis Blues let a 2-0 lead with six minutes remaining end up as an overtime loss. Brock Nelson scored off a turnover and then with the goalie pulled, Anders Lee tied up the game with a minute left. Devon Toews won it in overtime. That makes four points in six games for Toews, by the way.

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I had a couple people asking me about Nazem Kadri over the last few days and I hope they took my advice and refrained from dropping him because he posted a three-point game (1+2) in Colorado’s 6-3 road win against Washington. It was his first multi-point effort of the season and his first three-point game since January. He now has four points, 11 shots, and six hits in five games. Everyone has calmed down a bit now, yeah?

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Mats Zuccarello will be out for Minnesota’s road trip, according to the team. They have three games this week on the road against the three Canadian Eastern Conference teams before returning home at the end of the week for a home matchup with the Habs. Ryan Hartman started the team’s game on Monday against Ottawa on a line with Eric Staal and Kevin Fiala, but let’s be honest, if any of the team’s line combinations aren’t doing well, they’ll be changed, likely in the same game.

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The Leafs have sent down rookie defenceman Rasmus Sandin. He had seen his role really minimized and it seems the plan here is to delay his ELC another year and have him be a full-time member next season when they have to potentially replace several pieces on the blue line. In fact, there’s not a single defenceman on the current roster with a contract past this season, so it’s really just a matter of time for Sandin. This doesn’t affect his long-term outlook in any way.

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Carter Hutton had a 25-save shutout on Monday afternoon in Buffalo’s home game against Dallas. He wasn’t overly tested in this game as Dallas looked mostly interested in leaving ASAP but it was his first shutout since February of 2018 so it must be nice for him to get that monkey off his back.

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Arizona will be without defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson for a few months as he has a fractured fibula. He is expected back after Christmas, but it seems this blue line just can’t stay healthy. Over the last couple years, it’s been Hjalmarsson, or Chychrun, or Demers, or on and on the list goes. It’s a team that just got Antti Raanta back in net, too.

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There was an interesting article from Dom Luszczysyzn (sp?) from The Athletic basically talking about what consists of “too early” when looking at team performance. The interesting takeaway is that a team performing at 60 percent expected goal share through five games should be expected to be at least a 50 percent expected goal share team in the long-term, and likely over 54 percent, which is elite. Now, it’s not just the first five games of the year, it’s any team putting up any five-game stretch throughout the year of 60 percent expected goal share.

As of right now, the only team with at least five games played and an expected goal share over 60 percent at five on five is Carolina. Philadelphia is also over 60 percent but they’ve played just three games. A big surprise: Los Angeles is over 55 percent expected goal share through five games.

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I want to talk about an early line combination and the trio is that of Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier, and Travis Konecny.

Philadelphia has had a weird year because they started in Europe so even though we’re nearly two weeks into the season, the team has played just three games. And, of course, nothing definitive can be gleaned from three games. But there are some interesting stats to come out of it.

Here’s one: according to data tracked by Corey Sznajder (you can subscribe to his Patreon here), Lindblom leads Flyers with 10 primary shot assists (those are passes leading immediately to shots). That’s a lot. To put it into perspective, at this point of the season, that’s as many as Leon Draisaitl and more than Mitch Marner. What’s even more is that Travis Konecny is second on the team in primary shot assists with nine. Given what they did last year, that’s something we’d expect from Konecny and not necessarily Lindblom:

 

That all leaves out the fact that Couturier is an elite two-way centre in the vein of Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar. Is Lindblom’s early performance a result of his line mates or has he taken another step in his progression as an NHLer? It’s far too early to tell.

Regardless of who is responsible for what, this has been one of the best lines in the league early on in the season, and if they can maintain this level of play, it gives Philadelphia a legitimately scary top-6. Depending how their power-play minutes break, Lindblom could have significant fantasy value very shortly.

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To expand on the point about Los Angeles a little earlier, one guy having a very good start to his season is Alex Iafallo. If we look at the leaderboard for individual expected goals at five on five, Iafallo is in the top-10, stuck between Leon Draisaitl and Mark Stone. If we look at the names ahead of him it’s a distinguished list of scorers like Karlsson, Monahan, and Gallagher, among others.

Iafallo is basically going into his third year playing on the top line for the Kings alongside Anze Kopitar and he had 24 goals and 58 points in 157 games going into this year. That he – and Los Angeles in general – are off to such a strong start is a very good sign for his future. There is still much work to do here but if this franchise is going to wring one final playoff run from the aging core, guys like Iafallo need to keep this up for another, say, eight months.

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While we’re talking about Karlsson – William Karlsson in this instance – it should be noted that he’s at the top of the leaderboard for individual expected goals. As part of Vegas’s great start, we’ve heard a lot about Fleury, or Stone, or Pacioretty, but that top line has been elite. In fact, to this point, their expected goal share is over 75 percent, which is just absurd for almost any sample size. Karlsson even has six points in five games so far, it’s just that all those points are assists. He hasn’t scored yet but judging by his expected goal metrics and shot volume, expect him to explode in the goals department sooner rather than later.