Ramblings: Early team reviews; injury updates; Gustav Nyquist – October 17

by Michael Clifford on October 17, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Early team reviews; injury updates; Gustav Nyquist – October 17

 

One of the fun things about following sports is the conversations with other fans. Whether it’s comparing stars, teams, prospects, whatever, the conversations are what keep it fun.

For years, we’ve been wondering when someone would come along to take the mantle from Sidney Crosby. It looks like that the mantle belongs to Connor McDavid now, but once in a while, Crosby reminds us that he’s one of the best players on the planet to this day:

 

 

Just an incredible goal.

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There was an interesting thread from the twins at Evolving Wild, a popular stats website, referring to problems with the NHL’s data:

 

 

This is a significant issue. Expected goals models rely on proximity to the net for their calculations and if shot locations are off by several feet, or even a few, then that throws off everything and renders the calculations unreliable. For now, those that look at advanced stats should stick to corsi or fenwick.  

I know the NHL won’t be strictly responsible for the player tracking rollout – that’s on the shoulders of a German company – but stuff like this is what makes me think that the player tracking will be a complete disaster. The NHL hasn’t been able to post reliable stats on their website going back at least a few years (part of that is on SAP) and now this shot location debacle. If the NHL can’t accurately and consistently answer simple questions like, “Where did this puck come from?” and, “How many shots were there?” then how in the world can we possibly rely on them to accurately and consistently post the correct player tracking information?

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Just wanted to recognize the passing of former NHLer Danny Grant. He was from my hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick and played in the 60s and 70s, mostly with Minnesota and Detroit. He had a 50-goal season with the Wings and won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1969. He continued to influence local hockey players all the way to the end and by all accounts was a true gentleman (I only had chance to meet him once when I was much younger). Best wishes to the Grant family.

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Sonny Milano won’t reach the highs some thought possible when he was a prospect all those years ago, but this goal from Wednesday night was a good reminder of why he was so highly thought of in the first place:

 

 

Columbus won that game 3-2 and it was another good game from the top line. They combined on the first goal and Pierre-Luc Dubois led the team in adjusted shot share while playing 19 minutes. He also rang one off the cross bar on the power play, which hopefully reminds Torts to never, ever leave PLD off the power play again.

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Washington had some new lines for their home game against the Leafs on Wednesday, as T.J. Oshie joined his old line mates in Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. That pushed Tom Wilson down to the second line. They also moved Jakub Vrana down to the third line and moved up Carl Hagelin to play with Kuznetsov.

My galaxy brain-level take on this is that with Toronto coming to town, they wanted to balance the defensive-minded players across the lines. That’s basically why we see Oshie, Hagelin, and Eller on different trios. The reason is because the Leafs have two equally lethal lines and if there’s even one that’s a defensive liability, they could get roasted.

On the flipside, the team had lost four of five games heading into Wednesday, so maybe the coach just thought it was time for a change. If that's what it was, it worked as the team won 4-3 at home against Toronto. The newly-demoted Vrana scored and had six shots in 13 minutes of ice time. (He's way too good for this team to keep minimizing his minutes like this.) Carlson had a goal and two assists, giving him 14 points on the year, and the league lead in that regard. That is until McDavid hit the ice, and I will be updating the late games in the morning. 

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Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continued their torrid pace to start the season, but turned it up a notch. McDavid had a goal and four assists while Draisaitl had two goals and an assist in Edmonton’s 6-3 home win over the Flyers. That gives McDavid 17 points in seven games, which is absolutely insane, even for McDavid. Remember: he’s just hitting his prime now.

Lost in the offensive outburst was Mikko Koskinen making 49 saves in the win. It was very reminiscent of Ben Scrivens having that 50-some save win in a game where Edmonton was absolutely shelled.

Here’s something to note: Ethan Bear (who scored) was second among their blue liners in even-strength ice time, behind only Darnell Nurse. Hmmm.

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Speaking of torrid paces to start the year, 31 saves on 33 shots gave John Gibson his fourth win of the year to go with a sparkling .941 save percentage. The Ducks are off to a nice start this season but let’s see how good this team really is when the team’s five-on-five save percentage isn’t approaching .960 (not a typo).

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Evander Kane’s first-period hat trick was enough for San Jose skate out of the Shark Tank with a 5-2 win over Carolina. Like Edmonton, it was a game where the home team was mostly outplayed but stellar goaltending – Martin Jones saved 36 of 38 – made the difference.

Fun fact: every single Carolina forward played between 10-14 minutes at even strength in this one.

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It took a couple games to get Gustav Nyquist to the top line in Columbus, but that line has been dynamite since being put together, generating over 64 adjusted shot attempts per 60 minutes and controlling more than 54 percent of the shot share.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Nyquist is perhaps one of the more underappreciated players of this decade: he’s been able to drive offence better than his teammates in every season he’s played, he’s been a plus-shot share player in five of the last six seasons, and he’s been good with things like zone entries and exits with possession. But it’s not necessarily just the stats that stick out. Just watching him with the puck, he can do things very few players can in terms of giving himself space to make a play.

I just hope Torts sticks with this line. They all bring unique elements and when put together, they make for a fun trio.

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It kind of hit me a few days ago that the Capitals could very well see rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov take the lion’s share of the starts this year of Braden Holtby doesn’t figure it out. This is kind of like the situation with Pittsburgh a couple years ago. Remember when Matt Murray took over the net and everyone kind of accepted it because it was understood that Marc-André Fleury was going to Vegas in the expansion draft? Well with Braden Holtby at 30 years old and his contract running out at the end of this season, we could very easily see the same situation here, to a degree.

Todd Reirden said that Braden Holtby is still the team’s number-1 starter, but it sure feels a lot like the general manager giving the coach a vote of confidence. Often, it’s a kiss of death.

What’s being healthy but getting Wally Pipp’d by your backup called? Pauly Wipp’d?

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While on the topic of sports references to guys getting replaced in the lineup 95 years ago, Nico Hischier was injured in New Jersey’s last game and did not return. At practice on Wednesday, Jack Hughes was on the top line between Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri.

There was no further update on Hischier other than he’ll miss tonight’s game but we’ll pass one along when we get one.

As Cam mentioned in his Ramblings yesterday, it’s been a tough start to the year for Hughes the Younger. He’ll have no better opportunity than this to find his game and start producing for his team and fantasy owners.

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Filip Forsberg is considered day-to-day and may not play for Nashville tonight. He left their last game halfway through the third period. At the least, it’s a good sign that it’s not some sort of long-term injury and that at worst he’ll miss a game or two.

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There’s a chance that Robert Thomas makes his season debut with the Blues today. Keep an eye on lineup information for confirmation on that.

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Joakin Nygard is going to be out 2-4 weeks for the Oilers, and they moved Alex Chiasson to the second line.

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Brett Howden is the latest centre to skate between Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko for the Rangers. That has moved Ryan Strome down the lineup to the point that any potential for fantasy value he had is gone. Where before there was a glimmer of hope, now there is nothing but blinding darkness.

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Corey Perry was in the lineup for Dallas on Wednesday night, skating on the second line with Mattias Janmark and Roope Hintz, as well as the second PP unit. It was his first game in a Stars uniform as he was injured in training camp. This pushed Joe Pavelski to the third line.

I don’t think we can get too hung up on where guys from Dallas are slotting on any given night. Beyond “Tyler Seguin is the team’s number-1 centre,” there really isn’t a whole lot that stays constant on this team night after night among their forward group. Turning the lineup blender to ‘liquify’ night in and night out isn’t good for fantasy value for almost anyone.

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Most people expected the East to be stronger than the West this year, given the talent exodus from San Jose and Winnipeg. It didn’t leave much for heavyweights in the Western Conference outside of Vegas and maybe Nashville. Most people probably wouldn’t have expected this however: through two weeks, of the top-10 teams by adjusted shot share, eight are from the East and the only two Western teams are Arizona and Los Angeles. (This was all as of Wednesday afternoon.)

Obviously, six or seven games isn’t enough to judge 31 teams for the next 75 games, but it probably shows how much harder it’s going to be for elite teams in the East to get to the Cup Final. Being Toronto and having to go through, say, Boston, then Tampa, then Carolina, as opposed to being Vegas and having to go through, say, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Nashville.

Just as a small aside: I’ve been impressed with Arizona this year. Yes, the sample is still small, but their schedule so far has been: atANA, vs BOS, vs VGK, atCOL, atWPG. We can say what we want about Anaheim or Winnipeg, but those were both road matchups, and neither team is in the bottom-10 of the league in shot share. That Arizona performed so well in that stretch of games bodes well for the rest of the year.