Ramblings: Elliott Returns, Nothing From Nash (Mar. 20)

by Ian Gooding on March 20, 2016

Elliott returns with shutout, nothing from Nash, Senator shorties, plus more…

The Rangers allowed the Sharks to take 52 shots on goal on Saturday. I didn’t watch this game, but I watched the Rangers’ last game against the Kings, where the 37-26 shot total in favor of the Kings didn’t do justice as to how much the Kings carried the play. Yet somehow, the Rangers were able to lead for most of the game before losing in overtime. Simply put, the Rangers appear to have been outplayed these last two games.

Henrik Lundqvist was mercifully pulled after allowing four goals on 43 shots. Do the math and that’s a respectable .915 save percentage in this game, which might be one of the highest ever for a goalie getting pulled. Surely he needed a rest, although this game wasn’t a back-to-back for the Rangers.

Joel Ward scored two goals to give him 19 on the year. Ward has reached that total in each of the last three seasons, so he’s proven to be a nice under-the-radar free agent pickup for both the Capitals and the Sharks. Expectations have never been high throughout his NHL career, so we can’t say his NHL career has been disappointing.

Tomas Hertl assisted in three of the Sharks’ four goals. A few weeks ago, I acquired Hertl in a trade for Eric Staal. Let’s see how I’ve fared since the deal was completed on March 5, nearly a week after the NHL’s trade deadline:

Hertl: 8 games, 1 goal, 5 assists

Staal: 7 games, 1 goal, 2 assists

So today’s three assists are my profit from the deal so far.

Rick Nash is a concern. Since returning from injury, Nash has been held pointless in five games. In fact, the last time Nash scored a goal, you probably still had your Christmas decorations up. The last Nash goal was on December 30 – a span of 14 games! This is not what you need if you are in a playoff battle. Nash believes that his leg has recovered but that his timing is still off, according to this interview on ESPN. So if you’re a Nash owner, all you can do is either wait it out or possibly bench him if you have an option that’s giving you more production at the moment.

That’s goals in back-to-back games for Dan Boyle. That matters only if you haven’t given up on him yet, which would make you more patient than I am.

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The Penguins clamped down on defense on Saturday, which seems to be the way to go without key offensive weapon Evgeni Malkin. By allowing only 17 shots on goal on Saturday, the Penguins helped Marc-Andre Fleury cruise to an easy 4-1 win.

Watch referee Steve Kozari pull a Steve Harvey on this Kris Letang empty-net goal.

If the refs don’t know what a distinct kicking motion is, then I guess the rest of us don’t either.

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The Senators scored not one, not two, but three shorthanded goals against the Canadiens on Saturday. So the Senators’ Twitter operator decided to get a little cheeky…

If your league is one of the few to count shorthanded goals, which Senator should you target? Of Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s 17 goals this season (which is somewhat surprising in itself), six have been shorthanded. Playing alongside Mark Stone has helped Pageau in both even strength and shorthanded situations, as was the case again on Saturday. By the way, Pageau alone has more shorthanded goals than 17 NHL teams.

Speaking of Stone, you must be enjoying your playoff round if he’s on your team. Stone has points in 11 of his past 13 games, which is starting to resemble the amazing run he had that put him on the fantasy map last season.

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The Stars played their first game without Tyler Seguin on Saturday. But the injury news in Dallas isn’t all bad, since John Klingberg returned to the lineup on Saturday, a game after Patrick Sharp made his return. Klingberg was held without a point with a +2 in 18 minutes of icetime against the Islanders.

Klingberg returning means that newly acquired Kris Russell’s icetime will take a dip. After averaging about 25 minutes per game for the seven games that Klingberg was out, Russell received 21 minutes on Saturday. Even with the huge minutes, Russell isn’t a major fantasy factor.

Here are the Stars’ lines without Seguin on Saturday:

22.34%  EV           FAKSA,RADEK – HEMSKY,ALES – ROUSSEL,ANTOINE

19.15%  EV           BENN,JAMIE – EAKIN,CODY – SHARP,PATRICK

10.64%  EV           NICHUSHKIN,VALERI – RITCHIE,BRETT – SPEZZA,JASON

9.22%    EV           EAVES,PATRICK – FIDDLER,VERNON – SCEVIOUR,COLTON

The most notable observation is that Cody Eakin is now the man in the middle between Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp. Eakin scored a goal while totaling 18 minutes, although he was denied first-unit power-play time. Regardless, that’s a great spot for Eakin if these lines stick for the rest of the season, if Seguin happens to be out that long because of his cut Achilles.

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William Nylander broke a four-game pointless slide with a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win for the lottery-bound Leafs over the lottery-bound Sabres. Now that he has played his tenth NHL game without being sent to the minors, Nylander can be added in fantasy leagues without any reservation.

Frederik Gauthier, the Leafs’ first-round pick from 2013, made his NHL debut for the Marlies Leafs. He was held without a point with a minus-1 in just under 11 minutes of icetime. That makes 11 Leafs that have made their NHL debuts this season. How much would a Steven Stamkos signing disrupt this full-on youth movement?

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In the Red Wings’ 5-3 come-from-behind win over the Panthers, Dylan Larkin scored a goal and added an assist. Although he now has points in back-to-back games, Larkin hasn’t had an easy go of it recently with a 16-game stretch with nothing more than a goal and an assist before that.

With a goal and an assist of his own in the same game, Nick Bjugstad is now rolling with a five-game point streak. In case you’re wondering which line Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell are playing on with their new team, they are on the same line – with Bjugstad as their center. That line is very strong for a third line. Going nine deep with scorers really helps come playoff time.

I can’t give you the fantasy spin, or for that matter make any sense out of this. “Spacey in Space” made a real-life appearance at the Panthers’ game tonight.

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In his second NHL game, Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his first two NHL goals on six shots on goal against the Devils. Bjorkstrand isn’t exactly playing on the Jackets’ top line, but linemate Alexander Wennberg has had an effective under-the-radar season (32 points in 59 games). If you’re looking for that difference-maker in a deep league, it never hurts to look up the prospects.

The good for the Devils in this game: Kyle Palmieri scored two goals and an assist, putting his goal total up to 27 on the season. The bad for the Devils in this game: Devante Smith-Pelly’s four-game point streak came to an end. DSP still has six goals and nine points in eight games as a Devil. I wouldn’t have expected either player to even come close to those numbers.

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Brian Elliott’s return from injury couldn’t have been more timely, given Jake Allen’s recent hiccup (at least four goals allowed in each of his last three games). Elliott didn’t have to work that hard, stopping 19 shots in earning a shutout against a Canucks’ team that is starting to appreciate a youth movement nearly as much as the Leafs are.

Elliott currently leads the NHL with a .929 save percentage, and he is the Blues’ all-time leader in shutouts with 23. Simply put, I don’t think he receives enough credit for what he has done. With a year left on his contract, I’m still not sold on the fact that the starter’s job now exclusively belongs to Allen. Elliott is 13-4-2 with a .941 save percentage in his last 19 games, which makes him a must-add if someone in your league dropped him following his injury.

As a Canucks’ fan, I am glad the team is finally bringing the younger players in and is turning the page from the President’s Trophy seasons. But right now the team is dreadful to watch. Seriously, I’m usually paying attention to something else while the game is on, which totally isn’t like me. Call me a bad fan if you will, even though I’ve supported the team since I was seven years old.

The Canucks’ defense is ravaged with injuries right now (no Alex Edler or Chris Tanev), so take this next number with a grain of salt. The Canucks took the training wheels off 6’7” newcomer Nikita Tryamkin, giving him the second-highest number of minutes (20:07), behind only Dan Hamhuis. I’ve read at least a couple of articles suggesting taking a flier on Tryamkin, but I’m not sold on him as a fantasy asset. In four KHL seasons, his best offensive output was 11 points in 53 games.

The 3-0 loss was no fault of Ryan Miller’s. He was insanely busy, stopping 47 of 49 shots he faced. He and Jacob Markstrom have been alternating starts all month, so I’d expect this pattern to continue as the Canucks play out the string.

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Ben Bishop had to work a little harder than Elliott in earning his shutout, stopping 32 shots against the Coyotes. That’s Bishop’s second shutout in three games and fourth of the season for the NHL’s leader in goals-against average (2.06). He’s easily been the MVP on one of my fantasy teams.

On that team, I’m fighting for a playoff spot in a 12-team league where Bishop, John Gibson, Cam Talbot, and Sergei Bobrovsky are my goalies. And I just dropped Antti Niemi (who I got into in last weekend’s Ramblings). So at the moment, goaltending is not my problem. My scoring has gone to hell. Tyler Seguin and Rick Nash are the two top scorers that I drafted for this team. You know about their plights if you’ve been reading this article in its entirety up to this point. To think, I skipped over Patrick Kane, who was drafted two spots after Nash, back when everyone was thinking the worst about his situation. Facepalm.

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Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.