Ramblings: First Day of Playoffs, First Vegas Playoff Win; Sam Bennett; Jesse Puljujarvi – April 12

by Michael Clifford on April 11, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: First Day of Playoffs, First Vegas Playoff Win; Sam Bennett; Jesse Puljujarvi – April 12

I’m sure much of the hockey world was looking forward to the Flyers/Penguins series. Anyone following hockey for the last 10 years or so would vividly remember the 2012 series which featured goals and fights to the heart’s content.

Game 1 wasn’t so much a playoff game as it was a public execution.

Pittsburgh skated away with a 7-0 win on the back of a 24-save shutout from Matt Murray and a natural hat trick from Sidney Crosby. Brian Elliott was mercifully pulled after the fifth Pittsburgh goal and Petr Mrazek let in a couple more after that.

A lot of the focus for the fans and media will undoubtedly be Crosby, who scored a ridiculous bat-out-of-mid-air goal again. One thing that stood out to me: the Flyers didn’t get the memo to not make Evgeni Malkin mad. Not long after he took a hard hit that was blatant interference (he never had the puck and the play was about 30 feet away from him), he decided to go all Angry Geno on them:

It didn’t lead to a goal – dang post – but Malkin was simply dominant at times in this game.

Pittsburgh continued their trend of using Justin Schultz on the power play which certainly raises questions for the next fantasy season. I wrote often last summer about the mix of him and Kris Letang making for a messy situation at draft time. They seem pretty committed to using Jultz on the top PP unit. Letang is clearly the superior player, but situation matters a lot. It will make for some interesting projections.


Winnipeg took the first game of their series against Minnesota 3-2 but some bigger news was that Mathieu Perreault injured. He took a couple big hits – one a blatant interference – and eventually just left the game late in the second and did not return. It’s the playoffs so we won’t get any sort of specific update, and the team has depth to overcome it, but he’s a key piece to their forward group. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

With Minnesota up 2-1, Patrik Laine did what Patrik Laine does:

He’s a guy whose ADP should be fascinating next year. Can he go in the first round? He’s probably already one of the top-3 goal scorers in the league and he’ll only be in his age-20 season. He was a second-round pick last season in most fantasy leagues. He’ll definitely find his way into the first round, right? How high would you be willing to draft him? Let me know in the comments.


The first-ever Vegas playoff game was rather dull. I don’t mind low-scoring games, but outside of a couple very good saves from Jonathan Quick, there wasn’t much to speak of offensively in the Golden Knights’ 1-0 shutout win. I’m sure Vegas fans don’t really care about the manner of the win, however.

By the way, Shea Thedore was the lone goal scorer. There’s your trivia answer sometime in the future.

Most media members were wrapped up in the hits in this game – over 100 through two periods. Let me tell you, it didn’t lead to an exciting game.


For those with subscriptions to The Athletic, I recommend this article by Corey Masisak on how the New Jersey Devils infused analytics into their organization.

I’m not going to go through the whole thing, but two things stuck out to me:

  1. Taylor Hall is very much into advanced stats and tries to keep up on the research as much as possible. He was always a player who did the things on the ice necessary to help his team win, but it’s pretty cool to see he’s still trying to evolve his game.
  2. The relative unimportance of players to “believe” in the use of non-traditional stats. And it makes sense. It’s not really that important that a player believes they shouldn’t dump the puck in all the time, eschewing entering the zone with control. It’s just important that the coach believes they shouldn’t, coaches that way, and that the players buy into doing exactly that. If all that happens, it doesn’t really matter what the players do or don’t believe.

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting article. Give it a read if you can.


Not to go on an Athletic binge, but the story by Aaron Portzline on Artemi Panarin and the hardships he endured growing up was something else. He’s a special person and a special player.


We’ve gone from “Joe Thornton will not play game one” to “Joe Thornton hopes he can return in the first round” in the span of two days. Of course, the team knows this all along, they just don’t want to share the information. All the same, a return for the second round, should the Sharks get there, would be a huge boost.


There is a cool fundraising effort going on started by Ian McLaren of the Score to raise money for the Humboldt Broncos. It’s a Money on the Board pledge wherein you decide how much you want to donate for a specific event in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Maybe you want to donate $5 for every goal scored by Nikita Kucherov, $10 for every Golden Knights win, or $1 for every penalty minute in the Penguins/Flyers series (might need to take out a loan for that one).

Please consider if you are able. Do not feel pressured if you can’t; money is tight for a lot of people. If you can, just follow this link.


The news came out that Vladimir Tarasenko will be out 4-6 months recovering from shoulder surgery. That is, uh, pretty bad. Four months would leave him a month until training camp. Six months would have him return sometime after the regular season has started.

A couple weeks ago, I mused that Tarasenko’s ADP would probably fall from where it was in 2017-18 and that I would be a buyer. Now, I’m not so sure.

He’s clearly an elite talent and going into his age-27 season, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of a decline in skills. But I loathe drafting players coming off serious injuries like this. Injuries which don’t let players have a regular offseason. I suppose a shoulder surgery is better than a knee or a hip surgery, but it’s no small issue all the same. 

What say you Dobber heads? How concerned are you about Tarasenko for next year and what round would you take him if you knew he’d be in the lineup for game one of the 2018-19 campaign?


There were just three games on the playoff schedule so I wanted to go back over the fantasy regular season a little bit. We have the whole summer to look ahead to next year so I’m going to spend some time looking back on 2017-18 to see what it can tell us about the season to come.


Individual Expected Goals

Jesse Puljujarvi

Cam went over some left wingers and individual expected goals per 60 minutes from the Metro division. I recommend reading that.

Connor McDavid led the Oilers in individual expected goals scored for the season at 1.12, which was among the league leaders. Any guesses on second in Edmonton? Pretty easy to guess, right? It’s Jesse Puljujarvi.

Obviously, the 12 goals and 20 points in 65 games aren’t enough for fantasy. It’s hard to put up a big fantasy season with 13:22 in ice time per game, though. He also played just 12:21 over his final 30 games of the season. No one is going to produce being used as a fourth liner.

I watched enough Oilers games to feel pretty confident in saying that Puljujarvi didn’t play himself down the lineup. Was he a consistent presence game in and game out? No, but very few of their players were. The fact they cut down on his ice time as they were playing themselves out of the playoffs is lunacy. They should have been giving him 16-17 minutes a night to try to build him up for 2018-19.

Next season will be Puljujarvi’s third. They don’t have a better scoring winger on the roster (assuming you consider Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins centres and not wingers). His shot-share numbers were good, his production rates were good, and his shot rates were good. My bet is they go looking for a scoring winger this offseason (LOL) and that worries me for Puljujarvi’s usage next year. He’s good. He can probably be very good. You wouldn’t know it the way the Oilers treat him, though.


Sam Bennett

It was a very up-and-down season for the 21-year-old Flames forward. He started the year with zero points in his first 15 games, went on a tear in the middle of the year that saw 13 points in 14 games from November 28th through December 28th, and registered one point over the final four weeks of the season. Even in leagues that count hits, that kind of inconsistent production made it hard to rely on him in fantasy.

Bennett also led the Flames in expected goals per 60 minutes. His mark of 0.92 was also top-25 league-wide among forwards with at least 500 minutes played. His problem was his shooting percentage, managing just over 7 percent at five-on-five after being close to 10 percent over his first two seasons.

Here’s the interesting thing for me: he barely shot while on the ice on the power play. Among the 214 forwards with at least 100 minutes of power play time, he was 209th in individual shot attempts per 60 minutes. The only players who shot less often were Nick Foligno, David Desharnais, Travis Zajac, and Zack Smith. Not only did he underperform his expected goals at five-on-five by a pretty significant margin, but there was no chance he’d make up the difference on the power play shooting as little as he did.

Over his first two seasons, Bennett’s expected goals scored per 60 minutes (0.62) wasn’t far off from his actual goals scored per 60 minutes (0.68). Last year was a huge deviation and under-performance. The 2018-19 campaign will be his fourth, and you know we love our fourth-year breakouts here. He’ll have a hard time being consistently productive in leagues that don’t count hits as he’ll likely be third line/second power-play unit, but don’t sleep on him in deeper leagues. A jump in shot rates on the PP could help get him close to 20 goals and 40 points.


15 responses to “Ramblings: First Day of Playoffs, First Vegas Playoff Win; Sam Bennett; Jesse Puljujarvi – April 12”

  1. Striker says:

    I have the misfortune to have just arrived in NJ last night, here for a week & do you think you can find a hockey game on TV in a Secaucus/Meadowlands Hotel? Not a chance, nor does my Rodgers NHL live package allow me access from this IP server. Isn’t it 2018! Brutal. On a positive note, I will get to see TB in NJ live next Monday night. May take in Pit at Phi on Sunday as well but might be to tight to make happen.

  2. Striker says:

    Not that it really matters but Puljujarvi never played on Edm’s 4th line. He was deployed as a 3rd & sometimes 2nd line RW seeing very sheltered minutes & PP time which is a fairly standard development curve for most players selected outside the top 3. 80% of the time.

    Puljujarvi is going to be an exceptionally good NHL player but his development curve at 6’4″ is going to take far longer than normal sized humans. If you have followed my comments this player falls into the 400 regular season games needing to be played just like Dman to show us his full NHL abilities. It takes a very long time to physically mature into that frame. players over 6’3″ or 215+ lbs. It’s simple physics. The other 20% beats the curve or fails.

    If you go look at such players these #’s hold. 1 of Dobber’s favourites hits that mark next season. Kreider, 381 NHL regular season games played as I write this. Injuries have to factor into that development line as well, those lost games effect the timeline in a negative way. Zibanejad also qualifies at 215 lbs, 409 games as I write this. Hayes 6’5″, 310 games. That’s just 1 team, I could run it for almost all & again the #’s hold.

    It takes large bone mass players far longer to grow into their frames, stop growing & fill out. When growing you suffer coordination issues effecting your abilities for a period of time as you settle back into your new size. Puljujarvi falls into this class of player & It can take these players 5 to 6 years to fully develop & show us what they will be. We should see steady progression for 2 or 3 more years & then a fairly substantial breakthrough. Lets say 20 & 40 next season, 25 & 50 the season following & then he really starts to step up. With players like this we should only really be projecting 1 year in advance but if in a deep keeper league this player should be locked in for someone.

    • He Man says:

      This is all very interesting stuff. I’m not sure if/how it would factor into what you’re saying but bone growth completely stops at age 25.

    • Michael Clifford says:

      Pulju absolutely spent time on the fourth line this year. He had five games with under 10 total minutes in ice time and 13 games with under 12 minutes. He also spent nearly 50 minutes at 5v5 with Mark Letestu, the fourth-line centre.

      • Striker says:

        As an Oilers season ticket holder let me qualify that. I have never seen him deployed on the 4th line at any of the games I have attended live in Edm. Of the 41 home games I have only attended 18 where Pulju played, I have seen him play 7 others live at other locations but again never saw 4th line deployment. 11 on TV & never saw him deployed on the 4th line. That’s 36 of a possible 65 & Letestu has been gone for 20.

        His ES TOI/GP is good for 7th amongst EDM’s regulars.

        Could he have taken 4th line shifts? Sure, does that make him a 4th liner? No. If he got better quality icetime hos TOI/GP would be very similar to his ES TOI/GP. For me that makes him a 3rd line player.

        Again not that it really matters.

      • lplmnop says:

        @ Striker: what do you think of Ryan Strome who’s made 340 NHL games … He has the talent, but does not seem to have the grace of the coach…Keepers ?

      • Striker says:

        I think R. Strome is destined to be a 3rd line checking checking C who will see 2nd line PP time. Although only 24, 25 this summer he may fall into a late bloomer catagory. I see very little up side from where he is now. Edm seemed to want him at C & not as a RW & if he plays C in Edm he’s buried behind McDavid & Draisaitl.

        Can he be better than he’s shown? He may again hit his 2nd year #’s of 17 goals & 50 points but that may be hard in this role with the depth in Edm.

        Not worth the risk.

    • Magicstew says:

      Good stuff Striker, going to use this more next season on player drafting for wingers. May even need to start a thread. Picked up Kreider in one of my pools for Bailey, looking for long term and a bust out next year.

      • Striker says:

        The system is fairly simple. 200 regular season games for forwards, 400 for forwards over 6’3″ or 215 lbs + & Dman. I call it the 80/20 rule. It holds most of the time but can swing by up to 5% in any given year for or against. 80% of players follow this basic curve the 20% can swing wildly either way.

        Here’s where it gets interesting. It’s based on all NHL players & even the deepest of leagues I’m in 1 that is 460 deep the NHL with 31 teams is 713 deep before anyone’s lost to injury so most of these players may never be drafted by us regardless.

        What you really want to make sure is you don’t give up on a player before he has hit these thresholds unless he’s given you no reason to assume he will be anything more than a checker. Injuries can extend the timelines.

        Take a player like Spooner. I like this player & I have for many years. 1 dimensional? Sure but all my pools are all offense so not concerned about his warts. You need to factor in your dynamics. He has played 273 NHL regular season games but injuries the last 2 years & having split his 1st 2 NHL seasons between the AHL & NHL at total of accounts for 111 games of stagnated development, pushing his breakthrough to next season. 273-111=162 or so goes my thought process. Can he stay healthy moving forward? No idea & I would discount my draft position by at least 10 less due to such.

        There is also a trend forming where a certain % of players are developing even later in the standard forward class. Still to small to quantify but the trend is growing. I used to use seasons played but switched to man games at least a decade ago as with the quantity of players getting to the NHL a little older, I think this may relate to a larger group of players to draw on even though the game is actually getting younger, if that makes any sense. Would be far easier to try & explain live.

    • MarkRM16 says:

      This is a good argument for letting players like Puljujarvi spend a few full seasons in the AHL until they are physically ready and accustomed to the NA game. I agree that JP can be an exceptional player, but I think the Oilers made a mistake by rushing him into the lineup, especially given his poor AHL stats. If he isn’t even a 50 point player yet in the AHL, how is going to help the team?

  3. pdupuis says:

    All drafts are different but I’d grab Laine if I had the chance in early to mid-second round & of course there’s time to re-evaluate that thinking depending on teams off season moves. I’d pass on Tarasenko unless the value is too great to pass up and let some other manager have to contend with the injury issue.

    • Michael Clifford says:

      I just wonder if Laine lasts that long. Maybe an early second rounder if we’re lucky.

  4. Steffen Knippel says:

    Laine’s goal looked like a calculated wrister that rose. Can’t give that guy time to think AND shoot. I was there waving my white rag with the rest of us.
    Go Jets go!

    • Mathieu says:

      It seemed like THE place to be in Canada last night. You guys have such a nice roster. I was discussing with a friend just yesterday about how deep you are. If we, in Montreal, had Nic Petan, we could play him on the first line. Winnipeg doesn’t even have the room to call him up and when they finally do, they’ll have to make him a bottom-6 forward. Crazy.

      I’m rooting for you.