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.