Ramblings: Foligno suspended; Injury updates on Krug and Zibanejad; buy-low targets – November 12

by Michael Clifford on November 12, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Foligno suspended; Injury updates on Krug and Zibanejad; buy-low targets – November 12

 

The Rangers are saying that Mika Zibanejad will miss at least another three games with his injury, as the team noted he will not be with the team on their road trip. That means he’s out for the week, and should mean a continued heavy dose of Ryan Strome.

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It looks like Montreal is going to stick with Jonathan Drouin on the top line. Personally, I think breaking up one of the best top lines over the last season and a quarter is a bad idea, but I don’t have NHL coaching experience.

(I’m not kidding about that, either. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, the line of Tatar-Danault-Gallagher had a 60.3 percent shot share and 63.75 percent goal share with the three of them on the ice at five on five. Over that same span, Boston’s top line had a 56.25 percent shot share and 56.6 percent goal share.)

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Nick Foligno was suspended three games for his flying elbow on the weekend.

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The St. Louis Blues are responding to the injury bug by bringing in both Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn on professional tryouts.

I think McGinn could still be used in a fourth-line role or maybe even third line with the right deployment. Brouwer was below NHL-calibre years ago. Neither are relevant for fantasy.

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The Bruins called up Urho Vaakanainen, which likely means Torey Krug is going to miss at least a game with his upper-body injury, if not more. When we get more on Krug’s current injury status, we’ll pass it along, but I guess he should be considered day to day for now.

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The second game between Carolina and Ottawa in the last three days went, likely, more according to plan to most people, as the Hurricanes walked over the Senators in an 8-2 win.

Here we go:

There are other guys to name but we only have much space. Brian Gibbons, Brock McGinn, Jordan Staal, and Jaccob Slavin were the only Hurricanes held without a point, but Slavin had eight shots and three blocks.

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For the fifth game in a row – yes, fifth – the Arizona Coyotes blew a lead. This time it was a 3-0 lead in Washington. They would still scrape a point out of it as we got to a shootout, a shootout won by the Coyotes, but blowing this many leads is not a good thing.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was the star here with a pair of goals, one early in the third period in particular to get the Caps within one. T.J. Oshie scored with the empty net to get us to extra hockey.

Just a small note from my observation. Goals aside, Kuznetsov really seems to be finding his game of late, looking confident, almost cocky with the puck. Now, four straight multi-point games may make this a chicken-egg thing, but I don’t think fantasy owners will care about that.

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There are a lot of players that may be under-performing right now but do stand a solid chance to turn it around. These are, effectively, guys to buy low from around the league.

The term “buy low,” however, can be a bit misleading. There is a guy I’ll mention who was an early first-round pick – you can probably guess who it is. Buying low on this particular player probably means that he’s available in a trade at all. Had he been performing to his ability, there’d be almost no package a person could reasonably put together to acquire him in a trade. That he’s available in a trade is buying low, not that it’ll be cheap to acquire him.

Most stats from Natural Stat Trick, and all stats as of Monday afternoon. 

 

Timo Meier

This was a guy I was very high on coming into the season. In my official rankings before the season, I had him 24th overall on my board in standard Yahoo! leagues. The basis was massive shot volume from a top-end goal scorer with a high amount of hits and considerably more ice time. As of right now, he’s nowhere close to being a top-25 player. So, what’s gone wrong?

First thing’s first: San Jose isn’t a very good team, certainly not compared to last year. On the season, this is San Jose’s heat map for unblocked shots at five on five, per Hockey Viz:

Notice that San Jose is generating very little from the middle of the ice. That’s compared to what they did in 2018-19:

Last year, they generated a lot of shots from the middle of the ice, considerably more than the league average. My initial assumption when I saw this was that after Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, there wasn’t much left on the blue line to generate offence. Forwards can’t be entirely responsible for moving the puck in transition, they need defencemen who can do it. Unfortunately, they’re not even generating a lot when Burns is on the ice. This is the team’s shot map with Erik Karlsson on the bench:

And this is the team’s shot map with Brent Burns on the ice:

Notice anything?

That map with Karlsson off the ice is what should concern people because Meier is a guy who makes a living finding soft zones in coverage anywhere from the low-to-high slot area, and converting that soft coverage into goals. The presumption had been that as long as the Sharks had one of Burns or Karlsson on the ice, they would be able to roll offensively. That has not been the case. San Jose’s numbers are bad with Burns on the ice, and worse when he’s on the ice without Karlsson.

But Meier is still getting his shots from the middle of the ice (I won’t inundate with more charts, just believe me on that one). He’s moved to a line with Tomas Hertl and that’s a lot of reason for optimism: with Hertl and Meier on the ice, San Jose has traditionally had monster expected goals (over 3.1/60 minutes) and shot attempt (over 70/60) numbers. He was back up over 20 minutes on Saturday night, indicating the team hasn’t lost faith in him by any stretch. Meier can probably be had for another middling option, and the upside is huge.

 

Clayton Keller

I can understand wanting to bail on Keller. He’s basically on pace for 50 points, which isn’t a bad season, but not what people were hoping for from a guy who had 65 points as a rookie on a much worse team a couple years ago. I think the 50-point pace is a reason for optimism, though. Let me explain.

As of Sunday night, Arizona was shooting 4.7 percent with Keller on the ice at five on five. For a reference on how bad that is:

  • Arizona shot seven percent with Keller on the ice last year, which was a poor year.
  • As a team, Arizona is shooting 7.6 percent this year.
  • Keller has an on-ice expected goals of 2.39 per 60 minutes, second highest among Coyotes forwards, but has actually only been on the ice for 1.59 goals. Just performing to his expected goal total and nothing more could have added another two assists to his total. Just those two points would bring Keller to a 58-point pace.
  • Keller’s individual expected scoring rate at all strengths is about double his actual scoring rate because he’s shooting an unsustainably low 4.7 percent. Had he been performing just to his expected level, and nothing more, he would add another two goals.

Had Keller simply been performing according to his metrics, he’d be on pace for 67-68 points this year, rather than the 50 for which he’s currently on pace. That also doesn’t account for him going on a hot streak and performing above his underlying expectations.

This is a case where I think limited PP production can hinder his upside and he’s not a guy who hits, which means that upside is truly capped. Even with a hot streak, he’s not a top-50 player. My bet is that he can be had in a trade for very little, however, and can perform as a third winger in most leagues the rest of the way.

 

Nikita Kucherov

This… this one I’m not so sure of.

It’s not to say that Kuch isn’t a buy-low target – he absolutely is. The acquisition price will be critical though because I’m sure the person trading him won’t let him go for a top-100 pick. It’ll have to be someone comparable, or some sort of high-end package.

The first concern is the shot rate. He’s sitting at 13.4 shot attempts per 60 minutes at all strengths. In no season in his career has he been 15.8 (his first 82-game season) and he had been at 18.3 or higher in three straight seasons.

It’s not an issue of Tampa Bay not generating shots with him on the ice, though. To this point, the team has managed 38.2 shots per 60 minutes with him on the ice; that number was 39.5 last year. Kucherov has played 285 minutes thus far, which means he’s only been on the ice for six fewer shots in total this year than at a comparable rate and time to last year. That means he’s deferring shots to other people, which probably isn’t what you want considering how good he is.

What’s important to draw from that, though, is that Tampa is still generating shots, just not scoring at their typical rate, probably because so many shots are going to others besides Kucherov. Much like Toronto with Muzzin/Barrie on the ice, far too many shots are coming from the blue line:

They’re still getting some shots from the slot, which is of course nice to see, but it’s nowhere near what they were generating last year. Again, I won't inundate with charts, but they were generating more in that area last year. 

There are other issues as well – the power play, namely – but a lot of Kucherov’s problems can be solved by Kucherov taking shots away from the defencemen rather than the other way around. Does that happen? I’m not sure, but depending on the price to acquire, it might be worth finding out.