Ramblings: Game 6 preview, Jackets, Panthers

by Ian Gooding on June 12, 2016

Game 6 preview, Jackets, Panthers, plus more…

Since I am the usual Sunday Ramblings writer, it feels strange not having a game to recap. But that’s how it’s going to be until the fall, so I’ll have to get used to it. The Sharks and Penguins get an extra day for travel to the West Coast to deny us of any more Saturday games in the 2015-16 season. No doubt one team is happier about making the trip than the other.

I find it interesting how the hockey masses picked the Sharks to win it all, yet after Game 4 had already assumed the Penguins would win it all by debating which Penguin would win the Conn Smythe. Although the Penguins’ speed and ability to carry the play seems to be too much for the Sharks to handle, this is still very much a series. If the Sharks can feed off the home crowd and Martin Jones can play another out-of-this-world game, then they might be able to pull off Game 6. Then it’s a Game 7, where all bets are off.

But my fearless prediction? The Penguins take care of business in Game 6 and hoist the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup. I’ll stick with my original prediction of Phil Kessel winning the Conn Smythe to go with my Pens in 6 prediction. I currently hold a 7-7 record in picking playoff series, but watch me nail the Stanley Cup Final. Or watch me embarrass myself, as I seem to do every time I get overconfident in picking games. Ha.  

I don’t want to doubt the expertise of those who picked the Sharks. But I truthfully wonder how much the possibility of seeing the Sharks win their first cup, liking Brent Burns and/or Joe Thornton, or simply not liking Sidney Crosby and the Pens factored into the decision. Since the Penguins clearly look like the better team in this series (from the way things look so far, anyway), I’m just surprised how many out there underestimated the Penguins.

To translate to fantasy, do you overrate or underrate a player based on how much you like or don’t like the player? To me, this is a rookie mistake in fantasy leagues. I was once able to acquire Sidney Crosby for Jonathan Toews in a fantasy league simply because the owner acquiring Toews (who is also a good friend of mine) is a big Blackhawks fan and was convinced beyond any doubt that Toews was the better player.

Back to the Conn Smythe. Win or lose, what about Martin Jones as the Conn Smythe winner? If he has two more games similar to Game 5, I think he has to be in the discussion. The Sharks will need him to stand on his head if they are to win this series and the Cup. Jones has a 2.16 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in the playoffs. Not too shabby. As you might also know, Jones has also moved waaaaaay up the rankings in the Top 100 Keeper League Goalies

*

With an expansion draft next summer looking more probable, Jim Rutherford will need to start thinking about what to do about his goalie situation. Assuming the absolute worst-case scenario for the Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury could be a desirable option for Las Vegas should Rutherford be unable work out a trade.

In other words, Las Vegas would be following the Florida Panthers model. Remember that the Panthers drafted John Vanbiesbrouck when the Rangers were stuck between the former Vezina Trophy winner and up-and-coming Mike Richter. With the Beezer, the Panthers were able to make the Stanley Cup Final in just their third season.

With mostly leftover skaters from an expansion draft (unless certain teams don’t get their act together – more on that shortly), Las Vegas won’t be in a position to contend in Season 1. But what if the trend toward less scoring and more defense continues by Season 3? That’s entirely possible with Fleury as the goalie and a couple of high first-round picks in the fold together with some journeyman forwards that forecheck like crazy (like the Panthers or Wild in their first few seasons), even if Fleury is 35 by that time. Also, having a well-known name like Fleury will no doubt help sell the game in Vegas.  

*

There have been many Gordie Howe tributes these past couple days, and rightfully so. In fantasy, Howe’s name is most often mentioned in reference to the Gordie Howe hat trick. Yet according to this article from Sportsnet, Mr. Hockey is only believed to have recorded two in his career. (Bring that piece of trivia to your next cocktail party.)

So why would Howe only have recorded two hat tricks that bear his name? That’s easy. Because he was Gordie Howe, and you didn’t mess with Gordie Howe. Period. End of story.

*

In a follow-up to Neil’s study on no-movement clauses in yesterday’s Ramblings, Scott Hartnell has reportedly agreed to waive his for a “decent-sized list” of teams, according to Elliotte Friedman in his 30 Thoughts.

As Neil and commenter Striker identified, the Jackets could be in a heap of trouble with an expansion draft on the horizon next summer. But trading Hartnell would be a solid first step to avert a potential disaster, although an acquiring team will have themselves a depreciating power forward who will be 37 by the time his contract ends three years from now.

*

Although the Marc Savard “trade” may not appear to have any fantasy implications on the surface, it could help a couple of Panthers’ regulars stay where they are while adding a couple more to the fold.  RFA Vincent Trocheck, who was thought to be on the move after the acquisition of Jared McCann, now has a much better chance of being re-signed. Same with Brian Campbell, who the Panthers can turn their attention to now that Erik Gudbranson has been dealt.

Now that they are no longer a cap floor team, the Panthers could take another step forward next season. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the Atlantic Division.

Also mentioned by Friedman: Pavel Datsyuk (at least his contract) won’t be headed to the Devils, now that they have acquired Savard’s contract. He mentions Arizona or Carolina as possible destinations as those two teams attempt to reach the cap floor.

*

Sven Andrighetto re-signed with the Habs for another year. With 17 points in 44 games and 23 points in 26 AHL games last season, he has some real sleeper potential (find out more in the Fantasy Prospects Report). Don’t forget that he also scored seven points in seven games for Switzerland during the recent World Championship. Expect him to make the Habs full time this fall.

*

Stop the presses… Congratulations to Cleveland on receiving its long-awaited championship! No, we’re not talking about the Cavaliers or the Indians or heaven forbid the Browns, but the Lake Erie Monsters, who are the Calder Cup champions. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored with 1.9 seconds left in the first overtime to give the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate a 1-0 win and a series sweep over the Hershey Bears. See the crazy winner below.

Anton Forsberg had quite the postseason, finishing with a 9-0 record to go with a 1.34 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. Forsberg took over in net from Joonas Korpisalo, who you may remember was a decent stopgap option for fantasy teams when Sergei Bobrovsky was injured. It will be interesting to see whether this means Forsberg is the goalie that gets called up instead of Korpisalo should Bobrovsky (or backup Curtis McElhinney) miss time again. Having said that, both Monster goalies appear AHL-bound again next season.

Final playoff numbers for some Jackets’ prospects of interest:

Bjorkstrand: 17 GP, 10 G, 6 A, 16 PTS – A Hartnell trade could create an NHL roster spot for him. Or maybe that won’t matter. Bjorkstrand impressed in his brief NHL time, scoring eight points in 12 games.

Zach Werenski: 17 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 PTS – Moving Fedor Tyutin or Jack Johnson could make room for him.

Sonny Milano: 17 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 PTS – I’m wondering how much a so-so playoff series affects his chances of making the Jackets next season.

You can check out the full list of AHL playoff scoring leaders here.

*

Finally, Niklas Backstrom has signed to play in Finland (Today’s Slapshot). Mind you, he played so little the past two seasons that we don’t blame you if you thought he already left.

*

Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.