Goalie Controversies in Calgary and Pittsburgh, The NHL’s Top Line Debate, and The Tale of Shotgun Jake
Lots of happenings with early games today, so that’s where we’ll start.
The Sabres scored two late third-period goals with the net empty to pull even with the Canucks, then won 4-3 in a shootout. For the Sabres, there were injury scares for both Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart in the first period, but both were able to return in the second period. Reinhart scored the game-tying goal and was able to assist on Jeff Skinner’s goal just 40 seconds earlier. He now has two points in each of back-to-back games.
Skinner now has 12 goals, which tied him for the league lead following this game. Skinner has scored all of these 12 goals over the last 13 games after being held without a point over his first four games. He is already half way toward his goal total from all of last season. As long as he’s lining up with Eichel, he appears to be a big winner in last summer’s offseason moves.
The Canucks also have some recent scoring runs worth mentioning, even if the majority of fantasy owners aren’t concerned.
With his goal on Saturday, Erik Gudbranson is on a five-game point streak and has scored goals in back-to-back games. He’s never been known for offense as long as he’s been in the NHL, but someone on the Canucks’ defense has had to pick up the slack offensively while Alex Edler is out of the lineup.
Loui Eriksson added another goal and assist on Saturday. Channeling the pre-Vancouver version of Eriksson (the one that earned a $6 million per season for six seasons), he now has four goals and seven points over his last four games. He couldn’t score after his first 14 games, but he appears to have found new life on Bo Horvat’s line. Take that for what it’s worth and roll the dice if you’re daring enough.
Jake Virtanen scored a goal while taking six shots on goal in 20 minutes of icetime while playing on the Canucks’ top line with Elias Pettersson. He’s now scored goals in back-to-back games and has scored seven goals already. But where he’s really grabbing the world’s attention is through the #ShotgunJake Twitter trend. In case you haven’t heard of it, Canucks’ fans will “shotgun” a beer whenever Virtanen scores. Fellow Rambler Cam Robinson provides a visual example here.
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) November 10, 2018
You can read the background of Shotgun Jake straight from one of the Vancouver sports talk radio hosts who created the trend (from The Athletic). To summarize, it was created as a motivational tool for Canucks’ fans to have fun during what was expected to be a dull season and for Virtanen to reach 20 goals, a prediction that one of the hosts made (and was promptly laughed at).
Will Virtanen, who has been considered an underachiever after being selected as a high first-round pick right before William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers, show at least a minor breakout and hit 20? Well, he’s only got 13 to go and over three-quarters of the season left. And he’s scored more goals than Nylander and Ehlers combined this season (I know, I know, I cherry-picked that one). But because of the Brock Boeser groin injury, which is now being called week to week, Virtanen could be on the top line for at least a few more games.
By the way, Pettersson was held without a point on Saturday in spite of logging 24 minutes of icetime.
Flyers’ goalies can provide fantasy value after all. Brian Elliott stopped all 33 shots he faced in the Flyers’ 4-0 win over Chicago. You might find this hard to believe, but Elliott has now earned wins in each of his last four games. After stumbling out of the gate and battling an injury recently, Elliott appears to be the man between the pipes for the Flyers going forward.
Claude Giroux might be one of your NHL Three Stars to be announced on Monday. After scoring a goal and adding two assists with a plus-4 on Saturday, Giroux is up to eight points (3g-5a) with a plus-8 this week. Let’s just say he’s making life difficult for me in one of my head-to-head matchups. Giroux has logged at least 21 minutes of icetime in each of his last four games, so he is thriving on the additional minutes.
Playing on Giroux’s line, Sean Couturier scored two goals and added an assist. He’s recorded points in five of his last six games and has six points (3g-3a) over his last three games.
With John Klingberg expected to be sidelined for the next four weeks, Miro Heiskanen took over first-unit power-play duties for the Stars on Saturday. Although he was held without a point, Heiskanen logged a career-high 29 minutes. As Cam mentioned in yesterday’s Ramblings, Heiskanen is worth grabbing immediately if he’s still available in your league.
Julius Honka, who is also worth paying attention to while Klingberg is out, recorded an assist in 17 minutes of icetime. His power-play time was limited to just 12 seconds, though. This stretch without Klingberg will be telling as to whether Honka has much of a future as a fantasy contributor. Otherwise, he might be headed down a similar career path as someone like Derrick Pouliot.
The Oilers have sent both Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi to the AHL. They have a combined three points and have been healthy scratched numerous times, so this appears to be the best move as far as their long-term development goes. This should also cement Ty Rattie on the Connor McDavid line, as if there were any doubt.
If David Pastrnak isn’t an elite fantasy option, then should he be considered one? Pastrnak recorded a hat trick with one assist on seven shots on goal in the Bruins’ 5-1 win over Toronto. With 15 goals in just 16 games, Pasta is now the NHL’s goal leader and three goals clear of a number of players tied for second. He is also the only player with three 4-point games this season.
A stellar game from Pastrnak also means that Patrice Bergeron (1g-2a) and Brad Marchand (2a) were also in on the action. Bergeron is now tied for the scoring lead with Mikko Rantanen, each with 24 points. Both Boston’s top line and Colorado’s top line currently has a combined 64 points in 16 games (4.0 Pts/GP). As far as the argument goes for who hockey’s top line is, it’s currently a dead heat.
My counter to my opponent’s Giroux (to some degree) is my Matt Duchene. With a goal and two assists on Saturday, Duchene has seven points (2g-5a) over his last three games. He’s also scoring at over a point per game this season (19 points in 17 games). Duchene has only three power-play points all season, so imagine his overall production if he actually paid attention in power-play meetings. By the way, one of those three power-play points was earned on Saturday.
Is Mathieu Joseph the next Yanni Gourde in Tampa Bay? I’m not going to attempt to predict that, given how under-the-radar Gourde was. But Joseph took a step in that direction on Saturday, scoring two goals and an assist in the Bolts’ loss. Joseph isn’t a top-6 forward and he’s not earning any power-play time at the moment. But he’s always an injury or two away from an increased role. Then you never know.
Max Pacioretty was held without a point with a minus-2 in his return to Montreal, but it wasn’t due to lack of trying. Patches took nine shots on goal in 20 minutes of icetime, including five shots in the first period alone. There might be signs of life, as some of this poor production (two points in 13 games) is due to bad luck. But I completely understand if you couldn’t wait any longer and needed to move on.
With four goals in 17 games, it’s already apparent that William Karlsson won’t match last-season’s out-of-nowhere 43 goals. But with 14 points in 17 games, Karlsson is at least earning his keep on fantasy rosters. Karlsson scored a goal and added two assists on Saturday, but the goal was his first in seven games.
With a goal on Saturday, Mike Hoffman’s point streak is now up to 11 games. This is currently the longest active point streak in the league. He has 12 points, including seven goals, over his point streak.
Not to be outdone by much, Evgenii Dadonov now has a 10-game point streak after recording an assist on Hoffman’s goal. Dadonov has 12 points, including six goals, over his point streak.
Penguins’ GM Jim Rutherford may be thinking about making some changes to his team’s roster after its recent five-game slide. One minor change that is already being made is with backup Casey DeSmith starting more often. DeSmith stopped all 39 shots he faced in the Pens’ 4-0 win over Arizona.
Matt Murray owners might know all too well that DeSmith has now started back-to-back games for the Pens. With the shutout, DeSmith might have earned himself a third consecutive start on Tuesday against New Jersey. In the same number of games, DeSmith’s GAA is a full two goals less than Murray’s. Murray owners need to find a way to handcuff DeSmith right now if he’s still available. At the moment, DeSmith is owned in just 16 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Anthony Mantha can be maddeningly inconsistent, as you may have noticed with two 4-game stretches without a point already this season. Mantha took a step in the right direction on Saturday, though, scoring twice with a plus-2 on five shots on goal in 20 minutes of icetime. The potential is there, but it might be better to take a wait-and-see approach on Mantha in standard-sized leagues.
Since I was at a WHL game on Saturday night, this is a great time for me to bring up Cam’s 2019 Draft Rankings over at Dobber Prospects. In fact, I was able to catch #6 on his list, Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants. Although he was held without a point in Saturday’s game, blueliner Byram is still one of the Giants’ scoring leaders with 14 points in 18 games. I was told that the Kings/Flames game on during that time was a dud, so maybe it’s a good thing that I missed that one to go watch some junior hockey
David Rittich didn’t break a huge sweat in earning his first career shutout, stopping all 21 shots he faced against a sagging Kings’ team. Rittich has now earned wins in his last three games, which has now forced Bill Peters to use Mike Smith and him as a timeshare over the last half-dozen games. With how much better Rittich (1.91 GAA, .935 SV%) has played over Smith (3.66 GAA, .872 SV%), he has at least earned that much. Rittich could certainly be owned in more Yahoo leagues than he is (just 17 percent at the moment).
If you want to pick Kings’ players that are slumping, there’s plenty to choose from. But the one regular who tops everyone is Dion Phaneuf, who does not even have a single point in 16 games this season. He’s averaging only 16 minutes of icetime, including just 11 minutes on Saturday. To boot, he’s also a team-low minus-12. He’s definitely droppable, even in leagues that count hits and blocked shots. Even though he still contributes in those categories, he has been too much of a liability in the other categories.
Finally, today is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the United States. Please take a moment to think about those who have served to protect the freedoms that we enjoy today.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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