In our only Game 7 of the second round, a matchup that the entire hockey world was looking forward to came to its conclusion. Each team looked great in stretches but the difference was a couple of early goals from the WInnipeg Jets that led them to a 5-1 win over Nashville, and a date with Vegas in the Western Conference Final.
Hockey is a fickle sport, goaltending in particular. An all-world goalie like Pekka Rinne can look unbeatable one night and an ECHL goalie the next. On this evening, he was the latter. Those two early goals by Winnipeg, one by Tyler Myers and one by Paul Stastny, were both of the soft variety. The Myers goal snuck between his pad/skate and the post from a sharp angle while Stastny jammed a backhand short side off his own rebound. In a one-and-done game with thin margins of error, this is often, and in this case was, the difference between winning and losing.
Stastny finished the game with two goals and an assist. Not a bad deadline pickup.
A quick shout out to the Winnipeg fourth line. It’s not often fourth lines get the limelight but they were excellent in this game. With the Jets leading almost the entire game, Paul Maurice didn’t hesitate to use his depth and they had a few shifts of extended zone time, great cycling, and even a couple good looks on net. Being able to wear down your opponent and give your top guys some rest makes for a valuable trio, and they did just that.
It’s a tough out for the Preds. From the outset of the playoffs, and I mean this in all due respect to the rest of the West, these two teams seemed destined for a collision where the winner would be the West’s Cup Final representative. Now, Winnipeg still has a tall order in a Vegas team that has been playing lights-out hockey, in particular from Marc-Andre Fleury. All this is to say that I think many people saw this inevitable matchup as a Cup Final-worthy series in its own right. And it was.
The entire core of the Nashville roster save for Rinne and Nick Bonino are under 30 years old and signed through next year. They will be a Cup contender again. It was just a tough matchup.
Congratulations to the Jets and their fans. They’ve been waiting decades for this level of playoff success. I’m excited for a fast-paced Conference Final.
All the goings on with the Carolina Hurricanes lately had me digging into their season a little bit more. Expected goals were covered last month (here and here) but they mostly covered rookies like Jakub Vrana and Jesse Puljujarvi or depth players like Sam Bennett.
Something interesting stuck out to me with Carolina and individual expected goals: both Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho saw significant declines in their individual expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five last year. In the sample of 227 forwards to play at least 700 five-on-five minutes in both 2016-17 and 2017-18, both Aho and Staal were among the 20 biggest declines. Here is the top-20 list, including ties (data from Corsica Hockey):
I don’t think anyone would complain about their actual output from a fantasy perspective, but here’s where things get interesting: Teuvo Teravianen saw one of the biggest increases in individual expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Out of the same 227 forwards, he was inside the top-50 for increase between 2016-17.
Did Teuvo do a better job getting to the net? Shooting off an odd-man rush? Line mates looking for him? If this is the start of a trend, Teravainen’s goal-scoring prospects look bright so long as the line stays together. We’ll see how this lineup is tinkered with over the summer.
Following a season that was beset by injuries, Flyers defenceman Sam Morin looked to put in a good showing for Lehigh Valley in the AHL playoffs. Unfortunately, he appeared to suffer a knee injury on Wednesday night and left the game. That was the game that went to five overtimes.
Morin is part of the glut of young defencemen the Flyers are hoping are all regular for them in the next couple years. This is pretty much a lost season of development for him. Let’s hope he’s fine for September. All the best to him.
Could Dougie Hamilton really be on the move again? For some reason, his name is popping up in trade rumours. This seems insane considering Hamilton is a bona fide top-pair, 24-year old defenceman signed through his prime at a very reasonable cap hit. Alas, it was insane that he was traded the last time.
As a Hamilton keeper owner, seeing him in a different franchise that will play him 24-plus minutes a game rather than the 20:20 per game he’s averaged in Calgary would be nice. He’s as consistent as they come among fantasy blue liners and his upside still hasn’t been reached. Calgary desperately needs to re-stock the prospect pool, particularly among their forwards. That’ll be hard to do without a pick until the fourth round in this year’s draft. Maybe Hamilton for a good scoring winger and a couple lesser picks makes sense. Again, though, it seems crazy to trade him. We’ll see.
Sticking in Alberta, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Sun has been reporting that Peter Chiarelli is actively shopping the 10th overall pick for immediate help. Given that their glaring need is scoring on the wings (go ahead, make your jokes) and more defensive depth, I can’t help but think the scoring is going to be prioritized. The 10th overall pick is not going to land you a superstar blue liner like Erik Karlsson and the pieces they’d have to add to make it work would just deplete the roster, so going for a top-end scoring winger makes more sense. Here are a few that stand out:
If the team needs immediate scoring help, Pacioretty should be at the top of the list. He had a down year in 2017-18 that eventually ended with injury but he’s still one of the most consistent scorers of this generation with five consecutive 82-game seasons with at least 30 goals. The problem is his expected goals at five-on-five took a dip for the second straight year. Is that a product of trying to fit with Jonathan Drouin? Just a down year with Philip Danault? He just never seemed to mesh with anyone this year. All the same, the Oilers should be familiar with trading low on a proven goal scorer who just had one bad year but maybe they’re looking for someone with more term as Pacioretty is a UFA after 2018-19.
Another winger coming off a down year, Skinner runs into the same contract problem as Pacioretty because he’s a UFA after this coming season. All the same, it seems pretty obvious there are some changes coming to Carolina. Skinner, Jordan Staal, and Justin Faulk are all at least 26 years old (actually, Skinner turns 26 next week, for the sake of accuracy), but the new core of this team (Aho, Teravainen, Lindholm, Hanifin if he’s not traded, Pesce, Slavin, Necas, Bean, and whoever they draft second overall) are all 25 or under. Trading a contract set to expire for a guy who will be 27 when he’s due a new one to get a second pick inside the top-10 makes sense from a certain angle. Skinner has been one of the top scorers in the league since getting to the NHL, coming in tied for 6th in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five since 2010. That’s ahead of both Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. He’s also a wonderful skater who can get to the net. That seems like a good skill mix for Connor McDavid’s winger.
I know most Oilers fans would roll their eyes at Zucker because he’s name A Name but it seems pretty obvious changes are coming in Minnesota. In the six seasons since those monster contracts were signed by Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the team has two playoff series wins and zero Conference Finals appearances. Zucker is a pending RFA so a sign-and-trade deal would make sense for the Oilers. He could play on either the first or second line and should the latter be the case, would make a nice running mate for Leon Draisaitl.
If you missed my Ramblings a couple days ago, there was some discussion on Zucker. You can read that here.
One last guy that had crossed my mind was Mark Stone but the package to get him would take a lot more than just the 10th overall and Edmonton doesn’t really have the prospect depth to do it. They would need to be roster players like Darnell Nurse or Jesse Puljujarvi and I’d hope Chiarelli doesn’t do that considering those are the areas they need to fill. I guess we never know with good ol’ Peter though.
What say you, Dobber Heads? If the Oilers target a winger in a trade, who would you like to see next to McDavid?
We’re technically just at the halfway point of the playoffs but it’s hard not to look ahead to the next fantasy season. We still have the draft, free agency, and trades to deal with but there are still some pressing questions worth discussing.
Does Jack Eichel come at some sort of draft-day discount?
Some people, myself included, had Eichel as a first-round pick this past season. Injuries assured he wouldn’t end up returning that value. Here’s the thing: his 82-game pace for his career this far is 29 goals, 41 assists, 288 shots, and 26 power-play points. Those are very good numbers and he’s just coming into his fourth full year.
Anyone who drafted him last year was burned and anyone who didn’t wasn’t given a reason to take a leap of faith on him this year. Does he come in undervalued? His ADP will be fascinating.
Discount on Islanders winger?
One thing that we could see, if John Tavares signs elsewhere, is fantasy owners bailing on the Islanders wingers. Honestly, though, if Mathew Barzal continues on the trajectory he showed in his first season, why stay away from the Islanders top line?
At the least, Anders Lee should be a mainstay of the first trio, if anything to pump up his trade value by the deadline. Even before his 40-goal season, he averaged 26 goals per 82 games for his career. Barzal seems plenty capable of keeping him in the 30-goal range.
Tavares signing with another team would be a nightmare for Islanders fan but could be good news for the value-hunting fantasy owners.
Eeli Tolvanen over-drafted?
The Shiny New Toy is a thing in any fantasy sport, hockey included. Fantasy owners will be keenly aware of Tolvanen’s upside as the notion will be beat into submission in a cascade of “Breakout Target” articles. The thing is, it seems the top-six is pretty locked with their left wingers. It is possible he supplants Kevin Fiala but that probably won’t be the case coming out of training camp.
Had Tolvanen been a fixture of the playoff push like Fiala was last year, maybe it inflates his draft-day price even more. That he can’t crack the lineup, though, might be good news for those who want to keep his ADP reasonable. All the same, it won’t take much more than a couple exhibition game videos to get the fantasy owners riled up. We can wait and see how much he’ll eventually cost but my initial lean is this will be a situation to avoid come September.
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