Healthy Scratches, Hot Goalies, plus more…
First, a quick thought about the Mike Matheson two-game suspension: I never thought I’d write this, but the NHL issuing a suspension here is a step in the right direction. Comparing apples to oranges as well as a very small sample size, the NHL generally seems to be tougher on suspensions this season – case in point the Tom Wilson 20-game suspension. In the past I know this would have gotten completely ignored and shrugged off as “part of the game,” but this matters when you consider the careers of star players cut short by head injuries (Lindros, Kariya, Lafontaine, etc.) and what we now know about head injuries. There have been a ton of takes about the hit and the Canucks’ (lack of) response afterward, so I won’t dive into this one any further.
So who took over Elias Pettersson’s spot on the first-unit power play on Tuesday? No one! The Canucks didn’t receive a single power play against Pittsburgh. In fact, there was only one penalty in the entire game.
But there was something happening with goaltending in this game, specifically Canucks’ goaltending. In case you haven’t noticed, Anders Nilsson started his third consecutive game. He also earned his third consecutive win, posting a 1.67 GAA and .943 SV% over that span. Yes, I’m as surprised as you are. And yes, I’d expect him to start the Canucks’ next game Thursday in Winnipeg, which will be a tall order for the 6’6” goalie. But if you need to ride a hot hand in net, he’s worth a gamble. Remember that after last season, he backstopped Sweden to a World Hockey Championship. So there’s that.
The more long-term question is whether Nilsson will unseat Jacob Markstrom as the de facto number one in Van City. I’d say that Nilsson would need more consistency than we’re used to with him before I would proclaim that he will be the guy two months from now. He could also easily force a timeshare with Markstrom, which might be the more likely scenario here. The Canucks are playing well right now, but their defense is the envy of no team. So over an entire season, I still wouldn’t consider either Nilsson or Markstrom to be a must-own.
You may have heard of this by now since it was Monday’s news, but Brandon Saad could be a healthy scratch for Thursday’s game. As Mike Clifford mentioned, Saad has scored just 12 goals in his last 76 games last season, and he has not scored a goal in five games this season. Saad was demoted to the fourth line on Saturday alongside Marcus Kruger and David Kampf – not exactly Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane. Think the Hawks would like to have a do-over on that Artemi Panarin trade?
I mentioned that you should probably hold Kevin Shattenkirk in spite of his healthy scratch last week because of his 50+ point upside on the blueline, but I’m not going to tell you to do the same with Saad. Unless you play in a very deep league, Saad is most likely replaceable given the number of available forward scoring options. Saad could very well become fantasy relevant again at some point, but it’s been a calendar year since he’s been able to produce at a 50-point pace.
Speaking of Rangers and healthy scratches, Pavel Buchnevich was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game against Colorado. Buchnevich is already in new coach David Quinn’s doghouse, playing just 11 minutes on the Rangers’ fourth line on Saturday.
David Quinn answered a lot of questions about Pavel Buchnevich. The gist of it was they need more out of him consistently, he needs to be harder to play against, more willing to pay a price to score, and that skill alone isn’t enough.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) October 16, 2018
If you own Buchnevich and are wondering whether to drop him, it appears that the scratch isn’t due to a lack of scoring (unlike Saad). Buchnevich had scored two goals and added an assist in his five games, which isn’t drop-worthy on its own. In fact, Buchnevich could rebound from this and become a more complete player who competes harder, assuming the coach’s message gets through. If you’re in a league where every game played matters and there’s an equal or better option, then make the move. Otherwise, I’d be fine with holding here.
On a side note, if you’re a Shattenkirk and/or Buchnevich owner, you’ll know by now that David Quinn doesn’t care about your fantasy team. I say that facetiously, though. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well over the internet sometimes.
Tampa Bay has a very favorable schedule with three games still remaining this week (vs. DET, @MIN, @CHI), so there’s still plenty left to gain this week with a Tyler Johnson pickup. In Tuesday’s game against the Canes, Johnson scored three goals with a plus-2 and six shots on goal. Reuniting Johnson with old Triplets linemates Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat has proven favorable. In fact, part of me wishes they had never been split up. With his hat trick, Johnson now has five points in his last two games. And he’s owned in only 30 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Let’s just rename them the Edmonton McDavids. Connor McDavid scored two goals and added two assists in the Oilers’ 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Jets. In case you missed it, McDavid recorded points on all of the Oilers’ first nine goals of the season before the string was snapped with Darnell Nurse’s overtime goal. Obviously McDavid should be in your lineup every time he plays, but his magic has started to rub off on linemates Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (3 A on Tuesday) and Ty Rattie (1 G and 5 SOG on Tuesday).
In that same game, Nikolaj Ehlers finally recorded his first point of the season (an assist). In a head-scratcher of a move, someone in one of my leagues (and a fairly deep one at that) decided to drop Ehlers. I decided to use a waiver claim on him (I was 5th), but lost out to someone with higher priority. Moral of story: It’s way too early for something like this to be happening. Ehlers has scored 25 goals and 60 points in back-to-back seasons, and he’s on a line with Patrik Laine. Some fantasy owners place more emphasis than they should on the first few games of the season, so this might be a great time to attempt to buy low.
The Devils remain undefeated, thanks to two red hot players:
Kyle Palmieri scored again, giving him seven goals on the season, which is tied for second in the NHL. He’s actually cooled off, as this is the first game in which he did not score two goals. He will of course cool off. But he’s playing on the Devils’ top line, so it’s safe to say that he should be owned in just about every league format at this point.
Keith Kinkaid stopped all 24 shots he faced in earning the shutout over Dallas – his second shutout of the season. Even though Cory Schneider is still recovering from a hip injury, has Kinkaid earned the starting job for good? Even though Schneider has the larger paycheque with the longer term, this job could be Kinkaid’s to lose even when Schneider returns. Either way, Kinkaid is the perfect third goalie to own right now.
I’ll say this about Benn: He’s a GREAT fighter. I saw Benn in a fight with 6’7” Nikita Tryamkin in a live game a couple of seasons ago. He definitely held his own with the tall Russian.
Although Semyon Varlamov hasn’t earned wins over his last two starts, he’s exceeded my expectations over his first five games. Over each of his five starts (the first three being wins), he hasn’t posted a save percentage lower than .927. Meanwhile, Philipp Grubauer allowed four goals in his only start. It’s early and the goaltending duties could still shift more toward the upstart Grubauer as the season wears on. But Varlamov is showing no signs of letting up, keeping in the Avalanche in games where they have allowed 40 shots or more. After a shaky preseason, Varly is proving that there’s still something left as he plays for a starting job somewhere next season.
While on the Avs, I should mention that Nathan MacKinnon scored again, giving him goals in each of his first five games. He’s simply continuing where he left off last season.
It took him six games, but William Karlsson scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday. His shooting accuracy (9 percent) is still way down from his 23 percent from last season, so the scoring pace should pick up. Still, he’s going to have a very, very tough time repeating last season’s 43 goals. To his credit, Karlsson already has six assists, so maybe we see more of a playmaking version of Wild Bill this season while linemate Jonathan Marchessault focuses more on goals.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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