Ramblings: Home Teams Crush Wednesday; Shipachyov News; Slow Starters – October 27

by Michael Clifford on October 25, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Home Teams Crush Wednesday; Shipachyov News; Slow Starters – October 27

Buffalo was in Columbus Wednesday a night after their 1-0 win against Detroit. Things didn’t go as well. Columbus as the Blue Jackets skated away with a 5-1 win. The big night offensively went to Seth Jones, who managed a goal, an assist, and three shots on target. Jones now has seven points in nine games this year.

Sergei Bobrovsky’s shutout was broken up with under three minutes remaining, but he got the win with 34 saves on 35 shots.

One thing worth noting in this game is that Josh Anderson was moved up to play with Artemi Panarin and Nick Foligno about halfway through the game. Anderson ended up playing over 18 minutes, his highest total of the season. Cam Atkinson was moved down to a line with Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky. Columbus is at home Friday to Winnipeg, and the Jets will be playing back to back on the road. Columbus then has a game Saturday. We’ll see if the team has a practice on Thursday what the lines look like.


In the only other game Wednesday night, St. Louis managed a 5-2 win over Calgary. Jake Allen saved 23 of 25 for the win.

There were some huge fantasy performances for the Blues. Alex Steen had a goal and three assists skating on a new line with Vladimir Sobotka and Paul Stastny. Stastny himself had a goal and an assist, pushing his season totals up to 10 points in 10 games. Vladimir Tarasenko stayed out of the goal column but did add two helpers and three shots on goal. For good measure, Alex Pietrangelo scored a goal, which – if my math is right – makes him the points leader among blue liners in the NHL.

St. Louis is in Carolina on Friday before returning home for a matchup with the Jackets. Calgary has home games this weekend Friday against Dallas and Sunday against Washington.


As far as transaction news is concerned, this was probably the biggest news to come out Wednesday:

Ho-Sang has 14 points in 27 career NHL games, including four points in six games this year playing third-line minutes.

This obviously sucks for his dynasty and keeper owners. I’m sure there were a lot of people out there hoping (and rightly so) that this would be his breakout year, possibly playing second-line minutes and secondary power-play time. Now he might not even get in a full season.

At face value, I don’t get it. Admittedly, I’ve only watched three Islanders games this year, but Ho-Sang never stood out as playing poorly, and none of his numbers stick out as poor, either. The Islanders fans I follow whose opinion I respect don’t understand the demotion either. We’ll see how long this lasts.


Vadim Shipachyov news:

For whatever reason, it’s not working on in Vegas. We might not know what the actual problem is, but a few games at 10 minutes a night makes it hard to think it’s his performance on the ice. It’ll be exciting to see where he lands.


Flyers fans and Wayne Simmonds fantasy owners will know that the power forward has been battling through some injuries the last few games. This is apparently going a step further:

Obviously there’s no actionable information right now, but the fact that the team made it known he’s undergoing further evaluation, and not strictly taking a “maintenance” day, is a bit of a cause for concern. Don’t raise the alarms yet, just a situation to monitor.


In other Eastern Conference winger news:

In a play I missed, Ms. Shilton would further go on to say there was a play were van Riemsdyk took a hard hit into the boards and briefly left the game on Monday night against Los Angeles. He returned, but apparently isn’t 100 percent. It’s worth noting that with JvR missing in practice, Mitch Marner was moved back up alongside Tyler Bozak (with Josh Leivo taking van Riemsdyk’s spot).

Of course, like Simmonds, nothing to get too worried about yet. Just another situation to keep an eye on.


Slowly but surely, the Wild are getting healthier:

The fact that Niederreiter is getting ready to take part in a morning skate indicates he is close to returning. Including Thursday night’s tilt against the Islanders, Minnesota has five home games in 10 days. Seems the perfect time to get him back into the lineup and up to speed. 


As I mentioned in a Ramblings a couple of days ago, this seems to now be a thing:

This might be something that could be changing every few games all year, but over the last few seasons, the trio of Donskoi, Joe Thornton, and Joe Pavelski have been utterly dominant at five-on-five (even more so than the Joes usually are). Hopefully the 25-year old Finn gets an extended look because it seems like a situation where everyone would benefit.



There were only two games in the NHL last night – as always, solid scheduling by the NHL – so there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about for game action. I thought it’d be worth going through a handful of players that are off to slow starts this year and whether that performance can be realistically expected for the rest of the season, or if the full-year projection we expected is still in the cards.  


Jason Spezza

The idea was that with Alex Radulov in the fold, the team would run a four-forward top power-play unit (as they have for a few years) with Jason Spezza coming off his usual half-wall position. With all the talent Dallas could boast with their top man advantage quintet, surely Spezza would rebound from the 50-point campaign in 2016-17.

Well, the team did go to four forwards at five-on-four, as expected, but it’s… Devin Shore?… slotting in as the fourth man alongside their top line. Dallas is far from the only team using an out-of-place forward on their top unit (Winnipeg and Adam Lowry/Nic Petan come to mind), but it doesn’t make it less frustrating.

Beyond that, Spezza is averaging just 12:48 per game in ice time, the lowest since his rookie year in 2002-03, and over a full three minutes less than the 16:10 he had last year.

That last paragraph is the big problem here. On a per-game basis at five-on-five, Spezza is earning less ice time than guys like Sean Kuraly in Boston, Chris Wagner in Anaheim, and Greg McKegg in Pittsburgh. Though he leads the team in individual shot attempts per minute – leading to more shots per game than last season despite much less ice time – he’s not earning more minutes for himself.

Therein lies the problem. If Spezza is off the top power play, and earning less than 10 minutes a game at five-on-five, there is almost no chance he is fantasy-relevant this year. Unless injuries hit, it doesn’t appear that will happen. Things aren’t looking good for Spezza believers.


Sebastian Aho

A 24-goal, 49-point rookie season from a player expected to play a bigger role for an improving team. What could go wrong?

Seven games into the season (yes, please keep that in mind with all these players), Aho has no goals, three assists, and sits with a minus-3. For a player likely drafted somewhere inside the top-100, not a great start.

When a guy is in a scoring slump, the first thing I always check is HockeyViz. Is he getting to the net? Is he shooting from sharp angles? How does it compare to what he’s done before? The first image is last year, the second one is this year:

As always, keep in mind that this sample spans seven games. The fact that he has as many shots from the high-slot area as he does where a defenceman would launch from, though, is a concern.

The good news is that he’s still getting loads of ice time having averaged 18:35 over his last three games. As long as the coach’s keep giving him opportunities, there’s no reason to bench him just yet. Their next stretch of games includes a fast-paced Leafs team, a banged-up Ducks team, and games against Arizona and Colorado. Let’s see how he does over his next five before getting concerned.


Brent Burns

I’m sure, *sure*, that some people who drafted Burns in the first round are freaking out about Burns not having a goal yet. The good news: he’s averaging more assists per game than last year, with four shots on goal per game to go with it.

I’ll save the screen space and just say he’s getting about the same five-on-five shot locations that he was last year. Maybe he doesn’t shoot nine percent again – it’s hard to repeat that year after year as a blue liner – but even if he has a down year at seven percent, with 320 shots on goal, he can crack 20 goals. If anything, this is a buy-low opportunity. You won’t be able to buy him *too* low, but if you can get away with something other than a top-20 skater, you’re ahead of the game. He should still be a top-5 defenceman by the end of the year.