Ramblings: Islander Goalie Tandem, Red Hot Blues (Feb 15)

by Ian Gooding on February 15, 2019


I know Dobber has mentioned this before, but I’ve observed this as well. I’m hearing a ton of complaints about goaltending right now. “My goaltending sucks… no, really, mine is worse than anyone’s… I drafted (any of Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonathan Quick, Braden Holtby, the list goes on…) thinking my goaltending was secure, yet it has been a complete disaster.” Yep, join the club. Scoring is way up. Look at the number of point-per-game scorers this season. That’s going to come at the expense of goaltending.

It is still possible to be in love with your goaltending, or at least not want to break up with one or more of your goalies that you had high expectations for. Or to put it another way, you may be lucky enough to own a goalie that seems to care about you (hey, it was Valentine’s Day yesterday). Frederik Andersen and Andrei Vasilevskiy are two that come to mind that at least haven’t sucked. Two more that fantasy owners can be happy with are a pair that were complete afterthoughts to start the season. I’m talking about the Islanders’ tandem of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.

I’ve mentioned the amazing season of Lehner numerous times already, but let’s turn our attention to Greiss now. The new system of Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn has also worked wonders on Greiss, who posted a 31-save shutout of the Blue Jackets on Thursday. With the shutout, Greiss has now won five of his last six starts while allowing just three goals over that stretch. That’s three shutouts over his last five games.

Greiss’ recent play has forced a timeshare between him and Robin Lehner over the last half-dozen games. Although we tend to try to avoid timeshares in fantasy hockey, this arrangement is the exception to the rule. For goalies playing at least 20 games, Greiss (.930 SV%, 2.20 GAA) and Lehner (.929 SV%, 2.08 GAA) are 1-2 in both save percentage and goals-against average. Greiss’ numbers from last season (3.82 GAA, .892 SV%) to this season are like night and day, and he was with the very same team! One great fantasy goalie start is better than two mediocre ones.

To bring it back to my original point, the work that Trotz and Korn have done on Long Island is nothing short of miraculous, especially if you consider how much scoring has increased this season. Now leading the Metropolitan Division by three points, the Tavares-less Islanders have to be considered the surprise team of the NHL.

Not that he’ll ever replace JT, but with two goals on Thursday, Casey Cizikas now has three goals in his past two games.

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Andreas Athanasiou scored two goals in the first period on Thursday, including one on a penalty shot. He now has his first 20-goal season with more goals to come. He hasn’t been blessed with Detroit’s top forwards as linemates (Dylan Larkin immediately comes to mind), but he’s using his speed to make the most of what he has been given. If his production is a surprise to you, keep in mind that this is his fourth season. With his skill, I can’t help but think there’s more to come.

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Ho-hum, just another four-point game for Nikita Kucherov, including three points in the first period. As well, Steven Stamkos scored twice and added an assist. Jon Cooper has now separated Kucherov and Stamkos, with the lines looking like this:

#1           22%        GOURDE,YANNI – KUCHEROV,NIKITA – POINT,BRAYDEN

#2           21.5%    CIRELLI,ANTHONY – KILLORN,ALEX – MILLER,J.T.

#3           21.1%    ERNE,ADAM – JOSEPH,MATHIEU – PAQUETTE,CEDRIC

#4           16.7%    JOHNSON,TYLER – PALAT,ONDREJ – STAMKOS,STEVEN

Obviously the lines to be on are with Kucherov and Stamkos, in particular the line with Kucherov and Brayden Point. Yanni Gourde, who has cooled off (14 points in last 38 games) after a hot start (20 points in first 20 games), is the main benefactor here, although he failed to get on the scoresheet at all in spite of six Tampa goals.

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Same old, same old for Patrick Kane. His point streak is now at 16 games with his three points on Thursday. Now second in league scoring to Kucherov, Kane should be in the Hart Trophy discussion.  
 


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Since Jake Allen started his first game in nearly a month last Sunday, Craig Berube has turned back to Jordan Binnington for the last two games. Even though the extended mental health break might be doing wonders for the beleaguered Allen, Berube is wisely running with the hot hand here. As the interim coach attempting to turn it into a full-time job, he has to be less committed to the goalie with the contract than a coach with job security (relatively speaking) would.

Binnington is helping with that job security for his coach, stopping all 21 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over Arizona. Binnington has now won seven games in a row, while the Blues as a team have won eight in a row. Berube and Binnington have not only rescued the Blues’ season, but they are now lifting the Blues above the pile of struggling teams that are still within shouting distance of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

With two goals on Thursday, Vladimir Tarasenko is now riding a 10-game point streak and has eight points (5g-3a) over his last three games. Over that stretch (since January 19) only the aforementioned Kane (2.22) and Brad Marchand (1.89) have a higher points-per-game total than Tank (1.70). His season has turned around completely just as the Blues’ season has, which is why it's wise not to write off a stud when all hope seems lost (Patrik Laine owners, are you paying attention?) I was hoping that Berube would try Tarasenko with Ryan O’Reilly, which has turned out to be beneficial for Tarasenko, O’Reilly, and Brayden Schenn.
 


With an assist on Thursday, rookie Robert Thomas now has a four-game point streak with five points (all assists). Worth keeping an eye on.

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With two goals on Thursday, Auston Matthews now has 100 over his career in just 187 games. For active players, only Patrik Laine has scored his first 100 goals in fewer games (179).

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Adam mentions Troy Stecher in his Looking Ahead article this week, so I won’t try to steal (much of) his thunder. But I will mention that Stecher logged 31:55 on Thursday in a game that went the distance time-wise. With both Alex Edler and Chris Tanev out of the lineup, Stecher and Ben Hutton (28:37 on Thursday) played a ton, with Stecher also logging first-unit power-play minutes. I’ve always believed that the undersized Stecher is one of the Canucks’ better defensemen, and he’s going to have an opportunity to make some contributions. It’s also worth mentioning that he has three points in his last five games, so I will concur he’s worth taking a flier on.

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With the Sharks’ lone goal on Thursday, Kevin Labanc now has goals in three consecutive games and five goals over that span. Prior to that he had scored just six goals all season. David Pastrnak owners won’t be able to replace him with someone with equal ability on the waiver wire, but Labanc is one right winger who you could consider as at least a stopgap option.

T.J. Oshie scored two goals and added an assist in the Capitals’ 5-1 win over San Jose. After a slow second quarter (just two points in 12 games), Oshie has rebounded nicely with 17 points in his last 16 games. Oshie is on pace for 59 points, which is right around his career average, although his point total will probably be lower because he has missed 11 games.

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Did I miss anything worth mentioning? Probably, because there were 11 games on the schedule on Thursday. If you think so, leave a note and I might make room for it tomorrow.

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For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.