It was another round of rather mostly dull Sunday night games so let’s hop to it.
Kyle Connor missed Winnipeg’s game last night against Ottawa and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Mathieu Perreault took his spot on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. There’s no indication as to the severity of Connor’s injury, but he finished the game on Friday, so I’d assume it’s nothing too serious. We’ll see.
Over the last three-plus seasons, the line of Scheifele-Wheeler-Perreault has legitimately been one of the best in the league. Whether by adjusted shot share or expected goal differential at five-on-five, this trio ranks among the top-10, alongside names like Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane. Even if Connor only misses a couple games, I’ll be interested to see how coach Paul Maurice handles it. Scheifele-Wheeler-Perreault could be a true top line in every sense of the word, and if they show that over a couple games, will Maurice change it? We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but it’s something worth keeping in mind if you have a spot to stash Perreault.
It didn’t take long for that line to get going in Sunday’s game against Ottawa, either. Perreault and Scheifele both scored in the first period for the Jets, a period they dominated from start to finish. Wheeler assisted on both goals, which pushed both he and Scheifele into top-5 in scoring league-wide. It could have been worse than 2-0 were it not for Mike Condon and saves like this:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 4, 2017
Anyway, the Jets throttled Ottawa 5-0 in this one, and it wasn’t really close from the start. Winnipeg put up 50 shots, and Craig Anderson saved all 27 he faced when he took over from Condon after the fifth goal.
Since returning from Europe, Ottawa has one win in nine games. Now, when a team goes into a slide like this, I like to tell a cautionary tale of the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings. That season, from December 23rd through February 3rd, a span of 21 games, they went 5-14-2. Panic was setting in, this team had high expectations, etc. etc. They led the league in adjusted five-on-five corsifor percentage in that span, though. The problem was they shot 3.4 percent and their save percentage was .914. They rebounded (predictably) and eventually won the Stanley Cup.
Now, during this tailspin, Ottawa isn’t close to leading the league in shot share, but they’re not awful either, coming in at 19th (before Sunday night). The problem is .903 goaltending. So, no, the Sens aren’t a great team, and probably aren’t a playoff team, but they haven’t necessarily been nearly as bad as they’ve shown of late.
I posted this poll on Twitter out of sheer boredom:
Random poll: where would you rank Blake Wheeler among all wingers since the 2005 lockout?
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) December 4, 2017
I got to thinking about this. Here are guys that I would definitely rank above him: Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla, and Marian Hossa. Other guys I would consider include Daniel Alfredsson, Jamie Benn, Taylor Hall, Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis, Marian Gaborik, and Rick Nash. You can probably make arguments for a few guys in the most recent crop like Nikita Kucherov and Vladimir Tarasenko. All said, he’d be in my top-15. What say you?
The Kings beat the Blackhawks 3-1 in a dull contest. All the goals were scored in the final 11 minutes of the game and, really, the only question as whether Jonathan Quick would hold onto his shutout.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown both had a goal and an assist in this one, giving Kopitar 31 points on the year now. Brown, by the way, needs four more goals to set a four-year high. Anton Forsberg only allowed one goal (the Kings had two empty-netters).
This type of game was kind of expected, I guess. It was Chicago’s fifth game in seven days and Los Angeles’ fourth in six.
The only note here is that John Hayden took Richard Panik’s spot on the top line in the middle of the first period and stayed there until the end. Panik moved down to the fourth line where he also stayed. Coach Quenneville is a notorious lineup blender, so we’ll see if they stick with this in practice. I doubt it, but just something to monitor.
Before Vegas’s game on Sunday night, we got an update on Marc-Andre Fleury’s progression and recovery from a concussion:
GMGM on Fleury: “he has passed all his tests and barring any setbacks should be able to practice Wednesday.”
— Steve Carp (@stevecarprj) December 3, 2017
It’s been nearly two months since Fleury’s injury, and given the team has a back-to-back this weekend, a target of the middle of next week seems about right assuming there are no set backs. That would give Fleury about a week to get back into rhythm, though there is still a lot of hurdles to pass between now and a regular season start.
The Golden Knights are currently occupying a playoff spot, but heading into Sunday, the team was 26th in five-on-five save percentage since Fleury’s last game. The team is scoring, they aren’t taking many penalties, and their penalty kill is solid. This is keeping them afloat. They also don’t need all-world goaltending to win games. However, if Fleury can return and perform at a level near what he did for his Penguins career, this team could be even better. All this is great news for Fleury fantasy owners, and let’s hope everything goes smoothly for him.
Arizona-Vegas was basically the Ottawa-Winnipeg game with less lopsided scoring; the shots were 26-14 Golden Knights after two periods. Arizona was on a back-to-back so I won’t kill them too much for it.
The Karlsson-Marchessault-Smith line just keeps rolling. They had 31 even-strength points as a trio heading into Sunday, more than Chicago’s top line (22), or Dallas’ (25), or the Islanders’ (26), or Calgary’s (30), and, well, you get the point. Jonathan Marchessault scored very early in the third, his 10th of the year. Reilly Smith scored the overtime winner from Marchessault in a wildly entertaining overtime.
Jakob Chychrun made his season debut Sunday night for Arizona following knee surgery during the off-season. Fun fact: he and Aaron Ekblad are the only 18-year old defencemen to manage 20 points in a season since the 1994 lockout.
He scored Arizona’s first goal, and not only was it a nice shot, it was a great pinch:
CHYCHRUN! SEASON DEBUT FOR CHYCHRUN AND HE FINDS TWINE, 1-1! pic.twitter.com/jYIZx67M3t
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) December 4, 2017
As soon as he sees his teammates get possession, he moves down low instead of staying 60 feet away from the goalie. Those are the kind of instincts that should make dynasty owners drool.
He was paired with Alex Goligoski on the second pair and played over 20 minutes, though none on the power play.
Pretty quietly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is on pace for 16 goals and nearly 50 points, which is much more what we’re accustomed to compared to his 2016-17 season. It’s nice to see him bounce back for himself after a tough campaign both on and off the ice.
Pretty quietly was a relative term there, I hope everyone read up on OEL in yesterday's Geek of the Week here on Dobber.
Colorado had an interesting giveaway on Sunday night:
When you leave the game tonight, don’t forget your free energy efficient showerhead, courtesy of Xcel Energy!
Grab it, install it and fill out a survey to enter-to-win four Club Lexus tickets and a Zamboni ride! pic.twitter.com/M89CbO3ukO
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 3, 2017
I wonder if it’s the Commando 450.
Colorado had their chances but Dallas just did a better job capitalizing on theirs. Tyler Seguin had two goals, and Alex Radulov and John Klingberg had two assists each en route to a 7-2 win over the Avs.
Jonathan Bernier was pulled after the fourth goal (on nine shots).
Colour me interested in the new Tampa Bay second line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov. I’m sure some will have forgotten (I did), but those three played a fair amount together on the top line for Tampa in 2016-17 with Steven Stamkos injured. They crushed it together, too, as the Lightning register 63 shot attempts per 60 minutes with those three on the ice. For reference, Stamkos-Kucherov-Namestnikov generated about 65.4.
This always seemed kind of inevitable. Like other teams with a few premier players like Boston or Dallas, you’ll see the top line stacked for stretches of time, but the team is probably better off long-term sprinkling their talent around. Maybe this only lasts for a couple games, but the team’s schedule going to the Christmas break isn’t very difficult; they face Colorado twice, host the Islanders, Sens, and Wild, and there’s a game in Arizona, among other contests. It would pretty reasonable for this new second line to dominate against some of the softer competition they’re going to be facing, so maybe this lasts longer than two or three games.
As of Wednesday night, the Habs had the second-worst five-on-five shooting percentage in the league at 5.71 percent, and fourth-worst on the power play at 8.59 percent. Two games against the Red Wings later, and the team is now tied for 25th at five-on-five with 6.98 percent and 25th on the power play at 9.94 percent. There is still more room for this team to regress at both strengths, but it’s nice to see the team finally finish.
Also, small shout out to Paul Byron? An article from Mike Fail at Matchstick and Gasoline a couple years ago outlined how he could help teams if he was given a particular role. Well, Montreal gave him that role and are reaping the rewards.
It’s probably time to believe in his goal-scoring potential. Since the start of the 2015 season, his first with Montreal, he’s shooting an even 22 percent (20 percent this year). With 15-16 minutes a game, and that kind of conversion rate, there’s no reason to think he can’t pop 20 goals. Those fantasy owners in hits leagues (he’s on pace for 140 this year) take note.
How worried is everyone about San Jose? At least fantasy-wise. I know they’re in a playoff spot, and the team, as they have for a few years, are among the league’s best in driving the play. As of Sunday afternoon, though, they were 29th in the league in goals per game with only Arizona and Buffalo worse. Both Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski have zero power-play goals. Logan Couture is the only player on the roster on pace for at least 55 points, and on and on and on…
At some point, “it’s still early” doesn’t apply, and we’re two months into the NHL season. They won't shoot six percent at five-on-five all year, but what's the concern level among the Dobber community? Let us know in the comments.
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