Ramblings: Johnny T and the Islanders are Plummeting at the Wrong Time (Mar 1)

by steve laidlaw on March 1, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Johnny T and the Islanders are Plummeting at the Wrong Time (Mar 1)

 

The Niemi-ssance continues!

Other than getting roasted by Mathew Barzal, which could and does happen to anyone, Niemi stopped 27 of 28 to defeat the Islanders. Niemi has made eight starts since joining the Canadiens, winning four of them and putting up a quality start in seven of the eight games. The one blip on Niemi’s record was 4-1 loss to Edmonton in which he stopped 31 of 34 for a .912 save percentage. Literally, his worst start has been a .912 save percentage! That’s his career average! What a run. I don’t trust it at all but am thoroughly entertained.

That Barzal goal, by the way:

 

Niemi will likely get another crack at shutting down the Islanders on Friday after this win.

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The Islanders are in quite the post-All-Star funk. They’ve won just four of 14 games, claiming just 10 of a possible 28 points. That’s a good way to fall out of the race. Worse, they’ve actually gotten some goaltending with Jaroslav Halak boasting a .916 save percentage in that stretch. That isn’t great, and it still comes with a 3.22 goals-against average thanks to all the shots being conceded, but at least he’s battling to an average level.

Instead it’s the offense that is slowing down. They’ve scored 2.57 goals per game since the All-Star break, which is the rate that the anemic Blue Jackets (27th in league scoring) have carried all season. This is bad news for fantasy owners. Check out their top scorers since the All-Star break courtesy of Frozenpool:

Rank

Name

GP

Points

1

BARZAL,MATHEW

14

16

2

BAILEY,JOSH

14

8

3

NELSON,BROCK

14

8

4

BEAUVILLIER,ANTHONY

14

7

5

EBERLE,JORDAN

14

7

6

LEDDY,NICK

14

7

7

TAVARES,JOHN

14

7

8

LEE,ANDERS

14

6

9

HICKEY,THOMAS

14

6

10

PULOCK,RYAN

14

5

11

CIZIKAS,CASEY

14

4

 

Outside of Barzal that is bleak. Where’d the magic go for John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee? It hasn’t been a lack of power play production, as the Islanders have still clicked at 24% over the past month. That top line is simply getting crushed at 5-on-5 over the last month. Really, it’s that their shooting percentage luck is finally catching up.

Superstars like Tavares can help drive shooting percentage, but Lee, Tavares and Bailey ranked third, sixth and 11th respectively in on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 at the All-Star break. All at well-above 10%, which is a tell-tale rate for regression. Since then, they rank 511th, 460th, and 493rd. All three at below 5%, which is far too low. They should rebound, assuming there’s not some injury or other dynamic causing this drop.

My guess is that after crushing teams since the start of December 2016, teams finally got enough film on that line and schemed a way to slow them down. Add in some regression, perhaps a loss of confidence, Bailey returning from injury and bam, brutal funk.

It doesn’t help that the Islanders’ schedule for the fantasy playoffs (March 5 – March 25) is weaker with just nine games.

Is it too late or can you sell Islanders in your league? All my one-year leagues have passed the deadline and I have zero Islander stock. I had Nick Leddy for most of the season, but his decline is one I’ve documented heavily over the past three months. He actually shows well with seven points in 14 games, but his plus/minus (a category I’ll punt if it’s worth it) has been an anchor. I tried shopping him, but eventually just dropped him outright. A burden was lifted, you have no idea.

With Tavares, you need another star back, no easy task. With Bailey, you can probably come out okay. With Lee, he does enough things that maybe you just ride this out. He’s a multi-category stud as one of just six guys with at least 20 goals, 150 SOG, 30 PIM and 70 hits on the year. Other guys with those benchmarks: Brendan Gallagher, Evander Kane, Jamie Benn, Vincent Trocheck and Brayden Schenn.

You definitely aren’t nabbing the latter four for free. They’ve all got ownership levels through the roof. Gallagher, however, is out there in 50% of Yahoo leagues. He’s trending up with 15 points in 23 games since the start of January. He could be a free upgrade off the waiver wire and would give you 11 games in the fantasy playoffs.

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No Nikita Kucherov for the Lightning last night. We still aren’t sure his exact ailment, though it is purported to be serious. At least they didn’t do what the Bruins did letting Patrice Bergeron play against the Sabres on a (not yet diagnosed) broken foot. Just be healthy next week Kucherov.

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In the world of bizarre goalie performances, how about Chad Johnson defeating the Lightning twice and the Bruins twice in four of his last five starts. They were over 2/1 underdogs in three out of four of those games. The odds on them winning all four would have been 26.5/1, which is in the neighbourhood of the odds you’d get to bet the Islanders to win the Cup.

Since Jack Eichel went down Ryan O’Reilly has nine points and 31 SOG in nine games.

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After making his Flame debut on the top line, Chris Stewart was banished to the fourth line last night. It was worth a shot for Calgary, and two games does not mean can’t be an impact guy. It’s just EXTREMELY unlikely he’ll be a difference-maker for fantasy owners. He need to be a hit right away and flopped. When does Micheal Ferland return?

No timeline yet for Ferland and his undisclosed injury, although he has been skating. He just needs to be back in time for the fantasy playoffs where the Flames have one of the best schedules with 10 games, and a lot of off-night action.

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Need a multi-category boost? Consider Duncan Siemens who has 14 blocked shots in five games since being recalled. He also has nine hits and 21 PIM. Unfortunately, all 21 PIM came in two games against the Flames, who the Avs don’t play again this season.

Big win for the Avs to hang in the playoff race. They are currently in 10th but have a game in hand on the Ducks just one point ahead in the eight seed. The West chase as it stands is going to be insane. There are seven teams within four points of one another chasing three spots, including all three California teams, the Avs, Stars, Blues and Flames.

I don’t think anyone has faith in the Avs, but Nathan MacKinnon is back healthy and looking to drag them there. He has 10 points in six games since returning from injury. I’m not sure there’s a guy I’d rather have for the fantasy playoffs than MacKinnon. He is in full superstar mode, having the season I thought Eichel was going to have.

They need Semyon Varlamov to get there as well, and we know that he can. With both Jonathan Bernier and Andrew Hammond concussed it could be Varlamov starting the bulk of their remaining 19 games. They have only one back-to-back in March, but a tough slate of opponents facing Minnesota, Nashville and Vegas each twice.

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Nice rebound performance for Carter Hutton who got lit up against the Wild the other night coming on in relief of Jake Allen. Neither has been good over the past month for this sinking squad, but Hutton has been better. If they are going to have any hope of hanging in the playoff race, they need to ride Hutton. Two back-to-backs for the Blues during the fantasy playoffs, however, so even if he’s the starter he’ll have reduced utility.

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It would seem that the Rangers don’t have any time for this notion of being a poor destination for fantasy options. Ryan Spooner has five points in two games since joining the team. Vladislav Namestnikov scored two points in his debut.

Then again, the Rangers did get the not-so-imposing matchups of Detroit and Vancouver, so we can pump the brakes.

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The San Jose Sharks extended backup goaltender Aaron Dell for two years at $1.9 million per. That’s a bit on the rich side for a backup, but he was heading towards unrestricted free agency and has performed well with a .920 save percentage in 45 appearances across the past two seasons, while winning over 60% of his decisions.

If you’re Dell, you have to love this job security and bump in pay, especially after conceding 23 goals in your last five appearances. That poor run has tanked his 2017-18 save percentage to .912, which highlights what a small sample of play we are dealing with.

You can’t help but wonder if Scott Darling and the Chicago Blackhawks don’t wish they had been able to come to a similar agreement last season. Would Darling have flamed out in the same way had he stayed in Chicago? Would the Blackhawks have drowned after Corey Crawford went down with vertigo and none of their backups could fill the void? Then again, the Blackhawks might not mind if they can win a top-three pick in the lottery to reinvigorate an aging core.

In any case, Dell’s extension likely takes him out of the mix for potential starters next season. He could conceivably be dealt somewhere, but it’s unlikely that an acquiring team would view him as anything more than a 1B option.

Dell is stuck behind Martin Jones, whose own extension (a six-year deal at $5.75 million per with no-trade protection) kicks in next season as well. It could be worse! While Jones is firmly the Sharks’ starter, he’s shown enough variance to be susceptible to losing his gig for stretches so Dell should remain relevant, even if just as a handcuff to Jones.

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Time to review some goodies from Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts:

8. Heard Calgary resisted offers for three young defencemen — Rasmus Andersson, Adam Fox and Juuso Valimaki. Maybe they would have considered one for a difference-maker with term, but there was nothing appealing enough.

This is completely understandable. Those prospects are REALLY good. You can add Oliver Kylington to that list in terms of intrigue, though his not being name could indicate he was available or at least not as valued either by the Flames or inquiring teams.

The cliff may come faster than expected for Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie. Having a good stockpile of defensemen will be key to keeping them afloat for the span or the Gaudreau/Monahan prime.

Andersson might be ready to contribute to the team right now. Hell, he might even be better than Travis Hamonic (struggling through a tough season), or Michael Stone (never more than a third-pairing guy). Just look at how Travis Dermott has really settled things down for Toronto’s blue line. Andersson has 33 points in 45 games as 21-year-old sophomore in the AHL. He’s on the cusp.

What might the Flames have been able to do at the deadline had they left a spot available for one of their prospects to potentially grow into? What if they had not swung the Hamonic trade, dealing away their first and second-round picks from this year and another conditional 2nd. That left them with essentially only their prospect cupboard to trade from, which they weren’t quite willing to do.

Most people thought the Hamonic deal was a good bet, myself included, even with all the draft capital they gave up. There’s no guarantee they would have ensnared a more impactful player with those picks at the deadline. There’s no guarantee that Andersson would make a difference if given a shot.

Now, however, they have the right side of their defense locked up until 2020, with Andersson having no real shot at promotion beyond an injury. He’s an excellent insurance policy who is also locked up until 2020. Could a one-step backwards/two-steps forwards deal be in play this summer? Moving out one of Stone or Hamonic could return draft resources and open up cap space. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long wait for returns on these prospects for fantasy owners.

Read more about Andersson here, Fox here, Valimaki here, and Kylington here.

14. One scout on Stastny and Winnipeg: “That’s a good fit. He needs speed around him… and they’ve got plenty of it.”

Stastny’s last great fantasy season came in 2013-14 when he put up 60 points in 71 games with a third-year Gabriel Landeskog, and rookie Nathan MacKinnon as his most common wingers. That was for the overachieving Avs who won 52 games in Patrick Roy’s first season as coach. It was also a contract year for Stastny, but the theory holds water.

Stastny was scoring at a 50-point pace before landing in a spot more conducive to production than he had in St. Louis. You don’t want to over-react to a two-point night in his debut but Stastny really could go for 15-20 points in Winnipeg’s final 19 games if things break right. I wouldn’t predict that he’ll score more than 14 in those 19 games (a 60-point pace), but variance over a small sample can swing things.

Winnipeg has a decent 10-game schedule during the standard fantasy playoffs (March 5 – March 25), which is an upgrade over St. Louis’ nine-game slate.

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If you missed it, check out my breakdown of the trade deadline winners and losers for Sportsnet.

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.