Ramblings: Kopitar deal, Holtby streak over (Jan. 17)

by Ian Gooding on January 17, 2016

Kopitar signs long term, Holtby undefeated streak over, plus more…

The eight-year contract for Anze Kopitar is complete, so that’s one potential free agent off the list. As good a player as Kopitar is, I’m always leery about these lengthy deals. Personally, I believe they serve as rewards for past exceptional performance rather than expected returns on future play. But then if you don’t sign him to the deal, then you risk losing him. And with the Kings way ahead of the pack in the Pacific Division, their time to invest is now.

On Saturday, Kopitar recorded one assist in two shots on goal in 20 minutes of icetime in the Kings’ 5-3 loss to Ottawa. Kopitar’s timing in selling his team on a long-term contract is impeccable, as over his last 10 games he has posted 16 points. The suggestion by fellow Ramblers earlier this season to match Kopitar with Tyler Toffoli has been paying off immensely.

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Kyle Turris did not score one of the Senators’ five goals against the Kings on Saturday. So that’s 14 games and counting without a goal for Turris, who scored 7 of his first 13 goals back in October.

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Henrik Lundqvist owners might already know that December was a rough month (3.27 GAA, .892 SV%), just as it was for the Rangers. January has been better, with this week in particular a strong one. King Henrik was solid again on Saturday, stopping 34 of 36 shots and all three Flyers’ shootout attempts in his second win of the week. So that’s a 1.63 goals-against average, a .950 save percentage, and 95 saves over three games this week.

Not that you’re likely discouraged from starting King Henrik anyway, but you’ll want to roll with him next week as well. The Rangers face two bottom-third offenses in Vancouver and Carolina, along with an Ottawa team whose offense has cooled off recently (Saturday notwithstanding).

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Speaking of goalies, Cory Schneider earned a 38-save shutout on Saturday, his fourth goose egg of the season. I can’t help but wonder if he would be considered among the league’s elite if he played for a team that is considered a contender. This split might be as good as it gets: In his career against the Coyotes, Schneider is 7-1-1 with four shutouts and just eight goals allowed in nine games.

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On Saturday, Steve Laidlaw provided the fantasy impact of two struggling wingers being swapped by two struggling teams. I’m not rushing to the waiver wire to add either David Perron or Carl Hagelin, but both players’ season shooting percentage is significantly lower than their career shooting percentage (Hagelin 4.9%, Perron 4.2%). With both percentages due for an increase, there may be something there after the deal.

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Leo Komarov ended his ten-game goalless drought on Saturday. During that time, his shooting percentage has “fallen” to 18.4 percent, while back on December 1 it was a sky-high 22 percent. Komarov still leads the Leafs in goals (16) in spite of only taking the fifth-most shots on the team (87). But remember his value in leagues that count hits, as Terry mentioned in his Geek of the Week a couple weeks ago.  

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With a matchup against Chad Johnson and the Sabres in the offing, I decided to load up on Capitals on my daily fantasy team. So logically, the Sabres took this game 4-1, pushing Braden Holtby from the net after the third goal. So Holtby earned his first regulation losses in over two months, his last one coming on November 12.

When I was covering the Capitals for the trade block portion of the Midseason Guide, it was difficult for me to find any pressing needs on that team. They kind of remind me of the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks, who cruised to their first of two consecutive President’s Trophies that season with as complete a team as I’ve seen in the salary cap era. Whether the Capitals can survive the grueling marathon that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen, but this has to be the strongest Capitals team that we have seen in the Alex Ovechkin era.

Mike Richards made his debut with the Capitals on Saturday. In the part of this game that I watched, he hardly seemed noticeable. The boxscore showed that, as he was held without a point in 13 minutes of icetime. Here’s how the Capitals’ lines shaped up with Richards in the fold:

13.96%

EV

BACKSTROM,NICKLASOSHIE,T.J.OVECHKIN,ALEXANDER

12.16%

EV

CHIMERA,JASONJOHANSSON,MARCUSWILSON,TOM

11.71%

EV

LATTA,MICHAELRICHARDS,MIKESILL,ZACH

9.01%

EV

BURAKOVSKY,ANDREKUZNETSOV,EVGENYWILLIAMS,JUSTIN

With Backstrom, Kuznetsov, and Johansson up the middle, Richards will be in tough to move up beyond the fourth line. Expect similar production from the latter portion of his time in LA, although expectations will be lower this time around because of the lighter contract.

Just as I started Capitals on my daily team, I benched Evander Kane on another team. That also didn’t turn out well, as I missed out on a goal and an assist. Even though his actual performance has fallen far short of his average draft position, he still reaches or at least knocks on the door of reaching 20 minutes per game. He’s also shooting the puck as per usual (second on the Sabres with 131 shots), so I guess the thing to do with him is be patient. He also has four points over his last four games.

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Here we go again. Kris Letang is a game-time decision on Sunday. I’m just going to stick him into my weekly lineup next week anyway, even if he is absent Sunday. Tanger is on quite a run lately with 12 points over his last seven games, so I’m not going to risk benching him only to watch that run continue. One game from Letang right now might be better than three from either Damon Severson or Dan Boyle, who are my replacement options if Letang is still hurt.

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That’s Carter Hutton – not Pekka Rinne – who earned the shutout against the Wild on Saturday. With Rinne struggling, could Hutton slowly wedge his way into more frequent starts? Since he filled in for an injured Rinne two seasons ago, Hutton hasn’t been heard from much, having played only a grand total of 25 games over the past two seasons.

Rinne is one of the league’s busiest goalies, so longer breaks between starts might help. One area where he and the Predators have surprisingly struggled this season, however: penalty killing. The Preds are 28th with a 76.8 percent kill rate, a very un-Predator-like number.

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Wearing the sweet Curtis Joseph mask, Brian Elliott made a career-high 46 saves in the Blues’ 4-3 win over Montreal. Continue to roll with Elliott as long as Jake Allen is out. In spite of being pulled in his previous start on Thursday against Carolina, Elliott has won three of his last four games.

 

Jori Lehtera and Robby Fabbri, who each scored a goal and added an assist in this game, are solid plays while their linemate is Vladimir Tarasenko. I added Fabbri in one deep league tonight after discovering that he is a rookie with 11 goals who is owned in only 2 percent of Yahoo leagues.

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Cam Talbot earned his third win in six starts this month on Saturday, which is quite a feat for an Oilers’ goalie. With a 1.60 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in January, Talbot is rendering Anders Nilsson obsolete in fantasy leagues. Nilsson was the player I dropped for the above-mentioned Fabbri.

Check out this nice save he made on TJ Brodie. Even though I’m no Oilers fan, am I the only one who actually likes these orange Oilers’ thirds?

Jonas Hiller was the hard-luck loser in this game, stopping 36 of 37 shots before losing in the shootout. Hiller started his second consecutive game, allowing just one goal over that span. He might be in line for more starts after Karri Ramo’s long stretch, so you might want to look him up again.

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic took advantage of a Stars’ team playing its second of back-to-back games, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Sharks’ 4-3 overtime win. It’s been a solid month for the blueliner, as he has scored seven points in his last six games.

Back on the Joe PavelskiJoe Thornton line, Tomas Hertl scored the overtime winner and added an assist. Although Hertl has been held without a point in each of his last three games, he’s a sneaky good add while he is on that line.

Even with injuries, it’s hard to believe that Logan Couture didn’t score his first goal of the season until January 11. But he’s providing more now than he has at any point of the season, having recorded points in three of his last four games. Tommy Wingels and Joonas Donskoi may not be the most appealing linemates, although I was impressed with Donskoi’s shootout goal in a game against the Oilers a few nights ago.

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Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.