Rambling about Kuznetsov’s awesomeness, why Stamkos – the real Stamkos – is back, and more…
The Midseason Guide was released 12 days ago, complete with analysis, second-half projections, trade speculation, KHLers to watch for this summer, the top college free agents, over 80 prospect profiles and much more. Buy it here if you haven’t already. I figure this weekend is the last weekend it will remain relevant.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out for 6-8 weeks with a hand injury. So all the questions that had some owners of RNH (and other Oilers) panicking are now set aside. He won’t be a third-line center, he’ll be a first-line press boxer. When Connor McDavid is back, this is how I see the lines shaking out:
Hall – Draisaitl – Eberle
Pouliot – McDavid – Yakupov
And by the way, even if Nugent-Hopkins was on the third line, it wouldn’t be a ‘third line’ per se. You would have co-second lines, with RNH centering Kassian and Purcell. And to me that’s a pretty good 2B line.
Niklas Kronwall is out 2-4 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. According to his profile, he’s seen 55.9% of Detroit’s available PP time, and it has been consistently around that number throughout the season so far. I wonder if this finally gets Brendan Smith in there on a power-play unit. Worth watching – that’s where my hunch lies.
So Mike Cammalleri is back in the lineup after missing eight games and it took Lee Stempniak all of 21 minutes to get himself back on the score sheets. He had three points in the eight games…but then picked up two points last night. Here were the line combos for New Jersey:
#1 23.4% BLANDISI,JOSEPH – PALMIERI,KYLE – ZAJAC,TRAVIS
#2 22.9% CAMMALLERI,MIKE – HENRIQUE,ADAM – STEMPNIAK,LEE
#3 22.4% GIONTA,STEPHEN – RUUTU,TUOMO – TOOTOO,JORDIN
#4 19.8% BOUCHER,REID – KALININ,SERGEY – KENNEDY,TYLER
And so Stempniak is back on track for a career high, on pace for 58 points. And considering that Cammy has missed his annual bulk of games now, he stands likely to remain healthy – which bodes well for Stempniak.
And no discussion of mine about the Devils can possibly happen without my turning some attention to the blue line. And the power play. You know I’ve been championing this. Adam Larsson is again not on the power play. Despite seeing just 4% of the team’s total PP time this year, he has six points in his last six games and has 13 on the season now, which leads the team’s defensemen.
Reid Boucher was called up recently and he played the last two games for the Devils. His linemates (see above) are nobody to write home about, but he does have three points in those two games. Continued success like this will push Jiri Tlusty to Europe (if the injured Tlusty’s own play hasn’t done that already).
Jiri Hudler was back in action last night but he was obviously not 100 percent and he was treated accordingly by Bob Hartley. He was a rover, bouncing around on the four lines. He saw seven shifts in the first, six in the second and five in the third for just under 11 minutes total ice time. As a Hudler owner in one league, I would rather he not play. It’s a groin injury and another three days of rest would do wonders.
Ryan Miller has started three of four games and was shelled once again. He’s not the goalie he used to be and yes he’s having a bad year, but in leagues that count saves instead of save percentage (like mine) he’s been gold lately. He’s had 129 saves (on 136 shots) in those three games, including 46 saves Tuesday.
Emerson Etem picked up his first point as a Canuck. He saw 15:51 of ice time which is a season high for him. Clearly the Canucks want him to work out. Badly. And whenever that happens, I rate the player just a little bit higher because it’s hard to get a real good opportunity in the NHL. Most prospects have to battle for an opportunity like this (big ice time and decent linemates game after game after game despite no production).
#1 25.3% BAERTSCHI,SVEN – HORVAT,BO – VRBATA,RADIM
#2 19.2% BURROWS,ALEXANDRE – ETEM,EMERSON – VEY,LINDEN
#3 17.6% CRACKNELL,ADAM – DORSETT,DEREK – PRUST,BRANDON
#4 13.1% HANSEN,JANNIK – MCCANN,JARED – SEDIN,DANIEL
Rick Nash has been heating up of late, and ditto for teammate Chris Kreider, a player of similar size and plays a similar style. I love the strategy of putting them on different lines and just rolling out one threat after the other, and Kreider can come into his own (should be soon – within two years) watch out. Kreider has five points in his last four games and Nash has nine in his last 10.
It was a game that went into overtime, but JT Miller saw a season-high 20:07 of ice time. I quickly looked over his game logs over his career and other than a single playoff game, that’s actually a career high for ice time. He played with Kreider and Stepan, but I should note that Derrick Brassard missed the game because of the flu so the lines will juggle again next contest. Still, I like where Miller is trending. He also had eight shots on goal.
Thursday’s game between TB and CHI is not only a Cup Final rematch, but the Blackhawks have won 12 games in a row while the Lightning have won six in a row. The irresistible force will hit the immovable object!
Speaking of the Lightning, they faced Edmonton’s backup goalie (yes, we can call Anders Nilsson that now – quite the turn of events I must say) and they lit him up for five goals plus an empty-netter.
Steven Stamkos has 15 points in 14 games and is really clicking with his linemates. Vladislav Namestnikov can keep up with him like nobody else and Ondrej Palat his slid in seamlessly as the line’s defensive conscience. This troika is not only making Namestnikov into a star, but Stamkos is back to the productive player he once was, but with a twist. Back in the golden days, it would be Marty St. Louis to Stamkos over and over again. Their winger was always ‘some other guy’. Now he actually has two capable wingers who aren’t bad snipers themselves. So while Stamkos is going to have a big second half and top 75 points, he may not reach 40 goals. Maybe something like 39 and 36. If he does indeed reach those lofty numbers, he’s back in my books as a Top 10 forward to own.
His teammate is still better though. Nikita Kucherov extended his points streak to six games and he has points in 15 of 16. He has 21 points in those 16 games. With everyone healthy in Tampa, Kucherov will take a run at 80.
Zack Kassian picked up his first point as an Oiler. And his second. He is a must-own in leagues that count PIM, hits, or both. He has eight SOG this season (four games) too. I won’t speak to his offense just yet when it comes to the immediate future, but guarantee he won’t let you down in those physical categories.
Boy I’m loving this season, aren’t you? After last year’s 87-point leading-scorer fiasco, to have so many players putting up such nice numbers it’s fantasy-hockey heaven.
Which is a nice segue to Patrick Kane. We’re 49 games into the season and he already has 71 points. The only thing that can stop him from topping 100 points now is an injury. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the only way he falls short of 110 points is if he misses more than two games going forward. His current pace is 119. He’s also on pace for 296 shots, easily a career high. He can thank the sweet passes of Artemi Panarin for that. Not to mention the fact that the opposition needs to pay just as much attention to Panarin when the two are on the ice. Kane has already topped last season’s points by seven (in 12 fewer games) and 2013-14 by two (in 20 fewer games). He’s three points shy of having the second-highest total of his career if you can imagine that. He has eight points in his last three games.
Panarin has six in three and is on pace for 75 points. How Artem Anisimov can play with those two and finish with 44 points (his current pace) is beyond me. Yes, power play is a factor – Panarin has 12 PP points while Kane has 25. But Anisimov is seeing a ton of power-play time as well (45.6% of Chicago’s PP this season).
Still seeing on eight or nine minutes per game, Richard Panik nonetheless has three points in his last four games and nine SOG.
Evgeny Kuznetsov had a four-assist night and has seven assists in two games. He has 10 points in his last four games and is now on pace for 86 points on the year. He has zero SOG in those two games – I guess he was too busy piling up those seven assists.
And Justin Williams owners are just happy to be here. Hey – you guys owe Kuznetsov a gift basket. Or something.
Lost in the Kuznetsov show was the fact that one of the members of his opposition last night, Kerby Rychel, had his first two-point game. He has four points in his last five games.
Without Ryan Johansen there, the Blue Jackets don’t have a first line. With Foligno hurt, the best they have to offer is this trio of Cam Atkinson – Brandon Dubinsky – Boone Jenner. That’s at Maple Leafs levels.
Atkinson has just one point in six games. He can be a first liner and a star if he can ever get any consistency.
Sergei Bobrovsky gave up five goals in his first start since December 8.
J-F Berube has been activated off injured reserve by the Islanders, which could make for an interesting sequence of events over the coming weeks. He was sent to the AHL for conditioning, but that is (I believe) limited to a maximum of two weeks and then he will need to be with the NHL club or placed on waivers. If he’s waived, you can bet the Blue Jackets would claim him and use him for a few games as a backup before waiving him again when everyone is healthy. Anyway, no real fantasy impact unless you own a depth goalie like Thomas Greiss or Joonas Korpisalo. I’m trying to think of another team that could use him but I’m drawing a blank. Then again, it’s midnight…
When Los Angeles traded for Marian Gaborik, Sutter used the 2014 Olympic break to watch video of the winger to judge the fit. He did something similar with Vincent Lecavalier, studying the last three games the newest King played with the Flyers. But what really stood out were the morning skates the two times LA and Philadelphia met this season. Lecavalier did not play in either, but “he was working his ass off to stay in the league,” Sutter said. “It reminds me of bringing Denis Savard back to Chicago (in 1995). He was a depth guy, but he was great around the team and embraced it. The only thing I told (Lecavalier) when he got here was, ‘Enjoy it, you have a chance to play until the middle of June in the last year of your career.’”
Look at this blast from last night:
- Ramblings: Updates on Mantha and Demko; Kravtsov to return; Christmas wish list - December 13
- Ramblings: #OskarStrong, Saturday Goalie Starts, Hall Trade Imminent?
- Looking Ahead: Holiday edition
- Frozen Tools Forensics: Analyzing rookies this year
- Daily Fantasy Saturday: Load Up On Habs
- The Journey: Projecting WJC Outcomes
- Saturday's NHL Picks: Penguin Parlay
- Ramblings: Kucherov, Barkov, Barrie Injured; Hall Continues to Wait; Duclair Stings Jackets (Dec 15)