Once again, we have a lot of lineup, injury, and signing notes to get through so let’s get right to it.
After missing some time in their last game, Will Butcher laced up Thursday night for the Devils. While he admitted to reporters that he was feeling a little sore, it appears it’s not enough to keep him out of the lineup.
Frederik Andersen had some swelling around his knee but was fine for the game on Thursday night. That kind of injury is always something that is worrisome, especially at his position, but for now he’s back in the cage for the Leafs.
The Jets welcomed Dustin Byfuglien back to the lineup after missing their last two games. The big man missed 13 games last year so hopefully this is not the start of a lingering issue all year. Josh Morrissey has been bumped off the top PP unit so his fantasy value goes back to where it was a week ago.
Jonathan Quick returned for the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in their home game against the Islanders. Lower-body injuries are always a concern for goaltenders. Let’s hope this was just a blip on the radar.
Brandon Saad was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch.
More changes to the Panthers lineup:
#FlaPanthers at practice:
Could see Mike Hoffman on fourth line at #Caps tomorrow.
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) October 18, 2018
This is getting to be a nuisance. Outside of Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck, it seems like no one is safe from moving around the lineup. This could have a pretty significant effect on head-to-head players as one day Mike Hoffman could be on the fourth line and then the second line the next.
Jan Kovar has apparently signed a PTO with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL team.
Just a friendly reminder that John Tavares is pretty good:
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) October 18, 2018
Also pretty good? Anthony Duclair:
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) October 18, 2018
That's goal-of-the-year stuff from Duke.
Travis Zajac left the Colorado-New Jersey game Thursday night in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. He had been skating on the top PP unit before the injury but Brian Boyle took over his spot afterwards. There was no post-game update.
Gabriel Landeskog had a hat trick for the Avalanche in their 5-3 win over the Devils. That was actually his third hat trick in the last 11 months for Colorado, a fairly impressive feat. Mikko Rantanen had a goal and three assists while Nathan MacKinnon had just two assists (ho hum).
Columbus doubled the Flyers 6-3, though it was a 4-3 game until late in the third where the Jackets scored two goals in three minutes to salt the game away.
Josh Anderson tallied for the Jackets, adding two shots on goal on top of that. He’s now up to four goals and 19 shots in six games playing just 14 minutes a night. Maybe give him some more ice, Torts?
If I had told you the Leafs and Penguins would combine for just 1 goal on 75 shots, how believable would it be? Because that’s exactly what happened Thursday night. Pittsburgh won by a 3-0 margin but two of those goals were with an empty net. Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist, bringing him to 12 points in 6 games this year.
Matt Murray maintained the net in the 38-save shutout, far and away his best performance this year.
Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point scored for Tampa Bay in their 3-1 win over the Red Wings Thursday night. That was Stamkos’s first and Point’s fourth goal of the season. It almost seems hard to believe, but maybe we’re seeing a changing of the guard in Florida? Too soon? Yeah, maybe it’s too soon.
Yanni Gourde had an assist to maintain his point-per-game pace so far this season. Alex Killorn marked the third notch for Tampa.
Filip Hronek was a late scratch for Detroit in favour of Luke Witkowski. No, I don’t have words for it.
Winnipeg’s second line finally came through for them as Bryan Little scored his first of the season while Patrik Laine sniped his third power-play goal of the year with Nikolaj Ehlers chipping in a couple assists en route to a 4-1 Jets win over Vancouver. In his first game back in uniform, Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and two assists to help Winnipeg’s cause.
I only caught the first period of this game but it was another contest where the Jets didn’t really look their best. They still managed the win, but this has been a slow start for the Cup contender.
Expectations are a funny thing, huh. I saw a “slow start” for Patrik Laine mentioned on social media a couple times last night. All his goals are on the power play, yes, but he’s earning more five-on-five time than last year and is shooting at a higher rate than he ever has. And he’s still on pace for over 30 goals. Relax a little.
Corey Crawford lost his return in goal by a 4-1 margin, allowing 27 goals on 30 shots. He seemed fine in net, though, and did not have any issues post-game. That is what’s most important here.
Keller also played over 18 minutes at even strength in this one. The next-highest Coyote was just over 15:30.
Leon Draisaitl scored in overtime to push the Oilers to a 3-2 win over Boston. Kailer Yamamoto scored his first goal of the season (which seemed like a huge relief to him) while Connor McDavid added a pair of assists.
Edmonton still isn’t generating very many shots, but at least Jesse Puljujarvi finished with true top-6 minutes at even strength. Baby steps.
A third-period explosion from the Islanders lifted them to a 7-2 win over Los Angeles, but it wasn’t who’d you expect to lead the scoring. Valtteri Filppula had two goals and an assist, Andrew Ladd had a goal and two assists, Leo Komarov and Casey Cizikas had one of each, while Matt Martin even scored. Heck, Scott Mayfield had three assists! Matthew Barzal did have a couple apples.
Anze Kopitar was a late scratch with an illness. If there’s more to pass along, we will.
Not a great return for Jonathan Quick, who was pulled halfway through the third period after allowing his sixth goal.
We are still very early in the hockey season and rash decisions regarding fantasy lineups are not to be made. That doesn’t mean there are not early trends to keep an eye on to see whether they persist. No, not trends like Auston Matthews scoring well over a goal per game, but things like shot rates and shot generation by line combinations? Most certainly.
Let’s take a spin through the league to see how some line combinations are faring in the early going. Again, it’s just pointing out a few early numbers to keep an eye on, not necessarily actionable information just yet. Data from Corsica Hockey. We are dealing with 5v5 and lines with at least 50 minutes together.
As a quick aside, be sure to check out Alex MacLean’s most recent Capped article for the top point-per-dollar players so far this year. Always good to read his work for those in salary cap leagues and he touches on some of the players skating on lines I'm about to discuss.
We should get all the ‘Canes lines out of the way. Their first, second, and third lines are all top-10 in the league in shot attempts generated per 60 minutes, ranking seventh, second, and first respectively. Imagine when Victor Rask comes back?
Carolina had a soft schedule to start but recently completed a three-game road trip going into Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Tampa Bay. Though they went 1-2-0 on the trip (not bad, honestly), they absolutely laid waste to the Wild, dominated the Jets, and basically played an even game against the Lightning. Laurent Brossoit and Louis Domingue stopped 80 of 83 shots for the Jets and Bolts. Those things happen.
Boston, San Jose, and Colorado are all in the cards for the Hurricanes by the end of the month. If they haven’t proven themselves ‘for real’ for you by now, they have the ability to do so by then.
The Outlier Top Line
When looking at the top-10 for shot generation by line, we have the three Carolina lines mentioned above, and the top lines from Chicago (Toews), Boston, Dallas, Toronto (Matthews), Philadelphia, and Vegas. That all makes sense, yes even Chicago; they were good at generating offence last year, just a bit unlucky (and horrific defensively). The final top line rounding out the top-10? Tatar-Danault-Gallagher from Montreal.
By adjusted shot share, that trio is third in the league behind the second and third lines from the Hurricanes at 66.6 percent. They are second in adjusted shot generation (not by unadjusted, which was mentioned in the section on the Hurricanes) and are nearly 62 percent in expected goal share. It’s just been an outstanding start to the year.
There are some surprises around the league to start the year and the Habs are near the top of the list, being led by that top trio. We’ll see if it can last but this is a great sign for the fantasy values of both Tatar and Gallagher.
Top Line Failings
Out of the 27 lines league-wide with at least 50 minutes played, the following trios are clocking in under 55 shot attempts generated per 60 minutes (for reference, everyone in the top-10 is over 67 per 60 minutes): Wheeler-Scheifele-Connor, Kopitar-Kovalchuk-Iafallo, Monahan-Gaudreau-Lindholm, McDavid-RNH-Rattie, and MacKinnon-Landeskog-Rantanen.
I’ve written in my recent Ramblings about how bad the Kings have been, so that’s not a shocker. McDavid having to drag Edmonton around the ice is nothing new. The one that stick out for me is the Calgary top line.
Last year, Monahan-Gaudreau-Ferland was one of the best first lines in generating offence, ranking between the Dallas top line and Boston top line in on-ice shot rates (over 66 per 60 minutes). That they’ve dropped under 55 in the early going is a concern. “But they’re scoring!” Yes, they’re scoring, and they’re doing so by shooting 18.2 percent at five-on-five. That number could legitimately cut in half over the rest of the season. Unless that shot rate starts to pick up, that line will start to slow down and then we’re going to run into a lot of issues for fantasy owners. Not just lost value through production but I’d wager a line change or two as well.
The top line in Vegas is well on their way to proving last year wasn’t a one-year wonder. Their shot attempts allowed when on the ice is under 44 per 60 minutes, which is exceptional. Their shot attempts generated rate, as mentioned earlier, is among the best in the league. That means their shot share is elite as well, coming in nearly 61 percent.
The injury to Paul Stastny and suspension to Nate Schmidt have thinned out the roster and laid bare the issue that depth scoring and depth on the blue line is an ongoing concern. What is not an ongoing concern is the top line. Expect them to be among the league’s best once again.
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