Ramblings: Lightning Surge Ahead; Wilson Suspension; Ehlers; Nyquist; Couture – May 3

by Michael Clifford on May 3, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Lightning Surge Ahead; Wilson Suspension; Ehlers; Nyquist; Couture – May 3

Tom Wilson had his hearing for his hit on Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3 and was suspended for three playoff games. With the Caps up 2-1 in the series, he could be out until Game 2 of the next round, back for Game 7 of this round, or he could have just played his final playoff game of the year.

This opens an opportunity for someone to jump to the top line. No telling who it will be yet, we might find out if they have a game-day skate tomorrow. Wilson had been on the top line pretty consistently since Evgeny Kuznetsov moved up to play with Alex Ovechkin. They could move up Devante Smith-Pelly as he plays a similar game to Wilson’s.

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Jim Montgomery is apparently going to be the next coach of the Dallas Stars. The official announcement is expected to come in the next couple of days. I won’t profess to know much about him outside of he’s a former player who’s spent the last five seasons coaching the University of Denver. We’ll have more here on Dobber Hockey when it becomes official because as we all know, things can change quickly.

For those who subscribe to The Athletic, Sean Shapiro did a profile on Montgomery a couple weeks ago.

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Tampa Bay took Game 3 in Boston by a 4-1 score and honestly, the game was never really in doubt. Ondrej Palat scored two goals in the first four minutes of the game and the Lightning weren’t threatened after that. Sure, Boston made it 2-1 with a Patrice Bergeron power-play goal but Anthony Cirelli scored a couple minutes later and that was that.

Boston managed nearly 30 shots but it didn’t seem they were getting much for dangerous looks. The numbers from Corsica Hockey agree with that assessment. Tampa did a good job clogging up lanes and forcing everything to the outside.

The scary part is that the Lightning have a series lead and the top line has done absolutely nothing. Steven Stamkos scored an empty-net power-play goal to make it 4-1 in Game 3. That’s it. That top line is capable of winning a series, let alone a game, if they get rolling. Boston’s in some trouble here.

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It looked like Joe Thornton was ready to return for San Jose as he skated on the top line at the gameday skate for the Sharks. Alas, he didn’t get into the lineup for Wednesday night’s game.

At this point, it feels like the Steven Stamkos situation from a year ago. The team keeps saying “day-to-day” while the player is skating and once their season ends we’ll find out he was nowhere close to playing. If you drafted him in playoff pools hoping he’d be back by now, things are looking grim.

San Jose won that game 4-0 to even the series with Vegas at two apiece. Like Tampa, the Sharks were in control pretty much from start to finish as Marcus Sorensen and Joonas Donskoi scored goals four minutes apart late in the first period and the team held on from there. Martin Jones made a few huge saves, and was called upon for more quality saves than Andrei Vasilevskiy was, but he was able to hold down the fort. 

The top line for Vegas had 11 shots on goal, including a couple good looks on the power play especially. They just couldn't score. 

It seems this series is destined for seven games. 

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In my Ramblings a couple of days ago, I went over some players with high percentages of secondary assists compared to their total output at five-on-five. It’s basically an exercise to look for player whose total five-on-five productions was likely a little fortuitous. As mentioned often in those Ramblings, context matters in these situations as low goal totals can be a contributing factor here. All the same, these players are likely going to lose some points from a decline in secondary assists next year. It’s worth taking that into consideration when heading into drafts this September.

The parameters are forwards with at least 1000 minutes played at five-on-five last year. All data from Natural Stat Trick. Here are the 20 forwards with the lowest percentages:

 

Gustav Nyquist

Mentioned briefly in those last Ramblings, of all forwards in the set, Nyquist had the lowest percentages of secondary assists compared to total production last year, coming in at 9.4%. He had just three such assists on 32 points. Over his three seasons from 2014-17, Nyquist averaged a shade under 30 assists a season; he had 19 in 2017-18. That’s despite similar PP assists (5) compared to the three-year average (7.3). Had he been able to reach 30 assists again, he probably would have been fantasy-relevant in most leagues.

The problem was he skated most of the season at five-on-five with Henrik Zetterberg as his centre. Zetterberg had his lowest goal total for an 82-game season of his career with 11, though 10 of those were at five-on-five. Anthony Mantha had 15 goals at five-on-five. Nyquist was on the ice for just 46 Detroit goals at five-on-five this year and he scored 18 of them himself. In fact, if you raise the parameter to 1200 minutes of ice time, he was on the ice for the fewest amount of goals in the NHL. When you look at all this, it’s no real surprise he had such a low secondary assist rate.

Does it change next year? Zetterberg will be a year older. The defence isn’t getting better, which may not seem like a huge problem but if the defence can’t move the puck effectively, the Detroit forwards are pushing a boulder uphill all season. It’s not as if the team had an abysmal shooting percentage with Nyquist on the ice, either, at 7.41 percent. That wasn’t even among the 30 lowest on-ice conversion rates. This team is just flat-out incapable of producing offensively. I think Nyquist is very talented but I’m not very bullish that anything changes next year. Nyquist’s best hope is that he moves to Dylan Larkin’s line and Larkin has a MacKinnon-esque breakout season. Outside of that, it’s a pit of despair.

 

Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl

It was really curious to see two guys who were line mates for much of the season (both played a little over 1000 minutes and skated over 764 of those together) both on the list and this low. They had a rotating cast of wingers like Mikkel Boedker and Melker Karlsson, but those two skated together for much of the season. We do have another pairing on here (Tyler Seguin and Alex Radulov) but it was just interesting to note.

I’m not going to dig too much further here. This is a weird situation. Couture has never racked up secondary assists as the last three seasons where he’s played at least 70 games has seen an average around four secondary assists, and he had three last year. Hertl might rebound in this area but there are a lot of moving parts for that team. Just found it interesting both were on here. What do you think, Dobber heads?

 

Evgeni Malkin

This is one isn’t too surprising considering he’s the engine of Pittsburgh’s second line. He’s had more than seven secondary assists just once in his last seven 82-game seasons, so having five this year just isn’t a big surprise. He’ll either score or be the primary passer. That’s just the way it is.

I just wanted to include Malkin to say there are some outliers that happen and they’re usually centres that are the offensive drivers. Someone commented yesterday that guys like Nicklas Backstrom fit this bill as well.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to wipe off a bit of this egg on my face for saying last summer that I wouldn’t draft Malkin because of his injury history. A total of 98 points in 78 games later, he helped win leagues.

 

Anders Lee

I just wanted to point out Lee because of how absurd his season was. In recent memory, there probably hasn’t been a player with a quieter 40-goal campaign. He tied Jamie Benn and Vladimir Tarasenko for seventh in five-on-five goals with 23. John Tavares and Josh Bailey combined for 29. It’s pretty easy to see why he had a low secondary assist percentage; he was scoring all the goals.

There’s not much more to discuss here until we know the future of John Tavares. Until we know where he’s signing, the fantasy value of every Islanders forward is in limbo.

 

Nikolaj Ehlers

It’s pretty hard to get upset at a 29-goal, 60-point season from a 21-year old non-generational player but having so few second assists on a team that scored as much as the Jets did is kind of disappointing. Not that it would have greatly altered his fantasy performance – an extra five assists isn’t the difference between winning and losing a league – but it’s just a reminder of what could have been. That doesn’t even factor his limited PP usage (at least on the top unit).

This should give fantasy owners hope for next year. Ehlers didn’t have any percentages out of line, be it his own or the team’s when he was on the ice, and he’ll continue to make a dynamic duo with Patrik Laine. A bit more fortune with his assists at five-on-five, and maybe a few more power-play points, and 2018-19 has 70-point season written all over it for the dynamic Dane.