We’ve seen some regression from Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning over the past month or so, with a 0.917 save percentage since the start of January. That’s roughly league average, but not the world-beating level we got used to. It’s worth pointing out that the Lightning have had a road-heavy schedule here in the second half, playing 13 of the last 18 on the road.
Strangely, Vasilevskiy’s home/road splits tilt heavily towards better play on the road, but that hasn’t really been the case over the last month.
The good news, Tampa Bay has an eight-game home stand in early March, just in time for head-to-head playoffs.
Alex Killorn officially has it going. He had that big five-point game a couple of weeks back but has since strung together a four-game scoring streak. He is taking advantage of time with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point at even strength. Killorn also sees time as the bumper on their top power play unit, but that unit has cooled off to 18.4% in the second half. There could be some more meat on the bone if that unit goes back to microwave efficiency.
Also hot: Yanni Gourde with goals in seven of the last nine games. Take advantage while he sees top-six usage.
I was concerned about Mikhail Sergachev’s limited usage all year, and it really seems to have caught up. He hasn’t scored a goal since December 16. He has just six assists in his last 22 games, and even suffered from some healthy scratchings. Seems like you could gain some benefit from looking elsewhere.
Low-owned defensemen who could offer more value (ownership based on Yahoo leagues):
Cam Fowler 54%
Colin Miller 54%
Jared Spurgeon 51%
Jeff Petry 32%
Alex Edler 25%
Ryan Pulock 6%
Vince Dunn 1%
Of that group, I like Spurgeon and Fowler the most, but all these guys except Pulock offer top PP unit use on their respective teams.
Jake Gardiner has rung it up to 15 points in the last 12 games, a crazy hot streak for a defenseman. My hypothesis that the Leafs can only have one defenseman going at a time still holds. Morgan Rielly has two points in five games since returning from injury.
Can they get both going? It would take a hot streak something similar to what the Lightning had early in the season with three lines and two power-play units clicking like crazy. The Leafs had something similar going last season, so it cannot be ruled out. And that was with Nikita Zaitsev seeing regular power play time. Rielly offers way more upside here.
Fun bit of trivia: last night was the first time that Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander combined for all three points on a goal. It makes sense, as they never play all three together, not even on the power play.
Fire wagon hockey in Edmonton as the Panthers won 7-5 thanks to a third period hat-trick from Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck’s 21 goals put him four back of a career high, which he’ll surely eclipse. He is a strong bet to get to 30. He’s been awesome (I call him the new Kesler) for a couple of years, but he hasn’t been able to get consistent top unit PP time. He’s getting it now (in his magical fourth year) and has emerged with a career high 16 PP points already.
Another Hurculean effort from Connor McDavid:
Connor McDavid being unreal again. pic.twitter.com/q3pwAm4a5b— OilersNation.com (@OilersNation) February 13, 2018
Can you imagine if the refs actually called all the penalties that McDavid draws? You’re right, the Oilers would still lose because their PP stinks.
Milan Lucic has now gone eight straight games without a point. No McDavid exposure for Lucic = no fantasy value.
The bottom has fallen out in Chicago, where the Blackhawks are losers of six straight games. On the plus side, Corey Crawford was back skating yesterday, and could presumably return soon. Too little, too late? Likely. And considering it’s a vertigo issue, I don’t think we can be too comfortable with a timeline yet. You know he’ll push to make some kind of return this year. On the other hand, now could be the opportune time for a one-year tank job. If the Blackhawks could land a top-three pick that would likely be enough to rejuvenate their core for a couple more runs.
Remember, the underlying numbers for this team aren’t that bad. They’re trapped in the league’s most competitive division with AHL level goaltending for half the year, and their big off-season acquisition, Brandon Saad, has been mired in a season-long shooting slump.
On the plus side, rookie Alex DeBrincat scored his 20th goal of the season. He has cooled off after a blistering month of November but is still plugging away at a 50-point pace. What’s really intriguing is the shot-volume spike he has experienced this month with 26 SOG in six games. That doesn’t seem sustainable, however it portends to a future a consistent 200+ SOG producer.
37 saves on 38 shots for Antti Raanta who continues to trend upward in the second half. I’m telling you folks, he’s a useful option as a third goalie.
Max Domi scored just his fourth goal of the season. I remain in on him as a rebound candidate for next season. I am now batting around the theory that at least some of his struggles are related to a move to center. Domi started out the year well with 10 points in the first 14 games, playing on the wing opposite Clayton Keller but then disappeared. Around Christmas the Coyotes shifted him to center. His most regular linemates have been guys like Zac Rinaldo and Tobias Rieder. Not exactly ideal circumstances.
Hopefully we don’t have another Galchenyuk situation where a team can’t decide if a top youngster is a centerman or a winger. And hopefully we don’t go through the same dance with Keller in a couple of years. They do seem committed to Domi at center. His struggles came before this shift, but I don’t think it has helped him get back on track either.
As Cliffy mentioned yesterday, there is no replacing Jack Eichel in your league. If indeed he misses on the short end of his expect 4-6 -week absence, then he’ll be back mid-way through your fantasy playoffs. With nothing to play for it’s hard to see him being rushed back into action, but I’d bet on him playing at least a few games. I know he missed eight weeks with a similar injury, but this one may not be as severe. We often see these guys try to get back before the end of the season to prove they are healthy before the off-season, plus he may still have interest in suiting up for the World Championship.
Other fallout here is that I’ve already seen Eichel owners in keeper leagues throw in the towel on their season. Doesn’t mean that they’ll give you Eichel, but suddenly their veterans might be available. It’s worth investigating.
One player to look into with Eichel out: Ryan O’Reilly. The do-it-all centerman is already averaging 20:20 per game (15th in the league among forwards) but skated an incredible 26:48 in Sunday’s loss. There were a ton of power plays in that game, which accounts for most of the boost, but we should expect O’Reilly to play ludicrous minutes over the next month or so.
There’s already a blueprint for what O’Reilly might look like with Eichel out. In the two months that Eichel missed last season O’Reilly averaged 22 minutes and 3.5 SOG per game. He scored only nine points in 15 games, but that isn’t too far off his usual rate. Plus, randomness can happen in any sample, for instance, the two shorthanded assists he had on Sunday.
If O’Reilly can replicate the shot rate he put up without Eichel last season (he had five SOG on Sunday), then he can offer roughly 75% of what Eichel was. He remains available in about half of all Yahoo leagues.
Cory Schneider has officially been placed on injured reserve. He is out for this week but should start skating next week. Still, this is over a month now that he has been up and down with a groin issue. It’s an injury that plagued him last season too. I am weary of 30-year-old goalies with hip/groin issues. Big reason he was a stayaway for me.
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Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.
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