Ramblings: Lucky 28 for Connor and Ehlers; Niemi Blanks Buffalo; Hall Wills Devils – March 24

by Michael Clifford on March 23, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Lucky 28 for Connor and Ehlers; Niemi Blanks Buffalo; Hall Wills Devils – March 24

Vladimir Tarasenko returned to the lineup for St. Louis after missing the last couple of games with an upper-body injury. At least head-to-head fantasy owners will get him for this weekend and heading into next week. For those that needed all of his games this week, well, sorry about that.

He wouldn’t specify what the injury was, by the way.

He did, however, score in his return to the lineup.

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Pretty big news from the Flames on Friday:

Not that Calgary really had much of a chance left for the playoffs – they would have had to basically win out and get some help along the way – but with Monahan out for the season, that probably seals their fate.  

This is very bad news for anyone heading to head-to-head finals as well. For the time being, Sam Bennett may be the pickup because he was centering Johnny Gaudreau in practice. Whether that lasts remains to be seen but that’s what they have right now.

Mikael Backlund was moved to the top PP unit.

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Remember when it looked like Patrik Laine would miss about a week after that blocked shot that took him out? He didn’t even miss a game, as he was back in the lineup for Winnipeg for Friday night’s home game against Anaheim. Great news for fantasy owners and just hockey fans in general. It wouldn’t have been right to see the Rocket Richard Trophy decided in that manner.

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Noah Hanifin was at practice Friday for the Hurricanes while Justin Faulk was not. Faulk is considered a game-time decision so have a back-up plan ready if you’re going to rely on him for Saturday night’s game against Ottawa. 

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Jamie Benn may have scored the goal of the night. It’s also what one may call Vintage Jamie Benn:

It’s always good to see him making those power moves.

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Antti Niemi posted a 35-save shutout in Buffalo to lead the Habs to a 3-0 win. That score may be a little misleading as the final two Montreal goals – 18th of the season from Paul Byron and 27th of the season from Brendan Gallagher – came with an empty net.

That game was Niemi’s 15th start and 17th appearance for the Canadiens and his save percentage is now up to .936 with that franchise. Hockey!

Artturi Lehkonen was the only Hab to score with an actual goalie in the net and that gives him eight goals in his last 23 games. It’s not a shooting binge, either, as his percentage is at 12.2 percent over that stretch. It’ll be interesting to see where he slots in the lineup next year. He continues to put up very good shot volume and maybe he was just a bit unlucky. Maybe he can crack 20 goals next season? Just something to keep in mind for deeper drafts. 

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Despite being outshot 42-18, the Ducks managed to scrape a point out of a 3-2 overtime loss to Winnipeg. Thanks, John Gibson!

Kyle Connor scored the deciding goal, his 28th of the season. Nikolaj Ehlers scored Winnipeg’s first goal of the game, also his 28th of the season. Only two teams since the 2012-13 lockout season have had three different 30-goal scorers: the 2015-16 Stars and 2015-16 Bruins. Boston could get there again this year if Bergeron came come back soon. Tampa Bay could as well.

Mark Scheifele figured into all three Jets goals with a tally and two helpers.

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All the praise, and rightfully so, has gone to Taylor Hall for the Devils’ season, with a little splash of rookie Nico Hischier. I would like to heap some praise on another Devils player who has become a very underrated fantasy commodity.

It was a rough first half for Kyle Palmieri who broke his foot in November and missed four weeks. He hasn’t really missed a beat since returning just before Christmas, though, posting 16 goals and 27 points in 41 games (heading into Friday night’s action). In fact, since the start of the 2015-16 season, he’s one of just 21 forwards with per-game averages of 2.5 shots or better, 0.35 goals or better, and 0.32 assists or better. Of those 21 forwards, he’s one of 11 players with at least 100 penalty minutes. Quite simply, over the past (nearly) three season, he’s been one of the better across-the-board performers in the fantasy game.

It’s not as if this came out of nowhere, either. Over his final three seasons in Anaheim, in a reduced role, he scored goals at a similar rate per 60 minutes to Ryan Getzlaf and had the same points rate as Patrick Maroon. He got his chance to shine when he came to New Jersey and he’s not wasted it.

I’m bullish on Palmieri next year. The top line for the Devils should be the same for the most part and there’s no real threat to his top-line status. Let’s hope that his month missed suppresses his ADP, which was already low this year, being routinely drafted outside the top-10 rounds of 12-team leagues.

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On the other hand, Hall did nearly will the Devils to a 4-3 overtime win over Pittsburgh on Friday night. He had a goal, two assists, six additional shots, a blocked shot, and a hit for good measure. His goal was the overtime winner and though he finished the play, it was really Nico Hischier who did all the work:

Those three points give Hall 81 for the season, which is a new career best.

Phil Kessel scored for the Penguins and that was his 30th of the season. Though long known as a goal scorer, it’s actually his first 30-goal season since 2013-14. It was his 83rd point as well, which sets a career-high for him.

Keith Kinkaid saved 40 of 43 shots in the win. He has a .931 save percentage over his last 10 games. I would have to assume that unless Kinkaid gets hurt, it’s his net now. I don’t want to outright say that Cory Schneider is droppable but man, it’s certainly looking that way. If you need a start from someone else on the waiver wire this weekend, I wouldn’t hesitate to toss him.   

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Brad Marchand had a three-point game for the Bruins, a goal and and two assists, including a short-handed point. It’s a career-high three short-handed assists for him this year. He also tied his single-season high for assists. You’d have to wonder what his season’s final point tallies would look like if he could stop getting suspended. He assisted on Pastrnak's winning goal with seconds left in the third period with the Stars blowing a 2-0 third-period lead to lose 3-2 in regulation. 

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The injury to Jacob Trouba has me thinking about another Jets defenceman. No, not that one. I mean Josh Morrissey.

DID YOU KNOW: over the last two seasons, Morrissey has the same rate of primary points (goals plus first assists) per 60 minutes at five-on-five (0.52) as Colton Parayko? And it’s higher than names like Oliver Ekman-Larsson (0.51), Aaron Ekblad and Drew Doughty (0.45), Mark Giordano (0.41), and Shayne Gostisbehere (0.37). That is a pretty good list of fantasy production on which to find yourself.

The problem, of course, is that he’s going to be stuck behind Trouba (assuming he’s re-signed, which he will be) and Dustin Byfuglien for years to come, at least in regards to the power play. He could still eat up a lot of five-on-five minutes as he’s probably the team’s top left-shot d-man (I say probably because Tobias Enstrom is still pretty good defensively), but power-play time will be sparse.

Until (unless?) the hierarchy changes, the best way to view Morrissey in the fantasy game is probably Mattias Ekholm with more hits, for leagues that count that. He’s very talented but with the glut of offensive options ahead of him on the blue line, unless there are injuries, PP points will be tough to amass, meaning a 35-point season is as much as we can hope for.

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Speaking of defencemen, it’s time we accept Rasmus Ristolainen for who he is. His per-game rates this season are pretty much the same as they were, across the board, the previous two seasons. He hasn’t really taken a step forward in his game but he’s a volume monster. Until the team improves on the ice – and he’s a big part of that – expecting him to take the next step in the fantasy game to 50-point seasons regularly is misguided. It’ll be interesting to see where his ADP shakes out next year. He was a top-20 defenceman by ADP this season but with time missed and no further improvement, does that drop next season? I would think so.

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I know it’s fun to pile on the Blackhawks for the trade they made sending Artemi Panarin to Columbus for Brandon Saad. It looks like the Jackets will make playoffs while the Blackhawks will not. Panarin will crack 70 points again for the third straight year while Saad might not reach half that. I get it.

Yes, this is Saad’s worst offensive season as a player. Is he really just playing poorly, though? I know I’ve discussed it before but it’s worth reiterating seeing as where the discussion has been for the last week or so:

  • His five-on-five shooting percentage this year is 7.45 percent, a career-low. He had never been below 9.68 percent and his three-year average from 2014-17 – which covers both Chicago and Columbus – was over 11 percent.
  • That very low five-on-five shooting percentage is going to lead to his lowest goals per 60 minutes (0.77) since 2013-14. He had not been below 1.00 since that season. This is despite the fact that he has a career-high per-minute shooting rate.
  • His individual expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five this year (1.06) is actually higher than his three-year (0.95) average prior to 2017-18.  That means he’s not just shooting the puck at a career-high rate from all over the ice, he’s still getting his scoring chances. They’re just not going in.
  • His individual points percentage – the rate he garners a point when he’s on the ice – of 51.6 percent is also a career-low and the next-lowest isn’t even close (61 percent in 2013-14).

Almost everything that could go wrong for Saad, offensively, has gone wrong. How many times do we have to see an established player have one bad season before we stop piling on and just accept it for what it likely is?

Saad is going to come at a huge discount next year by ADP and I will be whole-heartedly buying. Just be ready for when he goes off for 25 goals and 50 points again next season.