Ramblings: Lundqvist for Hart, Forsberg, Rexall Place (April 7)

by Michael Clifford on April 7, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Lundqvist for Hart, Forsberg, Rexall Place (April 7)

Forsberg’s greatness, Lundqvist for the Hart, and a few Rexall Place memories

First off, I must say it’s a pleasure to be back for another summer here at Dobber Hockey. I have been posting weekly DraftKings articles throughout the winter, but today marks the return to semi-regular postings. That will include both here in the Ramblings, and in the Dobber Forums.

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To be brief, for those that may not know me, a little introduction.

This season marked 21 years of doing some form of hockey pools for me, though more formal fantasy hockey pools have only been in my life for a little under 10 years now. I have written in several spots, though this year, I was doing daily fantasy (DraftKings/FanDuel) analysis for ProjectRoto, and weekly columns for RotoWire. I also had a season with Sportsnet, among writing here or there.

My writing style tends to be more research-oriented, though I will try to not get to math-y with these Ramblings. I find using applicable numbers is the best way to keep track of what is going on with each player around the league, and go from there with my own observations.

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The question right now with regards to Filip Forsberg isn’t whether or not he’s an all-star, but just how good he can be?

At time of writing, Forsberg sits one assist away from a 30+ goal, 30+ assist season, at the age of 21. It is already his second straight 25+ goal, 25+ assist season, and back-to-back 60+ point seasons. Taken from Hockey Reference, this is a list of all the players since 2005-2006 to have at least two 25+ goal, 25+ assist, and 60+ point seasons through their Age 21 campaign. It is distinguished:

Aside from Sean Monahan – another topic for another day – the other eight players are bona fide superstars. It doesn’t really stop there, either. There is more to being a good player than simply putting up points over a couple seasons. In order to truly be considered a superstar, a player needs to make those around him better. Needless to say, Forsberg does that, too. This is over the last two seasons at five-on-five:

  • Mike Ribeiro with Filip Forsberg: +1.25 goals per 60 minutes, 57.5-percent possession; Ribeiro without Forsberg: +0.22 goals per 60 minutes, 55.4-percent possession.
  • James Neal with Forsberg: +1.68 goals per 60 minutes, 59.7-percent possession; Neal without Forsberg: +0.86 goals per 60 minutes, 51.9-percent possession.
  • Roman Josi with Forsberg: +1.05 goals per 60 minutes, 55.3-percent possession; Josi without Forsberg: +0.23 goals per 60 minutes, 48.0-percent possession.

There are several others, but other than Craig Smith, every single Predators player has better, and sometimes much better, numbers with Forsberg on the ice with them than without.

The scary thing about all this is that Forsberg doesn’t turn 22-years old until the middle of August. Depending on fantasy league settings, Forsberg is about a top-25 forward this year in roto leagues. He appears to be on the cusp of a true breakout, meaning the 70-80 point range. Keeper leaguers should be doing everything in their power to acquire him before that breakout comes.

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I don’t know if everyone saw the between-the-legs goal Forsberg scored a couple of nights ago, but I’ll never tire of these (video is here). Get well soon, James van Riemsdyk, the king of the between-the-leggers.

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Those that spend any amount of time in Twitter or reading blogs knows there is a lot of chatter as to just how good the Washington Capitals are. Considering playoffs start next week, this seems like an important question.

The only thing I wonder here is how much Washington’s latest slide is due to a lack of motivation. That’s not meant to be taken in a negative sense, either. This team has had the Eastern Conference wrapped up since pretty much Christmas. With so little to play for other than the single season goaltender wins record for Braden Holtby, it’s probably pretty hard to stay focused for a half a season that is essentially meaningless. Maybe it’s not a good idea to be coasting at this time of year, but I think there’s a bit too much made of their slide. I don’t seem them as a runaway favourite, but they’re not a middle-of-the-pack playoff team, either.

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What a battle of attrition the Eastern Conference has become. The Rangers have now lost Ryan McDonagh for the regular season, and maybe more, the Penguins are without Fleury, Malkin, and Maatta, the Islanders are missing two key defencemen plus Mikhail Grabovski, Tampa Bay will be without Stamkos and Stralman for what looks like the first two rounds of the playoffs, while I suppose the Panthers *only* lost Vincent Trocheck. The Caps are healthy except for whatever may be ailing Nicklas Backstrom, and the Flyers are pretty healthy, too. At this time of year, health can be as important as anything.

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It seems a foregone conclusion that Holtby wins the Vezina Trophy, but how many players have been more valuable to their team than Henrik Lunqvist? He leads the league in five-on-five save percentage, is second in adjusted save percentage, has faced the most total shots at 1928 – yes, even more than Craig Anderson, who is at 1881 – and with a week left in the regular season, has his team within the realm of possibility for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. This all done playing on a team that has given up more high-danger scoring chances per minute than OTTAWA. If that doesn’t put him in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, what’s the point of the award.

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There was a very interesting article re-posted a couple of days ago by Micah Blake McCurdy a.k.a. Ineffective Math on the kinds of teams that make deep playoff runs. He makes sure to explain that it’s not what a team does once the playoffs start, but rather characteristics of teams during the regular season that manage prolonged playoff success. It is a strongly math-based article, but reading carefully, it’s a quick and illuminating read.

I strongly recommend going through that article to see which teams are likely to make deep runs once the postseason rolls around. I won’t give away the conclusions or anything, but I will say sorry to the Dallas fans.

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Barry Trotz was voted as the Coach of the Year by his peers, according to a poll taken by TSN. Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was the runner-up.

This is a departure from the last couple years of Jack Adams voting, where the Coach of the Year has been given to coaches on bad teams that put up lucky numbers and ended up in the playoffs. This makes me wonder about the Jack Adams voting this year.

Gallant seems like a logical choice. This is a guy who coached a non-playoff team from a year ago to a division title, no matter how bad that division may be. Bruce Boudreau also seems like a reasonable choice, considering half the hockey world was calling for his head after the month of October, and now the Ducks are in a position to win the Pacific. Mike Sullivan is also an interesting option here. The splits for Pittsburgh, from everything between their record, their possession numbers, to individual player performances, are dramatic from Mike Johnston’s tenure this year to Sullivan’s.

What say you, hockey heads? Let us know in the comments who you think the Jack Adams Award winner should be this year.

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I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the final game at Rexall Place, a 6-2 win by the Edmonton Oilers over Calgary. It was fitting, in a way, that the Oilers put up a six-spot in the arena’s final game, a throwback to the juggernaut squads of the 1980s.

I’m not old enough to remember the glory days of the team, which means my fond memories of that team are few and far between. Two events stick out in my mind immediately, though:

  • Patrik Stefan’s goof on the empty netter, having the puck jump over his stick on an easy tap-in, only to have Ales Hemsky score seconds later in the waning moments of the game to tie it up. It was a mid-season game, so the play itself was rather meaningless. The way that game was tied, though, is something I’ll never forget.
  •  Shawn Horcoff’s triple-overtime winner in Game 3 of the second round against San Jose, a goal that avoided a 3-0 series deficit for the Oilers. There are a few playoff overtime games that I’ll never forget: Darius Kasparaitis in Game 7 of the second round in 2001, Keith Primeau’s quintuple-overtime winner in 2000, and the greatest overtime period in recent memory. Horcoff’s goal ranks up there with them, for me.

It’s a shame Oilers management has been inept for a decade. The fans, and that building, deserved better. Hopefully the new digs brings about a new contender.

*Some stats from Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis, and War On Ice