Ramblings: Mack Attack (Nov 17)

by steve laidlaw on November 17, 2017


Scoring fell to just below six goals per game after last night's action. Indeed, it sits at 5.99 goals per game, a spike of 0.46 over last season, or nearly an extra goal every second game. I expect that the average will continue to trend down but it's worth noting that the over/under betting line for basically every game is sitting at 5.5 or 6.0 goals. In past years a 6.0 over/under was rare, with plenty of games sitting at 5.0. Vegas (not the team) is quick to adjust as the lines have been in this state for over a month now. I broke down exactly where the increase in scoring is coming from:

17/18 1.36 0.22 7.02 0.194 0.031 2.08 1.09 0.63  
16/17 1.14 0.15 5.98 0.191 0.025 2.09 1.04 0.5  
Difference 0.22 0.07 1.04     -0.01 0.05 0.13 0.46

All the figures are per game stats. The big highlight is that teams have combined to average a little over one extra power play per game. Power plays have been slightly more efficient but not enough to tickle the figure. Power plays have actually given up whatever gain in efficiency they have shown by allowing short-handed goals at a higher rate. That's either noise or the increase in four-forward units is having a net negative impact for teams (albeit a small one). A quick run through on the table above.

My bet is that is noise. Overall, however the increase in scoring per power play has been marginal. it's the 17% increase in opportunities that has had the biggest impact. With teams combining to score a special teams goal on 22.5% of all power plays, adding a little over one extra power play to each game has added an average of 0.29 goals per game. This makes up two-thirds the scoring increase thus far.

The rest of the scoring increase (0.17 goals per game) has come at 5-on-5, predominantly from medium-danger chances (0.05 goals per game) and low-danger chances (0.13 goals per game). Scoring on high-danger chances has actually decreased ever so slightly. What constitutes a high-danger chance vs. a low-danger chance is subjective to be sure but you'll note that teams really aren't shooting all that much more at even strength. It's just that goalies have stopped fewer of the shots deemed to be less dangerous. I'd bet on that regressing a good sum.

To be sure, the game does appear to be faster, with more end-to-end action, but I haven't been watching every game so the eye-test isn't exactly a great measuring stick. This data-set suggests that goalies haven't performed up to standard. Maybe the faster game speed will force a change in the definition of low/medium/high-danger chances, or maybe this is something that will regress over time. What is clear is that if power plays stay up, we're in for roughly an extra goal every four games. Those extra goals will also be concentrated in the hands of players skating on special teams, making an already important phase of the game even more important. Goalies should improve, but scoring won't fall off entirely unless the whistles loosten up.

(Stick tap to Natural Stat Trick for the raw data)


After busting out with a hat-trick on Monday night, Teuvo Teravainen was at it again last night with a pair of assists. In fact, each of Teravainen, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho recorded two points last night, including one apiece on the power play. These are encouraging results for a group, particularly the two Finns, who many had pegged for breakout seasons.

I like Aho the most and voted that way by grabbing him off the waiver wire over Teravainen and Staal. We could argue until we are blue in the face over who is more talented between Teravainen and Aho, but Aho shoots the puck a lot more, offering a higher floor, which is especially important if you aren’t certain if you’ll be keeping a player on your roster for the full season. Taking a flyer on a guy for a week? Take the shot-volume option.

In deeper leagues and keeper leagues, Aho and Teravainen are definitely on rosters, but in your standard 10-14 -team league they could easily be floating on the waiver wire. Aho is 58% owned on Yahoo, Teravainen 21%. You might only have Teravainen available to you, but with these guys starting to score they are worth consideration.


Three more points for Mathew Barzal, who continues to be perfectly situated as the #2 centerman behind Jonathan Tavares, while seeing top unit power play time. His ownership sits at 30% on Yahoo, which is somewhat understandable given the glut of talent available at the center position, but also not because he is really freaking fantastic!

Also fantastic, the continued production from Nick Leddy. He’s up to 14 points on the year, a 64-point pace. I know he’s going to slow down at some point, but 50 points is attainable here, especially because he continues to provide shot volume. He has had a few too many one-shot games in the past few but even with five such games in the past eight, he has still maintained over 2.0 SOG per game. That’s a low bar to clear but one he has yet to reach. If he can continue at 2.0 SOG per game or more, he’s practically a shoe-in as a 10-goal scorer for third time in his career and has potential for more.


The trio of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog have clicked since Landeskog jumped on board. They combined for a dozen points with MacKinnon notching five, Rantanen four and Landeskog “only” scoring a hat-trick.

For Landeskog that’s six goals and 10 points in his last nine games. He has flourished since being bumped onto the top line. Rantanen also has 10 points in that stretch, while MacKinnon has 15. HOT, HOT, HOT.

Vladislav Kamenev, skating in his first NHL game is now out with a broken arm after this hit by Brooks Orpik:

I doubt Kamenev was going to have much fantasy relevance this season, but he was on the cusp of cracking the NHL full time. Tough luck losing developmental time like this.

In lighter Avalanche news, there is a movement to nickname Sam Girard “The Marshal”. I fully support this movement. It totally helps that he’s a very talented youngster with a ton of upside. You want to root for The Marshal.

The Marshal has skated some big minutes for the Avalanche, up over 20 in all three games with the squad, including time on the top PP unit alongside Tyson Barrie. Long term, there is probably only room for one of those two on the top unit, but with Barrie out due to an upper-body injury it was The Marshal out there as the lone defenseman on the top unit last night. He has two points in three games since joining the Avalanche. Ladies and gentlemen, The Marshal is good.

It doesn’t sound like Barrie’s injury is serious, so we will see how the ice time is broken down if he returns this weekend. Carl Soderberg, returning from an injury of his own, jumped back onto the top PP unit with Barrie out. As much as it may not make sense, Soderberg probably beats out The Marshall for top PP ice time in a healthy Avalanche lineup, with The Marshall joining Erik Johnson on the second unit but we’ll know when we see it.


Jakub Vrana was a healthy scratch last night, Barry Trotz laid out the reasoning:

After a hot start, Vrana has just two points in his last 13 games and has been dumped from the Ovechkin/Kuznetsov line in favour of Devante Smith-Pelly. Skating 13 minutes a night with secondary PP time and limited exposure to the Caps’ top skaters isn’t gonna keep him relevant. Intriguing prospect though.

Last year Philipp Grubauer was a dazzling spot-starting option. Not so much this year, although his two starts prior to last night were quality starts. He has now fallen to 0-5-1 and has been hung out to dry on a couple of occasions. This is a small sample and all but one of Grubauer’s appearances have come on the road but with the Capitals not being the juggernaut they were a year ago you should bump Grubauer down the list of backups you want for spot-starts.

That list would make for some good content, but not after a loaded Thursday slate. Look for it sometime next week if I remember.


Speaking of backups, the Nashville Predators assigned Juuse Saros to the AHL recalling Anders Lindback. This is neither surprising, nor alarming.

The backup life is a hard one, especially for a young goaltender still in development. Saros has made four starts and has not been good, but that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly a bad prospect. He remains one of the better goalie prospects out there. If Pekka Rinne got hurt tomorrow, Saros would be the top option for the Predators.

Saros doesn’t need waivers to go to the minors, but he does need to get into games to keep in a rhythm and to continue developing his game. With the flexibility to send him down, the Predators would be foolish not to use it. Their next back-to-back isn’t until December 4/5. They have three that month. What we might see is Saros play a few weeks in the minors keeping his game fresh and building some confidence before popping back up to start a few at the NHL level.

Peter Laviolette indicated that this will be a short-term move. If anything, view this as a positive way to get Saros’ season back on track.


Ryan Johansen finally scored his first goal of the season in a breakout three-point night that fantasy owners desperately needed. He is now on pace for 50 points.

Johansen should be just fine. I expect him to score around 15 goals and 60 points, as he has the past two seasons, but he is trending into Alexander Wennberg/Joe Thornton territory with how much his shot volume has eroded. He has just 24 SOG through 18 games, a 109-shot pace. This guy regularly used to top 200 SOG. Some of this is the result of playing alongside shot demons in Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson but some of it is just weird.

Johansen’s shot volume did drop when he joined the Predators but through his first season and a half he averaged 2.0 SOG per game. He’s down to 1.3 this season.

If you recall my discussion of Wennberg earlier this week, centermen who do not shoot often are highly susceptible to swings in shooting percentage, which can make them volatile. Worse, because those centermen aren’t shooting, they aren’t providing anything for your fantasy team when their linemates aren’t banging pucks in. Thankfully, Johansen is in a prime spot but if he continues to shoot so little he’ll be a player I shy away from more and more.

Arvidsson, by the way, has four goals and seven points in the past six games and has started seeing more time on the top PP unit. His ice time is up over a minute per game this season, 38 seconds of that coming on the PP. He already has four PPP after recording only nine all of last season. He’ll need to continue producing on the PP if he’s to repeat his 60-point performance because there is no way he is repeating last season’s five shorthanded goals. He is on pace for 282 SOG, which is enough to keep him relevant even if he does slip to 50 points.


Jason Zucker extended his goal-scoring streak to five games, netting the game-winner against Nashville with a pretty pirouette backhander:

Jared Spurgeon, meanwhile chipped in with three points. I am going to keep beating the drum for him as he looks primed for a breakout. His minutes are up over 25 per game, including 2:42 on the top power play unit. 45 points with over 150 SOG appears to be within reach.


While no one was really worried about Sidney Crosby’s recent shooting slump it is important to note the effect that has had on Jake Guentzel. While Guentzel’s personal shooting percentage has been just fine, at 13.3% after scoring his sixth of the season, there have been few cheapo assists.

On-ice shooting percentage tells the whole story here. Guentzel, despite shooting such a high percentage has seen pucks go in on just 5.4% of shots with him on the ice at 5-on-5. Get that up to league average, and Guentzel is on a fine pace. Get that up to the superstar type on-ice shooting percentage we often see from talents like Crosby and Guentzel and we’re looking at the scoring stud we saw all last spring.

The number of hot waiver wire options that exist are plenty. I’ve already named a half-dozen or so in these ramblings. There are 76 players currently on pace for 70 points or more, while there are 73 more on pace for at least 50, and that only includes players who have skated in 10 games or more. Guentzel fits into neither category, but I’m keeping him wagon hitched to him because I think the payoff will be huge.


Matt Duchene is 0/3 since joining the Senators but has pumped 15 SOG in those three games, which is a damn good sign. He has been up over 16 minutes in all three games, which is more than what he was averaging with the Avalanche, another good sign.


A while back I mused that the high end for Sean Couturier was 70 points due to a lack of power play production. It wasn’t long after that Couturier was promoted to the top PP unit, where he has produced decent results. He has two power-play goals so far, which matches a career high. Yes, Couturier remains kind of a PP dud, but with exposure to that awesome Flyers unit, he could push to a higher level.

I do wonder if this is an appropriate use of Couturier, however. Granted, PP minutes aren’t as taxing as 5-on-5 minutes are, but they risk burning him out in an area where specialists continue to be undervalued. They could then save Couturier for 5-on-5 and the penalty kill, where he is their most important forward. It just seems a bit short-sighted to be running out your best forward 20+ minutes a night when he has missed 35 games over the past two seasons. It seems like they are asking for trouble.

The wrinkle is that they have married Couturier up with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek at even strength. No one is suggesting they blow up that line with how wildly productive it has been. However, saving Couturier for 5-on-5 doesn’t exactly work if his wingers are taxed from skating on the power play.

Couturier on the top unit probably deserves more time, if for no other reason than to reward a player in the midst of a breakout, but if he continues at his current pace they should look at other options. Valtteri Filppula was doing just fine in that spot with three power-play goals already.

Nolan Patrick returned from injury last night skating just eight minutes. He definitely won’t be fantasy relevant this season, but I don’t necessarily see Patrick being sent back to junior. Last night was his 10th game, clearing one major hurdle by burning a year off his entry-level deal. The next hurdle is game 40, which gets him a year closer to arbitration and unrestricted free agency. I do wonder if they’ll release him for the World Juniors, however.

Brian Elliott has lost four of his last five starts, but in all five he has posted a 0.939 save percentage or better. Dare I say that he’s starting to settle in? *Runs drunkenly through the forest punching trees*

And now for exasperation:

There will be arguments over intent here, but this is a player with history. How many games?


Mathieu Perreault, skated just 10:45 in his return to the Jets lineup but over four of those minutes came on the second power play unit. Also, he scored a goal!

Fear not, Kyle Connor remained in the sweet spot alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler at both even strength and on the power play. What Perreault’s return does is help the guys on the second PP unit like Nikolaj Ehlers and Bryan Little. It also helps Connor Hellebuyck having a player with some kind of scoring pedigree skating in the bottom six because it’ll help provide goal support.


Jussi Jokinen skated only 13:39 in his Kings debut, but 3:38 of that came on the top PP unit, where he notched an assist. Sorry to all the Alex Iafallo owners, but ya bounced!

Iafallo is still seeing time with Anze Kopitar at even strength but the appeal of Iafallo was thin enough, he couldn’t afford to lose PP time.

I’m uncertain that a role as PP specialist really suits Jokinen either. It stands to reason that Mike Cammalleri, the guy they shipped out of town would be better suited for this role, but the die is cast.

Ultimately, Jeff Carter is going to be the guy in that slot, but the updated timeline for his return is grim. The centerman is not expected back until February. The Kings have done just fine without him, which is a good sign for them. Carter will essentially amount to a deadline pickup for them. In the meantime, Iafallo, Adrian Kempe and apparently Jokinen are seeing larger roles.


Cammalleri, by the way, skated 15:30 in his Oilers debut, with 2:03 coming on the second PP unit. He skated almost all of his shifts with Ryan Strome on the third line. No points for Cammalleri, but he did have two SOG. This is about what was expected for him.


I missed this yesterday, Torey Krug left late during Wednesday’s game with an injury. He did not play last night, so there is clearly something up. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Charlie McAvoy to the rescue! The rookie defenseman skated 27 minutes with over four on the top PP unit. More importantly, McAvoy scored a pretty goal:

I swear, if not for Krug, this kid would be everywhere. He does have nine points through 18 games, but that goal ended an eight-game scoreless drought.


With a 35-save shutout Roberto Luongo has raised his save percentage to 0.928. Since returning from injury he has been quite good, including three straight wins and four straight quality starts. The Panthers are asking an awful lot of him, however, having given up 35 SOG or more in seven of his nine starts this season.


The other shutout from last night went to Freddie Andersen who held down the fort for a once-again Matthews-less Leaf squad. Andersen has put up three straight quality starts but it is no surprise that all three came on home ice, where it’s easier to get favourable matchups.


Travis Zajac returned to the Devils lineup much earlier than I had expected. Check out their lines with him back:


#2           20.5%    BOYLE,BRIAN – HENRIQUE,ADAM – WOOD,MILES



Zajac skated 16:11 and pretty well was not a factor on the power play.

That top line with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri is the place to be. Both wingers fired seven SOG apiece. Unfortunately, Nico Hischier was bounced to the second PP unit so he is losing valuable exposure to elite talent. The PP combinations in New Jersey have been all over the place, however, so he could be back by next game.

Will Butcher is cooling off with just one point in the last six games. He has just 18 SOG through 18 games. Reminder: when he isn’t scoring he is as useful to your fantasy team as a poopy flavoured lollipop.

Pavel Zacha once again experienced a night in the press box. Send him to the AHL to build some confidence already.


The Blue Jackets have agreed to a massive contract extension with Cam Atkinson, signing him for seven more years at $5.75M per season. Dobber expressed some optimism that this would get Atkinson going. I can get behind that sentiment. More than anything, however, Atkinson is simply due to start producing.

While Atkinson was always a big candidate for regression, he still offered a great floor. Indeed, with 50 SOG through 15 games, Atkinson is on pace for a career high 257 SOG. With that kind of shot volume and the average amount of shooting luck, he’ll easily hit 25 goals and 50 points again.

As mentioned earlier with Guentzel, it is simply difficult to ride it out with a guy who isn’t producing points when there are SO MANY good options on the waiver wire. All that rubber Atkinson has been flinging should keep fantasy owners warm at night while they wait for the scoring to come.


I know I missed a few games, but it was a loaded night. Feel free to share your favourite thoughts on some of the other games. Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.