Ramblings: MacKinnon Is At It Again; Lundqvist Saves Another Fifty; Mikael Granlund – March 3

by Michael Clifford on March 3, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: MacKinnon Is At It Again; Lundqvist Saves Another Fifty; Mikael Granlund – March 3

There was an update on Matt Murray in that he skated before the team did on Friday for practice. He did not take any shots as he recovers from his concussion but it’s nonetheless a good sign that he’s on the ice in full equipment. I’m sure they’ll be very cautious here so there’s no need to activate him from the IR anytime soon.

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Evan Rodrigues missed Buffalo’s game Friday night with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious as he’d been pretty good for the Sabres of late, managing nine points in 13 February games. He had been centering the second line and was slotted on the top power-play unit. Kyle Okposo returned to the lineup for the Sabres and took the spot of Rodrigues on the first power-plays setup. We’ll pass along updates on Rodrigues when we see them.

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Shea Theodore returned to the lineup following his injury/illness bouts of late. Not a moment too soon as Nate Schmidt appears to be a bit banged up. That should put a little more onus on Theodore offensively.

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Both Micheal Ferland and Kris Versteeg close to returning as both Flames forwards skated in non-contact jerseys Friday afternoon with the team. After the game-day skate, coach Gulutzan intimated that Ferland will be back early next week.

I’m assuming that Ferland will return to the top line, allowing Sam Bennett to move down to the third line where he, Mark Jankowski, and Garnet Hathaway had found some success together. Just a heads up for Ferland owners that he will be activated shortly.

It’ll be interesting to see what the team does with Versteeg, in particular on the power play. The top unit looked good with Versteeg on it before his injury back in November. Do they go back to it? Does that bump a defenceman or a forward? There’s a lot still up in the air with this.  

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Edmonton is looking for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to return to the lineup when the team hosts the Rangers on Saturday night. He has been out of the lineup since mid-January with an injury to his sternum. He had been enjoying a resurgent season with 16 goals in 46 games so the next month may go a long way in determining his ADP come September.  

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New Jersey lost to Carolina, but Taylor Hall scored, extending his points streak. It’s just getting silly now:

For those with an Athletic subscription that may have missed it, there was a good read on why Hall is a legitimate Hart Trophy contender this year. I know it’s a popular thought in some circles, but this lays out the numbers as to why. I recommend going through it.

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Dressed in blue and he knew/ Where to go to that’s what he knows/ With finish mitts / A goal for Tanner Fritz.

I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I didn’t sneak some Taco into this Ramblings on a night where Fritz scored for the Islanders. Sue me.

He was lined up on the top line, by the way, and Cal Clutterbuck skated on the second line with Jordan Eberle missing the matchup. Though lines did change often.

Alex Galchenyuk led the way for the Habs in their 6-3 win over the Islanders, registering his second career hat trick and adding an assist for good measure. Noah Juulsen scored his first career goal, a rocket into the top corner from the point.

Max Pacioretty left the game in the third period and did not return while Victor Mete left the game in the first period with an apparent hand injury and did not return. We didn’t get an update on Pacioretty but the team did say that Mete was sent back to Montreal for further evaluation.

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Winnipeg’s first goal of the night was the 32nd on the season from Patrik Laine, and it was… pretty good?

That tally, by the way, moved Patrik Laine (68) past Ilya Kovalchuk (67) for goals by a teenager. He added his 69th later in the game.

Laine will obviously get the headlines for this performance, but Nikolaj Ehlers had 10 (!) shots on goal. He’s the first Jets played to have such a game this season. I talk about him a little later in these Ramblings. Well, maybe not talk about him. Gush over him? We’ll go with that.

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Aleksander Barkov scored in Florida’s win over Buffalo, giving him goals in three straight and points in five straight (four goals and four assists in that span). He has 29 points in 24 games since the calendar turned 2018. Evgenii Dadonov had a couple of assists giving him three multi-point games in his last four.

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For the first time in his career, Nathan MacKinnon has scored 30 goals. When he was drafted, this seemed an inevitability, though I’m not sure many would have guessed it would take five seasons. All the same.

Oh, the Avalanche just destroyed the Wild, by the way. Adding to his two goals, MacKinnon had three assists, giving him his second five-point game of the season. He has 76 points in 56 games. Lol.

Tyson Barrie had a goal and an assist, Mikko Rantanen had a goal and three assists, and Gabriel Landeskog had a goal. With his four-point game, Rantanen has 63 in 63 contests. Yes, he’s a point-per-game player now.

Man alive.

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For the second game in a row, the Rangers allowed over 50 shots. For the second game in a row, Henrik Lundqvist saved at least 50 of them. This time, in Calgary, he allowed just one goal in the 3-1 victory. That was his 10th game this year with at least 40 shots faced meaning he needs three more to tie Jonathan Bernier for most 40+ shot games in a season since the 2012 lockout.

Since you’re all probably wondering:

The only Flame without a shot on goal was Garnet Hathaway. Seven players had at least four.

By the way, Ryan Spooner had a goal and an assist in this contest, giving him seven points in three games since being traded from Boston. It’s a nice little run he’s on.

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Craig Smith, Roman Josi, Scott Hartnell, and Yannick Weber were all “rested” by the Predators on Friday night in Vancouver. They played Thursday night in Edmonton and have an afternoon road game on Sunday so I guess it makes sense. If this becomes a habit league-wide, though, especially considering there’s over a month left in the season, this could get annoying fantasy-wise.

Mike Fisher, in his first game back with Nashville, kicked off the team’s comeback, scoring their first goal of the game. The Predators fell behind 2-0 and eventual won 4-3 in overtime despite the back-to-back and a lot of regulars sitting.

Alex Edler had a monster fantasy night with two assists (both on the power play), four shots, four blocked shots, and three hits.

Ryan Johansen was ejected in the middle of the third period for a spear to the, er, lower region of a Canucks forward. I imagine he’ll face some sort of supplemental discipline.

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We had a wild game in Vegas, of course. The Golden Knights fired a couple third-period goals to tied the game at four apiece before a late goal from Alex Burrows put the Senators over the top.

William Karlsson scored his 35th of the season with Reilly Smith tallying his 22nd.

Erik Karlsson managed three assists for the Senators while Bobby Ryan had a goal and two helpers.

Matt Duchene scored for Ottawa, his 18th of the year, which is as many as he scored last year.

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Even without Ryan Getzlaf in the lineup – he was a late scratch due to an illness – the Ducks dispatched of the Blue Jackets. Rickard Rakell and Cam Fowler both had a goal and an assists for Anaheim. Rakell added five additional shots and three hits to give himself a well-rounded fantasy performance.

Zach Werenski scored for the Jackets, his 12th of the season, surpassing last year’s total.

John Gibson returned to the lineup for the first time in nearly three weeks and stopped 34 of 36 shots in the win.

Just for giggles: the Coyotes (11) have more wins than Columbus (10) since Christmas.

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It seems weird to me that Mikael Granlund went from “can he score 10 goals a year” to “well, he’s perennially a 25-goal threat now” and it’s something we don’t discuss very much. Allow me to change that.

First things first, he obviously has been shooting more. His first three 82-game seasons are the three lowest shot rates of his career and his shot attempts per 60 minutes has climbed every year for four years. It’s not as if that’s uncommon for a young player but for a young player to give us three years of data, and suddenly start shooting more in his age-24 season, is a lot less common.

Granlund isn’t riding some sort of percentage binge, either. He shot 14.7 percent in 2016-17 but just over 8 percent at five-on-five. Even with the power-play shooting percentage decline (a bloated 29.2 percent in 2016-17 but down to 15.9 percent this year), he’s still right in line with his goals/game output (0.32) because of his power-play shot increase. Things have normalized and he’s still on a 26-goal/82-game pace. This is a very good sign.

About that power-play percentage spike. It’s worth noting where he was shooting from on the power play before 2016-17, what changed, and why that’s important. Here are his shot maps for each season from 2014-17 via HockeyViz.com:

See the change?

This year he has started shooting a bit more from the wings, hence the percentage decline (which was inevitable anyway). But he’s still getting his shots from the net-front, and his overall shot rate has gone up, so it’s not a huge concern.

Granlund is finally living up to the lofty expectations fantasy owners had for him all those years ago. By no means is he a roto stud; he’s still not a huge shot volume guy, he doesn’t take penalties, and he doesn’t do much in other peripherals. The production is there, though, and it should be there for years to come. That’s a significant deviation from where he was even two years ago and fantasy owners should be happy with that.

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If they didn’t have an embarrassment of riches up front already, the addition of Paul Stastny made the Jets truly terrifying. Anytime Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers are justifiably slotted on the “third” line, you know you have depth.

This embarrassment of riches is proving to be a sort of problem for Ehlers, though.

Problem may be a bit strong. Going into Friday night, he sits at 25 goals on the year and he’s on pace to crack 60 points again. Considering it’s just his age-21 season and he’s already managed two 25-goal campaigns, it’s hard to say he has a problem. Ongoing issue, maybe?

The issue of course is the power play. He’s been stuck on the second unit for the majority of the year and there’s a clear delineation between the top quintet and the secondary one; this isn’t Toronto where there are two evenly-used units. Registering 12-15 power-play points is nothing to sneeze at but until he earns enough minutes to put up 20-plus consistently, Ehlers won’t reach his fantasy potential.

He does have pretty good company for five-on-five primary point scoring rate at five-on-five, though, since the start of last season:

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Will Jakob Silfverberg ever find that next level in the fantasy game? His 82-game paces this year are 18 goals and 20 assists. That’s while playing 18:17 per game. Was 2016-17 – with 23 goals and 49 points – as good as it’s going to get? Playing on a checking line with a supposedly injured Ryan Kesler obviously isn’t helping. Without power-play time and being stuck in a checking role, though, can we realistically expect more than 20 goals and 40 points a season? Doesn’t seem like it.

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Colour me intrigued on Matt Duchene. Going into Friday night, he had 23 points in 25 games so far in calendar 2018. When that happens to a guy that normally doesn’t score at that rate, something is usually amiss percentage-wise. Well, in that span, the team shot 9.5 percent with him on the ice at five-on-five. He had three seasons in Colorado over 10 percent and another season over 9 percent, so it’s not extreme. He was shooting 15.2 percent himself at all strengths over that span, which is high for him, but he has never finished a season below 10 percent and had a 15 percent season in 2015-16. So maybe a bit high personally, but not by much? He also wasn’t among the leaders from their forwards in power-play points per minute or on-ice shooting. This is just a really solid stretch of production and there’s not much out of line.

Again, colour me intrigued.

 

11 responses to “Ramblings: MacKinnon Is At It Again; Lundqvist Saves Another Fifty; Mikael Granlund – March 3”

  1. anonymouse says:

    A lot’s been made of William Karlsson and his sky-high shot percentage (24.3%) meaning sure regression. But here we are in March and he’s not slowing down. Is it possible that his quality of shots are just so high, that he’s shooting from such prime areas that it’s feasible to be scoring so often? I find that hard to believe but he isn’t showing any signs of regression. Is it possible that he’ll be able to maintain a 20+% shot% going into next year and beyond?

    • Michael Clifford says:

      Anything is *possible* but I certainly wouldn’t expect it. Just some recent examples:
      Henrique – 20.1% in 2015-16, 14.8% since
      Z. Smith – 20.7% in 2015-16, 9.2% since
      Oshie – 23.1% last year, 12% this year

      There is a small handful of player who sustain a very high shooting percentage (Paul Byron does, Alex Tanguay did) but even they are sub-20% for their careers.

  2. anonymouse says:

    Is it just me or does it make no sense for the Preds to be “resting” guys like Hartnell or Weber? Those are bit-part players and are the type of guys most coaches give bigger minutes to in games where the big guns are rested

  3. Striker says:

    I can assure you Nas resting players is annoying. My rosters are littered with Nashville players & in 1 of my fantasy leagues, losing Smith a coveted right winger; 18th overall in this league, 20 team league we dress 3 RW’s, my #2 RW for a game in week 1 of a 2 week playoff segment sucks. Especially considering my #1, Simmonds is already on the sidelines. Thankfully the rest of my team is on & I’m winning 43 to 23 point going into today but a pain in the ass regardless.

  4. Striker says:

    Why do people, journalists & bloggers keep saying the Ehlers, Stastny, Laine line is the 3rd line, based on what criteria? Wouldn’t the Perreault, Little, Roslovic line be the 3rd line? Does it even matter.

    Stastny has only been a Jet for 2 games in game 1 by shifts it was almost a wash, by minutes played a wash but by specialty icetime Stastny’s line all saw quality PP time as did Little’s line with the exception of Roslovic who saw none. Little also kills penalties so saw the most shifts, 2 more than Stastny.

    Game 2 Stastny’s line saw significantly more ice time than Little’s. There is no better metric for determining lines or placement of forwards, 1, 2, 3, etc. than TOI/GP followed by disbursement on speciality teams.

    • Mathieu says:

      I believe the Jets are lining them third on their roster sheet and that may be why the media present it as such. Winnipeg might do this just so Little wouldn’t feel demoted to the third line. Anyways, as long as they win, I don’t think any player minds what line he’s supposedly on.

  5. chuckcouples says:

    Great ramblings once again. I continue to enjoy reading them every night.

    I do have to question how you wrote so much about how Mikael Granlund became a different player last season and not mention the most important factor. He went from being a center to a winger in the playoffs 2 years ago and has not looked back.

    • Michael Clifford says:

      Thanks for reading!
      The move undoubtedly made some sort of difference but I rarely consider them because it’s hard to quantify. What number of his shots or goals did the move add? 10%? 30%? 50%? There’s also the unknowable that maybe he would have developed like this anyway had he not made the move.
      We know that getting closer to the net for shots can usually drive up shooting percentages and we can approximate that impact. That’s why I showed the heat maps of where he used to shoot from on the PP and where he’s shooting now. But what’s the approximation of offence added because he moved to the wing? I don’t know, so I don’t consider it.

      • Patrick says:

        I would be curious if the move to the wing perhaps lead to exposure to better/different types of line mates. Might be a part of things as well, although I’m not positive there has been a huge shift, and would need to really dig deeper to find out. Definitely more quantifiable than the move to the wing itself, at any rate; but that’s effectively just a deeper dive into the same data as looking at his on-ice shooting percentages does, which you did point out. So, it wouldn’t necessarily add a ton to the evaluation, it’s just something that would be interesting to look at.

      • Michael Clifford says:

        I think the roles do change. If you look at shot/game leaders over the last 4-5 years (and I’m sure longer than that) it’s littered with many wingers and few centres. There are names like Seguin/Bergeron but it’s mostly wingers who shoot. So there is definitely an expectation that shot rates would increase moving from centre to the wing for the typical forward, but it’s a matter of determining how much is attributable to the move to the wing.