Ramblings: Malkin inching closer; Hedman injured; Koivula called up; Four weeks in – October 31

by Michael Clifford on October 31, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Malkin inching closer; Hedman injured; Koivula called up; Four weeks in – October 31

There has been some news on the Dustin Byfuglien front.

Bob McKenzie reports he had surgery on his ankle, taking care of lingering effects of a high-ankle sprain from last season. It’s believed the ankle problem was part of what was bothering Big Buff, so what this all means for the future, only Byfuglien knows.

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Both Hampus Lindholm and Ondrej Kase are being considered day-to-day for the Ducks right now. Unfortunately, Josh Manson will be out several weeks.

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Victor Hedman missed Wednesday night’s game after leaving Tuesday night’s game with a lower-body injury. Pat Maroon also did not play following his fisticuffs the night before. Both were sent to the injured reserve, meaning they’ll be both be out at least a week. Erik Cernak also missed the game with a lower-body injury.   

(just an FYI: Mikhail Sergachev took over top PP duties so he gets a short-term boost in value)

It was a good old-fashioned shootout in New Jersey as the Lightning and Devils took a 6-6 tie into overtime, with Kyle Palmieri scoring the game-tying goal with eight seconds left in the third period, and Tyler Johnson scoring in overtime for the 7-6 win. There were 13 goals and four lead changes that got us to the extra session. That’s some serious entertainment value. Let’s rack up the stats:

Everyone catch their breath?

At the least, New Jersey looked good here. Now, Tampa Bay was on a back-to-back and missing a couple key defencemen, but it’s still close to the best New Jersey looked all year. Sometimes, Tampa just scores a lot of goals. It’s what they do best.

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Joel Persson was back in the lineup for the Oilers, by the by.

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An overtime goal from Jonathan Huberdeau allowed Florida to complete the comeback against Colorado, taking the game 4-3. It was Huberdeau’s second goal of the game, as he scored the game-tying tally with 90 seconds left in the third period. Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist while Evgenii Dadonov chipped in a helper.

Aaron Ekblad had a pair of assists and added three shots, giving him eight points and 29 shots in 12 games. It’s been a very stellar start to the year, especially when considering his real-world contributions defensively.

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Vancouver’s top line did their thing in a road game against Los Angeles, effectively combining for all five goals (one was from Bo Horvat, but on the power play). Brock Boeser led the way with a hat trick and an assist, Elias Pettersson had a goal and three assists, while J.T. Miller had the lone helper.

Quinn Hughes had three assists for the Canucks, giving him 10 points (nine assists) in 12 games. It’s been a fantastic start to the year, and his career, but it’s worth noting that he has just 17 shots, one block and three hits in those 12 games. Those 10 points are a very empty 10 points in roto leagues. Might be worth seeing if he can be traded for a more balanced option because of his assists dry up, there’s nothing else floating his fantasy value.

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Tyler Toffoli was a healthy scratch for the Kings on Wednesday night in what I have to assume is some sort of in-house punishment whose context we’ll never get. Else, scratching Toffoli on any given night ahead of about half this roster seems like a very bad idea. But I’m just some idiot on the internet.

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The Islanders called up Otto Koivula on Wednesday morning and had him skating on the fourth line in practice.

You can read Koivula’s Dobber Prospects profile here.

I have some interest in the fourth-rounder from 2016 but that he plays for the Islanders – a low-event, low-scoring team under Barry Trotz – and doesn’t look to be in line for a feature role early on is a big concern. Fortune favours the bold but dropping anyone of repute for Koivula at this point is a little too bold.

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Toronto had John Tavares back in practice and he was flanked by Mitch Marner and… Trevor Moore? It had been Kasperi Kapanen up until the Tavares injury but that hadn’t been working well. It seemed like a change was coming and Ilya Mikheyev seemed primed for that role. Maybe it’ll still be him eventually, but it appears it’s Moore’s role for now.

FYI: Mikheyev was on the third line with Kerfoot and Kapanen. The ol’ MIKE line.

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With Brandon Montour back at practice for the Sabres, this is how they ran their defence pairs according to Mike Harrington:

Dahlin-Montour

McCabe-Ristolainen

Miller-Jokiharju

I had figured that with Montour back in the lineup, Jokiharju would get the short end of the stick given how many right-handed shots they have, but it appears that the temporary solution will be just to have Colin Miller played on the left side. That gives the team a pretty good first and third pair, now they just need to figure out the second pair i.e. trade Risto.

While on the topic of the Sabres, just want to point out what a masterful job Jason Botterill did rebuilding that blue line. (Well, maybe just flat-out building it.) They added Colin Miller, Henri Jokiharju, and Brandon Montour for a second-round pick, a fifth-round pick, Alex Nylander, and Brandon Guhle. Assuming they re-sign Montour after this year (still RFA), they’ll have four legitimate top-4 defencemen moving forward, led by Rasmus Dahlin, for at least the next few seasons.

It’s a lesson for keeper and dynasty owners: never be afraid to go for it if you think you have a chance at a title. Even if you fail and have to rebuild, it can be done fairly quickly with the right trades. It’s not to say it’s easy, but it doesn’t take as long to turn a team around as some fantasy owners might think.

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Evgeni Malkin was back on the Penguins power play in practice on Wednesday, along with Guentzel, Crosby, Letang, and Schultz. Generally speaking, skating on a power-play unit in practice is the final step a player takes following an injury before returning to games. The Penguins are at home on Saturday to Edmonton, so he might return just in time for a McDavid showdown.

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Nikita Gusev was a healthy scratch for the Devils on Wednesday. As I’ll discuss later, it’s been a bad start to the year for a team that added some significant pieces in the off-season and is looking to keep an MVP winger in the fold after his contract runs out. I’m not overly concerned about Gusev because there are holes in this lineup where he can slide in, I’m much more concerned about the overall quality of the team and whether this gets any better.

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Those in Canada might remember Nabil Karim from TSN. Those in America would recognize him from ESPN and he had a great tweet yesterday:

 

 

That is some serious salad.

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We’re a month into the season and I thought it would be worth going back to last year, seeing where everyone stood after a month, and what lessons might be learned. (I honestly doubt we can learn anything useful but that’s never stopped me from wasting my time before.) Stats mostly from Natural Stat Trick.

After four weeks last year, we had six teams with a five-on-five shot share under 46 percent: the Rangers, Wild, Canucks, Islanders, Senators, and Ducks. Only one of those teams made the playoffs (NYI) and that was on the back of Vezina goaltending from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss. This year, we have four teams under that 46 percent mark with the Rangers, Islanders, and Senators making a repeat appearance, while New Jersey shows up, too. (What’s with the New York-area teams.) The Islanders are 8-3 on the year while the other three teams are a combined 9-17-4. Can the Islanders pull a rabbit out of a hat for the second year in a row? We’ll know in five months.

On the flipside, last year at this point, nine teams had an adjusted shot share over 52 percent at five on five and only three of them missed playoffs: Florida, Arizona, Montreal. And with those three teams, Montreal missed by one point while Arizona was in the playoff chase until the final weekend. Among the 10 teams over 52 percent so far this year, we have all of Montreal, Arizona, and Florida making repeat appearances, while we have some favourites like Boston and Vegas. Perhaps a bit surprising is seeing both Vancouver and Los Angeles, the latter more than the former. I think most people expected Vancouver to flirt with a playoff position, not be one of the best teams in the league. As for the Kings, I think most people expected them to maintain bottom-tier status, not be a playoff team. Their goaltending needs to improve but at least the team is playing well.

Any guess who – as of Wednesday afternoon – leads the NHL in goals at five on five? It’s not David Pastrnak, it’s not Auston Matthews, and it’s not Leon Draisaitl. Anyone? Bueller? … Well it’s Adam Henrique, currently sitting with eight goals at 5v5, tops in the league. I knew he and his line mates had a good start to the year but that is a great start to the year. Last year it was Nathan MacKinnon leading the league in five-on-five goals at this time. Not sure Henrique is going to put up 41 goals, though.

At this point last year, Thomas Chabot (6), Mikko Rantanen (5), Duncan Keith (5), and Brian Dumoulin (5) were the only players with at least five secondary assists at five on five. Those four guys averaged getting 10 more secondary assists the rest of the year. As of right now, Morgan Rielly (5), Dominik Simon (5), and Aleksander Barkov (5) are the only guys with at least five this year. Which of those three guys do you think might end up on the low end of the spectrum for rest-of-season secondary assists? It should be pretty obvious.

Last one: at this time last year, Nick Cousins had the most shots by a forward without a goal at this point, landing 27 shots without a tally. This year, that distinction belongs to Adrian Kempe, who, coincidentally, is sitting at 27 shots on goal with a tally. Cousins finished with seven goals. Where does Kempe finish? My preseason projections had him with 11.1 so I’ll stick with something close and say 11.