Ramblings: Malkin, Price, Stamkos, and more (Jan. 24)

by Ian Gooding on January 24, 2016

Penguins heating up, life without Price, Stamkos offered $8.5 million per season, plus more…

One of the big stories at the midpoint of the season was the disappointing Pittsburgh Penguins. But are these flightless birds finally soaring in the sky?

During the first game of the day, Evgeni Malkin scored a hat trick in the Penguins’ 5-4 win over Vancouver. Penguins such as Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel have been well-known for their struggles this season, but Malkin hasn’t skipped a beat with 47 points in 47 games. Malkin has missed at least at least seven games every season since 2008-09, so if he can manage to stay healthy, he should be able to reach the 80-point mark for the first time since 2011-12, when he scored 109 points in 75 games.

Speaking of Kessel, he recorded an assist on one of Malkin’s goals. He’s taken six shots on goal in each of his last two games, which is a step in the right direction. Someone asked me last week about trading Kessel, and I advised on not selling low. Kessel has nine points in ten games, so he may finally be getting comfortable with his new surroundings.

In spite of worries that he’d miss the game with his ongoing hand issue, Kris Letang recorded another two assists on Saturday, although he was tagged with a -3. Letang is probably the hottest defenseman in all of fantasy hockey at the moment with 16 points in his last 10 games. As I said before, don’t let the fact that he misses practices faze you. Keep him in your lineup.

So what about Sid the Kid? With his goal today, he has a six-game point streak with nine points over that stretch. Hopefully you didn’t sell thinking he’s already on the downside of his career.

Perhaps a little more under the radar than we would have thought at the start of the season, but Derrick Pouliot played his first game of the season on Saturday. He was held without a point in around 12 minutes of icetime. Don’t be surprised if he is on his way back to the AHL soon once Letang’s hand injury is no longer an issue.

Public service announcement time: Don’t forget that the Pittsburgh/Washington game originally scheduled for Sunday is cancelled. With three weather-cancelled games this weekend, fantasy hockey is getting a fantasy baseball feel to it.

Of course, all the best to those who are currently battling the heavy snowfalls. Vancouver hasn’t had anything other than a very light dusting of snow and a lot of rain this winter.

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The Pittsburgh/Vancouver game actually had two hat tricks. Jannik Hansen secured the hattie with just 16 seconds remaining. I of course missed the hat trick in the Dobber Experts League because Hansen was still on my bench, just like I missed the third goal because I turned the game off after the Pens’ 5-3 empty-net goal. Before his injury, Hansen was the lucky Canuck to play the third Sedin. But because Henrik Sedin is injured, that top line now includes Jared McCann to go with Hansen and Daniel Sedin.  

Because of the injuries to Henrik and Brandon Sutter, Linden Vey moves up the depth chart. Unfortunately, he had a rough game, scoring a goal in his own net that was credited to Malkin. Oooh boy… one of those moments you’d like to forget.

Here’s a piece I wrote for Today’s Slapshot about the Canucks’ defense. Their good luck in recent games finally caught up to them in the third period on Saturday, where they coughed up a 3-1 lead in the third period. The Canucks may be a borderline playoff team right now, even though the advanced stats say otherwise. But there’s always one or two of those teams every season that buck the trend in spite of where they “should” be.

Now that their big eastern road trips are out of the way this season, the Canucks have a relatively favorable schedule with 20 of their final 33 games at home. If the Canucks have their sights set on the playoffs, it’s possible that players like Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis will stay put at the deadline.

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I read a couple of ominous reports today regarding Carey Price. First, the Montreal Gazette speculated that Price has possible ligament damage in his right knee. Second, Richard Labbe suggested that Price could theoretically be shut down if the Habs fall out of the playoff picture. The knee jerk reaction here (pardon the pun) is to say that the Habs would miss the playoffs without Price, but as we know in this season’s playoff race, anything can happen.

By the way, no Canadiens in the playoffs raises the possibility of no Canadian teams even making the playoffs this season. This hasn’t happened since 1969-70, the year before the Canucks became the third Canadian team to join the NHL. The Stanley Cup Playoffs of America, anyone?

While we’re on the subject of Habs’ goalies, Mike Condon picked up a win on Saturday against Toronto, stopping 17 of 19 shots as well as four of five in the shootout. If you’re looking for a goalie for next week, don’t ignore Condon. With the shortened All-Star break week coming up, the Habs play back-to-back games against the Blue Jackets. Hey, maybe I’ll mention that it my weekly goaltending preview on Sportsnet.

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Lee Stempniak had Jets’ fans asking, “Hey, why didn’t we keep this guy?” With two goals against the Jets on Saturday, Stempniak now has goals in three consecutive games. He also has a goal in four of his last six games. If you’re a Stempniak owner, his shooting percentage (14.1%) is higher than his career average (10.9%), so this kind of hot streak won’t last. But don’t tell me that you had him penciled in for 60 points, which is what he is on pace for. Even if he only gets to 50, you managed to make one of the top waiver-wire pickups of the season if you got on board early enough.

This season hasn’t been quite as kind to fellow first-season Devil Jiri Tlusty, though. After scoring just four points in 30 games, Tlusty will be out 3-4 months following wrist surgery.

Also from the same game, Mathieu Perreault left with a lower-body injury. He’s been strong in the puck possession department this season, as per Pro Hockey Talk.

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Steven Stamkos was reportedly offered $8.5 million by the Lightning, a number that doesn’t seem high enough that he would accept. With Anze Kopitar recently receiving $10 million per season starting next season, I would think that Stamkos would be looking for at least the same amount. I’m now starting to think free agency is in his future. That would set up quite a summer. Canada Day fireworks, and Stamkos talk.

Steve Yzerman is a busy guy right now, having to worry about both Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin. Something that isn’t being talked about enough right now is the Bolts’ cap situation. Assuming they want to make another Stanley Cup run, bringing in a veteran for Drouin would also mean shipping out some salary, with the Bolts as tight against the cap as they are. But if they don’t go that route, bringing in a prospect and/or draft pick would be the right return. So maybe Robby Fabbri-plus from St. Louis makes sense, but Kevin Shattenkirk wouldn’t.

In spite of the hot rumor mill and the team’s 5-2 loss to cross-state rival Florida, it wasn’t all bad for the Bolts on Saturday. Nikita Kucherov extended his point streak to eight games. If you put aside his disastrous October, Kucherov has 38 points in 39 games since November 1. If he was one of your key keeper players, then that’s more like it.

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If you like to plan ahead for next week, then you need to read Mike Schmidt’s Looking Ahead posted every Friday. You’ll see that Edmonton and St. Louis don’t play any games during the shortened All-Star week. Be sure to check your league schedule. Some fantasy leagues may be on an “extended week” because of the All-Star break, just so that three days’ worth of stats don’t constitute an entire week. However, for some leagues, like my CBS head-to-head league, this is it. You’ll have to bench Vladimir Tarasenko or Taylor Hall in a weekly league.

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Nick Foligno returned to the Blue Jackets’ lineup on Saturday, although he did not record a point. Here’s how the Blue Jackets’ line combinations looked for this game:

16.85%

EV

HARTNELL,SCOTTSAAD,BRANDONWENNBERG,ALEXANDER

16.49%

EV

FOLIGNO,NICKKARLSSON,WILLIAMRYCHEL,KERBY

16.49%

EV

ATKINSON,CAMDUBINSKY,BRANDONJENNER,BOONE

11.83%

EV

BOURQUE,RENECALVERT,MATTHEWCAMPBELL,GREGORY

If this is going to be the arrangement in Columbus for a while, then this isn’t going to do wonders for Foligno’s point totals. But it is worth mentioning that Rychel scored another two points on Saturday. He has nine points in 18 games this season, with six of those points coming over his last seven games. Maybe he’s worth a look.

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Bizarre moment: Dobber fave Louis Domingue throws off his mask after what he must have thought was going to be an interference penalty, then gives up a goal.

In spite of that moment and the goal counting, Domingue earned the win, his first in his last four tries.

From that same game, a moment that had me saying WTH (or insert your own similar acronym). Milan Lucic a) sucker punches Kevin Connauton, b) yells at Domingue, and c) has the nerve to blame the officials after the game for his plight.

I have Lucic on one of my fantasy teams, and I don’t have any real issues with him (the league doesn’t count penalty minutes, for what it’s worth). But his decision making sometimes makes me wonder. If you break your hand sucker punching someone, you have no one to blame but yourself, regardless of non-calls. By the way, his hand is fine.  

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The Seth Jones trade continues to benefit Mattias Ekholm, who scored two goals against the Oilers. Ekholm now has four points in his last three games and is playing on the Preds’ second-unit power play. In addition, he has played 20+ minutes for seven of eight games since the trade, a number that he had reached just five times all season before the trade.

It was the Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-less Oilers and the slumping Jets before that, but Pekka Rinne has now posted back-to-back strong starts, allowing just one goal in each win. There’s been a lot of worry about Rinne this season, which centers around his .904 save percentage. Right now that number is in Ondrej Pavelec and Cam Ward territory, which is scary if you consider where you drafted him. But again, don’t sell low. Hang on to the positives here.  

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Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler each scored two goals for the Ducks, who are still mired at the bottom of the league in terms of offense. But in case you threw in the towel on Kesler, just compare his December/January splits. After an abysmal December (one point in 11 games), Kesler has six goals and nine points in ten games. The Ducks better hope that December Kesler has disappeared for good with the nearly $7 million per season contract kicking in next season.

Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding