The Blackhawks line shuffling may never end. I won’t list their lines from last night. You can dig that up on FrozenPool. Plus, they’ll probably change come next week. What we can say is that Artem Anisimov is back and locked in as the net-front man on their top power play unit. The only guy to challenge Anisimov for that spot over the past two seasons was Richard Panik and he went to Arizona in the Anthony Duclair trade.
Chicago’s power play stinks, so this isn’t the most lucrative spot, but it does come with exposure to Patrick Kane, and will lead to a decent number of tap-ins. It was Anisimov’s work in the net-front that led to Nick Schmaltz’s tying goal in the third period.
Schmaltz, by the way, has 15 points in 13 games since Christmas. Trending way up in the second half. You may recall that Schmaltz scored 24 points in 31 games in the second half of last season. Perhaps a trend here?
The rotating defenseman slot on the Blackhawks’ top PP unit has not yet spun back around to Duncan Keith, who is scoreless in the past six games. He’s still without a goal on the year and is trending into flat out dumpable territory. He’s still on pace for nearly 200 SOG, and is good enough that he has sustained a decent pace despite the lack of goals and reduced PP time. I don’t dump him yet unless we’re talking about an option you are guaranteed to keep until game 82.
William Nylander ended the game with a rare overtime penalty shot:
I think every penalty in overtime (in the regular season) should be a penalty shot. My reasoning for this is that the 4-on-3 power play isn’t particularly exciting when compared to the end-to-end flow of 3-on-3 overtime. And since it’s all just a gimmick we can have a one-off penalty shot and then get back to free flow of 3-on-3. It would also curb the late desperation penalties with only a few seconds on the clock that rarely cost the offending team anything. Of course, this would require the refs having the spine to make a penalty shot call consistently, which I don’t think they do.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that I have no time for the shootout. There’s got to be some sort of contradiction in wanting penalty shots for all overtime penalties, but not wanting to see shootouts. That said, this is how I feel. Maybe that means I’d hate the penalty shot rule if it finally came into effect.
With Los Angeles playing back-to-back Jonathan Quick was not in goal for the Kings last night. He did, however, suit up as the backup. That, combined with his decision to sit out the All-Star festivities, means he will have to sit one game when the regular season picks up again next week. I’m surprised they weren’t able to sort it out to have a goaltender come pinch hit to spare Quick the suspension, but that just means Quick will definitely be out for next Tuesday’s game at Dallas. If Quick really is banged up another week and a half off could do him some good.
Tyler Toffoli’s scoreless streak reached seven games despite getting the Kopitar treatment last night. I wonder if he’ll continue on that line coming out of the break in an effort to spark Toffoli. Of course, the story for Toffoli will continue to be his lack of consistent top unit PP use. Until he gets that the likelihood of him busting out with a 70-point season is slim.
Jake Muzzin, meanwhile, has points in five straight since returning from injury and is on pace for 46 points. Nice bounce-back season for him.
Holy mackerel, the passing from the Flames’ top line:
Tic-tac-toe, baby pic.twitter.com/EqxrLYU6x4— Mike Pfeil (@mikeFAIL) January 25, 2018
Sounds like Joe Thornton will be out for a while, here’s the update from GM Doug Wilson:
#SJSharks DW says Thornton will be out “several week”, minimum of 2. Suffered damage to right MCL, is undergoing an MRI, uncertain whether surgery is necessary.— Paul Gackle (@GackleReport) January 24, 2018
If it’s surgery we’re talking a long timetable. If not, then Thornton probably doesn’t miss much time. And remember, we’ve seen him grit through some injuries.
We have never really seen what the Sharks look like without Thornton. In 13 seasons he has missed 12 games, and never more than four in any given season. What a battler. At his age, multiple knee surgeries could wind up being catastrophic. At a certain point the body just doesn’t recover as quickly and if you are committed to gritting through, you may never fully heal.
So much of what the Sharks do has had to run through Thornton, so they may implode here. They do have Logan Couture ready to step up, and Tomas Hertl played center while Couture was shelved. It doesn’t have to be gloom and doom.
I do think losing their #1 centerman will hurt Timo Meier who has been pumping shots on goal and has started to score of late.
I wonder how many more minutes Kevin Labanc will see, particularly on the top power play unit. He is probably their most dynamic playmaker after Thornton (but obviously no one is on the Future Hall-of-Famer’s level).
Brad Marchand received a stiff five-game suspension for elbowing Marcus Johansson on Tuesday. Some of the angles make it look like a blatant act. Others make it look incidental. You could sell me on the incidental argument, but Marchand’s reputation and repeater status earn him no benefit of the doubt. Losing Marchand for five games is tough for fantasy owners who have to sit with the empty roster spot, but it’s part of the risk of investing in such a player. He has now been fined or suspended eight times in his career, including a two-game suspension during last year’s head-to-head playoffs.
Marchand will still attend the All-Star game, for what it’s worth.
Johansson suffered a concussion on the play, his second of the season. Last time he missed a month, but the timeline with concussions is never firm. I’m guessing a lost season, however. He really hasn’t fit into much of a scoring role
I wouldn’t read too much into this, but the Penguins have assigned Tristan Jarry to the AHL. Why not? The All-Star break is ahead with only one game left on the schedule. They’re either going to ride the hot hand in Casey DeSmith or get Matt Murray some action now that he is back with the team. That simply means moving Jarry to the minors early where he can get some action. He could be the backup following the All-Star break however.
Some interesting topics in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts:
7. As for his roster, it sure sounds like Dorion is getting a lot of calls on Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He’s a good player and his stellar playoff resume has not gone unnoticed. Pittsburgh is believed to be among those circling. (Mark Letestu remains an option there, too.) Boston joined the group of teams checking out Mike Hoffman. St. Louis remains on the radar (and elsewhere), looking for a scorer. I’m not saying this is their choice, but I do think the Senators have done some due diligence on Robby Fabbri’s injury.
It's doubtful that Pageau will ever match the fantasy utility he had a couple of seasons ago when he scored seven shorthanded goals, but he still has value in deeper multi-category leagues and could spruce up again on a contender.
What I am more interested in discussing here is Fabbri and how well the Blues have done with essentially an entire forward line out between he, Jaden Schwartz and Zach Sanford. I don’t think Sanford will have much fantasy relevance beyond deeper leagues, but don’t sleep on his potential as an impact NHLer. I know that the Blues are in the mix to add at this deadline, but they have been on the winning end of their past three or four major transactions, and historically trade deadline additions haven’t been particularly fruitful.
How good is this team next season with a healthy Fabbri and Sanford, sophomores Ivan Barbashev and Tage Thompson, potential contributions from rookies Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin? Or does the fact that they have so many young options flourishing embolden them to make a big splash? They don’t have their first-round pick from this year because of the Brayden Schenn/Jori Lehtera swap that you don’t think twice about, but does leave them a bit shy on draft capital.
I am firmly in the camp that if you are going to make a deadline acquisition that you better do it early enough for your team to gel. That window is narrowing.
I also think that if you’re St. Louis the best trade asset might be Fabbri because it seems like he’ll never stay healthy, but that requires another team to have a difference of opinion on that, which may not exist. For keeper league fantasy owners, I am loath to sell low, but you have think about moving on from Fabbri if you can make a win-now maneuver. While you likely should have pushed to make that move months ago, the sellers in your league may only finally be emerging to offer you a better selection of win-now options.
9. Calgary was on the lookout for a winger, but the Flames are pulling back. Micheal Ferland’s got 19 goals, Michael Frolik is getting healthy and there is increasing hope Kris Versteeg will be an option, too.
This is interesting. Versteeg was a killer power-play specialist for Calgary before getting hurt. If he can make his way back does that push one of Mikael Backlund or Matthew Tkachuk off the top unit? Both have excelled since jumping onto that unit, albeit at the expense of the second unit.
Tkachuk, as a net-front guy, is unlikely to be threatened by Versteeg, but I’ve little doubt we could see Backlund bumped back to the second unit. That doesn’t change much for Backlund, as he’s on pace for another season in the low-50’s thanks to some poor fortune in terms of even-strength shooting that has been buoyed by this recent run of power-play scoring. However, losing out on PP minutes could crush the hopes of a giant second half. Then again, the latest update on Versteeg is that he may return by mid-March. Backlund could pile up a ton of PP points in the mean time.
For keeper leaguers, this tidbit crossed my Twitter feed:
Alexander Khokhlachev is red hot: got 1G+2A in today's KHL game for his third multipoint game in a row. Khokhlachev is also on a 1.6 ppg pace in the last 10 games and now has a total of 19G+29A in 50 KHL games this season. #NHLBruins— Russian Prospects (@RUSProspects) January 24, 2018
Those are some tasty numbers. It’s hard to envision Khokhlachev playing for the Bruins after how things unfolded, but could he find an NHL home elsewhere? Consider the success of Evgenii Dadonov this season. A delayed arrival can still result in tremendous value and he has had impressive results in two professional leagues now. Whether you keep him as a prospect would depend on your rules, but his KHL contract is listed as expiring in April 2018. There are no rumblings of a return, but keep him on the radar.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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