Ramblings: Matthews’ 40-Goal Potential (Dec 20)

by steve laidlaw on December 20, 2016

Matthews' goal-scoring potential, Red Wings-Hurricanes postponed and more.

Every now and then a game has to be postponed, which throws our fantasy season into a minor disarray. Last night, it was the Hurricanes-Red Wings matchup that was postponed due to a problem with the cooling system at Carolina’s arena.

We don’t yet have word on when the game will be rescheduled and apparently it will be difficult to fit into the schedule:

Last year, three or four games had to be rescheduled due to a massive snow storm that hit the East coast. A couple of those games wound up being plopped at the very end of the season, which made for a good opportunity for fantasy owners whose leagues stretched to the bitter end. You got an extra game out of certain players in the H2H finals. I wonder if that’s what will happen here. I doubt that they would dare to mess with either teams’ bye week since that was collectively bargained.

I lost a few man-games from Hurricanes on my various rosters, which will sting a bit in this shortened week but I’m going glass half full and hoping that it works out that I get more games from Justin Faulk and Co. during the fantasy playoffs, when I need it more.

I like to use situations like these as a reminder that shit happens. We are way too rigid with the way we schedule things and expect things to go as planned. The universe doesn’t care about schedules, priorities, best laid plans, etc. Got a hot date? How about diarrhea as well? Want to go shopping? Here’s a blizzard. Late for work? Now your car battery is dead. Losing some man-games in a fantasy league is small potatoes.

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Our next piece in the Auston Matthews is a wizard exhibit:

Matthews has nine goals in the past 12 games and is now on pace for a 40-goal season. I can’t rule out Matthews getting to 40 because of the sheer volume of shots he is putting on net. He had eight SOG last night pushing him into fifth in the league. He is on pace for 304 SOG. Should he maintain that pace, I would suggest he has a better-than 50% chance of scoring 40 goals.

Of the 249 recorded seasons in which a player has recorded 300 or more SOG, more than half of those players scored 40 goals or more. Of the players with over 300 SOG in a season only 96 (39%) didn’t score 40 goals, and most of those were defensemen.

Of that same subset, only 25 players (10%) with 300 SOG in a season failed to score even 30 goals. Again, most of those seasons were from defensemen with the odd appearance by Henrik Zetterberg and Jason Blake.

The point is, if you allow a player as disgustingly skilled as Matthews to shoot over 300 shots on net, he’s almost certainly scoring over 30 goals, and he’s got a very good chance of getting to 40. The only question I have is if Matthews can maintain the shot pace. 31 games in, he hasn’t wavered from the near four SOG per game pace.

I’d bet on Matthews falling short of 40 goals this year just because he may miss time due to injury or his pace may drop off. But this is a 19-year-old rookie so in the next couple of years the sky is the limit.

James van Riemsdyk has hit a rut with just one assist in the past five games but the Leafs spread the offense out enough that he’ll probably heat up soon enough.

Jake Gardiner had a five-game scoring streak snapped. He skated just 16:46 but was the lone defenseman used on the Leafs’ top power play unit. He continues to see #1 billing in terms of power play time. I can’t help but feel that there is another gear for the Leafs to hit with a better point man on that top PP unit and I maintain that Rielly could be that guy but I wonder if it doesn’t have to be someone currently not in the organization because the coaching staff already has an idea in their head about the capabilities of the guys they do have and none of them fit the role better than Gardiner.

I am not saying that Gardiner is without talent. I just think there are better options than what Gardiner has proven capable of. I’d love to have him playing for my favourite NHL team, I just won’t be using him on my fantasy roster. At least not until he displays a higher level of performance.

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After a two-game break from the top PP unit, Sami Vatanen was back on the Ducks’ lethal #1 grouping. This thanks to Shea Theodore being made a healthy scratch. Vatanen now has assists in three straight games. He shouldn’t be bumped for Theodore but it’s a Randy Carlyle team so I won’t apply logic to lineup decisions.

Rickard Rakell continues to see top unit minutes ahead of Corey Perry. Rakell was kind enough to give former teammate Frederik Andersen a reprieve from the onslaught he has been putting on goalies. I really do not believe the top PP usage will continue but Rakell could score 60 points if he hangs onto the role. Considering Rakell has already missed 11 games, 60 points would be a bang-up season.

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Last night was the first game in December in which Pekka Rinne allowed fewer than three goals in a game. It was also his first quality start of the month, as his previous three had all fallen below a .900 save percentage, let alone league average.

Rinne is proving to be awfully streaky but I’d probably rank him as a top-15 fantasy netminder. He doesn’t crack my top 10 but there are a few goaltenders currently on my various rosters who Rinne would be a sure upgrade over. Steve Mason is not one of them.

PK Subban is banged up and will miss a little bit of time:

Just a hunch, but I’d bet we don’t see Subban until after Christmas, which means he’d also miss Thursday’s game.

There’s no must-have filler for Subban who has been solid despite being pushed into more of a secondary role with the Predators. Subban would do it all for the Canadiens, including skating near entire power plays at a time. He averaged well over four minutes per game with the man-advantage in Montreal but is down to 2:56 per game in Nashville as they divide the PP time evenly between both groups.

Yannick Weber scooped some of Subban’s PP time last night but he’s not dynamic enough to be worth adding.

Ryan Ellis, meanwhile, skated over 30 minutes as the game went the full 65 but was held scoreless.

Filip Forsberg scored just his fourth goal of the season. His shooting has picked way up averaging over three SOG per game over the past few weeks. I wouldn’t bat an eye if he scored 25 goals and 50 points over the next 50 or so games. He has that kind of talent. I would buy.

For instance, I was recently asked about Forsberg vs. Mike Hoffman. I’d rather have Forsberg. Some players are so good that you just don’t mess with your pre-season ranking all that much. You know they will come around eventually.

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My latest for Sportsnet highlighted the Oilers as one of two teams to play the optimal Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule this week. I won’t step on the piece too much but note that I pointed out some underrated Oilers worth snagging in your pool for this week.

Patrick Maroon scores in his hometown and human awesomeness ensues:

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Brad Hunt is still perfect on the year with a point in each of his four games. He has spent the last two games in the press box with Carl Gunnarson having returned to the lineup. The Blues lost both of those games so perhaps Hunt finds his way back in but as I discussed last week, I am not hitching my wagon to him.

With Hunt out, Alex Steen has jumped back onto the Blues’ top PP unit.

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The Flames’ power play continues to rage out of control. They have now scored a power-play goal in eight straight games. Johnny Gaudreau has been back for seven of those so it’s not hard to figure out the connection there.

Sean Monahan’s scoring streak has hit 10 games. He isn’t even skating with Gaudreau at even strength but may not need to so long as they share the power play together. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Monahan right back around the 60-point mark again.

Kris Versteeg has been banged up but when he has played he has been hot with nine points in the last eight games. He is another one enjoying the highs of the Flames’ power play. A slow down is coming, whether via injury or otherwise but take advantage while you can.

The Coyotes are low-hanging fruit but Brian Elliott managed to secure his first win since October 28th. This is the first step on the road back to relevance. I have maintained that Elliott would be heard from at some point this season. Is this where it happens? I don’t have any confidence in saying that it is but it will be interesting to see who the Flames go with in goal tonight.

Glen Gulutzan has not been afraid to ride the hot hand and while it’s a back-to-back situation, the Flames don’t play again until Friday, their only other game in the next week.

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.