Ramblings: McDavid Sizzles, Rielly on the Power Play, Spezza Hurt (Feb. 5)

by steve laidlaw on February 5, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: McDavid Sizzles, Rielly on the Power Play, Spezza Hurt (Feb. 5)

Ramblings: McDavid Sizzles, Rielly on the Power Play, Spezza Hurt, and more.

Just a heads up before diving in, I did one of my vintage mega-ramblings today with thoughts on stuff from all 12 games last night so this will be a lengthy read.

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So a couple of days ago I set a rest-of-season over/under for Connor McDavid at 25.5 citing concerns about the possibility of rust or timidity. Those have not been factors. With two assists last night McDavid is up to five points in just two games since returning from injury. He has flashed his dazzling speed, and has been dynamic, creative and aggressive. Granted, the Oilers have faced the leagues two worst defenses in those two games but you cannot be concerned about lingering effects of injury.

Jordan Eberle has cashed in alongside McDavid with a pair of goals last night to go along with the two points he had on Tuesday.

Sadly, due to the chemistry being flashed between Eberle and McDavid, Nail Yakupov has been shut out of an opportunity to rekindle his own chemistry with McDavid. It’s not all that sad for me, or for Eberle owners but those invested in the Yak-Attack, even those who bought low, are left waiting still. This is year four for Yakupov, and while he has made strides as becoming a dependable pro he hasn’t made any headway in becoming a real fantasy asset. Before you keeper leaguers hit the panic button, do keep in mind that Teddy Purcell is headed to unrestricted free agency this summer.

Purcell has clicked well with Leon Draisaitl (two points last night) and Taylor Hall (one point) but may prove too expensive to keep around. I’ve no idea if Yakupov would fit on that line. My suspicions are that he wouldn’t do so well. Hall and Draisaitl are a force to be reckoned with at even strength, gaining clean zone entries and playing a dominant possession style. Purcell’s big body fits well here where Yakupov may not. We won’t know unless they try it but I have an idea that Zack Kassian would fit well in Purcell’s spot.

By the way, what a steal Kassian is looking like for the Oilers. Obviously he has skeletons in the closet but the Kassian I am seeing is the one we salivated over since he was in junior. Big, physical, aggressive but with soft hands and a bit of scoring touch. He scored last night but it was kind of a softy. Still that makes two goals and four points in eight games as an Oiler, all while skating on the third line. The last time the Oilers had a third liner score at a 40-point rate might have been back in ’06.

Again, these Oilers are coming off of playing the league’s two worst defenses, at least in terms of goals allowed. It is easy to get overexcited considering how they eviscerated those teams for 12 goals in two games. It won’t be this easy every night but the talent here is showing itself.

By the way, are you wondering how the Oilers get all this talent onto one power play?

The answer is that they don’t. They can’t. They have probably 10 different forwards they could use on the power play to some extent. Nine for sure but even if you go with a single defenseman on both units that leaves room for just eight forwards and that also means splitting time evenly between the first and second units, which really doesn’t work all that well.

The good news is that the solution is already built in. As mentioned above, Hall and Draisaitl are so dominant at even strength that they don’t necessarily need the power-play time. Hall is the only guy in the top 10 in scoring (hell, he is the only one in the top 25 in scoring) who hasn’t hit double-digits for power-play points. Among the top 50 scorers, only Draisaitl and Tyler Toffoli have fewer PPP than Hall. So those guys can just do their thing at even strength while McDavid and whoever he is rolling with take on the easier matchups and soak up the top PP time. It’s a nice theory anyhow.

That’s not how the minutes were split last night of course. On the three PP chances the Oilers had last night the Hall group with Draisaitl, Yakupov, Purcell and Justin Schultz led the way with 1:15 in ice time but were also shut out. Draw what conclusions you wish from that small sample.

Last thought. I had a buddy asking me if he should pick up Cam Talbot as his #2 behind Braden Holtby. I suggested he’d be better off with Freddie Andersen even if he only gets 40% of the starts going forward. Indeed, Talbot will get way more games and has played better but he still has just six quality starts (a 0.917 save percentage of better) in his last 10 appearances. Just not reliable enough.

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The poor Senators goalies never stood a chance. At least Craig Anderson got yanked early before too much damage could be inflicted. He allowed three goals on 10 shots before getting the hook.

Andrew Hammond initially settled the team down with some nice saves, holding the fort long enough for the Senators to briefly make it a one-goal game. Then he allowed four unanswered.

Mark Stone’s luck is finally turning. After going scoreless in eight straight going into the break, Stone has goals in back-to-back games including one last night where he bounced it off the post, off the back of Talbot and just over the goal line.

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Praise be to Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill for being so aggressive. Down three with over seven minutes left and while on the power-play, he yanked his goalie and got a goal from Mike Green. Now down just two he again pulled the goalie and conceded an empty-netter to Vincent Trocheck with over five minutes remaining. I respect that gravitas. It also meant two goals for fantasy owners that we otherwise may not have had. I know lots of folks lament the coaches who pull the goalie early but I love it.

Dylan Larkin had two goals last night but when asked if someone should drop him for Andre Burakovsky I said yes. Burakovsky is up to 10 points in his last eight games. My assumption is we are dealing with a one-year setting, in a shallower league and there are enough moves available that you don’t have to think long term. Grab the superheated Burakovsky and ride him until he cools off. And then do the same with the next hot option off the waiver wire. That’s the way to make the most out of your last few forward slots. For instance, in one league I will be riding David Perron until he convinces me not to and sadly he is why I won’t be bringing Burakovsky into the mix.

As far as Larkin goes, he’s great but I don’t necessarily see him clearing 55 points, which makes him inherently droppable.

Jimmy Howard got a rare start for Detroit given the back-to-back situation. He provided further evidence that Petr Mrazek is the #1 by getting shelled by the Panthers.

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Just one point for Aleksander Barkov in the route by the Panthers. Instead it was Trocheck and Jaromir Jagr leading the way with three points apiece.

Jagr continues to amaze but in the average fantasy league he is borderline droppable himself. He doesn’t shoot all that much, nor does he hit or take a ton of penalties so if you’re in a multi-cat setting you need him scoring. Jagr has scored eight in 12, eight in 13 and seven in 12 in each of the past three months respectively. That’s a 51-point pace. Obviously last night’s performance kicks him up a notch but he has been hit or miss after a blazing start.

Speaking of hit or miss: the Panthers’ second line. Trocheck has goals in four straight games and eight points in that span. This after going scoreless in the six previous games. He is hot right now, which is what matters but have fun chasing the swings if you are heavily invested in any of Trocheck, Reilly Smith or Jussi Jokinen (who all had multi-point efforts last night.)

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Rick Nash continues to miss time with a bone bruise. I haven’t been able to dig up a timeline for his return. But who needs one when you have JT Miller tearing it up in his place?

Another goal for Miller last night gives him eight goals in his last eight games. He is flashing some tremendous chemistry with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello as the trio each had two points apiece.

Given the lack of timeline for Nash’s injury Miller looks like a great pickup. I had him in my Waiver Wednesday column a couple of weeks ago and he hasn’t disappointed for those who took my advice.

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Some great stuff from Zach Parise on the anemic Wild:

We’ve reached a point where unless we are talking about Parise or Ryan Suter or maybe Mikko Koivu, I am not particularly interested in Wild players. And even Parise is ice cold with just one point in his last nine games. Parise’s on-ice shooting percentage is a glacial 4.52% so at least you’ve got regression on your side if you do make a pitch for him.

At this rate you do have to wonder if Parise makes it to 50 points. I should probably make that one of my over/under polls. I have five on the go from yesterday that I will be including in tomorrow’s ramblings so maybe I get this one going for Monday.

Mikael Granlund with an assist last night, has scored in just three of 18 games since Christmas!

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I used up enough bandwidth talking about the Sabres in yesterday’s ramblings so instead I will just link to Sportsnet columns talking about the brilliance of a couple of their young forwards:

Read about how Sam Reinhart’s shot is catching up to the rest of his game. Also check in on how Jack Eichel is driving possession for the Sabres.

On those notes: Reinhart scored a goal last night and it was Eichel’s line, not Ryan O’Reilly’s that was stuck with the dreaded Patrice Bergeron matchup. Even with dregs for linemates people are noticing who stirs the drink in Buffalo.

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Torey Krug has points in back-to-back games coming out of the All-Star break. A positive trend considering the tailspin he was in going into said break. He remains the lone defenseman on the Bruins’ top PP unit but it is worth mentioning that when the Bruins got a 4-on-3 PP in overtime they went with Zdeno Chara at the point instead of Krug, which won’t do any good for the confidence of Krug owners. He seems destined for another 40-point season and no better.

Also out on that 4-on-3 PP was Ryan Spooner who continues to impress. Spooner scored last night giving him 14 points in the last 16 games. He probably slows down at some point here but it is worth mentioning that he has kept his minutes well above 15 per game despite the return of David Krejci. Claude Julien is finding ways to get Spooner ice time that he wasn’t in the early going so perhaps he stays productive for the remainder of the season.

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Keith Kinkaid got the start as Cory Schneider is nursing a minor injury but he indicated that it’s not a worry.

The Devils activated John Moore off IR in time for yesterday’s game. They then scratched Damon Severson.

Neither is of interest as it is now David Schlemko’s turn to be the possibly relevant Devils defenseman that no one has heard of. Six points for Schlemko in the last five games, in all of which he has skated over 20 minutes. If you are desperate he’s an option.

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I remember having to fight many a battle with folks who were convinced that Mike Babcock using Morgan Rielly exclusively as a shutdown defenseman was some sort of tanking strategy, as though Babcock is actually capable of such a thing. I remained firm that this was all about developing Rielly into a better overall player that it would ultimately be to his benefit and that when it came time Rielly would eventually start seeing power-play time again. The time is now.

Rielly has skated over two minutes of PP time in each of the past four games. A more important indicator is that he saw over half of the available PP minutes in three of those four games. Will it stick? That remains to be seen. Rielly has just one point in those four games though he is skating with a diminished Leafs roster.

The time to buy low was early this season but there is still a window here if you believe, like I do, that Rielly has 60-point upside. 

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Props to Nick Leddy for ripping some one-timers from the point on the Islanders’ late power-play last night. Granted, none of them were on passes from John Tavares’ side of the umbrella, which is still a problem but a willingness to rip from the point is a big step. I wonder if it’s part of the reason Leddy has 10 points in his last 14 games including his only three goals of the season. There must be a connection.

The Islanders lines (always a mess) from last night:

22.08%

EV

GRABOVSKI,MIKHAIL – STROME,RYAN – TAVARES,JOHN

21.25%

EV

KULEMIN,NIKOLAY – NIELSEN,FRANS – OKPOSO,KYLE

18.33%

EV

CIZIKAS,CASEY – CLUTTERBUCK,CAL – MARTIN,MATT

14.58%

EV

BAILEY,JOSH – LEE,ANDERS – NELSON,BROCK

 

Mikhail Grabovski scored a goal for the third straight game and has five points in the last four games. Perhaps he’s worth a waiver claim if he is going to be skating with Tavares.

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Again, I’ve talked the Capitals to death so I’ll let someone else take the floor, this time it’s the ESPN crew with a personal look at Evgeny Kuznetsov.

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Finally a dud from Brian Elliott. He wasn’t even that bad stopping 29 of 32, while getting little goal support. Still it’s just his second non-quality start in nine games since taking over for the injured Jake Allen.

The lack of offense in St. Louis is less dire than in Minnesota. For one, at least their superstar, Vladimir Tarasenko, is doing enough to carry the load. For two, the team is in good enough standing that they can be patient. Most importantly, we are all still waiting on the return of Jaden Schwartz to see if that changes everything.

Schwartz wasn’t back last night but there is optimism that he may return this weekend. He is a dynamite possession player and one who doesn’t need PP time to score, which would add some vital secondary scoring punch to a team seriously lacking it.

You still can’t take these guys seriously as a Cup contender with what they have down the middle. If Stastny was what they paid for we wouldn’t be talking about a lack of offense. Sadly, he just isn’t the guy he was for Colorado and it’s a wonder if the presence of Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon didn’t help to prop him up that final season with the Avalanche. Either way, he is pretty clearly a dud even while he notched an assist last night.

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They mixed it up a bit but here were the Sharks’ lines for the majority of the game:

21.59%

EV

HERTL,TOMAS – PAVELSKI,JOE – THORNTON,JOE

17.18%

EV

MARLEAU,PATRICK – NIETO,MATTHEW – WARD,JOEL

12.33%

EV

COUTURE,LOGAN – DONSKOI,JOONAS – WINGELS,TOMMY

10.57%

EV

KARLSSON,MELKER – TIERNEY,CHRIS – ZUBRUS,DAINIUS

 

That’s a lineup they have rolled out for a little while now and it is plenty deep. It kind of stinks for Logan Couture not having long-time running mate Patrick Marleau on his wing but they have Joel Ward filling the role as secondary centerman on that line so it really gives the Sharks more options having Couture on the third group.

The Sharks may have pioneered the idea of having multiple centermen on one line, in particular the idea of having a righty and a lefty together so that they have their centermen always taking draws on their strong side. Having Ward on L2 with Marleau gives the Sharks a second righty-lefty pairing to go along with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Other teams do this too and certainly the Red Wings did the two centermen thing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg skating together way back in the day. Perhaps that’s where former Sharks coach Todd McLellan got the idea.

In any case, it’s an interesting roster constructing idea that has some implications and applications for fantasy hockey. Ever wonder why multi-positional players are becoming so prevalent? It’s because of teams employing this exact strategy.

It’s also important to note for those in leagues with faceoff wins as a category. I find faceoffs to be a silly category but I am in leagues that score it. One thing you’ll notice immediately is that a winger who wins faceoffs is gold. Having faceoffs as a category is also a great way to further undermine the value of defensemen, which is why I am ultimately against the stat. Hell, with the prevalence of multi-positional players, if you get into a really savvy league you can get to a point where even having one forward who doesn’t win faceoffs is a drag on your roster. At the same time, with so many centermen splitting faceoffs with a wing partner, there are fewer dominant faceoff winners. Outside of O’Reilly, Toews, Bergeron and Koivu there aren’t too many dependables.

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Check out the Flyers’ lines from last night with Sean Couturier back in the lineup:

23.04%

EV

GIROUX,CLAUDE – SIMMONDS,WAYNE – VORACEK,JAKUB

16.67%

EV

BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – VANDEVELDE,CHRIS – WHITE,RYAN

9.31%

EV

COUTURIER,SEAN – GAGNER,SAM – SCHENN,BRAYDEN

6.37%

EV

LAUGHTON,SCOTT – RAFFL,MICHAEL – READ,MATT

 

 

 

Is that Sam Gagner’s music? Indeed, he hopped up onto the second line and scored his first point since October. This isn’t a return to relevance but I’ll note it anyway.

The big boppers did most of the damage here and if you aren’t up on Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds and Gostisbehere by now than you have some catching up to do. I’ll make this simple. If one of those four is available in your pool, you need to make a move.

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There goes a hot run for Pekka Rinne. After four straight quality starts in which he conceded just one goal in each of them he gets dusted for six goals on 19 shots completely undoing any good will he had started to build back. I don’t know one Rinne owner who still believes in him. Rinne Island is a cold and lonely place. If you want to take up property it’s going awfully cheap!

Ryan Johansen isn’t sneaking up on anybody at this point. Two points last night gives him 12 in 12 since joining the Predators.

Mike Ribeiro, despite an assist last night, has just six points in 12 games since Johansen joined the team. I really thought that he would fare better. They are skating together on the power play.

Just one of seven on the power play for the Preds last night. Not good enough.

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The Stars got some of their mojo back coming from behind to beat the Avalanche 4-3 in overtime but the lost Jason Spezza in the process:

We saw Mattias Janmark move to center as a result of the injury. We also saw some of Valeri Nichushkin on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

How this all shakes out is still something of a mystery but there would seem to be an opening on the top power-play unit and I think it will be Alex Goligoski who steps into those minutes but looking at the boxscore it seems as though Patrick Eaves stepped up last night. Lord help us if Lindy Ruff is going through another Eaves phase.

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Since returning from injury Erik Johnson has four points in five games. Since Johnson returned from injury Tyson Barrie has two points in five games. That’s mostly coincidence. Barrie is still the #1 in Colorado but I figured I would jump on this in case someone is reading the tea leaves and coming to a different conclusion.

Calvin Pickard started his fourth straight for the Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov returned to the lineup but didn’t get into the game. He has been dealing with some legal issues regarding that assault charge from a couple of years ago. I can’t speak to all the details regarding that situation but you wonder if it hasn’t been a huge distraction for the inconsistent Varlamov.

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Road Corey Crawford was in typical form last night stopping just 24 of 28 shots but he got the win so there is that.

I know everyone is going apples, oranges and bananas over McDavid but Artemi Panarin had three assists last night in a game where Patrick Kane scored just one point. Panarin’s name is already engraved on the Calder. Let McDavid and Eichel impress in their own fashion but please don’t make up nonsense when this is already in the bag.

By the way, remember when Teuvo Teravainen was relevant? Panarin is doing the stuff we all thought Teravainen might. Instead Teuvo is firmly on line three and going nowhere for fantasy owners.

A shorthanded goal and an overtime winner for Jonathan Toews in the week where I am facing the Toews owner in multiple leagues. I deserve this for multiple reasons:

1. For playing in leagues that score shorthanded points.

2. For always talking about how overrated Toews is in fantasy.

I’ll say this, if every game went to 3-on-3 overtime he’d be battling Johnny Gaudreau for the league’s scoring lead. There are no better than these two. And with Toews it feels like a good deal of it is simply that the best way to play defense in 3-on-3 is to score so he pushes all his talent in that direction. Wonderful stuff.

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This is three straight games where Louis Domingue has been lit up for five goals. Yowzers!

I’d love to take a shot at Dobber and say, “I told you so,” regarding Domingue but he played this perfectly, jumping in early, benefitting from a hot start and then selling high. I am sure some of you hung onto Domingue thinking maybe he was Devan Dubnyk 2.0. Doesn’t look like that’s the case. Domingue isn’t necessarily droppable, the last two games have come against Chicago and LA so we’ll cut him some slack.

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Henrik Sedin returned for the Canucks last night but was held scoreless. The only Canuck goal came from Linden Vey with an assist by the red hot Bo Horvat. Horvat is up to 13 in his last 12 games. I’m not a believer in this last until the end of the season but I don’t see skipping over Horvat if you need a waiver add. I’ve thrown out a ton of options in these ramblings so do assess specific positional needs and upcoming schedules when making your decision. Above all else, when it comes to speculative waiver additions, make sure you max out your games played.

Oh, and I’ll just leave this here:

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As mentioned earlier, I am riding Perron until he proves to me he is a bad option. He had a three-point night last night giving him eight points in six games since joining the Ducks. What a winning deal. It’s a shame they couldn’t have acquired him at the deadline last season, instead of Carl Hagelin. Maybe that would have made the difference and got them to the Cup final. Anyhow, no sense in dwelling, this is a winning situation now.

If you aren’t up on things, check out the lines the Ducks have been rolling with:

17.74%

EV

MAROON,PATRICK – PERRY,COREY – RAKELL,RICKARD

17.74%

EV

GETZLAF,RYAN – PERRON,DAVID – STEWART,CHRIS

17.36%

EV

COGLIANO,ANDREW – KESLER,RYAN – SILFVERBERG,JAKOB

12.08%

EV

GARBUTT,RYAN – SANTORELLI,MICHAEL – THOMPSON,NATE

9.43%

PP

GETZLAF,RYAN – PERRY,COREY – RAKELL,RICKARD

 

Perron has helped to awaken Ryan Getzlaf, a scary proposition for the whole league. Watch him beat Jonathan Quick clean:

Hard to believe that was just his fourth goal of the season.

Lots of folks are wondering where Shea Theodore stands now that Cam Fowler is back healthy and Theodore is back in the minors. I don’t see how he stays there long. He proved he can hang at this level. He was a big part of the Ducks boosting their power play to a reasonable level of success.

On the other hand, they do have Fowler skating in that top PP spot Theodore was occupying alongside Sami Vatanen and with the numbers game the way it is there really isn’t room for Theodore. With the way the Ducks are currently going you could argue that they really don’t need to make a trade and that having Theodore around as a black ace come playoff time is a huge asset. You hate relying on an injury but that seems to be the only way he’ll crack the lineup in the near future.

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Some crappy injury news out of Pittsburgh with Evgeni Malkin set to miss the next couple of games and Eric Fehr due to miss at least a month.

The Malkin injury is enough to convince me to drop Carl Hagelin if I had him in any leagues. Even if it’s just two games, Hagelin was never more than a speculative add that you wanted to ride while hot. The next two games he’ll have Matt Cullen or someone similarly unappealing as his centerman. No thanks. I’ll find a better option. Andre Burakovsky is still widely available!

The word is that Oskar Sundqvist will make his Penguins debut tonight. I don’t think he is all that intriguing. You can read more on him here.

The Fehr injury costs the Penguins another penalty killer, which could really tax Marc-Andre Fleury with Nick Bonino already out. The good news is they did bring in Hagelin who should help.

There is nothing new on Bonino, by the way. He has been out since mid-January with a broken hand that was said to cost him at least a month so there’s no chance of him getting back early to help out. He could have really pounced on these next two games with Malkin out but alas he has been a real flop.

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Interesting stuff from Pierre Lebrun regarding some of the hiccups with the expansion process:

“The other thing is that one of the real contentious discussions so far as the executive committee level is the actual parameters of an expansion draft, and how that would look like, because Gary Bettman wants an expansion draft to be better than ever before. He wants the new team or teams to reflect the parity of the NHL. He doesn’t want them to be near the bottom of the standings for five years, like has traditionally been the case with most expansion teams in the last 20 years.

Dobber has discussed in the past how an expansion team could become a home for some of the league’s flailing offensive talents like Sam Gagner. That could still happen but under this proposition we might see some genuine talent moved to these expansion teams, which could create some new stars or result in some young players failing to develop where they might have done better in a smaller role on a contender. Food for thought.

Ultimately, I think expansion will happen because the money is right. Even split 30 ways a $500M US expansion fee will go a long way with a cratering Canadian dollar and a pair of fairly weak national TV deals.

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A note here from Dobber:

I reviewed the "playoff schedule" chart in the Midseason Guide after someone indicated that the wrong information was being given. My apologies, I'm not sure what went wrong. The report generates just fine today, maybe I ran it incorrectly before. I redid the charts and re-wrote the article, you can re-download the guide for the proper charts and info. Or run the report yourself here.

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Thank you to everyone who commented on yesterday’s ramblings. It sounds like I am on the right track using ESPN for boxscores.

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw