There’s nothing like rolling out a mediocre AHL defensive unit and hoping for the best. That’s exactly what the Jets are doing these days. Winnipeg didn’t have a single defenseman that was in their top-eight on a minute-basis last season in the lineup on Tuesday evening. However, if you’re going to roll into action with a swiss cheese blue line, it’s best to do it in Pittsburgh where they arguably have an even worse unit. The results? Some goals. And the Jets needed them.
After leaving Sidney Crosby wide open just 30 seconds in for an easy finish, Winnipeg popped five straight including a career-first for Ville Heinola. I’ve been a big fan of this kid for some time. He plays a wickedly mature game for his age. And even though we’ve seen him make a few mistakes, the way he recovers is proof of his belonging in the league. And maybe even in line for so more offensive minutes.
Frankly, we don’t know what the hell is going to happen on that top power-play unit – especially with Josh Morrissey out for the next while with what is quite obviously concussion symptoms (I removed the ‘like’ part that most analysts use. There are no "concussion-like" symptoms unless you’re super hungover. That’s still just a hangover, but it’s kinda like a concussion too).
Sami Niku was patrolling the top unit during Tuesday's morning skate, but the Pens didn't take a penalty in the game. Niku is who I probably like best in that spot. But everyone could get a turn. That includes Neal Pionk and Heinola. Whoever it is, will have value.
Of note, Patrik Laine kicked Nikolaj Ehlers off of the top line. He grabbed three assists in the victory. Ehlers is off to a hot start and kept that rolling with an unassisted marker, but his value will dip away from Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Andrew Copp as the 2C is no bueno.
Three apples for Scheifele on the night too.
So I think the Oilers are going to be sending the Flames a third-rounder in that James Neal–Milan Lucic trade. The condition was very fantasy hockey-esque. If Neal scores at least 21 goals AND tallies 10 or more goals than Lucic, then the pick was moving.
This is a two-Ramblings week for me, and both nights have been blessed with four-goal games. Neal popped a hatty in about nine minutes of play and added another in the third period. That gives him six goals in three games to begin the season and he looks quite comfortable on the top power-play unit. He hadn’t been shooting a ton, but the eight he tossed on net have made that shooting percentage not as ridiculous.
Now, I’ll keep the positivity running as long as he’s on that top unit and doing something. Because skating on L2 with RNH and no Leon Draisaitl means that even-strength production will be tough to come by. So if he dips off of that unit, I'm selling quickly.
However, like a bus full of lawyers heading over a cliff, it’s a good start.
Zack Kassian, the guy who Neal wants to replace as the team’s top RW, scored another one on Tuesday to give him three in three. He’s not hitting as much as I’d like to see from a guy who should be filling the heavy cats. And he’s only going to gain exposure to the serious talent at even-strength, but there appears to be some value in him.
The Sharks were tuned up again. This time by the Preds 5-2. Martin Jones posted his third consecutive sub-.890 save percentage contest. Kevin Labanc is ice cold with zeros across the scoreboard through four games. Ditto for Timo Meier. I'm not going to lie, it's ugly in San Jose right now. But that just means more opportunities to try and buy quality players on the cheap from panicky GMs.
Go ahead. Give it a try.
(Just not Jones).
Filip Hronek was a sexy name in the deep sleeper category this offseason and a guy who I’ve been championing for a while. His exclusion from the top power-play unit early on hasn’t dampened my belief in him either. He found himself out with the big boys to end the second frame on Tuesday and obliterated this one-timer for his first of the season.
Filip Hronek attempted to murder that puck. pic.twitter.com/c3l1OdAMTO
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) October 9, 2019
Three games. Three points. Not bad. I think we see the PPTOI ramp up soon too.
The Red Wings lost their game against the Ducks 3-1 though. Still no points for Troy Terry, but he was skating on the top power-play unit. The dam will burst at some point here.
Max Comtois was recalled from the AHL but watched from the press box.
The Hurricanes are good. They’ve made a habit of corsi’ing the eff out of teams the last couple of seasons. However, that didn’t always translate to victories. It has been early on this season, but they decided to get their track shoes out against their divisional foes, Florida. Jumping out to a 4-0 first period lead likely helped alleviate too much pressure on the defensive side of things, but they gave up 50 to the Panthers in what was an extremely entertaining affair.
One player who had continued to sit out from the fun was Sebastian Aho. Four games in and the Hurricanes were about to be 4-0. But their best player had been held to a goose egg. That is until the empty-netter provided him with the boost we all needed! If we’re looking for additional bright spots, he posted six shots on net on Tuesday as well.
The negative side? For the second game in a row, Aho found himself off the top power-play unit. He’s seen around 35 percent of the available man-advantage ice this week. That’s not ideal, but it also won’t last.
Now, here’s where we make hay. Despite that ENG, go ahead and make a reasonable offer to the Aho owner. One that would’ve made them think for a moment a month ago and rejected. Maybe now they get the early-season jitters and pull the trigger.
Go get that honey.
Dougie Hamilton was skating on that top power-play unit and chipped in a goal on the evening. That’s five points in four games. Could it be? Could the breakout FINALLY be here?
If he holds down his spot on the PP, then I’m betting yes.
Atta boy, Noah.
Noah Dobson with his first NHL point, in his first NHL game with the @NYIslanders? We're not surprised.
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) October 9, 2019
Dobson is the real deal. It’ll take him a beat or three before he’s really running, but you’re looking at a very real power-play quarterback. Something the Islanders have lacked for far too long.
Roope Hintz found the back of the net for the fourth time this season. He continues to be the best Star early on. But fortunately for the Dallas faithful, the team managed to pull out an OT win against the Caps on Tuesday.
— NHL (@NHL) October 9, 2019
Three points each for Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. I figure Marchand's century-mark last season will go down as the peak campaign. But both of these guys are going to make a run for that level this season.
Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
- Ramblings: Surprises, Disappointments, & Everything In-Between (Dec. 4)
- Ramblings: Marner returns; updates on Strome, Spurgeon, and Landeskog; Fiala - December 5
- Fantasy Take: John Hynes fired as coach of Devils
- Goldipucks and the Three Skaters: J.T. Miller, Anze Kopitar, & Brady Tkachuk
- Injury Ward: Dahlin, Backstrom, Landeskog, Fleury, Marner & Hughes
- Capped: Teams with free-agent uncertainty
- Eastern Edge: Storylines from around the East
- Ramblings: Landeskog Returns, Phil Finally Provides Some Thrill (Dec 6)