We had 13 games on the NHL schedule, Canada/Russia for first place in their group at the World Juniors, and even had Team Canada in the final at the Spengler Cup, so it was a busy day to say the least in the hockey world. Let’s get to the news first.
This came across my timeline in anticipation of the Oilers press conference, and it made me laugh:
Today's the day pic.twitter.com/qedNYvBvFB
— Oiler Moe (@V2Hero) December 31, 2018
You probably need to be over 30 to get that one.
Of course, aside from some of the games, the Oilers press conference was the focal point of the day. Honestly, not a lot was said. GM Peter Chiarelli talked about how hard it is to acquire a puck-moving defenceman and how he knows the players he picked up aren’t “sexy.” I was expecting more in-depth questions from the media but we never got them. It sure felt like he’s not done trading, which is weird because I can’t imagine him being the GM next year, in which case why is he still allowed to make trades?
Speaking of the Oilers, they’re saying Kailer Yamamoto is day-to-day right now.
With Jack Eichel missing practice Sunday there was concern he would miss Monday night’s game against the Islanders but he was back in his usual spot on the top line for the contest. Phil Housley officially had him as a game-time decision. He did leave the game about halfway through the first, though, and did not return. After the game, Housley said it shouldn't be anything too serious.
Kevin Shattenkirk returned to the Rangers lineup though if he’s not on the top PP unit, his fantasy value is middling at best.
Robby Fabbri played his first game in over four weeks, returning to the St. Louis lineup for their home game against the Rangers. Now, with the way the Blues have been playing lately, posting 6 wins in 10 games, the lineup wasn’t going to be shuffled much so Fabbri was slotted on the fourth line. All the same, as long as he can stay healthy, it shouldn’t be long until he works his way up the lineup.
Canada lost the Spengler Cup in a shootout. Zach Fucale had a pretty good game, as did Zach Boychuk. Oh the names you hear…
Canada and Russia played a very un-Canada/Russia-like game at the World Juniors on Monday night. It was a 1-1 game less than six minutes into the first period, and it stayed that way until the final 10 minutes of the third period when Pavel Shen made it 2-1 Russia, which was the final.
The most entertaining aspect of the game may have been the back and forths between Max Comtois and Klim Kostin, the former for being a little, let's say, exaggerated in his actions.
I say that facetiously. This was a game that featured a lot of chances, including breakaways, posts, and odd-man opportunities, and yet stellar goaltending kept it close. Wouldn't mind seeing a rematch in some game down the road.
The line of Evgeny Kuznetsov–Alex Ovechkin–Tom Wilson was reunited in the third period of their 6-3 home loss to the Predators on Monday afternoon. That was the line often used before Tom Wilson’s suspension (no, not that one, the other one… no not that one either… ah forget it).
Jakub Vrana scored his 12th goal of the season in the loss, and none of the 12 have come on the power play. That goal pushed him into the top-15 forwards league-wide in goals per 60 minutes at 5v5. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, he’s top-30 among all forwards (minimum 1300+ minutes over the last two years). He’s turning into the goal scorer some of us have hoped for.
William Nylander was back alongside Auston Matthews in practice after skating with him in their game on the weekend. It seems inevitable that duo is put together for good and maybe this is the start of it. Then again, they don’t play for a few days so there’s lots of time for things to change.
College signee forward CJ Smith was called up by Buffalo on Monday. He has 73 points in 90 career AHL games. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.
Connor Carrick returned Monday night for the Stars, his first game since before Halloween. This isn’t huge for fantasy owners in and of itself, but remember that Carrick and Miro Heiskanen played extremely well together early in the year (Carrick skated with Julius Honka on Monday night, for what it’s worth). If Carrick returning can give the Stars a legitimate puck-moving pair that doesn’t include John Klingberg, it could go a long way in helping to generate more offence for the forwards that are, ahem, horse poop.
An update from the Flyers states that goaltender Brian Elliott may return before the end of January, or pre-All Star break. With that said, as long as Carter Hart remains healthy and can keep up the .915-.920 goaltending he’s been providing, giving the Flyers a chance to win every night, he’s not leaving the starters’ role (well, before the New Year’s Eve loss when he was pulled in the second, anyway).
In response to the injury to defenceman Dustin Byfuglien that looks like it may be a long-term injury, the Winnipeg Jets recalled blue liner Sami Niku. Expect Josh Morrissey and Jacob Trouba to carry a huge workload (the former getting the PP time), but Niku will have a real chance to make a case that he should be a part of this team even when Byfuglien is back.
Anthony Mantha skated with the Red Wings in practice on Monday but isn’t quite ready to return yet. With that said, he could be back as early as this weekend as he finishes his recovery for a hand injury.
Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists in Pittsburgh’s win over Minnesota. Those three points give him 46 in 39 games this year, putting him on pace for a career-best 96 points. All those rumours from a couple months ago about Kessel being traded after a slow start have suddenly gone quiet. Funny, that.
The top line for the Flames, at time of writing, have combined for 13 points in their beatdown at home against the Sharks. Johnny Gaudreau had five of them, pushing him to 56 on the year. He's well on his way to smashing 100 points.
Pierre-Luc Dubois had four points in Columbus's 6-3 win over Ottawa, finishing with two goals and two assists. That’s his first four-point game of the season, his 10th multi-point game, and he’s now four goals away from 20 with over half the season to go. A pretty good sophomore performance, helped by playing most of the time with two pretty good wingers.
On Boxing Day, Dobber posted a Ramblings covering calendar 2018, with everything from leaders in hits to takeaways and a whole bunch more. Click his Ramblings and check out the Dobber Tools he used to run those reports. It’s pretty neat to see who did what in one simple list.
I wanted to do something a bit different and talk about individual teams in calendar 2018. Now, these necessarily won’t include the games from New Year’s Eve, but it’ll give a very good idea of where teams stood for a year. Here we go (some data from Natural Stat Trick).
Top-3 Teams In Power Play Goals: Colorado, Tampa Bay, Boston
It’ll never, never, make sense to me that when certain teams look at the elite power play units, the coaches say, “we won’t emulate that.” Aside from Vegas (10th), and Toronto (9th, and for half a season), the entire top-10 power play goals by a team were filled with teams the use one stacked PP unit. We’re talking the teams already named, plus Florida, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Washington. And yet, there are still teams with loads of talented players (Nashville and St. Louis come to mind) where they don’t do this. And they stay having middling-to-bad power plays.
By the way, the bottom-3 teams in PP goals were Edmonton, Anaheim, and Detroit. Not sure any of that is surprising.
Two Teams To Score At Least 3.00 Goals/60 Minutes at 5v5: Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh
I’m old enough to remember the start of the 2017-18 season and the Pittsburgh Penguins not being able to buy a goal at 5v5. In fact, through the first 40 games of the 2017-18 season, Pittsburgh was last in goals per 60 minutes. Lower than Arizona, lower than Buffalo. Well, something changed when the calendar rolled to 2018 because they’ve been the offensive juggernaut we expect.
Two Teams to Allow Fewer Than 2.00 Goals/60 Minutes at 5v5: Nashville and Anaheim
I don’t think it would surprise anyone that Nashville has the lowest goals against rate at 5v5 in calendar 2018. I think it may surprise some people that Anaheim was the second-lowest, especially with how bad the first two months of the 2018-19 season was for the team, outside of John Gibson.
And that brings me to the point: where’s the clamouring for Gibson as MVP this year? All the usual names like Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, and Nikita Kucherov are constantly brought up. What about Gibson? Night after night through two months of the 2018-19 season this guy was getting bombarded and he kept this team in and around a playoff spot (where they currently sit). He faced over 34 shots per game for 22 games and posted a .929. He deserves serious Hart consideration.
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