One-Category Dominant Defensemen, Crosby Finally Scores a Goal
Let’s start with one defenseman who likes to take shots and another who likes to block shots.
I’m already being asked whether it’s worth it to trade Dougie Hamilton. I realize that Justin Faulk – not Hamilton – is quarterbacking the first-unit power play in Carolina. Yet we’re only nine games into Hamilton’s stint as a Hurricane, and Faulk is simply more familiar with the system. Besides, if you’re in a league that counts shots on goal, Hamilton is a must own. As of this writing, Hamilton is fifth in shots on goal in the entire NHL. No, not among defensemen – all skaters. If you filter by defensemen, Hamilton is at the top of the list with 39 shots – 11 clear of second-place Shayne Gostisbehere and Roman Josi with the same number of games played.
The frustrating part for Hamilton owners, though, is that not one of those shots has gone into the net. That’s zero goals on 39 shots. It may not make much sense to fantasy owners that Faulk is running the first-unit power play in Carolina. But he is off to a great start (five points and 27 shots in nine games), has taken over 200 shots in a season three times himself, and has also been a solid power-play producer throughout his career in his own right. Both are right-handed shots, though, so it might be one or the other on the first-unit power play – not both. That’s unfortunate, because we’re not seeing aHaHamilton at his full potential at the moment.
Alex Edler blocked only one shot on Monday. This isn’t normally newsworthy stuff, but that gives him a league-leading 39 blocked shots for the season. What’s even more interesting is that he is already 9 blocked shots ahead of the player in second place (Cam Fowler). Edler is a borderline scoring option among defensemen in average-sized leagues, but he’s a must-own in leagues that count blocked shots.
I’ll give you one reason why this pace might continue, and one reason why it might not. This pace could continue because the Canucks are simply pinned in their own zone in many games and lack blueliners with the ability to transition the puck – a key skill for teams in today’s NHL. Edler will simply be counted on to reduce the damage of the Canucks giving up so many shot attempts. The reason this might not continue? Due to injuries, Edler has averaged only 65 games played over the past five seasons. Yes, he’s on the latest Band-Aid Boy list. And as you might know, blocking shots frequently can lead to injury.
On to tonight’s action. Two players were making their season debuts, both in the same game and one with a new team. Seth Jones logged over 27 minutes while taking four shots on goal, although he was held without a point. Meanwhile, Alex Galchenyuk was also held without a point in 15 minutes of icetime, playing on a line with Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse. Feel free to use both as you normally would going forward.
In this game, though, there was another scoring star. Christian Fischer recorded his first career hat trick with a plus-3 and four shots on goal. Linemate Derek Stepan assisted on all three of Fischer’s goals. Fischer had been held without a point over his first six games, but he is heating up with four goals over his last two games. Stepan’s game logs mirror Fischer’s, except in assists instead of goals.
Thanks to a solid 44-save win against the Rangers on Sunday, David Rittich was granted his second consecutive start on Tuesday against Montreal. He wasn’t quite as lucky, surrendering three goals while being tagged with the 3-2 loss. Rittich faced 40 shots again in this game, so it’s entirely possible that with another strong effort (.925 SV%) that’s he’s back between the pipes on Thursday when the Flames return home to face Pittsburgh. Mike Smith owners should take notice, as Smith has struggled this season (3.38 GAA, .885 SV%). Check back with Goalie Post for further updates.
Speaking of busy goalies… how about John Gibson? The Ducks have allowed more shots per game (37.9) than any other team, and they have the worst shot attempt differential (-165) in the league by far. If not for Gibson, they’d be dead ducks. Tuesday wasn’t his busiest game, although it was hardly a breeze. Gibson stopped 35 of 37 shots he faced, although he could not push the Ducks to victory against Chicago.
In spite of these insane shot totals, Gibson has emerged as the savior for the Ducks, posting an remarkable .949 SV% and 1.93 GAA. Seven of his eight starts have resulted in quality starts, which leads the league. It’s a great run and it should cement Gibson as a top-10 goalie in fantasy for the foreseeable future. But if the Ducks can’t find a way to ease Gibson’s workload within each game, I’d be worried about a potential wear-and-tear injury here. Remember that Gibson is a Band-Aid Boy.
At this time last week, I was rambling about Brandon Saad’s healthy scratch. Things can change, although sometimes not right away. Saad scored twice while taking seven shots on Gibson on Tuesday, finally putting his slump to bed. The goals were Saad’s first two of the season in his ninth game. I’d want to see more of this from Saad before recommending him, but at least this is a step in the right direction.
After a bit of a slow start of his own, Mika Zibanejad has really heated up. Zibanejad scored two goals and added two assists on Tuesday, giving him goals in three consecutive games and seven points over that span. Zibanejad is a high-volume option both in terms of icetime (20:50 ATOI) and shots on goal (tied for 3rd with 40 SOG). His 47 points and minus-23 last season pushed him down many fantasy cheatsheet, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that he also had career highs in both goals (27) and shots on goal (212 SOG). This should give you an idea of what to expect from Zibanejad going forward.
This paragraph is brought to you by the letter Z. Zibanejad assisted on both of Mats Zuccarello’s first two goals of the season. I may have to reconsider dropping Zuccarello once Elias Pettersson returns to my lineup later this week. Zuccarello now has eight points in nine games to start the season.
Speaking of four-point games, David Pastrnak was in on all four Bruins’ goals on Tuesday, scoring two himself and assisting on the other two. There’s a logjam at the top of the NHL scoring race, but both Pastrnak (15 points) and Patrice Bergeron (16 points, including 3 on Tuesday) are in the top five. Is the Pastrnak-Bergeron-Brad Marchand line the best in the NHL? I think it is.
A follow-up from a discussion in the comments of my last Ramblings: Matt Grzelcyk recorded another assist, his third consecutive game with a helper. He was the only Bruins’ blueliner to receive power-play time, as the B’s are still without Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy. After careful thought and consideration, I believe he’ll be paired on the second power-play unit with McAvoy once both Krug and McAvoy return. Until then, he’s only 1 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, so he’ll be available in a lot of deep leagues too.
If you’re a betting person, hopefully you bet the over on the total goals in the Edmonton/Pittsburgh game. A total of five players in this game scored two goals each, which ranged from the usual suspects (Sidney Crosby, Leon Draisaitl, Patric Hornqvist) to the 0-1 percenters (Jamie Oleksiak, Alex Chiasson).
By the way, Crosby’s two goals were his first two of the season, scored in his seventh game. This isn’t a discussion that we’re used to having, and it is even surprising considering that that the Pens are still in the top 5 in the league in terms of goals per game (3.71). In fact, nine other Penguins’ players entered Tuesday’s game with at least one goal. Crosby had simply not been shooting the puck enough this month (three games with either 0 or 1 SOG), but he fired five shots in this game.
Buy low on Crosby? He’s not worth the first overall pick in fantasy drafts anymore because at age 31 he probably won’t win any more scoring titles. But in case you’re worried, the talent is still there, like on this overtime winner.
With a goal and two assists on Tuesday, Brent Burns now has points in six consecutive games. All of his ten points on the season have come over that six-game span.
Viktor Arvidsson scored two goals and an assist in that same game. That should excite Steve Laidlaw, as should the fact that Arvidsson is a plus-8 over his last six games.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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