Ramblings: Ottawa to the Postseason, More Injuries, Reviewing Arizona – April 7

by Michael Clifford on April 6, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Ottawa to the Postseason, More Injuries, Reviewing Arizona – April 7

Krug and Fowler Injured, Ottawa Clinches, Hedman’s Production, an Arizona Review

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Brad Marchand’s suspension forced the Bruins to juggle their lines a little bit on Thursday night. Notably, Frank Vatrano jumped to the top line, and Matt Beleskey jumped on to the top power-play unit.

These lines did not last the whole game, however. Vatrano was bumped down to in favour of Dominic Moore in the third period. Then, there was this:

There was nothing that really stood out to me, but Krug played less than three minutes before leaving the game. John-Michael Liles took his spot on the top power-play unit. I imagine we won’t get an update for the next day or two, but anything more than a week could be a big blow to Boston’s chances in the postseason.

Ottawa won the game in a shootout, and punched their ticket to the playoffs.

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The Lightning live to fight another day with their regulation win in Toronto. What was notable for me out of this game – aside from all the petty scrums – was Victor Hedman registering three assists. That makes 70 points for him on the season. Nothing to add here, just a spectacular season, and I wonder if he gets any Norris Trophy votes.

One more thing to add here. Hedman hitting 70 points means three defencemen this year have hit that plateau (Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson). The last time at least three defencemen hit 70 points in a season was 1995-96 when Ray Bourque, Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios, and Paul Coffey all achieved that mark. Via Hockey Reference:

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Speaking of taking dings going into the postseason:

Two weeks would mean a return late in the first round. Six weeks would probably be sometime in the Western Conference Final. With Hampus Lindholm also missing time of late, that could be a problem for Anaheim.

Fantasy-wise, this should be Shea Theodore’s time to shine. He played nearly 22 minutes on Tuesday night, and should log similar minutes if both Fowler and Lindholm are missing from the lineup. We’ll have to wait and see on the health of the latter, but the diagnosis on the former should at least keep Theodore in the lineup.

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St. Louis made some small lineup changes that could have a significant impact. Alex Steen, who had taken Paul Stastny’s spot on the top line since his injury, was moved to the second line, and Ivan Barbashev moved to the top line between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. It didn’t change anything with regards to the power-play setup, as Barbashev still didn’t get man advantage ice time while Steen stayed on the top unit. Obviously, however, this is a nice short-term boost for the rookie, and a showcase for fantasy owners for next season.

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Two goals and two assists from Viktor Arvidsson pushed him to 31 goals and 61 points on the season. He’s a restricted free agent this year, so it’ll be very interesting to see what he gets. That’ll make a 30-30 season with three shots on goal per game. Sergei Bobrovsky is the fantasy MVP this year considering draft spot, but Arvidsson is on a short list among the skaters.

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Radim Vrbata hit 20 goals and cruised past 55 points for the season on Thursday night. It seems a lot of teams missed the boat on him coming off one bad year for a non-playoff team. And no, this isn’t revisionist history:

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A couple Ramblings ago, I started a team-by-team fantasy review of interesting storylines, continuing with Arizona today.

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson

The season is over for Oliver Ekman-Larsson after leaving the team following the passing of his mother. It’s difficult to imagine having to go out every second or third day and playing at such a high level with a parent battling cancer back home. First and foremost, all the best to him and his family.

There had been speculation that OEL had been playing through injury this year for some indeterminate length. I suppose we’ll know more in the coming weeks or months.

Playing through injury would make some sense for his numbers. What stands out most this year is obviously his shot total. After back-to-back seasons of posting at least three shots per game (3.13 on aggregate), that number fell off a cliff this year to 1.84. It wasn’t just a drop in minutes or anything. His shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five was 3.9 this year, after posting a 5.31 over the three previous seasons. He went from a top-end shot volume defenceman to shooting less often than Jay Bouwmeester.

Part of the shot volume problem as well came on the power play. As pointed out to me by a member of the DFS community (thanks 3Putts), his shots per minute with the man advantage is basically half of what it was last year, and a big reason for that is likely the reintroduction of Radim Vrbata to the lineup. The veteran winger takes nearly double the shots of any Arizona forward on the power play, and is one of the biggest volume shooters among forwards in the league.  

It’s really hard to figure out where to go with Ekman-Larsson from here. Clearly, he’s one of the most talented blue liners around. Maybe his family issues played a factor in his production this year. Part of it was certainly a focus away from him with the man advantage. But if he doesn’t return to being the heavy-shooting defenceman we’ve come to expect, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be a top-10 roto rearguard.

Max Domi

It is really hard to evaluate a young player on such a bad team, particularly when said bad team is bottom-5 in goals generated. You see Domi’s 36 points in 57 games (as of late Thursday night) and it doesn’t look like anything special. But then you see the Coyotes scoring less often than Detroit, and, well…

The sophomore’s points per 60 minutes rate at five-on-five this year is 2.06, which is unreal for this team. The next-closest was Vrbata at 1.85, and no one else is over 1.45. That’s a 21-year-old scoring over 40 percent more often than the third-best forward on his team. Over his two seasons, Domi’s points per 60 minutes (1.86) ranks up there with Logan Couture (1.85), Cam Atkinson (1.83), and Matt Duchene (1.80).

To go a bit deeper on his point production, Domi’s primary points per 60 minutes (which removes secondary assists) for his career is 1.61. Guys with a lower number over the last two years? Via Corsica Hockey, take a look, via Corsica Hockey:

So the production, all things considered, has been very good for Domi to this point of his career, and this season was another step forward in that regard.

What do we do now?

It’s hard to imagine the Coyotes being too much better next year. The defence will take a step forward, Clayton Keller should help, but does Dylan Strome become a big part of this team? Christian Dvorak? Maybe Nick Merkley? There are a lot of question marks here.

Domi has been solid production-wise, at least on a rate basis, but unless the team improves markedly, it’s hard to imagine he becomes a valuable fantasy asset in 2017-18. What say you?  

Jakob Chychrun

I’ll admit, I have a willful blind spot here. I though Chychrun was seriously devalued at the Entry Draft, and Arizona got a steal when they took him. How was his season? Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

In nearly 1000 minutes of five-on-five ice time, he led the Coyotes blue line in points per minute. The rookie was also second in shots per minute. We can debate the legitimacy of point production in just 1000 minutes of a rookie season, and that’s a fair argument, but breaking even possession-wise, and having a shooting rate in the top-third of the league among regular defencemen is very good for an 18-year-old blue liner.

With Ekman-Larsson on the roster, Alex Goligoski having four years left on his deal, and Anthony DeAngelo looking fine in his own right this season, it could be a while before Chychrun is a true fantasy commodity. He could very well play himself into the number-2 slot offensively on that team, but it’s hard to imagine it’s before his age-20 season. All the same, it’s a very good start to his career.