Ramblings: Pass the Tatar sauce.
Out of fear/respect for Brad Marchand’s hot streak, I kept Freddie Andersen on my bench. It was too early in the week to have my goaltending implode. But as he has done in eight of his last nine games, Andersen delivered a quality start. He stopped 33 of 35 for a big win over the Bruins.
The Leafs didn’t quite keep Marchand off the board, as he managed an assist but keeping the league’s hottest goal-scorer without a shot, let alone a goal is quite the feat.
William Nylander has points in eight straight games and has 21 in 24 since the All-Star break.
Morgan Rielly has three goals and five points in the last six games. He has done it without power play time as well, which makes it all the more impressive. Of course, when Rielly is up Jake Gardiner is down. Just two points in the last 10 for Gardiner. The PP time is slanted hugely in Gardiner’s favour so if I was betting on one going forward it would be Gardiner.
I applied that PP time logic to my choice between Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, settling on Nyquist as my pick-up for this week. Naturally, Tatar scored, his sixth goal in the past six games. Tatar also jumped onto the top PP unit in this game.
Both Tatar and Nyquist have finally found their strides skating alongside Henrik Zetterberg. I’m confident that when the week shakes out, I’ll find I couldn’t have gone wrong with either choice. But if it turns out that Tatar is way more productive I'll be disappointed, especially because of how hard I rode with Tatar early in the season only for him to fail to meet expectations.
Interesting line combos for the Sabres last night:
#1 29.6% EICHEL,JACK - ENNIS,TYLER - O'REILLY,RYAN
#2 19.9% FASCHING,HUDSON - FOLIGNO,MARCUS - RODRIGUES,EVAN
#3 13.4% GIONTA,BRIAN - GIRGENSONS,ZEMGUS - KANE,EVANDER
#4 10.2% BAILEY,JUSTIN - MOULSON,MATT - REINHART,SAM
There’s really only one line of intrigue there, with Jack Eichel moving to the wing alongside Ryan O’Reilly. As an O’Reilly owner I am a fan of this. Any chance to get more exposure to Eichel is good news in my books.
O’Reilly and Eichel did combine for a goal, but did so on the power play, where we know they are lethal. We’ll see if they stick with this against the Penguins tonigh since they’ll be looking to get O’Reilly against the Crosby line at every turn. But perhaps this is a chance to stretch Eichel defensively.
Tyler Ennis managed an assist, his first point in nearly a month. There have been too many false starts with Ennis for me to get too excited.
Evander Kane seems to have cooled off as he has gone four straight games without a point. He will get one more chance on my roster before I dump him to the waiver wire. After tonight, the Sabres won’t play again until Saturday and have only three games the following week. May as well get someone who is playing into my lineup.
Anyone still clinging to Sam Reinhart? He too has cooled off with no points in the last four games, and just four points in the last 11. He gets minutes on that lethal top PP unit but other than that his situation is uninspiring.
After back-to-back seven-goal performances, the Oilers tightened things up and posted back-to-back shutouts. Great time to be a Cam Talbot owner! He is now tied with Peter Budaj for second in the league with seven shutouts and is second in the league with 37 wins.
Meanwhile, Connor McDavid picked up a pair of assists to move two up in the scoring race.
I really enjoyed this piece on how Oscar Klefbom’s avoidance of penalties is an elite defensive skill:
I suspect this is why players such as Klefbom and his peers Chris Tanev, Jaccob Slavin and Jared Spurgeon appear so favourably on this chart. Despite not necessarily putting up huge counting numbers, or looking like conventionally great defenders on the surface, they’ve all been successful because they’re smart, positionally sound, and limit their mistakes. They hardly ever take penalties because they don’t make a habit of wildly chasing the play and instead stay in control at all times.
If you’re thinking that this means we are in for another round of Steve railing against the use of PIM as a fantasy stat, you are correct. It has never made sense to me that we use PIM as a positive stat in fantasy hockey when it is so clearly negative in real hockey. Whatever you think of the value of a fight, time spent in the box is still time spent off the ice rather than doing tangible productive things for your team.
More importantly, most penalties put teams at a disadvantage. Hockey is the only fantasy sport that gives positive points for doing negative things. Chasing big PIM producers would be like if fantasy footballers tried to get the quarterback with the most interceptions or if we tried to get the short stop with the MOST errors. It doesn’t make any sense.
If your argument is that PIM expands the player pool, we have better stats for that. Blocked shots and Hits have their own flaws but they are less obviously negative than PIM. But on this point, you can expand the player pool by counting penalties drawn or penalty differential instead. While drawing penalties is certainly the domain of skilled players, not all of them are dominant scorers. Suddenly, third-liners like Andreas Athanasiou and Nick Cousins would have more fantasy value.
After brief signs of life, Tyler Toffoli has gone three straight without a point. He is also back off the power play, skating just 17 seconds with the man-advantage last night.
On the plus side, on Thursday the Kings get a visit from the Jets who have busted more slumps than a… well… I’ll let you fill in the punchline.
Kari Lehtonen with his first shutout since December 3. I’m kind of surprised he already had one this season. You can probably count the number of fantasy owners who benefitted from this on one hand, but it happened!
Jamie Benn got back into the lineup after missing a game due to an eye injury. He was held scoreless for the fifth straight game. Of course, he had scored in 17 of the previous 19 games so you cannot be too upset, although the timing is pretty frustrating.
Jason Spezza had been seeing some top line minutes but sat out last night with back spasms. If you’ve got the IR+ then use it but otherwise I wouldn’t show any patience with Spezza. He hasn’t quite been good enough. Plus, this is the time of year where players get shutdown.
Knowing the Sharks had a pair of back-to-backs this week I scooped up Aaron Dell, one of the league’s most efficient backups. He couldn’t get me the win but one goal allowed on 20 shots is a good start to the week. You can still try to use Dell this weekend if you didn’t jump on him already.
I scooped up Jakob Chychrun for this week and got a pretty mediocre performance. Going into last night:
Jakob Chychrun - 5 p in last 5 games, 18 SOG, 11 hits, 8 blks, plus-3. Owned in only 7% of @YahooFantasy leagues. HMMMM— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) March 20, 2017
Chychrun’s minutes are up since Michael Stone was moved and he is flashing more offense. With three more games this week, I am willing to ride it out with Chychrun to see what he can produce.
Ryan Ellis scored a pair of goals last night setting career highs in goals (14) and points (34). He’s got an outside shot at reaching 40 points.
Matthew Tkachuk was suspended two games for elbowing Drew Doughty on Sunday. With the Flames playing three games this week, we won’t see Tkachuk again until Saturday. I’ve already dropped him. It’s the wrong time of year for suspensions. Obviously you are pooched if you’re in a keeper league but if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
It sounds as though Henrik Lundqvist will be making his return next week:
Based on today, AV expects Lundqvist to play on California trip— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) March 20, 2017
That road swing kicks off in Los Angeles on Saturday. They also play in Anaheim on Sunday so Antti Raanta will remain useful.
The Rangers’ schedule thins out next week playing on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday so Raanta’s usefulness probably ends this week. Make sure you at least use him tonight against the Devils.
The latest on the Ducks’ goalie situation:
Translation: Jonathan Bernier is going to be the Ducks goalie now and until something significantly changes.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) March 20, 2017
Anaheim doesn’t play until Wednesday. It’s doubtful John Gibson is getting healthy enough to play by then but perhaps Friday or Sunday. Anaheim is taking the cautious approach after rushing Gibson back too quickly. Plus, Jonathan Bernier has been outstanding.
I continue to advocate for using Bernier as a spot-start option but I don’t have any confidence that Gibson won’t return and push him aside.
A few Penguins injury updates here:
Coach says that Malkin won't travel to Buffalo, but is making progress. Coach also says that Letang and Maatta are progressing as well.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 20, 2017
Malkin can catch up with the team in Ottawa on Thursday but this makes Friday more likely for his return.
I suppose that the news on Kris Letang is good but I am at the point where I do not expect to see him until the NHL playoffs kick off. I have to eat some crow on this one. I campaigned hard for selecting Letang with a high pick and did so in multiple drafts. If you recall, the logic was that Letang could provide the same production as Karlsson or Burns when healthy, meaning you could get a steal if he was healthy for the fantasy playoffs. The gamble has not paid off. While his per-game numbers are indeed elite, the injury bug has struck often and has continued into the fantasy playoffs.
I don’t know that there is a lesson to be learned, however. Fantasy owners are notorious for shying away from players who burn them. No doubt there will be Letang owners from this season who won’t touch him in future leagues. You have to be willing to take some risks at your draft in order to come out ahead. I believe that Letang will be worth the risk in future years, even knowing that he absolutely cannot stay healthy.
One of the reasons I will always be willing to take risks is because if a player gets hurt, you can always mine the waiver wire. It is much harder to do with goaltending but on defense you can always find a guy with a schedule that fits your lineup who can stuff some stats. Last week I used the Letang slot on Jaccob Slavin, which was a huge win.
Markus Granlund is getting shutdown for the year to undergo wrist surgery. No doubt he’d have kept playing if the Canucks were still in the playoff hunt. You’ll be seeing more of these as we approach the end of the season, which is why it is rubbish if your league uses the final week of the regular season in a head-to-head format.
Granlund finishes one goal shy of 20 on the season. I bet that if Granlund had performance bonuses in his contract or if he was headed towards free agency that he’d have stuck it out the rest of the season. With another year left at $0.9M there wasn’t much motivation to keep playing through pain. Now he can correct the issue early and get a jump on next season, which will be a big one in determining if he’s going to stick in the league long term.
Check out our boy Ian Gooding on Nick Alberga’s Fantasy Fix podcast.
Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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