Ramblings: Penguins En Fuego; Faulk Can’t Buy One; Jackets Stumble – February 3

by Michael Clifford on February 3, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Penguins En Fuego; Faulk Can’t Buy One; Jackets Stumble – February 3

Phillip Danault appears prepping for a return for the Habs as he skated on Friday morning before the team hit the ice, his second time this week. Danault has been out since the middle of January with a concussion. Baby steps.

Obviously, skating before practice and taking part in a full-contact practice are two very different things when discussing this type of injury. The team desperately needs all the help they can get as soon as possible, seeing as they’ve scored one or fewer goals in nine of their last 15 games dating back to Christmas.

*

The Rangers got more bad news on Friday:

Pavel Buchnevich left the game in the middle of the second and id not return. As Mr. Brooks mentioned, obviously we have no idea how long he’ll be out.

With Chris Kreider already on the shelf, this is two top-six wingers (when AV decided to use Buch there, that is) not in the lineup. The team is 6-8-1 since Christmas and 3-7-0 in their last 10. This is probably the push they need to start the fire sale. It’ll be interesting to see how long they decide to hold out hope on making the playoffs.

Jimmy Vesey got first crack on the top line but was eventually supplanted by Mats Zuccarello. I would say that’s good news for Zucc owners, but he’s apparently one of the guys that’s set to be traded.

*

Bobby Ryan tried to bat down a puck with his right hand in the team’s game on Thursday night and seemed to have suffered a hand injury. This was confirmed on Friday:

As Dobber heads know, Ryan has a long, long history of hand issues, and this is just another in a laundry list of such issues. It’s a shame, this was a guy who was a top-tier scorer five years ago and he’s still just 30 years old. One has to wonder if he’ll ever come close to regaining his earlier form now.

Colin White will be called up and taking Ryan’s spot on the top line. Good news, dynasty owners!

*

Ok, this is getting a bit ridiculous for Justin Faulk. The Carolina defenceman who scored at least 15 goals each season from 2014-17 had just four going into Friday night’s game, meaning his pace would give him six or seven goals. It appeared he was going to get his fifth on the power play in the first period of their home game against Detroit as his shot went off Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek, popped up in the air, looked to be coming down to roll in… and then Sebastian Aho came out of the corner and swiped it in at the last second:

Faulk ended up with the primary power-play assist but, man, when it rains it pours I guess.

Anyway, Carolina ended up losing that game 4-1, and the Wings were powered by… their defencemen? Danny DeKeyser scored the first goal to tie the game and Trevor Daley’s second-period tally ended up being the game-winner.

Petr Mrazek saved 36 of 37 for the road win.

If you count hits in your league, Anthony Mantha had seven of them to go along with his six shots on goal. For not getting on the scoresheet, not a bad fantasy night.

Aside from Mrazek, Darren Helm was the standout for Detroit in this one. He scored a goal with about six minutes left in the third to salt the game away while also assisting on the first two. He added three more shots, two penalty minutes, and a blocked shot for good measure.

Jaccob Slavin tied a season-high with six shots on goal for the losing team.

*

Columbus looked flat-out bad in their home game against San Jose, and that’s a problem considering the Sharks were without Joe Thornton (of course) and playing their third road game in four nights. Through two periods, the Jackets had 15 shots, and that was very much indicative of their play. They also gave up three power plays which led to two Sharks goals.

One of those penalties, by the way, was taken by captain Nick Foligno, and it resulted in him being stapled to the bench for about 10 minutes of action. Fun times in Ohio.

The Sharks ended up winning 3-1 with Marc-Edouard Vlasic adding the insurance marker in the third period on a partial breakaway at five-on-five.

Tomas Hertl led all Sharks in even-strength ice time in this one and is averaging over 20 minutes a game in the four contests since Joe Thornton’s injury. He assisted on Logan Couture’s power-play goal in the first period.

Martin Jones got the start for the Sharks and saved 28 of 29 for his first win in these last three games.

Boone Jenner scored the lone goal for the Jackets and had a prototypical Boone Jenner game: one goal, three shots, one blocked shots, and three hits. Getting that kind of depth scoring will be important for the Jackets if they hope to turn this skid around.

*

Remember in a Ramblings earlier this week when I discussed the improvements of the Columbus power play since they installed both Seth Jones and Zach Werenski on the top unit? Surprise! Torts blew it up.

On Tuesday, they went with the four-forward PP units, the first unit including Jones with Cam Atkinson, Artemi Panarin, Alex Wennberg, and Nick Foligno. I had hoped that Atkinson returning wouldn’t mean a return of the four-forward power play, and yet here we are. That unit played the entire power play in the team’s only man advantage in their game on Friday.

I suppose there’s nothing to do but remain in a holding pattern and hoping that the team going back to the power-play setup that rendered it effectively useless all of a sudden isn’t useless. I mean, they did score a power-play goal on Tuesday against Minnesota, so maybe all hope is not lost? This situation will be monitored over the coming weeks to see if there are indeed any improvements made over the beginning of the year.

*

Speaking of having things blow up in my face almost immediately, remember when I sang Jakub Vrana’s praises recently? He was a healthy scratch Friday night, as he was on Wednesday night.

The official word from coach Barry Trotz is that Vrana has been invisible and maybe needs a little reset. Okay, fair enough. Let’s not pretend this isn’t a problem exclusive to Vrana, though. Chandler Stephenson had two goals in their contest on Wednesday; TJ Oshie has one goal since Christmas. Though I suppose you can’t scratch a guy whom your general manager gave an eight-year, $46-million contract to halfway through his first season of said contract.

I’m still a believer in Vrana, his talent, and his production. For dynasty leagues, now would be the best time to trade him for pennies on the dollar. For season-long leagues, I’m less bullish because he’s clearly fallen out of favour with the coach. Do keep him in mind when 2018-19 drafts roll around, though.

By the by: he’s fourth on the Caps in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five and has done so shooting 9.4 percent. No one above him in this regard is under 13.5 percent. So, don’t give up.

*

Not much love for Ryan Suter these days, huh? Odd, considering he was on pace for 10 goals and 43 assists heading into Friday’s action, the former being a career-high and the latter being tied for a career-high. That seems pretty good.

I know the peripheral numbers aren’t there, but they’ve never really been there for most of his career; he’s never had 150 blocked shots or 80 hits in any single season despite gigantic ice time numbers. He’s also never had 190 shots on goal and this year will likely make six straight 82-game campaigns without 50 penalty minutes. Those hoping he’d turn a corner at some point are truly optimistic people.

The production is there, though, as it has been for the majority of his career. Though it’s hard not to wonder when it starts running out. We’ve seen Mark Giordano fall off over recent seasons and he’s about the same age as Suter. With Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon on the rise, when does time run out for Suter? Well, not year at least.

*

One night after a dramatic overtime win in Winnipeg, the Golden Knights looked a little slow as Minnesota laid the wood to them in a 5-2 win. Eric Staal did most of the damage with two goals and an assist, while Tyler Ennis chipped in with one of his own. 

Oddly enough, speaking of the Minnesota blue line, they were all over the scoresheet in this one: Brodin had three assists and three shots, Dumba had two assists, two shots, and a fight, Spurgeon had a goal, three more shots, two blocks, and two hits, while Suter had a power-play assist with two blocks. 

Erik Haula had a goal and an assist for Vegas, and is now up to 20 tallies on the season. Colin Miller had an assist on Haula's power-play marker, and Miller is now knocking on the door for top-20 in the league for scoring among d-men (he's tied with Roman Josi, by the way). 

*

Patric Hornqvist took a hard (and clean) hit from Brooks Orpik early in the third period of Pittsburgh’s home game against Washington and did not play a single shift after. Keep an eye out for updates. At first glance it looked like maybe he got the wind knocked out of him but apparently it’s more serious than that. Jake Guentzel took his spot on the top PP unit.

Quick update from Saturday morning: 

*

The game itself was a wild one as the Pens took it 7-4. That might seem lopsided, but it was 3-3 after the second period. The Pens scored two power-play goals four minutes apart in the final frame to pull away.

Evgeni Malkin’s heater continues as he had two goals and two assists in this one. In total, he had five shots, two blocked shots, two PIMs, and a hit. He has 16 goals and 11 assists in 16 games going back to Christmas.

Sidney Crosby’s hot streak continued as well with a pair of assists, adding four shots and two blocks. Going back to Christmas, he has 24 points in 16 games.

To round out the hot streaks, Phil Kessel had two goals and an assist, including an absolute snipe over the shoulder of Braden Holtby. He has 23 points in 16 games going back to Christmas.

That’s 74 points in 16 games between just those three going back to the holiday break.

Lost in all this was a pair of goals from Alex Ovechkin, his 31st and 32nd of the season. Both Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist in this game as well.

*

Conor Sheary looks to be out for a few weeks, which means a likely rotation on the top line alongside Sidney Crosby. Who isn’t going anywhere is Dominik Simon.

It’s unbelievable how well Crosby and Simon have played together. Below is a screenshot taken from Natural Stattrick, and it shows how well Crosby and Simon have played together, and how well Crosby has played without Simon on his wing, adjusted at five-on-five play:

The contrast is stark. When he is on the ice with Simon, the Pens have controlled way more of the shots and generated way more offence. Yes, it covers only about 20 percent of a season, which is not enough to make any real determinations. All this is to show how well they have played together, not how well they will play together for the balance of this season, in the playoffs, or next year.

If we’re looking for a reason that Crosby has gone on a tear of late, part of it is the offence generated by himself and his line mates, along with the inevitable shooting percentages turnaround and power-play production. Everything is finally starting to click, and the Pens are hitting their stride as the stretch run of the regular season hits. We’ve seen this movie before.

One final note here: I’m not sure how much fantasy value Simon will have. Yes, Crosby has been on fire lately, but in that span, Simon is playing just 13:25 per game, and even that is skewed by one game where he played 18:24 (the next-highest is 15:10 and the majority of them are under 14 minutes). People will harken back to Sheary last year, but he was playing just under 16 minutes a game, a full 2:30 more than Simon, and that included 1:47 of power-play time per game, where Simon is getting none. Unless Simon retains an absurdly high shooting percentage, the scoring may be sporadic. 

 

  • Striker

    The average team plays 11 games between now & the deadline, NYR 12. I see no way NYR could fall so far out of the race as to be sellers today even on UFA’s.

    I don’t buy any of this BS & based on facts, odds of probability, from the 2012-13 lockout to today it would be unheard of to stage a fire sale before the trade deadline.

    • Striker

      Unheard of meaning hasn’t been done before. At least not in the last 5 years in this current business model the new CBA set since that lockout.

  • MarkRM16

    I think Suter may be one of those rare defenceman that ends up playing into their late 30’s or early 40’s without their performance declining to the point that they still make an excellent 2nd pair D, like Bourque, Lidstrom, Schneider, Chelios, Niedermayer, or Chara, the best example still playing, whose offence has dried up, but is still an above-average D for his age. The odds of Suter doing so are good due to the fact that he very rarely suffers an injury or illness. At the very least, he’d make a good mentor for a young D, like Campbell was to Ekblad. Look at the drop in Ekblad’s play since Campbell left – night and day.

  • anonymouse

    The Rangers are 1 point behind Philly, who occupy the final wild card spot with the same number of games played. With 31 games to play I highly doubt the Rangers give up on making the playoffs now, it wouldn’t make much sense.

    • MarkRM16

      Unless the really start to tank, I’m not sure the expected fires-ale will happen. The injuries definitely play a factor, though. Were Kreider, Shattenkirk, and Buchnevich healthy, it would be far less likely to happen.

      • anonymouse

        I just can’t see it happening as long as they’re so close to a playoff spot. It would be one thing if they were 7+ points out, but right now they’re right in the thick of things