Ramblings: Penguins Goaltending, Jokinen Producing, Thornton Aging Well (Mar. 18)

by steve laidlaw on March 18, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Penguins Goaltending, Jokinen Producing, Thornton Aging Well (Mar. 18)

Ramblings: Penguins Goaltending Situation, Jokinen Producing, Thornton Aging Well and more.

UPDATE: Tyler Seguin has been ruled out for the next 3-4 weeks due to a cut to his achilles tendon. Safe to write him off in one-year leagues. 

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Matt Murray got the start for Pittsburgh last night. While he gave up two early goals to the Hurricanes he settled down to allow the Penguins to mount a comeback. Murray now has a winning record at the NHL level with a 1.82 GAA and a 0.934 save percentage.

Not necessarily surprising to see Murray get the start tonight to give Marc-Andre Fleury a rest. The Penguins have a back-to-back against Philadelphia and Washington this weekend and Fleury just might start both of those games. A precarious situation to be sure but with the Saturday game taking place at 1:00 pm and the Sunday game not until 6:00 pm, there’s an argument to be made that that is a long enough recovery window. Make sure you check Goalie Post each day to be sure.

This has been referenced by a bunch of folks but with the proposed expansion rules the Penguins may have a decision to make in goal, either sticking with Fleury or switching over to Murray. For my money, this really isn’t much of a decision. You leave Fleury unprotected and make sure that you keep Murray.

I like Fleury and have vested heavily in him in keeper leagues but Murray is the future. Obviously we will have to wait and see what comes for both of these two next season with the new goaltending equipment rules but I imagine both will be fine. That makes this more of an economic argument.

By the 2017-18 season, Fleury will be a 33-year-old goaltender with two years left at $5.75 million per. Meanwhile, Murray will be a 23-year-old and an RFA next summer. He might already be pushing Fleury for starts next season, although I’d compare this situation to that of Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay. There really hasn’t been much competition.

We may see the transition to Murray take place faster than the Penguins would have liked. Murray is already a must-have prospect in keeper leagues but that becomes even more urgent. I know that I mentioned yesterday that it was too early to look at the ramifications of the expansion draft but Murray’s start sparked this thought. This is one situation where it would pay to get ahead of the game.

One other thought on expansion. You’ve heard me talk about the idea that there are perhaps 100 goaltenders at any given moment on earth who could be NHL starters. Expansion means adding two more goaltending jobs, which further dilutes the goaltending talent pool. Of course, the talent pool will be diluted at all positions but I firmly believe that there is enough goaltending talent to fill the expanded player pool better than at defense or forward. We haven’t necessarily mastered goaltending but the margins are thinning. The gap between mediocre and good is virtually non-existent considering the sample sizes we deal with.

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This Murray talk also gets me thinking about the goalie equipment changes. I don’t think he will be negatively effected but I don’t think a ton of goalies will be. But let’s say there are goalies who are negatively affected by these changes. We could see the margins get much wider in goal again.

I also wonder if the changes coming into play at the NHL level will be trickling down to the AHL and eventually the CHL, college hockey and European leagues. These are the talent pools that the NHL draws from. Scouting goaltenders is already tough, not knowing how goalies will fare transitioning from looser regulations to something more stringent could offer quite the conundrum for NHL scouts.

I am almost certain that the changes will be made to the AHL right away given the direct NHL connection but I am not so certain about the other levels. I haven’t read anything about any such plans. It won’t just be the scouts having trouble projecting goaltenders’ transitions but it will be fantasy owners as well.

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Sidney Crosby led the Penguins’ comeback with a pair of goals to extend his scoring streak to 10 games, his second 10-gamer of the season. He is now just one point back of Tyler Seguin and Erik Karlsson for third in NHL scoring.

Crosby talks about some of the changes in the league with ESPN:

ESPN.com: For several years, whenever you were asked what changes you wanted to see in the game, you said you wanted 3-on-3 play in overtime. Now that it's here, what do you think of it?

Sidney Crosby: I like it. I don't think I realized how important faceoffs would be, how important actual possession would be, because I find that you're fighting an uphill battle if you lose a faceoff right away. It almost seems like there's going to be a chance before you get your chance. It's almost like [NFL overtime]. I was surprised how important that was. I don't think I really thought about that.

And, as well, line changes. Line changes are so important. It kind of defeats the normal mentality of changing because usually you don't change if you're giving up a 3-on-2, but 3-on-3, you might have to give up a 3-on-2 just to get a fresh body out there. So there's a lot of little things you learn right away, but I like it. I'd rather a game finish in that than a shootout — any way to kind of limit the shootouts.

The Penguins also got scoring from Phil Kessel (a goal and an assist) and Carl Hagelin (three assists). I figured those two would be silent with Evgeni Malkin out but they produced last night.

Note how the arrival of Justin Schultz has rendered Derrick Pouliot a healthy scratch. Not looking good for Pouliot who has not progressed at a rate many will be satisfied with. He’s only 22 but the Schultz example is a reminder of how quickly things can go sour with some stagnant development.

The Penguins’ injury woes continue with Scott Wilson out long term with an undisclosed injury that will reportedly require surgery.

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With an assist last night, Jeff Skinner is up to 16 points in 20 games since the All-Star break. He’s the only Hurricane I want in my lineup these days.

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As I alluded to earlier this week, the Predators’ lines are kind of like The Highlander, there can only be one. Right now, and thank goodness for fantasy owners, it’s the James NealRyan JohansenCalle Jarnkrok line. Move aside Filip ForsbergMike RibeiroCraig Smith!

It’s a real shame with all that firepower that the Preds can’t find a way to have multiple lines scoring at once. They might be real contenders if they could make that happen.

Time to pivot away from Smith and maybe even Ribeiro. Jarnkrok is owned in just 1% of Yahoo! leagues but I am not advocating a pick up. There are juicier options available, even if Johansen and Neal are heating up.

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Zero power-play opportunities for the Islanders last night. Kudos to the Predators for their disciplined play.

Mikhail Grabovski is back on the shelf after returning for one game.

Shane Prince was back in the lineup with Grabovski out skating just 10:33.

Defenseman prospect Ryan Pulock scored his first career NHL goal. His ability to develop rapidly and make a difference in the next few weeks could drastically shape the future of the Islanders to come. We know that Travis Hamonic has requested a trade and we haven’t heard anything to indicate he has rescinded that request. A move is likely to come in the off-season.

The big sticking point for the Islanders not getting a deal done this season was being unable to replace Hamonic on their backend as they try to compete right now. The UFA status of Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo this summer made this season sort of an all-in proposition.

Assuming the Islanders lose both Okposo and Nielsen they suddenly have holes up front, which opens up a wide variety of possible returns they could ask for in a Hamonic trade. Where Pulock comes in is if he demonstrates that he might be ready for action next season it could embolden Garth Snow to go after a forward in exchange for Hamonic knowing that his spot in the lineup could be filled by Pulock.

The player this most impacts is Pulock himself. A puck-mover with a big shot, Pulock could be a serious fantasy asset one of these days, perhaps even unseating (or joining) Nick Leddy on the top power-play unit. After all, in the scenario discussed, the Islanders would be losing Okposo and Nielsen, both members of the top power-play unit. Something to monitor, to be sure.

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Jussi Jokinen returned after a one-game absence to score a pair of goals. Both were unassisted so no love for his linemates Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck but that is still one of the leagues hottest second lines. Jokinen has 22 points in 21 games since the All-Star break.

Jokinen has 508 points in 810 career NHL games and has basically been a 50-point guy since arriving in the league in 2005-06. That’s 11 years of being that guy who spends the entire season bouncing from roster to waiver wire to roster throughout the fantasy hockey season.

It has been tough sledding for Roberto Luongo since the All-Star break with just seven quality starts in 16 games. Last night was one of those quality starts, however, which is good because we’re at the point in the season where you just have to trust that your studs will perform.

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Patrick Sharp returned to the lineup for the Stars last night. He had no shots and just four seconds of power-play time, along with 14 minutes of overall ice time. The Stars’ lines were of course a complete mess so I won’t bother reporting them here.

I will note that Cody Eakin got three assists skating alongside Jamie Benn. No guarantees we see Eakin used in that same role next time out, however.

Benn had three points of his own, by the way. Check out the will and skill from Benn on this play:

Still no John Klingberg, which meant more of Kris Russell not producing as the #1 defenseman for the Stars. Stephen Johns did score his first goal as an NHLer skating over 21 minutes last night.

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Steven Stamkos had a pair of goals while Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist. That duo has been dynamite whenever they have been used together. Alex Killorn had a pair of assists kicking it as the third wheel.

Ryan Callahan had a hot run with Stamkos for a little while but has been returned to the depths of the lineup. He is scoreless in his last nine games. Waiver fodder.

Interesting profile on Anton Stralman and how his game has evolved, in particular how he has added some offense in recent years:

“It stinks that it doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does some other players, especially forwards and some other really talented offensive defensmen in the league. But as you get older you learn and I guess you get a little more calm. I’m usually really calm in the defensive zone, so why shouldn’t I be calm in the offensive zone when you really don’t have anything to lose?’’

Stralman notched an assist last night to give him 33 points on the season. He is right on that line for fantasy relevance among defensemen. Depending on the size of your league he might be waiver fodder or he might be an under-the-radar option.

Stralman’s presence has really chewed into Victor Hedman’s fantasy potential. While they partner at even strength to gobble up minutes, Stralman has grabbed the spot as lone defenseman on the Lightning’s top power-play unit. His right-handed shot just fits better at the point with Stamkos setting up on the left side for one-timers. Having Stralman at the point also able to get off quick one-timers opens things up, plus he’s a good puck mover.

Hedman also notched an assist last night and actually has more points (37) than Stralman but has just two points in the last 14 games. He’d be much more consistent if given a bigger piece of the pie. This may not happen but if Stamkos were to leave in the offseason, we might see Hedman grab a bigger piece depending on how the Lightning decide to re-arrange their power play. Don’t put the cart before the horse on this though.

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It wouldn’t be the week of unsung heroes without a 7-4 game between the Devils and Wild. Devante Smith-Pelly, Adam Henrique and Mike Sislo each had two goals. Smith-Pelly has six goals and nine points in seven games since joining the Devils. It’s a total aberration and really quite comical given Smith-Pelly is owned in just 2% of Yahoo! leagues. Props to all those who have jumped on the bandwagon, however.

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Joe Thornton discussed the possibility of playing into his 40’s like Jaromir Jagr:

"I feel good. My body feels good. My mind feels good. I love going to the rink every day. I love the fellowship with the guys, the competition," Thornton said. "Realistically, I can definitely see playing till 40 at least, yeah."

We talked about these sorts of guys in yesterday’s ramblings. People are so quick to write off veterans. They turn into pumpkins in keeper leagues once they hit 30. Even in one-year settings the veterans aren’t as highly sought after. There is something to the notion of goal scorers peaking early. Typically, a goal scorer is already past his peak by age 25. These guys with ridiculous hockey IQ and passing skills tend to age well. If you are looking for an inefficiency in fantasy hockey it’s definitely productive veterans.

Of course, I also subscribe to notion that you are better off getting out a year too early than a year too late but there is no “one size fits all” strategy. Hunt for value, in all of its forms. If you can find a guy willing to spend up for your veteran then get out early, otherwise reverse course and see if that guy can help you win now.

I do firmly believe that you should never have to rebuild in a keeper league. There are always going to be teams looking to tank it out. And there are always going to be undervalued veterans for you to pick off. There is a balance to be found between constantly going for it all and doing some deals to add some youth to your roster but you should never have to outright tank your team. Save that card only for the time when your team gets ravaged by injuries.

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Oliver Bjorkstrand got handed a golden ticket last night in his first NHL game:

You’ve got to love when coaches take this approach with young players. Bjorkstrand was minus-one with one SOG in 16 minutes. Still, he got a fair shake in his debut.

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That puts Scott Darling in line for his second straight start. He makes a great waiver pickup if you are in need in goal.

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And if you are desperate in goal, here are the Flames’ plans for the rest of the week:

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Robin Lehner has been really good since returning from injury so of course here comes the bad news:

The smart move for Buffalo is to rest Lehner and get Chad Johnson some work because they’ve got nothing on the line here but they are committed to having Lehner as their starter going forward. Can’t allow this ankle injury to become a lingering issue.

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Update on Jannik Hansen. The Canuck forward won’t play this weekend due to a rib injury.

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Brenden Morrow signed a one-day contract to officially retire as a Dallas Star yesterday. Check out his piece in The Players’ Tribune:

A little while later, I’m sitting in my stall and Coach Peterson comes up to me, and he’s holding this roll of white tape. He calls me over and walks to a stationary bike, sticks some tape on it and writes my name.

“Brenden, congratulations, you’ve made the team. Now ride on this thing until Christmas.”

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Really interesting piece from TSN’s Travis Yost on the reasons why a player sees a drop in ice time:

In this instance, about 85 per cent of forwards in 2015-16 who saw their ice-time slipping over a stretch of games just so happened to have also seen their goal scoring (and, by extension, shooting percentage) diminish in the same interval. I don’t think that’s merely coincidence. The rest of the numbers, for what it’s worth, seem to be well within randomness limits.

This doesn’t mean that every time one of your players goes through a goal-scoring drought that he’ll see his minutes drop but if those minutes do drop, you can probably see why. I would venture to guess that the inverse is also true: that players who see a spike in ice time are likely seeing it because of an increase in goal production. This seems a rather foolish way to go about constructing lineups focusing more on outcomes than process.

The takeaway for fantasy owners is that if your player gets in a slump the coach may reinforce that slump with a subsequent drop in ice time.

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Rick Roos checks in with some studs and duds on Puck Daddy.

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Check out the latest prospect ramblings over at Dobber Prospects.

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Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of Dobber Hockey. Follow him @SteveLaidlaw.