Ramblings: Pens, Ducks, Hawks Win (Apr. 24)

by Ian Gooding on April 24, 2016

Pittsburgh proceeds, advantage Anaheim, Chicago forces Game 7, plus more…

Some relatively unfamiliar names (at least at the start of the season) were prominent in leading the Penguins into the second round with a 6-3 Game 5 win. Bryan Rust scored two goals and added an assist, while Matt Murray stopped 38 of 41 shots in earning his third win of the playoffs.

A week after Evgeni Malkin’s return to the lineup, here are the Penguins’ line combinations for this game:

18.1% EV CULLEN,MATT – KUHNHACKL,TOM – RUST,BRYAN

15.71% EV CROSBY,SIDNEY – HORNQVIST,PATRIC – SHEARY,CONOR

15.24% EV FEHR,ERIC – KUNITZ,CHRIS – MALKIN,EVGENI

11.9% EV BONINO,NICK – HAGELIN,CARL – KESSEL,PHIL

Rust and fellow AHL callup Conor Sheary (one goal) both impressed in this game, as did veteran Matt Cullen (one goal, one assist). Rust and Sheary shouldn’t be projected to be breakout players for the Pens next season, but they could be interesting waiver-wire pickups when the inevitable injuries hit this team.

Now that Murray is being viewed by a nationwide audience, fantasy owners should be curious as to where he fits into the Penguins’ goaltending plans next season. Perhaps a Ben Bishop/Andrei Vasilevskiy comparison could be made here, as Marc-Andre Fleury is unlikely to lose his starting job due to injury. With his path to the NHL not exactly clear, Murray may need to spend more time in the AHL next season.

But here’s an interesting thought:

Those who have jumped on the Murray train early in keeper leagues would love, love, love that idea. This also begs the question as to whether either Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen is still a bona fide NHL starting goalie.

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Henrik Lundqvist got pulled for the second consecutive game. This time he was pulled after two periods after allowing six goals on 23 shots. He ends the playoffs with an abysmal 4.39 goals-against average and .867 save percentage, both his worst playoff totals since the 2005-06 season.

Rangers’ fans will blame the defense, which no doubt played a role in the demise of the Rangers (no Ryan McDonagh). But that defense will play a role in a goalie’s numbers regardless. Whatever the reason, from March 1 to the end of the regular season, Lundqvist recorded just four wins with a 3.37 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage (see the Goalie Calculator for more stats like this one), so at least we can say we saw this playoff performance coming. Unless the Blueshirts make significant upgrades on defense, don’t pay a name-brand price for Lundqvist next season.

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Ryan Garbutt and David Perron each had a nice game on Ryan Getzlaf’s line, each scoring a goal. Perron also added an assist. Save for the Ryan KeslerJakob Silfverberg duo, Bruce Boudreau has stuck his lines in a blender.

25.84% EV COGLIANO, ANDREW – KESLER, RYAN – SILFVERBERG, JAKOB

16.75% EV GARBUTT, RYAN – GETZLAF, RYAN – PERRON, DAVID

13.4% EV PERRY, COREY – RAKELL, RICKARD – THOMPSON, NATE

11% EV HORCOFF, SHAWN – MCGINN, JAMIE – STEWART, CHRIS

Kesler won 24 of 30 faceoffs in this game. He also broke a three-game stretch without a point by scoring an empty-net goal in 20 minutes of icetime.

Frederik Andersen earned his third consecutive win, stopping 27 of 29 shots. Round and round we go with the Ducks’ goaltending situation. Andersen will be in until he has a rough start. Then Bruce Boudreau will turn back to John Gibson. This is fine for the regular season, unless you’re a fantasy owner of course. But I’m thinking that Boudreau’s inability to stick with one guy will eventually cost him a playoff series, unless Andersen is the guy going forward.

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The Blues appeared to be in a solid position to finally slay the dragon that is the Chicago Blackhawks after a Game 4 victory. And again after a 3-1 lead in Game 6. But when you have the defending Stanley Cup champions on the ropes, you need to find a way to make the knockout blow. But the Blues have yet to find that punch, which we know to be a familiar tune by now. But with it being a Game 7, particularly in St. Louis, all bets are off.

Here are the line combinations for the victorious Blackhawks:

19.39% EV KANE,PATRICK – PANIK,RICHARD – TOEWS,JONATHAN

17.01% EV HOSSA,MARIAN – KRUGER,MARCUS – LADD,ANDREW

13.61% EV ANISIMOV,ARTEM – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TERAVAINEN,TEUVO

7.14% EV KANE,PATRICK – SHAW,ANDREW – TOEWS,JONATHAN

6.12% EV DESJARDINS,ANDREW – SHAW,ANDREW – WEISE,DALE

Andrew Shaw made his return to the Hawks’ lineup, scoring a power-play goal while on first-line power-play minutes with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But it was Richard Panik who was slotted between Toews and Kane for the even-strength first-line minutes. Panik, who was acquired from the Leafs in an unheralded midseason trade, now has assists in back-to-back games. He has definite sleeper potential in playoff pools should the Hawks advance to the second round.

With his two helpers on Saturday, Artemi Panarin now has a five-game point streak in which he has recorded seven points.

How’s this for a playoff stat:

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Lots of discussion surrounding Vladimir Tarasenko’s (lack of) icetime and shift length in this series. Tarasenko, who now has four goals in the series, skated just under 17 minutes in Game 6. Although Tarasenko is undoubtedly the Blues’ best scorer, he received only the fifth-highest icetime among Blues’ forwards in this game. He also has yet to crack the 17-minute mark in icetime in any non-overtime game in this series.

Even though the Blues received only one power play in this game, Tarasenko received a grand total of EIGHT SECONDS of power-play time. He was not a happy camper about the situation either.

Memo to Ken Hitchcock from Tarasenko: Use me on the power play in Game 7, otherwise one of us won’t be employed by the Blues next season. You probably know which one of us that would be.

Andrew Berkshire of Sportsnet has more on Tarasenko’s icetime situation.

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So, with the Kings’ early exit from the playoffs, my bracket is officially busted. Picking a team that is out in five games as my Stanley Cup winner may be the worst hockey prediction I’ve ever made (at least since I predicted my Canucks would win the Cup in 2012 and were out in the same number of games to those same Kings). It’s kind of like being bounced from an NFL survivor pool in Week 1. But hey, smaller victories – at least I correctly predicted Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh series wins.

Jonathan Quick’s 2016 playoff experience turned out much like that of the above-mentioned Lundqvist, although Quick’s numbers don’t stand out as much for the wrong reasons (3.04 GAA, .886 SV%). Quick also did not end the regular season on a high note, recording a .905 save percentage from March 17 onward.

From what I saw in this series, Quick appeared less poised and controlled in the crease than his former backup Martin Jones. The Kings’ unstable defense (injured Alec Martinez, overused Drew Doughty) may have played a role in that. But like the Rangers, the Kings will have some work to do to upgrade their defense to help their goaltender. That might be difficult given their tight cap situation – a situation that may allow Milan Lucic to sign elsewhere over the summer.

Demetri’s Contrarian piece today focuses on the elimination of the Kings and what happens next. Remember that this is a team that missed the playoffs last season, so perhaps we’ve overestimated the Kings – myself included, of course. But if the Kings are in fact now a team on the decline, Quick’s fantasy stock will fall accordingly.  

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Playoff predictions for tomorrow:

Even though Philadelphia and Minnesota extending their series are good stories, watch for Washington and Dallas to close out these series tomorrow. At least if the Flyers are going to force a Game 7, they can’t be outshot 44-11 and expect to win again. Claude Giroux will also need to find a way to make an appearance (only one assist in five games).

I’ll also predict that the Panthers will force a Game 7 against the Islanders, even though Nick Bjugstad did not make the trip to Brooklyn. It would be a shame to see Reilly Smith’s postseason run end (eight points and a +7 in five playoff games).

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Saturday Headlines: Announcements on a new GM in Arizona and new coach in Ottawa could be made soon.

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