Flames get bounced, Sens take stranglehold, Wild stay alive, and Caps knot it up
There is no doubt that the Caps brought their A-game in Game 4. This was sent out by James Mirtle of The Athletic about eight minutes into the second period:
Leafs possession in this game: 26%.
Probably lucky it's only a two-goal deficit.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 20, 2017
Washington went into a shell in the third period and the Leafs clawed their way back, but the series is now tied up with the Caps having home-ice advantage again.
Jake Gardiner has been a revelation for a lot of people these playoffs. He has typically been given a hard time by some corners of the hockey world, but he’s the best defenceman this Leafs have. He is also playing nearly 30 minutes a game this postseason.
I wonder if Gardiner gets a bit overlooked for the next fantasy season. He cracked 40 points for the first time in his career. The team, conceivably, should be similar offensively next year. It’s also clear Mike Babcock has no intention of giving Morgan Rielly heavy power-play minutes (he was given less than a minute per game this past season, and under two minutes the season before). Assuming, at worst, that Gardiner is the number-2 power-play option on the blue line next year, for a team that should split their units again, 40 points seems eminently doable again. Peripheral stats will never be his strong suit, so Gardiner will be less valuable in roto leagues, but a 40-point defenceman in points-only leagues is nothing to short-change.
Sportsnet’s broadcast brought up the fact that Bobby Ryan had moved to a down-low position on the power play. I didn’t hear the reasoning – if anyone’s seen the coach talk about it, hit up the comments – but I think it’s both a shake-up, and something to do with his injuries.
This is a pretty good move, as we saw from the game-winning goal he scored (even if it was at five-on-five). Erik Karlsson is elite at getting the puck through, and Ryan has great hands. It seems like a perfect match for him, and will be interesting to see if this carries into next year. It could be something that helps boost his power-play goal totals from a career-low of two this past season.
One thing I do enjoy is a goaltender getting aggressive with a poke-check. Maybe not Braden Holtby’s to-the-blue-line aggressive – though it did work out – but aggressive nonetheless. Maybe something like Craig Anderson did to Brad Marchand in the first period of Wednesday’s game to keep it tied in the first.
Craig Anderson aggressively denies Brad Marchand on the breakaway pic.twitter.com/10SWOmUnH6
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 20, 2017
Jake Allen failed to hold Minnesota to one goal or less, so the Blues lost.
It’s likely time to end the Ivan Barbashev experiment on the top line. Going into this game, he, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko controlled under 46.8 percent of the shots at five-on-five in their time together this year. When the wingers had Lehtera, that was over 51.6 percent, with Alex Steen it was over 56.1 percent, and with Paul Stastny it was over 60 percent. They finally moved Steen to the top line sometime in the second period of Wednesday night’s game, and that’s where he should probably stay (and something fantasy owners should keep in mind when drafting Steen next year).
It is possible to win in the playoffs with below-average goaltending. Just three years ago, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup with a .911 save percentage from Jonathan Quick. Calgary played well for large stretches of this series, but their goaltending was abysmal, and that’s why they’re the first team eliminated from the 2017 playoffs.
Calgary's goaltending situation next year could look a lot different given both Elliott and Johnson are free agents, and the trade market should be active. It is a situation to monitor for the Flames, because this team has potential to be a top-10 team in the league, and that’s good enough to be a Cup contender. A few tweaks to the depth of the roster could make for a great situation fantasy-wise for their starter in 2017-18.
Part of my Ramblings for the spring and summer is going to include reviews some of the more interesting stories from all 30 NHL teams with a fantasy slant. The easiest way to do that is alphabetical order, and today it is Boston’s turn.
The biggest story from a non-production angle was undoubtedly Bergeron. Through the end of December, which counted 36 regular season games, the all-world centre had 12 points. That is not a typo.
Boston's first line, though dominant as they usually are, were having a tough time generating scoring chances. Per Corsica Hockey, on a 60-minute basis in those first 36 games, Bergeron was on the ice for 7.05 scoring chances, and he took 2.44 himself. Over his final 43 games, those two scoring chance rates jumped to 8.35 and 2.96. While he was likely due for a little bit of a rebound in the luck department anyway, it’s clear that the top line was better offensively in calendar 2017, and that was one reason why Bergeron finished with 41 points in those final 43 contests.
It was the goal total that kind of sank his season on a whole, though congrats to those of you that were smart enough to buy low on him around Christmas, or even later. The Selke finalist’s assist total was 32 this year, the fourth year in a row it was either 32 or 36 (that’s a small spread). His individual scoring chances per 60 minutes was 2.72, whereas it was 2.81 over the three previous campaigns. His shooting percentage took a nosedive at five-on-five to just 5.2 percent. That is something sure to rebound next year.
What his draft price will be next year will be interesting to see. Assuming there’s a shooting percentage regression, Bergeron could easily add five or six goals to his total, and stay relatively consistent in other stats that he can stuff like face-offs and shots.
If there was one breakout that was kind of an easy call before the season, it’s that Krug would take the next step in production. The top power-play unit would undoubtedly be his, and after posting 26 goals from 2013-15, he managed four in 2015-16 thanks to his shooting percentage crater. While that shooting conversion didn’t come all the way back, eight goals and 51 points is a very nice season.
Krug’s five-on-five rates are fascinating. In each of the two seasons from 2013-15, he shot at least five percent, and averaged 6.64 percent. In each of the two seasons from 2015-17, he shot under two percent, and averaged 1.77 percent. Had he shot even four percent over the last two years, which is about the median for regular defencemen, it would have added about three goals per season. There is room for improvement.
Of course, predicting shooting rates from one season to the next is difficult, which is why shot volume is coveted. With his third straight season of at least 200 shots, the volume is there. Given his usage, and his teammates, Krug has the upside to be a top-5 defenceman in leagues that don’t count real-time stats. It’s just a matter of the percentages lining up at the right time.
Over the last five 82-game seasons, there have been two players age 20 or younger to manage 30 goals, 30 assists, and at least 250 shots on goal in a single season:
Going back to the 2005 lockout, names that have done it since include Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and Alex Ovechkin. That is a short, and highly distinguished, list for Pastrnak to find himself on. Quite simply, it was one of the best offensive seasons a 20-year-old has ever had.
Can he sustain a 13 percent shooting rate? Well, it was over 12 percent in his first 97 regular season games. He is also assured top-6 minutes, and is a focal point of the power play, which should remain solid given the top-end quality. Just how high his ceiling can be is a discussion for another day, but even the most pessimistic projections should have him as a 60-point player moving forward.
One player I’m going to save for another day is Brad Marchand. I am still somewhat incredulous he’s put up the back-to-back seasons he has at this stage of his career.
- Ramblings: Tentpole Defensemen (Mar 16)
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- Saturday's NHL Game Picks - March 17
- Geek of the Week: Is Mikko Rantanen the Real Deal in Multicategory Leagues?