Ramblings: Power of the Schwartz, Jets’ Season Crashes (Apr 21)

by Ian Gooding on April 21, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Power of the Schwartz, Jets’ Season Crashes (Apr 21)


There were three playoff games on Saturday, with one team facing elimination. Let’s see how things went down.

Stars/Predators

Alexander Radulov and Jason Dickinson each scored two goals in the Stars’ 5-3 win in Game 5. Radulov, who leads the Stars with four goals during the playoffs, took five shots from his usual spot on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Benn chipped in three assists, while Seguin scored a goal and added an assist while firing eight shots.

Dickinson scored his first two goals of the playoffs while taking four shots on goal. Scoring beyond the first line has been a missing ingredient for the Stars all season, so the Dickinson – Roope HintzMats Zuccarello unit has found its stride together at just the right time. Hintz scored two goals during Game 4, while Zuccarello has scored three goals of his own during this series.

For more on Dickinson and Hintz, check out the Dallas Stars page on Dobber Prospects.

Dickinson also succeeded in getting under the skin of the Predators in this game.
 


Fresh off a Vezina Trophy nomination (more on this later), Ben Bishop stopped 30 of 33 shots in earning the win.

“Your best players need to be your best players” is a common theme throughout the playoffs. The Predators are down 3-2 in this series, and their leading goal scorer is Rocco Grimaldi. The 5’6” forward scored his third goal in his fourth game of the series after scoring just five in 53 regular-season games. Meanwhile, the Preds’ top line (Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson) has combined for just two goals. Arvidsson, the Preds’ leading regular-season goal scorer, has failed playoff poolies so far with no points in this series. They’ll need to step up in Game 6 or they’ll be joining at least a couple of other division winners on the golf course.

Jets/Blues

It was the Jaden Schwartz show in Game 6, as the Blues’ winger recorded a natural hat trick in the Blues’ 3-2 win over Winnipeg. The Blues now advance to face the winner of the above Nashville/Dallas series. Dating back to Game 5, Schwartz has now scored each of the Blues’ last four goals, which is now a team-leading total for the playoffs. This after a regular season in which his production declined (just 11 goals and 36 points in 69 games) with a move off the top line and the first power-play unit (only 5 power-play points in 2018-19).

In the here and now, the decision to move Brayden Schenn off the Vladimir Tarasenko/Ryan O’Reilly unit and onto the Schwartz/Oskar Sundqvist unit during Game 5 has paid off in spades for Craig Berube, though. Expect that deployment to continue (with David Perron on the top line) when the Blues start their next series.

Jordan Binnington appeared to be on his way to an easy shutout, as the Jets could only muster six shots on goal after the first two periods. The Jets appeared to have nothing left after coughing up a two-goal lead in a demoralizing Game 5 defeat. Yet they made a late push with a Dustin Byfuglien goal with about eight minutes left, then a Bryan Little goal with 37 seconds left in the game. Blake Wheeler took an untimely double-minor for high sticking with just over two minutes to play, which made a comeback attempt seemingly impossible for the Jets.

Teams that fall short in the playoffs are often dealing with injuries to key players. The Jets were in that category, as Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine were clearly hobbled.
 


Ehlers ended the playoffs without a point in six games. He left Game 5 after blocking a shot, but I wonder if that wasn’t the only injury. Still, there’s been a glaring lack of playoff production from Ehlers, who has never scored a playoff goal and has just seven assists in 21 career playoff games. He was even held to under ten minutes in both Game 2 and Game 6.

Laine was held without a point in his last three games, but he finished the playoffs with three goals and an assist in six games.

This won’t be an easy offseason for the Jets, who will have as many as 15 pending free agents to sort out. Laine and Kyle Connor will need contracts, which means that the Jets might not be able to afford UFAs Kevin Hayes and Brandon Tanev. Then there’s the defense – have Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers both played their last games as Jets? Beyond pillars Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey, this defense could look very different. At least fantasy owners should finally be able to see Sami Niku on the Jets for a full season. Then you also have to wonder whether Paul Maurice’s job is safe after what appeared to be a missed opportunity. Needless to say, they’ll be lots of fantasy implications to break down with this team this offseason.

Capitals/Hurricanes

First, the bad news for the Capitals. T.J. Oshie has a broken collarbone, which likely means he’ll miss the rest of the playoffs, even if the Capitals go the distance again. As a result of Oshie’s injury, Tom Wilson was moved up to the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, while Carl Hagelin was moved up to the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana.

The good news for the Capitals, of course, was the game result. After back-to-back losses in Raleigh, the Caps routed the Hurricanes 6-0 to take a 3-2 series lead. Backstrom led the way with two goals and two assists, which gives him five goals in five playoff games. He scored the same number of playoff goals last season, although it took him 23 games to do so.

Ovechkin was also doing his thing, scoring a goal and adding two assists while dishing 11 hits (no fights though). Only William Carrier and Matt Martin have more hits during these playoffs than Ovie (29).

Braden Holtby stopped all 30 shots he faced in earning the shutout, including seven shots from Sebastian Aho. Holtby will try to backstop the Capitals to a series victory back in Carolina on Monday.

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Your Vezina Trophy finalists were announced on Saturday, and they are Ben Bishop, Robin Lehner, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bishop led the NHL with a .934 SV% and trailed only half-season starter Binnington with a 1.98 GAA. In spite of those impressive ratios, you know that Vasilevskiy will receive a lot of first-place votes because he led the league with 39 wins, which had a lot to do with the team in front of him. Hockey media hasn’t paid enough attention to Bishop’s season, perhaps because he plays in a non-traditional hockey market for a team that squeaked into the playoffs. Because of their goaltender, the Stars might be better than we think as they are on the verge of upsetting Nashville.

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To answer an earlier question about whether we are planning any mock drafts, you’ll want to get your hands on the Fantasy Prospects Report, which will be ready for download on June 1. Last season’s FPR included a mock draft that went multiple rounds, ranked player profiles for both draft prospects and prospects for all 31 teams, plus much more! The Fantasy Prospects Report will also be available as part of the Ultimate Fantasy Pack, which will be available for pre-sale on May 1.

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.