Ramblings: Provo-GOAT; Horvat Returns; Vegas Is Tops; Schwartz/Anisimov – January 22

by Michael Clifford on January 22, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Provo-GOAT; Horvat Returns; Vegas Is Tops; Schwartz/Anisimov – January 22

As always, there’s some injury news to pass along.

Jaden Schwartz has been out of the St. Louis lineup since December 10th. Since that date, the Blues are 21st in shot share, 26th in goal share, and sport a record of 8-10-1. Knowing this, some good news for Blues fans that the return of Schwartz seems to be just around the corner:

St. Louis has two home games this week and that Tuesday game is against Ottawa. Not a bad matchup to ease him back in before hosting the red-hot Avalanche. There’s also the possibility they just wait until the All-Star Game to make sure. Regardless of his actual return date, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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It appears Artem Anisimov is set to return to the lineup for Chicago:

Anisimov has missed over three weeks with the ever-mysterious “upper-body” injury. He had 13 goals and 18 points in 36 games this year. As an aside, I just noticed he’s shooting 18.3 percent for his career with the Blackhawks. That’s fairly absurd.

Anyway, we didn’t get line combinations so there’s no telling where he’ll slot in. The line of Hartman-Schmaltz-Kane has been fine, but the team has lost three of their last four, scoring just six goals in that span. Quenneville isn’t likely to sit tight as his team slides further back in the playoff race. We should get line combinations at their morning skate, but I’m activating Anisimov in the one league I own him regardless.

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Michael Frolik was back in practice for the Flames on Sunday, his first with the team since suffering his broken jaw on December 28th. He was in a non-contact jersey, though, so it appears he’s not quite ready to jump into the lineup. He’s well on his way, though, and at worst looks like he should be back on that vaunted second line when the team returns from their All-Star break on January 30th.

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Ondrej Palat will not be in the Tampa Bay lineup for the foreseeable future as he was sent back to Florida for further testing while the team continues their four-game road trip. There isn’t any official word on what the testing if for, but Palat did take a spear in the third period of their game against Minnesota that caused him to miss the final 10 minutes of the contest.

This is obviously bad news for Tampa, who have lost three straight since losing Victor Hedman. This team has loads of scoring, but too many injuries can sink any squad. Just ask the Lightning.

After the injury, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were split up with Alex Killorn jumping up to a line with Stamkos, and Brayden Point joining Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. I guess the immediate pickup would be Killorn but don’t drop Palat until we get more information.

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Allow me to gush over Ivan Provorov, if you will.

The Flyers defeated the Capitals 2-1 in overtime on Sunday afternoon, and Provo picked up an assist on the OT winner from Travis Konecny. The blue liner added five blocks and a couple hits for good measure.

It has been quite the tear for the 21-year old defenceman over the last month. That span covers 13 games, which has seen him tally five goals, five assists, 41 shots, 24 hits, and 33 blocked shots. That’s certainly drool-worthy.

Pairing Provo with Shayne Gostisbehere has been great for them individual and the team as a collective, as they are dominant on the ice together. Provorov is also showing the fantasy upside poolies have been hoping for since before he was drafted.

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Oh, besides assisting on the game-winning goal, Provo absolutely laid out Tom Wilson:

It was a good day.

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Colin Miller had a huge game for Vegas in their 5-1 win over Carolina in Raleigh. He was the only Golden Knight to post a multi-point game, putting up one goal and two assists. He added six more shots and a couple hits for good measure.

I sound like a broken record, but Miller was sneakily one of the top gets for Vegas in the draft. Yes, obviously, the top line and guys like Theodore, Fleury, and Neal will get the headlines, but Miller is on pace for 10 goals and 43 points playing under 19 minutes a game while putting up stellar shot-driving rates (as he always has). Depth is important in the NHL, and he’s giving it to Vegas in spades.

Scott Darling was pulled in the first period after the third goal and his save percentage is down to .889. Mea culpa.

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Bo Horvat was back in the lineup and on the top line for Vancouver in their game in Winnipeg, playing his first game since suffering a foot injury on December 5th. He was reunited with Sven Baertschi and Brock Boeser, and that trio led Canucks forwards in ice time. There apparently won’t be an easing-in process.

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Winnipeg only needed one goal to take two points in the game and it came off the stick of Patrik Laine, his 21st of the season. That goal put him back on pace to match the 36 he scored last year, provided he doesn’t miss any time.

Connor Hellebuyck held down the fort in the cage for the 29-save shutout, his fourth of the year, and boosting his save percentage to .926. 

As a small aside, this was the best game I watched Jack Roslovic play since joining the Jets. He had at least two grade-A chances and just failed to finish, and wound up with four shots on goal, a career-best. They’re bringing the kid along slowly, giving him minimal five-on-five time but loads of PP time. That’s a luxury they have with the depth that they do. The future is indeed bright.

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In my Saturday morning Ramblings, I discussed players whose expected goals rate had improved this year from the past couple of season. It’s worth the time, then, to discuss players on the other end of the spectrum.

I will go into a bit more detail about a few of the players but won’t be digging deep. 2000 words could be spilled and 15 hours of game film viewed and we still wouldn’t get the whole picture. This isn’t meant as a catch-all, it’s meant to point out some players whose expected goals rate have declined. That’s it.

Here are the 25 forwards whose individual expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five have declined the most this year compared to 2015-17. The threshold is 300 minutes played in 2017-18 and 1000 minutes from 2015-17:

Just a note: these numbers were extracted Friday night from Corsica.

Corey Perry

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Perry’s name on this list. The Ducks have been through a lot of injuries this year and were without both Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler for long stretches. Perry is still a good player, but there are few wingers who can lose their team’s top-two centres and still be expected to produce at anywhere near the level we expect.

Of course, this is a problem moving forward. 2016-17 saw the 32-year old winger fail to crack 30 goals in an 82-game season for the first time since 2009-10, and 25 goals for the first time since 2006-07. He needs 18 goals in the team’s final 35 games to get to 25 (before Sunday night’s contest), and that seems unlikely. He’ll be 33 years old in May, so him regaining the form that saw him put up 30 goals and 60 points like clockwork looks less and less realistic.

All this isn’t to say he can’t be useful in fantasy. He still racks up penalty minutes, and if Getzlaf is healthy, there is still chemistry there. It’s time to adjust expectations to 20 goals 50 points rather than 30 goals and 60 points, though.

Wayne Simmonds

It’ll be hard to find too many fantasy owners disappointed with Simmonds this year. Sure, he may not get to 120 penalty minutes or 30 power-play points, but he should push for 80 and 20, along with 30 goals, so even in a “down” year, he’s still been pretty good.

His expected goals per 60 minutes are down, though, and it’s likely due to his shot rate plummeting. As of Sunday afternoon, he was averaging 10.67 shot attempts per 60 minutes, the lowest rate of his career by a wide margin (previous low of 12.87 in 2010-11, his final season with the Kings). He had been over 14 shot attempts/60 each of the previous four seasons.

This year, the Flyers are 25th in the league in shot attempts while they were 9th last year. That is a factor. I think another factor is acclimating to new line mates after losing Brayden Schenn in the off-season. Regardless of the actual cause, Simmonds is shooting much less frequently than in recent seasons, and it’s showing in his expected goals decline. The good news is that hopefully a “down” year means a discount at the draft table this coming September.

Mitch Marner

I’m sure there are Marner fantasy owners out there looking at his six-goal total and thinking that this makes sense. It’s not that he has six goals, though, why this drop makes sense.

The line of Marner-Bozak-van Riemsdyk has seen their expected goals rise from 2.75/60 minutes to 3.11/60 minutes this year. So why did Marner’s individual expected goals decline? One reason is because both Bozak and JvR have seen their own expected goals rise from last year, making up nearly the entire difference (they are both in the top-30 of biggest improvements from last season). The decline would then be the result of the rise in expected goals from whichever defencemen are on the ice.

This shouldn’t be too concerning. I get that having Marner on your fantasy team and legitimately being concerned he won’t score 10 goals this year is a problem. But his shot rate per minute is consistent with last year’s and his line mates are both UFAs. He’ll have at least one new line mate to skate with next year. He is supremely talented and is still just 20 years old. Patience, my friends. Patience.

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There are obviously some very interesting names on that list like David Pastrnak and Filip Forsberg, both of whom are on pace for great seasons (at least Forsberg was before the injury). As I said, there could be thousands of words written on each player and we wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter. Just thought it was some interesting stuff to pass long. 

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The hockey world lost another important figure as Jim Johannson passed away at the age of 53 on Sunday. Before becoming an executive with USA Hockey, Johansson played for the University of Wisconsin, two US Olympic hockey teams (’88 and ’92), as well as the World Championships.

Outpouring of support came out from across all levels of the game as players both past and present, including Matthew Tkachuk, Kyle Okposo, Auston Matthews, and Brady Skjei, to name a few. I did not know him but he appeared to be well-respected and admired. Condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Johannson.