Ramblings: Reviewing The First Few Days Of The Season – October 7

by Michael Clifford on October 6, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Reviewing The First Few Days Of The Season – October 7

We’ve seen almost every team play at this point save for New Jersey, Carolina, and Vancouver. At this risk of overreaction, here are some things that stood out to me.

 

Penalties

There have been 18 teams to play one game and go to the penalty kill at least four times. Half the league has been penalized at least five times. Small sample size, early in the season, etc., but it does seem the league is cracking down on what they said they would (Leo Komarov got a visor penalty!).

This is very important for fantasy if – IF – the referees continue to call penalties at the rate they’ve showed through the first few days of the campaign. Last year, teams received a shade under three power-play opportunities a game; if that’s between four and five PPOs this year, it creates more value and production among the power-play heavy skaters, and is also detrimental to the ratios goaltenders on teams that are taking five penalties a game like clockwork. We’ll revisit this at the end of the month, but a spike in power-play opportunities has huge ramifications for fantasy leagues.

 

Boston’s Second Line

I will fully admit that I was skeptical Jake DeBrusk was the right person to slot on the second line in Boston alongside both David Krejci and David Pastrnak. However, not only did he fit in with that duo in his debut, he stood out. This was his first career NHL goal; check out those quick hands:

Not only that, but the line was dominant at five-on-five. Each of the three forwards was over 53 percent in shot attempt share, and DeBrusk and Krejci were both over 63 percent. They weren’t settling for perimeter shots, particularly the rookie, as the son of Louie managed four shots at-or-below the hashmarks and between the face-off dots (via Hockeyviz.com):

It’s one game, but performing like this against the previous season’s Stanley Cup Finalists is impressive. For owners in 12-team leagues that might have a roster space going to waste, DeBrusk is a decent speculative add, even if he won’t skate on the top PP unit.

 

Expect Lots Of Keller

Arizona lost their first game of the season in devastating fashion, as they blew a 4-1 lead with 25 minutes left in the game to Anaheim, losing in regulation 5-4. The Ducks were without Ryan Getzlaf in addition to the expected absences of Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen. There is no excuse for that; it was just bad.

The silver lining is that Clayton Keller saw a lot of ice time. He finished second among Arizona forwards in total ice time at 19:44, behind only Christian Dvorak’s 22:03. Of note here is that Keller led all Coyotes forwards in five-on-five ice time, as Dvorak played nearly four minutes short-handed.

Sometimes coaches like to ease in rookies – the Rangers’ Filip Chytil played fewer than eight minutes in his debut – but that wasn’t the case for Keller. If he can continue to play over 18 minutes a night, he should pass 50 points this year.

 

Chicago Embarrasses Pittsburgh

I won’t delve too deep on this because Ian Gooding covered it pretty well in his Ramblings yesterday.  All I will say is that my love for Ryan Hartman has been re-affirmed. He’s a shooter, and he knows how to get to the areas he needs to in order to score. Though he had just four shot attempts at five-on-five, all of them came from the home-plate area. Hopefully both he and Nick Schmaltz get an extended look with Kane. They could be a lot of fun to watch.

 

Los Angeles Might Suck?

Winning the first game of the season by a 2-0 score is usually a good thing. To be honest, however, the Kings did not look very good at home against the Flyers. Just watching the game, every line except that of Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Tanner Pearson looked disjointed. That is probably to be expected when introducing several new players into your top-9 forwards like Alex Iafallo, Jonny Brodzinski, Mike Cammalleri, and to an extent Adrian Kempe (who had just 25 games with the big club last year), but it was poor hockey to watch. The numbers backed that up:

Los Angeles wasn’t clearly the better team on the ice, and that’s a problem given the situation of their opponent. One game does not a season make, but the concerns raised above were there before the season, and their win did nothing to repudiate them. Outside of the Carter line, and perhaps Jonathan Quick, fantasy owners have reason to be nervous about the Kings players on their roster.

 

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Let’s look back at what stood out in last night’s small three-game Friday slate.  

Sonny Milano scored his first NHL goal, assisted by his line mates Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand. It wasn’t a particularly standout goal – Calvin de Haan missed a pass from his goalie and chaos ensued – but it was nice to see out of the gate from that line. Both Bjorkstrand and Milano will be relied upon for secondary scoring, and getting some good results early should help their confidence. Bjorkstrand is probably the most fantasy-relevant of the two but it was a good sign for dynasty owners nonetheless.

Columbus waxed the Islanders. It looked like a bad night for Greiss, but the first goal was a flub by a defenceman, the second goal deflected off a skate, the third goal was lost coverage in the zone by the Islanders that left Ryan Murray all alone to the side of the Islanders netminder, and the fourth goal was a rebound power-play goal. Maybe he could have made a couple saves, but he was hung out to dry by his team. It certainly doesn’t bode well for his fantasy value, or Jaroslav Halak’s for that matter, this year.

For anyone with doubts about how Artemi Panarin might fit in with a new team, he, Alexander Wennberg, and Cam Atkinson looked just fine. He may not reach the heights that he did in Chicago, but a severe drop-off probably isn’t likely.

 

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Despite all the off-season losses in personnel, the Panthers looked good in this game. The top line was playing fast, the second line was controlling the play, and the defence was moving the puck well. Maybe Florida takes a step back from expectations of a year ago, but they didn’t look like it here. That’s good news for anyone that rostered Panthers skaters in fantasy.

For fantasy owners of Victor Hedman in leagues that count plus/minus, the following news may be a concern: he is paired with Dan Girardi. Say what you will about Girardi, but when he’s on the ice the opposition allows a lot of shots, as Tampa did with that pairing on the ice last night. Even if he’s a renowned shot-blocker, giving up shots at a rate that ranks worst on the team consistently usually kills a player’s plus/minus. Just beware, Hedman owners, if that pairing sticks together.


 

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A non-hockey gesture is very much worth mentioning here. Both Dallas and Vegas stood together in remembrance of the massacre that too place in Las Vegas less than a week ago. It was a very touching moment, and well done by both teams:

The Stars were among the heavily-penalized teams, giving up seven power plays at time of writing (half-way through the third period). That’s sloppy against an expansion team without their top centre and top defenceman, as Vadim Shipachyon and Shea Theodore didn’t play due to roster complications.

Dallas looked fine. They dominated the game, and yet they lost 2-1. Those penalties need to be rectified. They won’t survive doing that against the top teams in the league. It's a regulation loss, but the Stars were the better team. 

Of note, though, was that Bishop took a shot off his mask and had to leave the game:

Kari Lehtonen replaced him a few minutes into the third period and allowed both goals. As I'm writing this, there are no further updates on Bishop. 

 

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A note from the Sens…

Mike Hoffman got demoted! He was moved off a line with Kyle Turris to a line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Tom Pyatt. I suppose it helps spread out the offence and puts Hoffman with some defensively-responsible (?) players, but this isn’t good news for fantasy owners. Turris is the team’s best offensive centre, and Hoffman moving down the lineup means ice time with less-talented players. Again, I get why the coach would do this, but it’s a hit to his fantasy value. Things are destined to change again and yet it makes this no less annoying.