The holidays mess with everyone’s schedule, including the NHL, which is why we had a massive 11-game slate for a Friday night. Let’s hop to it.
Friday was career regular season game number 79 for Jake Guentzel. In the first 78 games, he had 29 goals and 55 points with 173 shots on goal. I know some people out there may be disappointed in the fact that to this point of the season, he was on pace for 28 goals and 48 points. Keep in mind, however, that for whatever reason, Pittsburgh is a distant last in five-on-five shooting percentage as a team this year at 5.3 percent. They shot 7.9 percent as a team from 2014-2017. It isn’t a matter of high-and-low extremes this year, either, as no regular forward is over 7 percent in on-ice team shooting percentage (Sidney Crosby is at 3.3 percent!). The fact that Guentzel can still crack 30 goals and 50 points is a credit to him as an offensive talent, and the upside he possesses with this roster around him. Try not to get frustrated, fantasy owners. There are blue skies ahead.
Because of all the goals he scores, it seems like Nikita Kucherov doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a phenomenal playmaker. It reminds me of David Pastrnak in that sense; yeah, he’s a great goal scorer, but he’s elite at helping others as well. Kucherov was the primary assist on Tampa Bay’s first goal on Friday night, a power-play goal from Steven Stamkos. Kucherov put this right into Stammer’s wheelhouse:
It’s not that he got the pass to Stamkos – he really only had one guy to beat – but he put it through the Flyers defender’s legs to ensure it got to where Stamkos wouldn’t fumble it and could get off a clean one-timer. Those two are something special.
The story of the Flyers-Bolts game was Philadelphia’s top line. Claude Giroux had three assists, Sean Couturier had a goal and two assists while Travis Konecny had a couple assists of his own to lead the way. Shayne Gostisbehere and Wayne Simmonds each had power-play goals.
Giroux now has 46 points and could push a 100-point season at this rate. This is a great bounce-back year from his 58-point 2016-17 campaign.
Rasmus Ristolainen scored his first goal of the year, and timely it was as it lifted the Sabres to a 4-3 win in overtime. It was a game where they trailed 3-1 on the road, so not a bad win. More of this, please?
Anthony Mantha missed Friday’s game with a “nagging” injury and that moved Andreas Athanasiou up to the second line with Tomas Tatar. He promptly scored in the second period, his first tally since the middle of November (seriously). He had averaged just 13 minutes a game in December. He’ll be a frustrating fantasy own because just like most young players that come into Detroit, they could be on the second line one game, the fourth line the next game, and the press box in the third game. There is a lot of goal-scoring skill here, though, and with Detroit’s playoff chances minimal, maybe he gets some more ice time in the coming weeks.
With Chris Kreider’s injury, and Nash’s promotion to the top line that came before that, it seems regular minutes are in his future, and his shooting percentage should rebound. It might be worth taking a look around your league to see who owns him and how much it would take to acquire him. At the price it likely should take, even if he busts, it’s not a huge loss. There is a lot of upside to be had if he keeps shooting as often as he does, from where he does, with the ice time he’s being given.
Vinni Lettieri scored his first career NHL goal for the Rangers in that game against Detroit, by the way. We have a little blurb over on Dobber Prospects for those looking to read more on him.
Sonny Milano had a two-goal game for Columbus, giving him eight goals in 30 games this year playing fewer than 11 minutes a game. In fact, he now leads the Blue Jackets in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. He’s shooting over 25 percent so that will obviously come way down, and he’s not shooting a lot, but I wonder if he earns more middle-six minutes when the team is healthy. He’s always been highly thought of for his offensive skills, but having John Tortorella as a coach isn’t going to help. Anyone out there still a believer?
Sergei Bobrovsky accidentally redirects the puck into his own net and Nick Paul scores! pic.twitter.com/oTUDZC3llZ
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) December 30, 2017
It all went downhill after that for Bobrovsky as the Sens scored four unanswered (including another soft goal where a puck snuck in between his foot and the post from behind the net). Goalies have bad games, but after a smoking-hot start to the year (.934 save percentage in October), Bobrovsky has been pretty much league-average since (about .912). That’s two full months of being far from elite. Injury? Randomness? How worried are you Bobrovsky owners?
Ottawa managed at least five goals for just the second time in the last two months. Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf both had two assists, Matt Duchene scored a beautiful breakaway goal, and Mark Stone scored his first goal this month.
This team needs a miracle to make the playoffs, but we’ve seen them perform miracles to get to the playoffs before.
Josh Anderson had a goal and an assist in this game, giving him 14 goals and 24 points on the season. I was completely wrong on him in the preseason. He has size, speed, hands, and a wicked shot. He’s the prototypical new-age power forward, and that top line in Columbus is a lot of fun.
Cam Ward won his sixth straight game, stopping 27 of 28 shots against Pittsburgh in the 2-1 win. His save percentage is up to .917, and that would be his highest mark since 2010-11. He’s saving Carolina’s season, just as we all predicted? Gah.
Michael Frolik is considered week-to-week with a broken jaw after taking a shot to the face in Calgary’s game against San Jose on Thursday night. This is a fairly significant loss for the Flames as he was a part of one of the top defensive lines in hockey and was a staple of he team’s penalty kill. It shouldn’t be a huge loss for fantasy owners, though, as he’s on pace for about 15 goals and 33 points. His replacement on Friday night was none other than Jaromir Jagr. I imagine it’s a situation that can change quite quickly, though.
Colton Sissons found himself starting on the top line for Nashville with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. The Predators were essentially trying to spread their talent across three lines, which may not be great for those holding out hope for a permanent JOFA line. Though after Minnesota went up a couple goals, Nashville went back to the JOFA line as the first line. Does that stick moving forward?
Mikael Granlund tallied a pair of power-play goals in the first period for Minnesota in their Friday night tilt with Nashville. That gave him 10 goals on the year with half coming on the man advantage, but he added an empty-netter to complete the hat trick.
Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter are set to rejoin the lineup in the next few days (hopefully) which means this team is about to be as healthy as they’re going to get. The buy-low window for guys like Granlund is closing, and I suspect the Wild are going to have a big second half. Might be time to test those trade waters.
Jake Allen left the St. Louis game after taking a friendly-fire bulldozing from Colton Parayko. This was from the coach after the loss:
Yeo takes blame for reinserting Allen in. It was his call to put him in, league's call to remove him initially, Yeo got word he was OK to go back in. #stlblues
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) December 30, 2017
He was removed by league spotters but Allen is fine, apparently.
With Mark Scheifele on the shelf, Blake Wheeler was moved to the middle of the top line and Patrik Laine joined him on the right side with Kyle Connor on the left. That left the second line with both Bryan Little and Nikolaj Ehlers staying put but Matheiu Perreault joining them on the left.
The interesting part of all this is that neither top lines was tasked with the responsibility of shutting down John Tavares and company but rather it was Adam Lowry’s line that was hard-matched against them. Scheifele and company had typically faced opposing first lines, but with him out of the lineup, I thought things might fall to Little and company. It didn’t. If this keeps up, it could mean a lot of depth matchups at home for a lot of skilled players. Scheifele’s injury is obviously devastating to his fantasy owners, but this is a (very small) silver lining.
At present time, the Jets are not considering any callups to replace Scheifele, though it appears that Jack Roslovic has nothing left to prove at the AHL level. As a 19- and 20-year old, he’s put up 28 goals and 83 points in 96 career AHL games. I suppose if the team keeps winning, they won’t change much, but if they start losing, I’m curious to see if they eventually bring him up. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.
Quick update on Nazem Kadri:
Nazem Kadri won’t play tonight in Denver, per Mike Babcock. Upper-body injury.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 29, 2017
He took an elbow against Arizona on Thursday night and left the game. Getting accurate updates from the Leafs on injuries is about as likely as Ottawa getting to the playoffs this year, so whether it’s a neck issue, a concussion, or something else, we don’t know. Stay tuned for more updates.
(editor’s note: there will be absolutely no updates given by the team)
Jeff Glass – yes, THAT Jeff Glass – made his first career start in the NHL on Friday night for the Chicago Blackhawks at the age of 32. Kudos to him for sticking with it all these years.
Despite the Oilers scoring a couple late goals to push it to overtime, Glass held on for the 4-3 win thanks to Patrick Kane's winner. He was busy with 45 shots. It was a nice moment when he was mobbed after the game by his teammates.
I have watched a lot of Oilers hockey this season and it is absolutely insane how much the opposition gets away with on Connor McDavid. A year after leading the league in penalties drawn, he finds himself outside the top-20. It’s plays like this that never get called and it’s infuriating:
where I come from, sliding into a player's legs while he's on a potential breakaway is a penalty pic.twitter.com/ll9zivmjuj
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) December 30, 2017
Imagine having his skill set and he’s not sniffing the top-10 in penalties drawn. His penalties drawn per minute are down about 30 percent from last year and this is in a season where penalties are up about 10 percent league-wide. There is absolutely no good explanation for this.
RNH had a goal and two assists and is now up to 29 points on the year. He could set across-the-board career highs should he keep pacing the way he has.
- Ramblings: Yes Giordano Norris blah blah, Tarasenko’s slump, under-the-radar players and more (Dec 17)
- Ramblings: Hart Called Up; Hakstol Fired; Dumba Injury; Disappointments - December 18
- Top 10 Surprises of 2018-19
- 20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts
- Eastern Edge: Reviewing Recent Turnaround Predictions
- Geek of the Week: Matt Dumba
- Lining Up: Top-Performing Lines in the East - December 18
- Fantasy Hockey Podcast - Hayes Of Our Lives