Ramblings: Skinner needs to re-sign; ZAR back with Malkin; Winnington vs. Hamburgler – and more (Feb 18)
Jeff Skinner absolutely needs to re-sign with Buffalo. The roster and the coaching style fits him like a glove and he doesn’t want to mess with that. Sure, he could make an extra $1 million per season somewhere else, and perhaps that means an extra $6 million over the length of his contract. But he risks failure, embarrassment and – in an extreme case – perhaps even a buyout five years down the line. He need look no further than teammate Kyle Okposo when determining how signing with a bad fit can take your status as a star down a few notches. And how does Milan Lucic feel when he walks down the streets of Edmonton? With the Sabres, Skinner knows he can succeed because he’s thriving right now. Don’t mess with that, his best shot at a long and storied career is right where he is now.
With 33 points in his last 15 games, Patrick Kane has marched his way up to second on the NHL scoring list. And, thanks to another three assists on Sunday, Sidney Crosby has slid into a tie for eighth in scoring – entering the Top 10 for the first time all season (I’d have to double check that, but I think it’s true).
And thanks to the other 30 teams figuring out how to shut down the Avalanche, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon are fading down the scoring list. The answer, of course, is to simply shut that top line down and prey upon the defense. In the last nine games, Rantanen has just two points and zero power-play points.
I know I’m rehashing the top stats that anyone can see. I just get fascinated watching everything fall into place. Players who fall short or far exceed my expectations begin to shift closer to actual expectation.
If Patrick Kane notches an assist tonight, he will become the fourth player in NHL history to tally an assist in 17 consecutive team games. The other three – Wayne Gretzky (three times), Adam Oates and Paul Coffey.
Mark Giordano has three points in his last eight games after 52 in his first 48. That, of course, is just the market correcting itself.
Saturday I was asked by an Igor Shesterkin owner if he should be worried about Alexandar Georgiev, after a couple of hot games. I was pretty comfortable in saying that Georgiev will be nothing more than a backup and that Shesterkin is a future stud. Georgiev gave up six goals on Sunday.
After two periods in a close game, the Penguins removed Nick Bjugstad from the Evgeni Malkin – Phil Kessel line and replaced him with Zach Aston-Reese. ZAR proceeded to pick up a pair of assists and the Pens won by a goal. That bodes well for him sticking on that line for longer. With each time ZAR gets a shot there, as long as he stays healthy (which is another conversation), I believe his odds of success increase. His experience grows, as does his comfort level, and he inches closer to his prime.
Two games into his return and Justin Schultz has a point in each of them. Still getting secondary PP time though. One side effect to this is that the second PP unit is ten times better with him there, which helps the likes of Marcus Pettersson, Nick Bjugstad and Jake Guentzel.
Kris Letang had two points Sunday and has 12 in his last 10 games. I think the Schultz return only helps him and overall he’s up to fourth in the league among defensemen (52 points).
Mats Zuccarello is doing everything he can to drive his price up for the Rangers. At this rate they should retire his jersey in a decade, just for the favor he’s doing them. I mean, come on – 22 points in 14 games. Has he ever done that in his career before? And he's doing it now just when they really need him to beef up his value. It’s enough to add a good draft pick or prospect to whatever offer was being floated to GM Jeff Gorton two weeks ago.
Kevin Hayes picked up two points Sunday as well, so he has 25 points in his last 22 games. He is also apparently on the block and driving his price up. Man I wish I had players on my fantasy hockey squad driving up their prices like this for me as the deadline approaches. But no dice, I don’t have either of these players, stupidly under-selling them last year when I guess I shouldn’t have.
The Blues continue to cruise on the Jordan Binnington – Vladimir Tarasenko train. The Blues, of course, were so far out of it seven weeks ago that we all wrote them off. This was a team that most figured was a top three improved team last summer, but were primarily let down by Vladimir Tarasenko and Jake Allen. Now, playing the role of Allen, is Binnington. Tarasenko is playing as if the first half of his season was training camp.
Did Tarasenko come to camp out of shape and is only getting there now? With three points on Sunday he has five consecutive multi-point games. Tale of two Tarasenkos:
22 points in first 35 games
29 points in last 23 games
Speaking of Binnington, back-to-back shutouts for him now (and three straight shutouts for the entire team). He’s 12-1-1 already with four shutouts. The best goalie in the world doesn’t do this, so it’s obviously unsustainable. Still, this is an Andrew Hammond-like run to kick things off. The difference is, Binnington is a former third-round draft pick and is 25, which is a very common age for goalies to begin an NHL career for good. Hammond was undrafted and 27. Keep in mind that this is a contract year for Binnington and I suspect that he is earning himself a $3 million annual contract. Then again, Allen is making $4.35 for each of the next two seasons and everyone in the world other than Allen’s mother knows that Binnington is far superior. So does his agent play on that and get him $4.5? And once he gets that money, does he pull an Allen and start sucking year after year? Best guess, for me, is that he starts coming down to earth this season but is still the team’s No.1 goaltender. He leads them to the second round of the playoffs and earns a bridge contract at something like $3.5. Next year he gets something like 55 starts with numbers that place him in that 10th to 15th rank for goalies. That’s where my head’s at. Binnington has effectively pushed out the struggling (in the AHL) Ville Husso, who had been the prospect Golden Boy before all this.
Allen had a shutout himself on Saturday, which is something none of expect out of him anymore. I will say this – if the team comes together in front of him and he starts playing at an equal level to Binnington (assuming Binnington comes down to earth a bit), then the net will be Allen’s. All things being equal, follow the contract. This is just an aside, I doubt it will happen, but wanted to provide you with a just-in-case scenario.
Cory Schneider has allowed just one goal on his last 50 shots faced, and his first two wins of the season. It’s a good sign, and we haven’t had any of those in months.
With two points Sunday, rookie winger Oskar Lindblom actually has 10 points in 13 games. He’s played most of the year with Jakub Voracek, but the catalyst has been Sean Couturier being put on that line in place of Patrick Nolan. Looking at the numbers for Claude Giroux, having Couturier on his line saw the best production. Losing Couturier has seen a decline – just nine points in 12 games. Decent numbers, but nothing like what he was doing before.
Aleksander Barkov picked up four points on Sunday. But he’s a great player and that happens from time to time. What interests me is Keith Yandle still rolling. Two more points Sunday and eight in his last 10. His success since joining Florida has been steady across the board: 0.50, 0.68, 0.79 points-per-game in his three years there. His PP time is also rising, at 55.7%, 64.1%, 65.2% of the team’s available PP time year over year. He’s 32 and has another four years under his big contract. Despite his age, I don’t see a slowdown happening anytime soon. He’s an iron man. The older players in the league who are thriving right now – Brent Burns, Mark Giordano – are talented defensemen in peak physical shape.
Samuel Montembeault was recalled by the Panthers. I like him as a prospect for the long term, but his AHL numbers haven’t exemplified this (just .900 SV% in 36 games this year so far). I can’t help but consider the success of Jordan Binnington, Cal Petersen, Collin Delia, Carter Hart. I know Roberto Luongo is only gone for a game or two (personal reasons – death in the family), but I’d love to see Montembeault get into a game. He backed up James Reimer Sunday.
Reimer has won four of his last six games, including three Quality Starts in that span.
It took him eight games, but Corey Perry is finally on the board with his first goal of the season. He’s still playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell so he’s in a position to succeed, through thick and thin.
It will be interesting to see the new-look Edmonton lineup Tuesday with both Sam Gagner and Andrej Sekera in the lineup. Gagner has been a prolific scorer in the AHL for the Marlies (37 points in 43 games) and he also had his eight-point game while he was with the Oilers. Sekera has two assists and was plus-6 in five games for Bakersfield on a conditioning stint.
Artemi Panarin (24-43—67) enters the contest three points shy of reaching the 70-point mark in 2018-19, which would mark his fourth consecutive season with at least as many points. Only two undrafted players have started their NHL career with four or more consecutive 70-point seasons: Wayne Gretzky (13) and Peter Stastny (10).
I love it when someone turns negativity into a marketing opportunity. I love creativity in marketing…Check it out (start at 4:25):
We’re a bunch of jerks and we have the shirts to prove it.— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) February 17, 2019
Available later this week at The Eye. pic.twitter.com/TEefqETEau
See you next Monday.
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