Ramblings: Surgery for Stamkos, Penguins, Barkov

by Ian Gooding on April 3, 2016

Surgery for Stamkos, Penguin power, Barkov four-pointer, plus more…

If Bolts fans were concerned that the Anton Stralman injury would hurt their team’s chances in the playoffs, then they’re probably petrified with the Steven Stamkos news. In case you hadn’t heard, the Bolts’ star center is expected to miss the next one to three months with a blood clot in his arm.

If you still have one more week of games in your fantasy league, obviously Stamkos won’t be available. Given the range in time, a best-case scenario would have Stamkos available for the second round, while a worst-case scenario would have him missing the entire playoffs – even if the Bolts make a return trip to the final. So it’s entirely possible that Stamkos has already played his last game in a Tampa uniform before joining a new team, maybe another team wearing blue and white that shall remain unnamed.

Here are the Lightning’s line combinations for their first game sans Stamkos, Saturday’s 3-1 win over New Jersey:

11.87% EV JOHNSON,TYLER – KUCHEROV,NIKITA – PALAT,ONDREJ

9.35% EV BLUNDEN,MICHAEL – BOYLE,BRIAN – CONDRA,ERIK

7.91% EV BROWN,J.T. – KILLORN,ALEX – NAMESTNIKOV,VLADISLAV

6.12% EV CALLAHAN,RYAN – FILPPULA,VALTTERI – KILLORN,ALEX

With no Stamkos, the Bolts might put all their chips on the table by reuniting the Triplets in an attempt to replicate last year’s magic. Kucherov scored a goal and added two assists with his new (old) linemates, news that was no doubt overshadowed by what we heard about Stamkos tonight. There are also a couple of other possibilities which are not listed above, so don’t assume that these line combos are carved in stone.

Jonathan Marchessault was a healthy scratch on Saturday, but he has shown that he can turn on the offense at times this season (nine points in 13 games during December). He also plays center, so he could easily slide into a roster slot.

Then there’s Jonathan Drouin. Has he mended fences with the organization to the point where Steve Yzerman wouldn’t be concerned about bringing him out of exile? Say what you will about him not being NHL-ready, but he has 11 goals in 17 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. So his is a situation worth monitoring.  

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The injuries also keep on piling up for the Penguins, but they continue to roll. Added to the injury list this week was Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been sidelined with his second concussion of the season. The loss of Fleury could be the straw that breaks the Penguins’ backs once the playoffs start.

Yet Matt Murray did the job on Saturday, stopping all 24 shots he faced in a 5-0 shutout of the Islanders. Murray has been getting the job done all season when called upon (6-2-1, 1.86 GAA, .933 SV%), and he provided fantasy owners who took a flier on him for Saturday with a huge boost. He’s only 21, so he’s still a somewhat risky play for the rest of the season and the playoffs, but he’s also got huge sleeper potential. I’d actually feel more confident with Murray than numerous other starting options at the moment.

Better late than never, Phil Kessel. The much-maligned winger scored again on Saturday and now has five goals and ten points in his past five games. Hopefully you didn’t get fed up with him and traded him just before the playoffs! Over that stretch Kessel has also taken a minimum of four shots per game. Kessel can be an infuriating player to own, but there’s no doubt that the talent is still there.

And yes, that’s Sidney Crosby who’s now back in a familiar spot… third in league scoring (81 points), thanks to his assist on Saturday. But there’s another player currently nipping at his heels in the scoring race.

Anyone out there think Erik Karlsson should be the first overall pick in next season’s fantasy drafts? We’ll have all summer to discuss that possibility.

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With two goals and an assist on Saturday, Wayne Simmonds has reached 28 goals on the season. Simmonds’ goal totals for the last four non-lockout-shortened seasons: 28, 29, 28, and 28, which is remarkably consistent throughout these past few seasons. Could he reach 30 goals for the first time in his career? His shooting percentage has remained level (in the 13-15% range), but his 212 shots this season is the highest in his career.

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Brandon Saad recorded the first hat trick of his career on Saturday. With a decent final week, Saad could reach 50 points in back-to-back seasons and possibly even 30 goals for the first time in his career. On Saad’s second goal, Sonny Milano scored his first NHL point on a nice power move to set up Saad.

Boone Jenner reached 30 goals for the first time in his career with a goal, his sixth in his last eight games. Jenner has filled your statsheet with goals, shots (220), and penalty minutes (75), yet his totals in assists (18) and plus/minus (-11) leave something to be desired.

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Elliotte Friedman brought up the possibility that Pavel Datsyuk could return to Russia after the end of this season. Datsyuk is one of my favorite players to watch, so it would be a shame if he took his talents back to Russia. If Datsyuk leaves and the Wings miss the playoffs, you’d have to wonder if they would undergo their first rebuild since the 1980s. Some of you might not be old enough to remember the Wings when they were a bad team.

Mike Green has been doing his part to keep the Wings alive in the playoff race. Showing shades of his time in Washington, Green has scored three goals over his past five games, along with eight points over his last ten games. Strangely enough, Green has played less than 15 minutes per game over his last two games and has averaged less than 20 minutes per game as a Wing this season. With first-unit power-play minutes, Green’s even-strength icetime numbers are extremely low. He’s never been considered a strong defensive defenseman, which probably explains the icetime numbers.

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William Nylander broke a five-game pointless skid with a goal and assist on Saturday while playing on a line with P.A. Parenteau and Colin Greening. That’s five goals and nine points in 18 games for Nylander, who would be projected to post 41 points over a full season. Not bad for the 19-year-old, who will have better linemates in Toronto in the future.

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Here’s a sign that the future is bright in Buffalo. The rebuilding Sabres have four 20-goal scorers (Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly), which in today’s low-scoring NHL is impressive. O’Reilly scored two goals on Saturday to become the fourth player to join that club. Keep in mind that the Sabres will also be bringing another player into the mix from another high draft pick this summer.

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It’s been a rough championship week for Henrik Lundqvist. First, the Rangers were restricted to just two games, although the opponents didn’t seem all that worrisome. However, King Henrik took a 4-3 loss to Carolina on Thursday, then was pulled early in the second period on Saturday after allowing three goals on nine shots to Buffalo. Ask Lundqvist owners if they would have rather had Matt Murray this week. We always say lean on your studs – it’s just that the fantasy playoffs can be unforgiving toward conventional wisdom.

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There’s been lots to talk about tonight, so it’s taken me awhile to get to Aleksander Barkov’s two goals and two assists. The Panthers have been running nine solid forwards deep since the trade deadline, so the loss of breakout star Vincent Trocheck may not be felt to the degree that it would on a more scoring-challenged team. And no, the Panthers aren’t scoring challenged anymore. They’re in the top 10 of the league in offense.

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Brendan Gallagher returned to the Canadiens’ lineup on Saturday, scoring a goal. With two separate injuries cutting into his season, Gallagher has 36 points in 50 games. We could say that the Carey Price absence is the main reason for the Habs’ misfortune, but Gallagher’s missed time should also factor in significantly. Extrapolate his 0.72 points-per-game this season over 82 games and he would have 59 points over a full season. Look for him to be pre-draft ranked among players with a lower point-per-game total.

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I remember adding Mikael Backlund in one league after he had scored points in six of seven games. Of course, he followed that with an eight-game stretch without a point, which was active until Saturday, when he scored two goals and added an assist.

Johnny Gaudreau also scored two of his own to get to 30 on the season. Is 30 goals the new 40? Of course, it’s the other way around if you’re talking about age…

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Finally, many of you reading this have probably been thinking that today, the most important day in many fantasy leagues, has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Here’s one reason why: One of the day’s three shutouts was from a rookie goalie (Murray, listed above). The other two? Mike Smith and Joni Ortio – two goalies you probably avoided unless you were desperate. This hobby doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes.

But it could be worse. You could have had the kind of day that Todd McLellan had.

Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.