Rambling about Tavares, Neuvirth, Kuznetsov, Chicago’s killer instinct and…Elliott or Allen?
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Who do you start tonight – Elliott or Allen?
This is what experience adds. This is what being a natural winner is. St. Louis is the better team. Deeper group of forwards, much deeper group of defense and better goaltending. Not as well coached and they only have one game breaker versus Chicago’s two. But overall, they’re a better team and to me it’s not close. But Chicago has the killer instinct. The experience. An intangible that can’t be measured. It reminds me of when I play tennis with my buddy. He’s better than me. In terms of talent alone, if we play 10 games I’d win three. But how many do I actually win? Zero. He refuses to lose and I lack the killer instinct. If we played 50 sets I’d win three or four, but in terms of talent that number should be 15 or 20! I can’t explain why other than the will to win. I can’t tell you how often I get up 5-2 or even 5-1. Can’t close it out. He won’t go down. That’s Kane. That’s Keith. That’s Seabrook. That’s Hossa. And of course, that’s Toews. I bet it’s even Crawford, too. I’ve been saying all series that it’s been a different St. Louis team…but after the last two games I guess I was wrong. It’s the same St. Louis team.
They can prove me wrong tonight, of course. But I don’t have any confidence in it. In every playoff pool it’s to my advantage that Chicago wins. Yet I find myself cheering for the underdog. I don’t know why. Perhaps just something different?
Heading into Sunday I was 3-0 in my predictions for this round. Then the Caps won, so 4-0. Then the Stars won, so 5-0. The Isles? Overtime, and then…Tavares!
Honestly, I’ve never been good at projecting series. Each year I make my picks and each year I end up 5-3 after the first round. Until last year. Last year I was 8-0. And now I’m 6-0 this year so far. So I’m on quite the role and would just need the Ducks and Blues to put it away tonight for the sweep.
Now onto the hockey.
First, the Caps. A 1-0 game in which Alex Ovechkin assisted on the only goal. It was his first point in three games, but he did end the series with five points in six contests. He’s actually behind three teammates in terms of playoff production, and none of those teammates have a name that rhymes with Shmooznetsov.
That’s right, Evgeni Kuznetsov has just one point in six playoff games. Andre Burakovsky is pointless in six. Just five players have four points or more, while each of the other players on the team have no more than two points. Including Mr. Clutch himself, Justin Williams. He probably needed a Game 7 before he shines…
The Flyers end the six-game playoff run with zero three-point players. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek combined for two stinking points! The Ghost was one of just four players to manage two points. Another player to reach two points was Sam Gagner – and he had been banished to the minors for a time!
So I guess the biggest takeaway in the series was the fact that Michal Neuvirth not only got Philly’s only two wins, but his save percentage was a ridiculous 0.981%. Steve Mason, like Neuvirth, played three games but he lost them all and had an SV% of 0.852.
Steve Mason – allowed 12 goals on 81 shots.
Michal Neuvirth – allowed two goals on 105 shots.
If only Neuvirth wasn’t such a Band-Aid Boy, I think he’d solve all of Philly’s goaltending problems. I can’t recommend a BAB like this guy, regardless of how he’s finally coming into his own at the age of 28.
Next, it was a Wild one. Pun semi-intended. Dallas had a 4-0 lead three minutes into the third period and then they blew it. Minnesota scored three quick goals and had all the momentum, and were it not for a lucky and weird bounce that squirted past Devan Dubnyk, this thing would have went to overtime. But that fifth Dallas goal was the backbreaker. Because the Wild scored again with five minutes left, and then check this out – in the waning seconds of the game (look at 53 second mark):
So the Wild are out. And Jamie Benn is still ridiculous. Benn’s regular season and playoff numbers, the last two years: 170 games played, 80 goals, 110 assists for 190 points.
There was no shortage of sleeper picks on the Stars roster. How deep in your draft was Jason Spezza picked? He has nine points already. Frankly, that’s a job well done for him after the second round. The last time he had nine points in the postseason was 2007.
Patrick Eaves, Spezza’s linemate, is another good one. Five points in six games. Most drafts didn’t see Eaves get picked at all. Sure, he teased us in 2014-15 with a couple of hot streaks while playing on the top line. But in 2015-16 he did two things for us fantasy owners – Jack, and Squat.
Dallas line combos last night:
#1 24.6% BENN,JAMIE – EAKIN,CODY – SHARP,PATRICK
#2 20.8% FAKSA,RADEK – HEMSKY,ALES – ROUSSEL,ANTOINE
#3 19.3% EAVES,PATRICK – JANMARK,MATTIAS – SPEZZA,JASON
#4 15% FIDDLER,VERNON – MOEN,TRAVIS – SCEVIOUR,COLTON
Without knowing the results of the first round, if you see who Spezza’s playing with you’re thinking he’d be lucky to get three points in the series. So kudos to him.
Unlike the Flyers, the Wild showed up to play (other than Devan Dubnyk, who didn’t impress me at all).
Jason Pominville had seven points in the series, all of them in the last four games. He had 15 in his last 18 regular season games, meaning he’s posted 22 points in his last 24 games. His steady decline of the past three years appears to have stopped and I think it reverses itself next year. A bounce-back to 50-point levels is in store.
I think Nino Niederreiter is in for a big year. Next season is his fifth…but technically, to me, it’s his fourth. Because he was in the AHL for a season in between his first and second NHL campaigns. His points-per-game average has increased steadily over the three years in a row that he’s been in the league: 0.44, 0.46, 0.52. And now he finishes his playoff with six points in six games. Another thing to consider – he has 39 points in his last 60 games. I think he’s a pretty good bet to top 50 points in 2016-17.
Remember when Erik Haula had just four points in 31 games to start the season? He was also scratched a few times. After four points in the series, he has 34 points in his last 40 games! A nice dark horse for your draft in September.
Can’t say enough about John Tavares. What a performance. What leadership he showed this entire round. Nine points – that’s 60% of the team’s goals. The tying goal last night, and the 2OT winner.
He didn’t get any points last night, but Shane Prince impressed me with some of the chances he created. A lot of oh-so-close plays and I’m curious to see if he can take the next step next year.
Ryan Strome was a healthy scratch Sunday, and his replacement in the lineup was Alan Quine. The 23-year-old Quine has adapted well to the pro game after a somewhat modest junior career. He has 109 points in his last 131 AHL games. And the Isles dressed him for all six games. Now, I say he ‘replaced’ Strome but that’s not entirely true. Steve Bernier technically came in and replaced Strome. But if there is no Quine, then Strome plays. And Quine is the guy who was nowhere near the roster all season long (just two regular season NHL games to his name). He was clicking with Tavares, which makes for an intriguing player for next year. Here were the line combos:
#1 16.8% OKPOSO,KYLE – QUINE,ALAN – TAVARES,JOHN
#2 12.1% CIZIKAS,CASEY – CLUTTERBUCK,CAL – MARTIN,MATT
#3 8.6% NIELSEN,FRANS – OKPOSO,KYLE – TAVARES,JOHN
#4 6% BAILEY,JOSH – KULEMIN,NIKOLAY – NIELSEN,FRANS
A quick note about Frozen Pool player profiles – if you click on a player name above, it takes you to his regular season profile. To switch to playoffs, click the drop box in his profile and switch to the playoffs.
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