The Devils’ Butcher, Capital Punishers, Resting Talbot, plus more…
With the arrival of the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL is up to 31 teams. So as long as there is an odd number of teams in the league, we will never experience a day where all NHL teams are in action. So the odd team out on Saturday was the Boston Bruins. Regardless, it was a very busy night with the other 30 teams in action. Here’s a rundown of what happened and what it means from a fantasy perspective.
Brock Boeser, a popular Calder Trophy candidate, was a healthy scratch for the Canucks’ opening-night game against Edmonton. Boeser is just another example of a player with clear NHL-level talent that is not in his team’s lineup because of salary cap reasons, the perception that he is not strong enough defensively, and/or the coach simply trusting certain veterans more.
A similar thing happened on Friday with the Vegas Golden Knights, who did not have Vadim Shipachyov or Shea Theodore in the lineup because George McPhee couldn’t unload an extra defenseman or two. I know your fantasy lineup is better with these players, and the real-life lineup could be too. But this is a scenario that you need to take into account if you are drafting a player with little to no NHL experience, even if this player is can’t-miss. I know it doesn’t seem right. But life isn’t fair, and that goes for fantasy hockey as well.
One rookie who wasn’t the odd man out on his team was Will Butcher, and so far he has proven that the Devils made the right decision. Butcher assisted three times, all on the power play, although he did not take a shot on goal. In a game in which John Hynes used ten different forwards on the power play, Butcher and Damon Severson were the only two Devils’ blueliners to see power-play time. Butcher saw just 12:45 of overall icetime, yet 3:23 of that was in power-play time. So his role at least to start appears to be as a power-play specialist.
Included in that mix of forwards used on the power play was Jesper Bratt, who scored his first NHL goal on the power play and also added a shorthanded assist in 16:19 of icetime. Bratt was a sixth-round pick in 2016, so he won’t have nearly the pedigree of a Nico Hischier or a Pavel Zacha. He’s not even in the top 10 for Devils’ prospects, according to Dobber Prospects. But you can view his profile here.
Palmieri-E.Johnson knee-on-knee. Brutal, Palmieri was looking so good. pic.twitter.com/f5jpdY0Ixc
— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) October 7, 2017
If the now 32-year-old Alex Ovechkin is supposed to be on the downside of his career, he sure hasn’t shown it in the Capitals’ first two games. Ovechkin scored four times on Saturday, giving him seven goals over just his first two games. I’m thinking Ovie is going to win folks a lot of head-to-head matchups this week.
This will probably fly under the radar with Ovechkin’s accomplishments, but Evgeny Kuznetsov has assisted on all of Ovie’s seven goals this season. Jakub Vrana, the third man on the line, recorded “just” one assist to give him three helpers in two games, but he’s a must-add as long as the league can’t stop Ovechkin and Kuznetsov.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 8, 2017
Not only did Nathan Walker play in his first NHL game, but he also scored his first NHL goal. Not only that, but the Australian ambassador to the US was sure to congratulate him. His name? Joe Hockey. You can’t make this stuff up.
There were five goalies pulled on Saturday, including Carey Price, Cam Talbot, and Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik’s night stood out as especially bad, as he allowed five goals in the first period to the Leafs. Mind you, the Leafs have been pounding goalies to the tune of 15 goals in just two games. Strangely enough, no Leaf skater had more than two points in the 8-5 win.
But there was one Rangers’ scoring star on Saturday, and that was Mats Zuccarello. The Norwegian scored a goal and added three assists, giving him five points in his first two games. He also led all Rangers with 2:31 of power-play time, where two of his points occurred. Zuccarello led the Rangers in scoring last season (59 points), and it wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in scoring again this season. I was happy to pick him late in Round 14 (167th overall) in one of my leagues.
Fun fact from the Sabres/Islanders game: The teams combined for four shorthanded goals in the second period. Two of those goals were scored by Evander Kane, and one each from John Tavares and Casey Cizikas. All of the three scored two goals and added an assist in this game. Usually killing penalties isn’t the way to go to improve your offense, but for some reason it worked for all three in this game.
Shout out to Nick Alberga and Rory Boylen on their new show Hockey Central Saturday for mentioning the outstanding fantasy performance of Ryan Reaves, who made the most of his six minutes of icetime on Saturday. The Penguins’ version of Dave Semenko scored a goal while adding 24 penalty minutes and dishing seven hits. And I bet none of you started him. I sure didn’t.
If Patrick Kane and his Blackhawks’ teammates say that they miss Artemi Panarin, it sure didn’t seem that way on Saturday. Brandon Saad, the main piece acquired in the offseason trade for Panarin, added another goal and assist on Saturday, giving him five points (including four goals) in just two games. Saad’s return is also helping Jonathan Toews, who has three points in two games. That might bode well for the fantasy value of the player that we keep saying is better in real life than in fantasy.
Congratulations to the Vegas Golden Knights!
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 8, 2017
Hopefully they stick around longer than the Seals did.
James Neal scored the overtime winner, giving him three goals in two games and the honor of being Vegas’ first scoring star.
Antti Raanta didn’t make it easy for the Knights with one of the better goaltending efforts of the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots in the OT loss. He will need to have a few more games like this if the Coyotes are to be competitive.
Vladislav Namestnikov is in a very good spot right now. He’s on a line with Steven Stamkos, and he’s receiving first-unit power-play time. So it should come as no surprise that with a power-play goal and an assist, he is now up to two power-play goals and an assist in just two games. He has yet to deliver the kind of production or icetime that would be necessary for a “start in all formats” kind of player. But if this situation continues to play out the way it is, he is someone whose ownership in Yahoo leagues (15%) will surely climb.
Something you haven’t seen since probably the early 2000’s:
Daniel Sedin: 14:02 of icetime on Saturday
Henrik Sedin: 13:30 of icetime on Saturday
The phasing out of the Sedins may have already begun. If you’ve watched them recently, you’ll see why, as it appears that they have gotten a bit slower while the NHL has gotten a bit faster. As a result, new linemate Thomas Vanek was held to just 13:18 in his Canucks’ debut.
The Canucks are Bo Horvat’s team now, and he showed why on Saturday, scoring a pair of goals while nearly scoring a third later in the game.
After both Oilers’ fans and non-Oilers’ fans raved about Connor McDavid’s hat trick debut on Wednesday, the consensus fantasy first overall pick was held without a point with a minus-1 in 24 minutes of icetime against the Canucks.
Cam Talbot was pulled after allowing four goals on seven shots, although the Oilers’ defense looked very suspect this entire game, giving up numerous breakaways and 2-on-1’s to a team that no one is picking to make the playoffs. It was actually backup Laurent Brossoit who kept the Oilers in this game, stopping all 19 shots he faced once he took over from Talbot.
If I were an Oilers’ fan, I’d be hoping that Talbot isn’t pushed to the limit like he was last season (a league-leading 73 games played). Brossoit hasn’t looked bad whenever I’ve seen it, and he has the numbers to prove it (1.99 GAA, .928 SV%), albeit from a small sample size (8 games played last season). I can remember Grant Fuhr playing 75 games one season back in the day, but he never started 70+ games in back-to-back seasons. Talbot might be a workhorse, but I don’t think Brossoit would be a massive dropoff between the pipes whenever he spot starts.
Massive facepalm right now if you own Steve Mason. After allowing five goals in two periods to the Leafs on Wednesday, Mason allowed six goals (four in the second period) to the Flames on Saturday. We’re still waiting for the Jets to be a breakout team, and they have the offense to do it. But I was leery on drafting Mason this season, given the Jets’ recent history with goaltending. It’s very early, but from experience I can tell you that the best place for Mason is the bench when he’s going through these goaltending hiccups. Plus there’s Connor Hellebuyck waiting in the wings.
Just as the Leafs feasted on Mason on Wednesday, the Flames did so on Saturday. TJ Brodie and Johnny Gaudreau each recorded four points. With the Flames being shut out on Wednesday, these were the first points of the season for both.
Opinions seem to be divided on whether Anze Kopitar will bounce back from his first sub-60 point season in his career (over a full season). He looked alright on Saturday, scoring two goals and adding an assist with five shots on goal in the Kings’ win over San Jose.
I mentioned Tyler Toffoli in my previous Ramblings as a rebound candidate because of his reduced shooting percentage last season. Keep in mind that Kopitar is in the same boat (8% last season, 12% career). With the Kings more focused on offense under a new coach, Kopitar should be a slam dunk to improve on last season’s 12 goals and a strong bet to improve on last season’s 52 points.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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