Ramblings: The Triumphant Return of Kopitar, Cammalleri and O’Reilly (Nov 24)

by steve laidlaw on November 24, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: The Triumphant Return of Kopitar, Cammalleri and O’Reilly (Nov 24)

Kopitar, Cammalleri and O'Reilly return, Ovechkin spits hot fire and more following a packed slate.

A rare packed Wednesday slate last night with American Thanksgiving today. Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers. It’s not a holiday on our side of the border but I’ll be making my annual trip to visit my grandparents this weekend. It’s this time of year when I am reminded of what is important so I will be setting and forgetting my lineups and taking the weekend off from the constant tinkering. You'll get one more ramblings out of me tomorrow and then I'm off! Of course, come Monday I’ll have had my fill of family and will be ready for the distractions of this fantasy world.

On to the action!

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Because we cannot have nice things Jonathan Toews went down with an injury and did not return. For what it’s worth, the situation is hopeful:

The decision was made prior to the Toews injury, but Patrick Kane was reunited with Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin. Kane did not get a point but the other two combined for the lone Blackhawk goal.

Marcus Kruger also left this game due to the concussion protocol but his situation doesn’t sound bad either.

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Some idiot wrote about Alex Ovechkin’s slower start on Monday:

Also concerning is the reduction in shots per game, likely resulting from the clipping of his minutes. Ovechkin is still among the shot leaders but he normally blows the league away and he is currently trailing Brent Burns. Ovechkin is on pace for “only” 341 SOG, which stinks if you drafted him expecting near 400.

Of course, Ovechkin goes out and nets a hat-trick with five shots. Excuse me while I remove my foot from my mouth.

In all seriousness, I’ve written plenty about how Ovechkin’s scoring will be fine. I really do think that the minutes crunch is affecting his shot production negatively. He has lost almost a shot per game from his usual rate of production, which has allowed Brent Burns to snag the league lead. His shot figures are still awesome but not “I’m winning SOG every week” awesome. He is coming back to the pack. For a lot of you, this doesn’t matter, Ovechkin’s scoring will be fine. If you score SOG, this is an annoying factor you have to deal with.

More importantly, Evgeny Kuznetsov finally broke his goose egg in the power-play point department. Kuznetsov hasn’t seen a ton of top unit PP time this season and since Ovechkin is spending less time skating on both units that second unit has suffered. With TJ Oshie out, Kuznetsov is up on the top unit and looks to be a huge beneficiary of that injury.

Another trend is that Matt Niskanen has taken top unit duties away from John Carlson for the past three games. There’s definitely a group who believe that Niskanen is a better defenseman than Carlson. I won’t go quite that far, certainly not from a fantasy perspective but it would be nice if Carlson grabbed that top unit job and didn’t let it go. It seems every season Niskanen or someone else is poking away at his dominance. He eventually makes his way back to the top unit but he is never going to put together a 60-point season with this always happening.

Niskanen doesn’t meet my benchmarks for fantasy defensemen that I want on my roster in standard leagues. I would consider him if he was the permanent guy on the Capitals’ top unit. He certainly warrants scooping up while he is in this prime position. Unfortunately, Niskanen is owned in most leagues. If you have him, I’d use this opportunity to sell, not that his numbers are outstanding, which is kind of the point. You’d do better streaming in a hot option with a high volume of games than you would simply using Niskanen for 82 games and finishing with 35 points.

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Robby Fabbri has been held off the board in each of the past two games. He is no longer on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko. He is continuing to see top unit PP time with Tarasenko though so don’t quit on Fabbri because of this hiccup.  

Lots of folks are wondering what to do with Paul Stastny who has cooled off after a hot start. He does have three points in the last four games, but the trends are not positive. I got over-excited when he was popping goals as the new net-front guy on the Blues’ top PP unit, but when things went cold he got moved out. Will he get back in? Maybe. Seems like the tinkering is never going to stop in St. Louis. Safe bet is to reset back to your pre-season expectations for Stastny. He’s a guy who is probably getting you on the lower end of the 45-55 -point range because of injuries (having missed an average of 11 games over the last four seasons.)

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Ryan O’Reilly got back into the lineup for Buffalo, which certainly helped as they outshot Detroit 33-24, with O’Reilly contributing five of those. Ultimately, they could only get one past Jimmy Howard.

Howard is doing his best to keep Petr Mrazek out of the Wings’ crease and Mrazek isn’t helping himself having allowed four goals in each of his last four starts. Howard was very much in the conversation over the first two months of last season and then December hit and Mrazek took over. Doesn’t seem to be trending that way this season but I can’t shake the notion that Mrazek will be heard from at some point. That’s just the nature of these tandem situations.

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Now that my dalliance with Tomas Tatar is over I have a new fatal attraction on the Wings, his name is Ryan Sproul. He notched an assist in only 16 minutes of action but that brings him to four points in eight games. I want to see more. What I really want is to see him take the reigns of the top PP unit whenever Mike Green gets his annual injury but I won’t get ahead of myself.

If Sproul can stick in this lineup, skate 16-18 minutes per game with some secondary PP time and finish up with 25 points skating on this team, well that would be a great rookie season.

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Dominant bounce-back game for the Penguins after getting thumped by the Rangers on Monday. I think we need this to be a playoff series. I can only assume that since the hockey gods are determined to take away all our nice things that we will spurn us of this beauty as well.

Has anyone heard the theory that the Penguins just feel more comfortable with Matt Murray in net and thus play better in front of him? Interesting theory. Marc-Andre Fleury was the Penguins’ best player early on when both Sidney Crosby and Murray were out but he has certainly tailed off. I don’t put that all on Fleury, which is where this theory may hold some water. What if it’s one of those self-fulfilling deals where the Penguins play a little shakier in front of Fleury, who in turn looks a little shakier, which hinders the Penguins’ confidence and thus their play in front of him and it all just keeps spiralling?

I don’t really buy this theory though it is fun to speculate. Ultimately, we’ll never know so I figured that I would share that this is out there. You guys know that I think Fleury is still in the mix. He will be heard from!

No points for Jake Guentzel in his second outing but he is still skating with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel so don’t give up on him.

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Welcome back Mike Cammalleri! A four-point night for Cammalleri in his return from tending to his daughter who was ill with pneumonia. Yet again, here is a reminder of what is important.

Here were the Devils’ lines with Cammalleri back:

#1 18.4% HENRIQUE,ADAM – PARENTEAU,PA – ZACHA,PAVEL 

#2 17.8% CAMMALLERI,MIKE – LAPPIN,NICK – ZAJAC,TRAVIS 

#3 10.3% CAMMALLERI,MIKE – PARENTEAU,PA – ZAJAC,TRAVIS 

#4 7% FIDDLER,VERNON – KALININ,SERGEY – LAPPIN,NICK

Good spot for Travis Zajac who picked up three points of his own. Zajac isn’t consistent enough to really be a threat but perhaps he has a hot run of play here.

John Moore grabbed Damon Severson’s spot on the Devils’ top PP unit. Not sure that this will continue. Severson still saw over 60% of the available PP time so he wasn’t pushed out entirely. I’m thinking that this was a one-off but we’ll have to monitor the situation. New Jersey isn’t a lethal enough team that Severson can afford any slippage in usage.

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Welcome back to the world of scoring Auston Matthews! I’m not going to deep dive on the Leafs but consider this your reminder that I had Matthews projected for the John Tavares rookie season: 24 goals and 54 points. Admittedly, Matthews looks better than Tavares did as a rookie. He is certainly shooting the puck much more. He is making a case for a 60-point season. If he can sustain his level of play for 82 games it will definitely happen, but I’m wondering if he hits a wall at some point.

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Drew Stafford made his return for the Jets, check out their latest lines:

#1           29.6%    EHLERS,NIKOLAJ – SCHEIFELE,MARK – WHEELER,BLAKE

#2           21.3%    COPP,ANDREW – LOWRY,ADAM – STAFFORD,DREW

#3           18.3%    LAINE,PATRIK – PETAN,NIC – TANEV,BRANDON

#4           12.4%    BURMISTROV,ALEXANDER – DANO,MARKO – THORBURN,CHRIS

Not a great spot for Stafford to start in. He skated just over 13 minutes with no power play action. I can only assume he’ll find his way onto the second unit at some point.

Seems like Ehlers, Wheeler and Laine are just going to be a revolving door around Mark Scheifele, which I suppose makes sense.

Marko Dano skated just 10 minutes and now that he is out of the top-six he is entirely droppable.

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After some experimenting earlier this week the Wild’s lines got back to normal last night:

#1 31.4% COYLE,CHARLIE – PARISE,ZACH – STAAL,ERIC 

#2 20.7% HAULA,ERIK – NIEDERREITER,NINO – POMINVILLE,JASON 

#3 17.2% MITCHELL,ZACK – STEWART,CHRIS – ZUCKER,JASON 

#4 13.6% GRANLUND,MIKAEL – GRAOVAC,TYLER – KOIVU,MIKKO

Parise recorded his first point since returning from injury. He’s been back for four games now. Hopefully this gets him going. I do have some concerns about Parise’s usage. He’s still a factor on the top PP unit but overall his ice time is down to 18:31 per game, the first time it has dipped below 19 in his Wild tenure. He is also seeing more usage on the penalty kill than in the past. So his minutes are down but his tough minutes are up? Not a recipe for fantasy gold.

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I did not have the Flames in the “first team to shutout the Blue Jackets” pool but I guess when you’re hot, you’re hot and Chad Johnson certainly is. Chad Johnson is certainly worth taking a flyer on although most of the “Should I pick up Chad Johnson?” questions I have received have involved dropping guys like Fleury or Steve Mason.

Mason and Fleury are better long-term options. Mason was rounding the corner until they played him on both ends of a back-to-back with the second leg against Tampa Bay. No surprise that he got derailed.

Johnson is a short-term solution. It could be worth it to make the move but only you know how desperate your goaltending situation is and the larger mechanics of player movement in your league. My suggestion would be to drop your worst skater and to carry Johnson as an extra goalie.

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I tried doing a blurb on the Jackets but every time I started I would automatically type “Werenski” and then drool all over my keyboard.

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Shayne Gostisbehere is now scoreless in three straight since his healthy scratch and five straight overall. Not the response I was expecting, although I suppose it is tougher for defensemen to force the issue offensively, even defensemen as gifted as Gostisbehere. He has also gone minus-two over these three games, which may or may not matter. Those minuses both came in games against Tampa Bay so perhaps give him a pass.

Ivan Provorov, meanwhile, had a two-point night including scoring his first NHL goal. He is right on Gostisbehere’s heels for scoring but this is no contest, Gostisbehere is the better fantasy option.

Check out the Flyers’ lines without Sean Couturier, who will be out 4-6 weeks:

#1 26% GIROUX,CLAUDE – SCHENN,BRAYDEN – VORACEK,JAKUB 

#2 23% COUSINS,NICK – KONECNY,TRAVIS – SIMMONDS,WAYNE 

#3 15.7% BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – RAFFL,MICHAEL – READ,MATT 

#4 15.2% LAUGHTON,SCOTT – VANDEVELDE,CHRIS – WEISE,DALE 

Decent spot for Cousins but I don’t like him enough to recommend an acquisition.

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Tyler Johnson’s scoring streak has hit five games. I really hate that it took a Steven Stamkos injury for us to get here but at last, Johnson is heating up.

Also heating up: Ondrej Palat. He has four points in the last three games. I am cautiously optimistic. Both of Palat’s assists last night were secondary but he needs all the breaks he can get. He is skating huge minutes with awesome players, only a matter of time before he got in on the fun. Perhaps a good time to take a flyer, although the Lightning schedule isn’t the most appealing over the next week.

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John Klingberg returned to the Stars’ lineup after being a healthy scratch earlier in the week. He was held scoreless in 20 minutes of action. It has not been a particularly good start for Klingberg who like Gostisbehere has 10 points in 20 games. Funny how good these guys are that a 40-point pace is struggling but that’s how things go for defensemen. When 50 points makes for an elite season, it is easy for there to be some quiet stretches, even for the best, which is why I set such a high bar for fantasy defensemen.

Klingberg isn’t even shooting the puck that often, which is alarming. He has only 25 SOG through 20 games. That’s a 101-shot pace. YIKES! Klingberg’s never been a big shooter but he at least landed more than two shots per game last season.

Klingberg’s return pushed Julius Honka down the depth chart, but he still skated and got five SOG. He has 10 SOG in two games.

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Last night was pretty well exactly what you’d expect from the Predators when they are rolling. Seemingly all of their offensive stars got in on the scoring action, including Filip Forsberg who scored just his second goal of the season. Pretty scary that Forsberg has only two goals and yet has 15 points in 19 games.

Ryan Johansen also scored his second goal of the season. Less promising returns from him with 11 points through 19 games. But he’s just one hot streak from pacing for 60 points.

The Predators are the rare team with the weapons to load up two separate PP units. What will often happen is one unit gets a huge chunk of time on nights when they are hot, as Johansen’s unit was last night. The problem is they are shutout of minutes on nights when the other unit is rolling. PP scoring hasn’t really been the issue for Johansen as six of his 11 points have come with the man advantage. Still, the dueling banjos look limits his overall upside. Johansen’s got 80-point potential on a squad that loads up one unit.

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Honest question: should we treat all Coyotes-Canucks contests as AHL affairs? Nothing that happens in them leads me to believe anything about what either one will accomplish against actual NHL teams. And sure, each team has a few guys who are mildly intriguing but on the whole, this game changes nothing.

For instance, Anthony DeAngelo notched an assist to give him five points in seven games so far. DeAngelo is talented and is partnering with Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the top PP unit. I like him a lot. He also has two points in two games vs. Vancouver and three points in five games otherwise. Small sample sizes galore. I’m thinking 30-35 points for DeAngelo because the Canucks are only on the schedule so many more times.

How about Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi who each had three points? Are they suddenly hot commodities or is this a couple of decent scorers on a bad team getting their points in bunches against other bad teams on their way to 45-point seasons?

I really like Horvat. He has eight points in his last eight games but I’m just not buying him for more than 45 points.

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No points for Patrick Marleau last night but he did have six SOG. He continues to be in a great spot now that he is back on the top line.

It took a shorthanded break but Joel Ward finally scored his first goal of the season. He has been pressing of late with 15 SOG in the past three games. The Sharks really need some of their depth scorers to start producing. If you recall, Ward had a great run of relevance last season but that was with Logan Couture on the shelf. Without the top unit PP time, Ward is a middling secondary option. I really only like the five guys on the Sharks’ top PP unit.

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I told you guys this Mikko Rantanen kid had skills! Not exactly a bold call but here he is with five points in the past three games, clicking on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and Rene Bourque. Two points for all three of those guys last night.

I have no time for Bourque except for in the deepest of leagues but Rantanen is worth grabbing, just make sure you wear an oven mitt.

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Play with Connor McDavid, produce like a star. That’s what I make of Milan Lucic’s four-point night. He won’t skate all 82 alongside McDavid but if he skates 50-60 he’ll sniff a similar point total.

The Oilers’ terrible power play has put in work over the past two games going 4/10. Not coincidentally, Leon Draisaitl has eight points in the past five games, and got a point on all four of those power-play goals. This is a nice hot streak, Draisaitl will surely have a few more but he doesn’t consistently skate with McDavid and the Oilers’ PP really is bad so this feels like a 50-point season.

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Anze Kopitar returned to the Kings lineup last night skating 19:11 with secondary PP minutes. Interestingly, here are the PP lines that were used:

#1 37.5% CARTER,JEFF – PEARSON,TANNER – TOFFOLI,TYLER 

#2 12.5% CARTER,JEFF – KOPITAR,ANZE – TOFFOLI,TYLER 

#3 12.5% PEARSON,TANNER – TOFFOLI,TYLER 

#4 12.5% BROWN,DUSTIN – DOWD,NIC – KOPITAR,ANZE – SETOGUCHI,DEVIN 

I don’t have an explanation for this but I don’t love it. I can’t imagine it continues but if it does, it would certainly help Pearson linger as a relevant option. I’m betting against Pearson and will be dropping him in the one league that I have him in.

Also working against Pearson: the looming return of Marian Gaborik.

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Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016-17 New York Islanders:

I despise this team.

Anders Lee scored both goals for them and did so getting into knife-fighting range, which is where he needs to be. I still have little faith in him considering his usage but this is the fifth straight game that he has skated significant, albeit it secondary, power play time. He has fired 15 of his 33 SOG in these five games. That’s a positive trend.

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Check out my latest for Puck Daddy looking at some of the biggest shooting percentage outliers and what to expect when the regression hits.

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.