Ramblings: Thornton’s Brilliant Second Half, Elliott Hurt, A Couple of Minor Trades (Feb. 23)

by steve laidlaw on February 23, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Thornton’s Brilliant Second Half, Elliott Hurt, A Couple of Minor Trades (Feb. 23)

Ramblings: Thornton's Brilliant Second Half, Elliott Hurt, a Couple of Minor Trades and more.

Jake Allen was activated off of IR well in advance of last night’s game but the Blues went with Brian Elliott in goal anyhow. Ken Hitchcock wanted to see Allen in a full practice before giving him a start. That idea got tossed into the blender as the Sharks came out and walloped the Blues scoring three goals on 15 shots on Elliott before he had to leave due to a lower-body injury 13 minutes into the first period. No word on how much time he will miss.

I suppose it was a good thing that Allen returned though he didn’t fare too much better than Elliott giving up two goals on 17 shots. This goalie battle was all set to be one decided by performance and Elliott had the upper hand but now Allen sees the door open for him again. Will he show any rust after a month off?

All these injuries for the Blues are really mucking things up, which is why I think that there is reason for the Blues to consider zigging and selling at the trade deadline, rather than buying rental as everyone expects. I don’t suggest that they should tear it down or accept a low price but with David Backes headed to unrestricted free agency, maybe you move the captain and start transitioning to the next era.

The Blues are seemingly a step below the elite teams in the league, despite having the fourth most points of any team. Looking at their goal differential and their number of regulation/overtime wins, this does not scream “elite”. You could argue they haven’t had their full team all season and I wouldn’t debate you on that. In any case, they aren’t the favourites so I think it’s worth exploring if they can get a great return on Backes that might push them ahead in another season.

Of course, there’s an argument that all you need to do is make the playoffs and then hope that the injury luck swings your way with a healthy lineup and some key injuries for your opponents. It’s difficult to argue that notion but they could conceivably deal Backes and still hope for that good fortune come playoff time.

More importantly than whether or not the Blues decide to sell is that they avoid the rental market. There was a lot of speculation that the Alexander Steen injury would increase the odds of the Blues grabbing a rental. This I would certainly advise against. There isn’t any one player on the market that strikes me as the player that changes the Blues’ fortunes.

Of course, you look at their result last night and you wonder if the team will stay afloat with Steen out for the next month. They’ll need Allen to stand on his head to be sure.

One thing to note is how close the Blues are to the salary cap. There are murmurs that the Blues won’t be placing Steen on LTIR to generate cap space so that reduces their ability to get in on the rental market.

The Blues did have the offense going scoring four last night though most of the work was done by Vladimir Tarasenko, which comes as no surprise. Check out their lines with Steen out:

17.33%

EV

BROUWER,TROY – FABBRI,ROBBY – STASTNY,PAUL

16.44%

EV

LEHTERA,JORI – SCHWARTZ,JADEN – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

9.33%

EV

BACKES,DAVID – BERGLUND,PATRIK – PAAJARVI,MAGNUS

5.78%

EV

BRODZIAK,KYLE – REAVES,RYAN – UPSHALL,SCOTTIE

2.22%

PP

BACKES,DAVID – LEHTERA,JORI – SCHWARTZ,JADEN – TARASENKO,VLADIMIR

No big changes except that Hitchcock decided to finally use Jaden Schwartz on the power play. It comes as little surprise given the void Steen left but it was entirely possible that they would go with two defensemen on the top unit. Schwartz is the man for the next month, which makes him even more intriguing than he was before.

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Huge performance from Joe Thornton with two goals and two assists. I’m still waiting for him to get a four-goal outing so we can see the greatest celebration ever. Sadly, we may never see it. Still, this is some run we are seeing from Thornton. He is now tied for most points in the league since January 1st:

Rank

Name

Pos

Age

Yrs

Team

GR

GP

EV

PP

SH

PPG

Total

1

KUZNETSOV,EVGENY

C

23

0

WSH

22

21

22

7

0

1.38

29

2

CROSBY,SIDNEY

C

28

9

PIT

23

21

21

8

0

1.38

29

3

THORNTON,JOE

C

36

16

S.J

24

22

19

10

0

1.32

29

 

The Sharks also got two-goal nights out of Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture. These two have both been more hit and miss of late but it is nice to see Couture finally scoring at around a point-per-game pace as he has since the All-Star break. A big reason for Couture’s increased production is his growing comfort back on the power play as he is continuing to be used as the third line center at even strength. I talked about this further in my Fantasy Five segment over the weekend so make sure you are tuning in for those on SiriusXM NHL radio channel 91. You can also freely listen live here.

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The Blue Jackets appear set to continue their annual tradition of spoilerific play late in the season. In previous years it was Sergei Bobrovsky leading the charge but now it is Joonas Korpisalo who has a 9-3-4 record with a 0.926 save percentage since January 1st. Can he sustain this? Perhaps not but there are plenty of folks looking for answers in net and Korpisalo is widely available.

The Blue Jackets are quietly playing the feisty brand of hockey we hoped that they would coming into the season so perhaps it will be Korpisalo who continues Bobrovsky’s run as the top goalie for H2H playoffs or maybe Bobrovsky returns to reclaim his title.

Boone Jenner led the way for the Blue Jackets with two goals, his second two-goal game since the All-Star break. Unfortunately, those four points amount to his total output since the All-Star break. Jenner has 11 points in 19 games since Ryan Johansen’s departure, which is right about the pace he was scoring at with Johansen in the lineup so I suppose this is a positive.

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Two-goal effort from Matt Beleskey of the Bruins who has been bumped up to the top power-play unit but bumped down to the third line. When it comes to Beleskey: second line, third line, it doesn’t make much of a difference. He is going to inconsistently make his way to about 40 points no matter who you skate him with.

The loser in this is probably Ryan Spooner. While he gains Beleskey as a linemate, he loses his spot on the top PP unit.

Check out the Bruins’ lines though:

25.26%

EV

ERIKSSON,LOUI – KREJCI,DAVID – PASTRNAK,DAVID

18.34%

EV

BERGERON,PATRICE – CONNOLLY,BRETT – MARCHAND,BRAD

17.65%

EV

BELESKEY,MATT – HAYES,JIMMY – SPOONER,RYAN

11.42%

EV

FERRARO,LANDON – KEMPPAINEN,JOONAS – RINALDO,ZAC

 

This is a great spot for David Pastrnak to resume his ascendance to becoming the Bruins’ top winger. It might take a couple more years yet but the talent is there.

Also with a two-goal effort was Loui Eriksson. Lots of rumours out there that Eriksson is available. I think that the Bruins are taking the approach that I suggested earlier with the Blues and seeing if they can get a winning return for Eriksson. It seems unlikely to happen but it doesn’t make the pursuit any less worthwhile. If nothing comes available they treat Eriksson like their deadline acquisition and make their playoff push with their roster as is.

Torey Krug was in the lineup despite some injury concerns over the weekend. He has really slowed but has points in three of his last four, perhaps he is perking up?

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Alexander Ovechkin has been on a crazy tear since the All-Star break. He has 11 goals in 10 games over that span. He also has 67 SOG in those 10 games. Obviously sustaining this sort of shooting pace is unrealistic but for what it is worth, 6.7 SOG per game would equal 549 SOG over a full 82-game season, one off the all-time record set by Phil Esposito in 1970-71. The only other than Esposito with over 500 SOG in a season? Ovechkin with 528 in 2008-09.

Stick tap to Hockey Reference for that info above.

While I’m on the subject, I haven’t checked in on the Brent Burns SOG pace in a while. Burns has picked up the pace once again and has 249 SOG after last night, which gives him a pace set for 352 SOG, which would make him just the third defenseman along with Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque to land over 350 SOG in a season. Please join me in rooting for this.

Back to the Capitals who are having their own amazing season:

Indeed this team has been historically great. Of course, they need to win the Cup for it to really mean something but if you don’t have them as the hands-down favourite give your head a shake.

Mike Richards scored his first goal for the Caps and it was a controversial one:

Here’s what Louis Domingue had to say afterwards:

He may have a point but for my money, it is his own player’s stick that prevents him from getting a full freeze on that puck. Tough way to lose a game that they really needed to have to stay in the playoff hunt. Domingue has not been great for fantasy owners lately having allowed three goals or more in seven of his last 10 starts.

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson was a game-time decision for the Coyotes but ultimately played over 25 minutes and notched an assist.

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Canadiens defenseman Tom Gilbert will undergo season-ending knee surgery. Not a ton of fantasy relevance and the Canadiens called up Victor Bartley as a replacement so it’s not like a highly touted youngster is coming up for a late run.

I feel like there is a window to buy up some of the Canadiens’ top players while their slump continues. Obviously PK Subban isn’t going cheap because he has been mostly unaffected but Brendan Gallagher has six points in 10 games since the All-Star break and is plus-five in that span. I feel like he could be had for reasonably cheap. Same with Max Pacioretty who has five points in the last 10 games and has been an ugly minus-nine.

I know the numbers for Pacioretty in particular have not been favourable for a couple of months now but that’s why it is called buying low.

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I am pretty sure that Craig Smith wanted to commit seppuku after his follow through blocked this certain overtime winner:

What are the odds of that? One in a million? One in a trillion? Good gravy. This won’t help his fantasy owners but Smith would score in the shootout to help the Predators eventually get those two points.

Of course, I am not sure why I speak of Craig Smith fantasy owners since there should not be many. He has had a poor season to say the least and has just seven points since January 1st so there are no signs of changing course.

Johansen is on a cold streak right now having gone scoreless in four straight games, his first such drought since joining the Predators.

Pekka Rinne with his third straight quality start. Not sure if 10 of those would be enough to get back in the good graces of fantasy owners after his season thus far.

 

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A couple of minor deals went down yesterday:

The Leafs sent Roman Polak and Nick Spaling to the Sharks for Raffi Torres and a couple of picks.

Good deal for Toronto getting some seconds for their rentals. Polak adds a little more bite to the Sharks’ blue line. He was going to be relevant in deep leagues with hits and blocks either way. Torres won’t be seeing NHL time as he’ll stick with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate but that was always going to be the case.

The Flames dealt Markus Granlund to the Canucks for Hunter Shinkaruk in an interesting deal. It seems like most people thought this was a bad move by the Canucks but I see it as a swap of two players who have had success at the AHL level:

Shinkaruk with 37 goals and 70 points in 119 games and Granlund with 39 goals and 72 points in 85 games. Shinkaruk is a year and a half younger than Granlund but comes with less NHL experience.

One question with Granlund, is he a centerman or is he a winger? He isn’t particularly strong on the draw and with Jared McCann, Bo Horvat, Henrik Sedin and Brandon Sutter the Canucks don’t really need center depth.

Dobber’s prospect list has Granlund higher than Shinkaruk but both are within five points in the rankings system so not a huge difference. No doubt Granlund is higher because his relative proximity to being a consistent NHLer is higher.

The outlook for Shinkaruk is pretty good moving to the Flames who don’t have a ton of wing depth in the system and are probably losing a first line option in Jiri Hudler. Though it should be mentioned that it isn’t like the Canucks are lousy with wingers either.

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The Panthers don’t play this week until Thursday, which is a bit of unfortunate scheduling if you are battling to make your H2H playoffs. The upside is that the extra time off helps Aleksander Barkov and Erik Gudbranson get back in the lineup for the Panthers’ next game. However, it doesn’t appear that Jonathan Huberdeau will be quite ready to go.

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On the scheduling front, take note that the Blackhawks also do not start their week until Thursday so steer clear of these two teams on the waiver front for a couple of days.

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After scoring his second goal in 25 games Radim Vrbata went down with an injury on Sunday night. Fortunately, reports indicate that this is not serious so he remains a trade candidate.

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More injury news, it seems that Claude Giroux will not be able to play tonight as he remains out with an upper-body injury. The Flyers aren’t playing day-to-day games while Giroux battles back from a concussion are they? I am dubious of this whole situation.

Meanwhile, Michael Del Zotto is out for the next three to four months following wrist surgery. Del Zotto was already third on the Flyers’ depth chart behind Shayne Gostisbehere and Mark Streit so there is no major fantasy impact here other than Del Zotto being lost.

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With Calvin de Haan placed on IR, Ryan Pulock was recalled by the Islanders. Whether or not he can get ahead of Marek Zidlicky and/or Johnny Boychuk for some power-play time is another question. I am assuming that Nick Leddy is unassailable on the top power-play unit.

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Ilya Kovalchuk kicked up a bit of a storm for getting sent home by his KHL team after a poor performance in their first playoff game. Don’t get too excited, however. The word is that it’s just a one-game benching.

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Check out the latest prospect ramblings from the boys at Dobber Prospects.

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Elliotte Friedman did an AMA over on Reddit, which you should check out.

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.