Ramblings: Thoughts on a couple of organizational goalie battles, and some waiver wire recommendations (Oct 21)
Only three goalies that have played at least three games have 100% for Quality Starts: Tuukka Rask (four starts, four QS), Darcy Kuemper (five starts, five QS) and Thatcher Demko (three and three). In the case of Demko – that’s of course very impressive. However Jacob Markstrom is also humming along (80% – and a steady, huge third period performance Sunday to stave off the comeback) and he has the advantage of also posting over 63% last year (sixth in the entire league) – meaning his job is safe. That level of consistency is honestly quite rare these days and most teams would trip over their own mother to lock him in long-term. Demko owners may be in an unfortunately position of having a top skilled goalie who is buried. But we’ll see how Markstrom’s contract situation plays out.
Another plus for Demko – we have a report for goalies that we call the Clutch Report (find it here) and in it Demko leads all goaltenders with a 1.000 SV% in the third period and overtime. Combined, he’s seen 29 shots and stopped them all.
In the case of Kuemper, his hold on the top job is secure thanks to his big contract that pays him more (and longer) than Antti Raanta. If Raanta, who is playing very well so far, can stay healthy, I strongly believe he is the better goalie. But Kuemper is not showing any weakness at all. He’s not letting Raanta get a foothold. And at this point I’d adjust my projection in the Guide for his games played from 43 to 55 – with upside for more. It’s not yet curtains for Raanta owners, but he absolutely cannot get hurt and miss games this season. Very little wiggle room on that.
Pavel Francouz had a mighty performance Saturday (44 saves) and he has Quality Starts in both of his starts this year. He’s looking like one of the better backups in the league and is a worthwhile asset to stash. He is an unrestricted free agent next summer and a desperate team could very well sign him and make him their starter. I know it’s early but…when would be a good time to stash him, when it’s “late”? Now’s the time, in many leagues.
A note on Grubauer and a big reason why Francouz won’t take the job from him (barring injury) – in the aforementioned Clutch Report you can see that Grubauer has faced 71 shots in the third period and OT this year and has allowed just one goal.
JT Miller may be pointless in his last two games, but he’s still at eight points in eight games and his TOI is by far a career high at 18:54 per game. His SOG rate is trending to top 200 when he normally takes around 135 shots. We had him in the Guide as hitting his Breakout Threshold around the midpoint of last season, and now that he’s in a prime-time roll I really think this is it. His 5on5 S% at a sky-high 14.6% screams that he’s not going to finish with a point-per-game, but I still feel good about career highs (currently 57 points).
Devan Dubnyk has been horrible this season, heading into Sunday night without a win. It looked shaky for a moment there when he let in two goals in 16 seconds early in the second period, but he nailed down the win and took a bit of the heat off himself (and frankly his coach, too).
Jason Zucker said some things, the media blew it up (do they do anything else?), he apologized – and then he picked up two points and led his team to a win. Had he not scored and had the Wild lost the game, I’m sure hockey pundits would have let it go and eased off him.
Whatever Eric Staal did to revive his career back in 2016 – he should have kept doing it. He’s only 34 and for a player of his caliber his career should have flourished a little longer. In 2014-15 and 2015-16 his decline was swift and steep, bottoming out at 39 points in 83 games. Bottoming out at 31? He took it hard, changed his offseason habits and workout regimen and came to Minnesota back to his old self when he put up 65 and then 76 points. But last year’s 52 and then this year’s horrible start? Makes me think his summers have gone back to normal. He’s been playing with Jordan Greenway and Kevin Fiala and has been taken off the top PP unit.
Brad Hunt actually leads the Wild in scoring (three goals and five points in eight games). Still not on the top PP unit, so not a reliable waiver add but definitely a good short-term one until (if/when) that changes.
After the loss Sunday, Corey Crawford is 1-3-0, 3.58 and 0.891. Robin Lehner is 1-0-1, 2.47 and 0.931. Since starting the season opener and the home opener, Crawford has split the starts evenly with Lehner and I think that was the plan until there is a clear-cut hot hand. At which point they’ll roll with the hot hand. It’s safe to say that a strong game from Lehner next time, and a win, will entrench him as the hot hand.
Dominik Kubalik scored Sunday, but that’s not the reason I recommend him as a waiver grab. I’m more interested in the increased ice time, PP time and SOG. He had 10 shots on goal Sunday and that’s not just a one-off. He had 15 in five games before that, which was already a very good shot rate. And now he’s up over four shots per game. The pucks will start going in for him. He’s unlucky but his IPP is 100% – i.e. all the goals scored while he’s been on the ice he has gotten a point on. He is being brought along slowly, as you would expect, but he looks as though he will earn more responsibility rather quickly. What coach doesn’t like 10 shots on goal from a player in a single game? His 25 shots lead the entire team by quite a margin. I said earlier (and in the Guide) that he will beat what Dominik Kahun did (37 points) last year, and he will.
Kirby Dach got into his first NHL game. And much like Kubalik, he was eased in. Not. Immediately put on a line with Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome, he ended the contest with no shots and a minus-1 rating. He did not get any PP time and lost four of his five faceoffs in 13:41 of ice time. To me he gets the nine games as a trial, and then will be back to Saskatoon by late November – and he’ll play in the WJC for Team Canada.
The Capitals and the Jets are the first teams to get in 10 games. Of those 10 games, John Carlson has points in nine of them, and at least two points in six. He was held to just a point on Sunday.
I had opined on here a couple of times, as well as in the Fantasy Guide, that the Caps acquired Garnet Hathaway and Radko Gudas to be that buffer between Tom Wilson and the penalty box. And boy was I right. Wilson is on pace for fewer than 70 minutes in penalties, while Gudas leads the team with 17 PIM already and Hathaway has nine (10 games). Defenseman Tyler Lewington also made the team – he of 121 PIM in 65 AHL games last year – to give even more of a buffer. It hasn’t translated to big points from Wilson on the score sheet just yet, though he does have five points in his last seven games. The main thing is to keep him from getting suspended again. He’s shooting more, so you may actually see him hit 200 SOG this year, which would be a career high.
So what can be said about a game that went to the end of overtime tied 0-0? The Oilers and Jets had that result. Here is a game you sat down to watch, fully expecting a high-octane 6-5 final. But hey, Mike Smith has now allowed just three goals in his last three games (78 shots). He’s making the undefeated Mikko Koskinen really work for it.
If you ignore Connor Hellebuyck’s first game in which he got blown out, he is 4-2-0 since then with a 1.82 GAA and 0.944 SV%.
Johnny Gaudreau notched an assist and it marked his first point in five games. In fact, he has just two points in his last seven games.
Jakob Silfverberg has eight points in his last seven games. Crap, I traded him in September in the last league I owned him in. I waited on that guy for seven years, had him in all three of my leagues at one time or another, re-acquired him once or twice. Would be just my luck if he pulled a late-bloomer Josh Bailey on me after all that. I’m sure I’m jumping the gun, but he generally doesn’t get off to hot starts like this. You can always count on him for big 20-, 30- or even 40-game hot spurts but he’s never given us that full season or anything close to it. Maybe that big new contract changes things?
Each day last week we had a rankings. You can always access any of the archived rankings going back years, via this link. Here were the ones that were posted last week, in case you missed them:
See you next Monday.
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