Today we'll take a tour around the league but after a 12-game slate apologies if not all the teams in action were touched on. We'll get to them another day!
The Bruins reunited the trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak for last night’s game. All three have been productive, scoring at a point-per-game (or better) clip thus far, even after getting held off the scoresheet last night. The hope is that they are about to go on one of those crazy tears. Wait and see I suppose. The only real takeaway is for DFS owners looking for a line to stack, you could do worse than the Bruins’ big guns.
There isn’t much to gained from the Bruins’ bottom-nine, especially with David Krejci out but Danton Heinen is intriguing in deeper leagues. He has six points in seven games and has joined the big three as a fourth forward on the power play.
Torey Krug notched a pair of assists, his first multi-point game of the season. He’s up to five points in 10 games, a 41-point pace. A week ago, he had two points in eight games and owners were dropping him or on the verge but this is how quickly things can flip in the early going. Also, Krug is a better fantasy own than super-rookie Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy might be the better real-life talent but so long as Krug is getting the top PP minutes, with the exposure to Marchand and Co. you must respect the situation. And I know that I talk about this all the time but you never know when someone new will be reading.
Shea Theodore was a healthy scratch for what would have been his second game since being recalled. That of course means that it is time for everyone to panic!!! I kid. Theodore got scratched after his first game, which was only Vegas’ second loss of the season. It isn’t all that surprising that the coach went back to the lineup that was “working”. They lost again last night. I expect to see Theodore on Monday.
More importantly, if Theodore continues to be an early “flop”, I won’t be dropping him until next Wednesday. That’s because Vegas plays Saturday, Monday and Tuesday upcoming. That’s one of the densest schedules going over the next five days. After Tuesday, if Theodore is continuing to be scratched or ineffective, I’ll look elsewhere but I’m at least giving him a chance. He saw good minutes in the game he did play.
For what it’s worth, another popular waiver wire defenseman is Tim Heed of the Sharks. San Jose plays Saturday and then not again until Wednesday. If you were inclined to drop one flavour of the week for the next, the best time would be to do it next Wednesday so you get some bonus games played out of your roster spot.
Brassard, by the way, has only one point in the last five games. Losing PP time won’t help that situation.
Josh Bailey has 14 points on an eight-game scoring binge that can’t simply be traced to being reunited with John Tavares and Anders Lee but the lineup change hasn’t hurt. It’s hard to see justification for going back. Jordan Eberle is a good player but his name carries more value than he does as a player. Bailey is a strong fit with Tavares and has been for months.
We can’t expect a point-per-game pace to continue but 60-65 points isn’t out of the realm of possibility. I remember when Bailey was scoring at a 65-point pace through the second half of last season, he was woefully under-utilized in fantasy leagues. A hot start can make a ton of difference in perception, but even then, he was only at 47% ownership on Yahoo last night.
One hiccup with Bailey, he isn’t shooting much, with only 15 SOG through 13 games. He fired a career high 173 SOG last season but has historically been a low volume shooter. When the slow down eventually comes, it will be a lot harder to justify keeping Bailey on the roster.
One last Islander thing: I am keeping a close eye on Nick Leddy’s shot volume. He has never been a big shooter, although he has been an effective one with a 6.5% career shooting percentage. He set a career high for SOG last season with 137 but is on pace for 195 through 13 games. If he can sustain anything above a 180-SOG pace, he’ll be worth owning on a nightly basis, as he should be good for 40-or-so points.
Josh Anderson is putting together a nice run of productivity. He scored a pair of goals last night, giving him eight points in his last nine games. More importantly, Anderson has skated over 18 minutes in four of his last five games and has seen over a minute of PP time (with the second unit) in each of the past three games. His usage is trending upward! Anderson also has 31 SOG through 11 games, which is ludicrous shot volume for a guy who fired only 119 SOG all of last season.
Then again, Anderson was predominantly a fourth-liner in his rookie season, skating only 12 minutes a night with minimal PP time. I am a fond owner of Anderson in a multi-category cap league but I had him pigeonholed as a bottom-six 35-point guy who’d be great for PIM and hits. His current run on the top line has me reconsidering that stance. A guy getting 16+ minutes a night with decent power play time is certainly a threat for 50 points.
However, the Blue Jackets also have perhaps a dozen forwards on the roster who could skate top-six minutes and much of Anderson’s hot run has occurred with Cam Atkinson out of the lineup. There’s no way we can count on big minutes continuing for Anderson but he warrants keeping an eye on.
A more sustainable option for you: Boone Jenner. Currently skating on the top power play unit and has a history of being a productive net-front man, with a 30-goal season already under his belt. He has goals in back-to-back games. Mind you, PP time in Columbus is worth less than it is a lot of other places given how terribly the Blue Jackets have performed there in 2017 but they did score twice on five opportunities last night.
Times are tough in the Panther crease. James Reimer is getting lit up like a Christmas tree having given up 19 goals in his last five appearances. Their backup is Antti Niemi. As much as you can count on Reimer getting starts with Luongo out, you also can’t count on him being anything but a good punching bag.
Next up for Florida, the Rangers on Saturday night. You can bet I’ll be using Pavel Buchnevich in daily fantasy, hoo boy!
Antti Raanta returned for the Coyotes but at this point it may not matter who is in net for them. It is worth mentioning that Niklas Hjalmarsson was out so they were down a top defenseman. They’ve also been without Jakob Chychrun all season. He might help some. If this continues much longer, we’re looking at a season from hell, much like what Colorado experienced last season.
I still think that Raanta could have value as a third goaltender but you can’t use him right now. He’s back in the lineup but is he healthy enough to carry a team like this?
On the plus side, the Coyotes are proving to be effective deodorant for their opponents. I mean, Kyle Okposo scored his first goal of the season, Benoit Pouliot scored a pair! Even Sam Reinhart notched an assist.
Dmitri Filipovic takes a look at how the Kucherov-Stamkos duo has been so effective on the power play:
Part of the reason why this works for the Lightning is because the other team simply doesn’t know where to focus its attention or who to prioritize slowing down. With Stamkos on the left, Kucherov on the right, and Hedman perched up top, there are too many viable threats for penalty killers focus on just one guy.
Amongst all of those big names, Kucherov stands as the linchpin to the entire operation here. In the past year he’s become one of the best dual threats in the NHL. As strange as it is to say about someone who scored 40 goals last season and now leads the league in that stat, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Kucherov is just as dangerous when he’s setting the table for others.
It's a bit weird to dive into this topic following a night where the Lightning PP was blanked but I’ll dig in anyway. One of the biggest reasons I was reticent to go all-in on Kucherov, specifically projecting him for 86 points, and not some higher total was because of usage. Last season the Lightning had to lean on Kucherov a ton down the stretch. With a healthy lineup, they wouldn’t need to do so as much. Also, for as dynamite as the Kucherov-Stamkos pairing was at even strength before Stamkos’ injury, they were not sharing time on the power play.
I even went so far as to suggest that Stamkos might be a hinderance to what had become an excellent Lightning power play. My hypothesis, the Lightning power plays before the arrival of Todd Richards as assistant coach were far too focused on cueing up Stamkos for one-timers. Sure, teeing up one of the best goal scorers of his generation is a fine strategy but not if the opponent expects it. Last season, in his short run, Stamkos was used as the hub the Lightning’s second PP unit, with the top unit more focused on getting the puck onto Kucherov’s stick.
As Filipovic alludes to above, Kucherov is the straw that stirs the drink. What has made the Stamkos-Kucherov duo so lethal on the PP is how Stamkos has evolved as a passer. He still possesses the kind of one-timer that if bottled, could put rocketships on the moon but Stamkos’ deference to Kucherov has helped make the whole thing hum. No longer is it obvious the end-goal of the Lightning power play. Scary stuff.
Nino Niederreiter has points in both games since returning to the Wild lineup but has skated under 15 minutes in each game. He is skating with Eric Staal and Luke Kunin at even strength, but more intriguing are his minutes alongside Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund on the power play. That PP trio got the short end of the stick for usage last night but is ostensibly the top unit. They helped combine for the lone Wild PP goal, scored by Jared Spurgeon.
Spurgeon, by the way, has nine points in his last 10 games and is owned in only 59% of leagues. Matt Dumba notched a pair of assists, while Ryan Suter had a goal of his own, but right now if I could own only one Wild defenseman it would be Spurgeon.
Brendan Gallagher is on a tear with five goals and eight points in the last six games. His usage remains sub-optimal, skating on the second PP unit and third(?) line with Charles Hudon and Tomas Plekanec. He is averaging only 14:48 of ice time per game, although he was above 16 minutes last night. His shot volume is also on point with 41 SOG through 13 games; a 259-shot pace.
While Gallagher’s minutes are low, he is producing at a sustainable pace. I’d love to see him with skate an optimal 18+ minutes per game but he can be relevant despite his limited usage.
Mark Scheifele laughs in the face of regression talk. Think his 20% shooting last season was ridiculous? After last night’s hat-trick he is up to 30% shooting this season. But maybe spread a little of that luck (and yes, I mean luck, see below) around.
Some puck luck for the Jets as it bounces up off of Scheifele and in behind Bishop. 4-2 Jets. pic.twitter.com/ue1SdbxibJ— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) November 3, 2017
Patrik Laine owners will be happy to see the sniper broke his *gasp* four-game scoring drought last night.
Kyle Connor skated, I shit you not, 23 minutes last night. That’s a positive side effect of the Jets fielding a ghastly bottom-six. They almost can’t afford not to skate the legs off their big guns. Also, the Jets didn’t have to kill a single power play, unheard of for them, so the top line with Scheifele, Connor and Blake Wheeler saw 20 minutes of action, just at even strength. Connor is also skating with those two on the top PP unit.
Connor didn’t score last night but has been a dynamite prospect for a while and is finally getting a real shot. He has five points in seven games and is definitely worth a look in deeper settings.
Connor Hellebuyck, owned in just 70% of Yahoo leagues, boasts a 7-0-1 record with a goals-against average below 2.00 and a save percentage above 0.930. I don’t want to get carried away and say Hellebuyck is going to be a stud all season but at least use him now if he’s on your waiver wire.
Semyon Varlamov faced an outrageous 60 SOG last night and stopped 57 of them for an Avs win. Hockey Reference has only two other such games on record and both times the goalie face 60 shots, they ended up losing. Congrats on the ludicrous performance, Mr. Varlamov!
Sven Andrighetto is on the outs in Colorado. After a hot start, he has just two points in the last seven games and has seen his ice time slip from 17 minutes a night to 15. He has gone from skating alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to Matt Duchene and Rocco Grimaldi.
The lucky winner of Andrighetto’s lost spot is Gabriel Landeskog, who has four points in his last four games. The once star forward has seen a major uptick in his shot volume this season, averaging nearly three SOG per game. After back-to-back 169-SOG seasons, Landeskog is on pace for a career high 239 SOG but simply clearing the 200-SOG plateau would go a long way to rejuvenating his fantasy value.
Auston Matthews nets his 10th of the season:
MATTHEWS 50TH CAREER GOAL!— Flintor (@TheFlintor) November 3, 2017
10th of the season and 1st penalty shot. pic.twitter.com/QYWI4az6Iy
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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