It’s getting near that time again, gang! My 13th annual Interactive Playoff Draft List is going to be released Thursday (and updated until next Monday). Pre-order it HERE.
Ryan Donato has come back to earth somewhat after his scorching debut, managing “just” three points in his last six games. Curious to see if Rick Nash knocks him out of the lineup or if it’s Brian Gionta or Tommy Wingels. For it to be Donato, his play would have to really decline – but that could happen if Nash sops up all his PP time and good linemates. Sunday those linemates were David Krejci and the red-hot Jake DeBrusk (discounting his injury games missed, he has 12 points in his last 10). Donato doesn’t deserve to be scratched, but I see this all the time – the big name former star getting PP priority. Take Donato off that top PP line and he could feasibly go the final three games without a point. If that happens, does he see some playoff scratches? Proceed with caution on Donato in your playoff pool draft this weekend.
Rick Nash, by the way, is not on Boston’s road trip, so Donato’s PP spot is probably safe. Until the postseason starts. I’d expect Nash to be back in time for the first game.
In 31 games Travis Konecny had 10 points to start the season. Since then, with two more Sunday, he has 37 points in 47 games. Even though he’s doing this all at even strength (just three PPPts), to me this bodes well for a 60-point season. Much will be dependent on Claude Giroux staying healthy and continuing to play out of this world. Because otherwise, without the PP time Konecny won’t hit 60. But assuming the same Giroux, I think Konecny gets there even without top PP billing. And yes, I know that’s pretty rare.
Speaking of Giroux, I wish I had a good explanation for what we’re seeing this year. Normally you don’t see a player go 86 points, 73 points, 67 points, 58 points…and then career high at the age of 30. That’s like James Neal getting 80 points next year, or Jordan Eberle getting 85. Just when you start re-evaluating a player and re-categorizing him, he does this. And it’s not Jakub Voracek either – it’s Giroux. Just 23 of his 61 ES points this season have come with Voracek on the ice. Certainly luck has played a role – his 10.5% 5on5 SH% is above his norm of around 8.5% (assuming the last three years of approximately 6.75% were below his norm) – but that only accounts for maybe a dozen points. Even without that, he’s still sitting on a season that’s above a point-per-game. Digging deeper, I looked at his Wiki page and was reminded of his butt-grabbing incident with a cop back in 2014. His production declined after that. Maybe he was a partier? In the middle of last season he got engaged to his girlfriend and perhaps that settled him down and gave him focus? An offseason with a fiancé maybe changed him, I don’t know. Or maybe I’m just thinking too much about what I was rambling about last week with regards to changing family situations.
At any rate, with a return to form of Shayne Gostisbehere, the emergence of both Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, as well as perhaps a stable (less-partying) atmosphere in his personal life, I think the real Giroux is back. A “freer” NHL (slashing crackdown) doesn’t hurt, either.
Konecny and Giroux at work here. A couple of disgusting goals:
Ivan Provorov has five points, seven SOG, eight BLKS and six Hits over his last three games. He’s is still on track to be a complete – and elite – NHL defenseman and multi-category fantasy stud.
After throwing Eeli Tolvanen into the fire in his first game, Coach Peter Laviolette shifted gears and threw him on a depth line, dialling back his ice time (11:07). Tolvanen lined up with Nick Bonino and Colton Sissons. What I’d like to see is for him to play the final three games well enough to earn the coach’s trust and chip in a point or two despite the lack of quality linemates. Get himself a spot on the playoff roster and make sure he’s on this team in the fall. Sure, it would be nice if he made a huge splash and started dominating right away. But this is Nashville – a deep team with a careful (with youngsters) coach. If he’s going to be stuck on a depth line, I don’t want him to mess up. Because once he goes to the press box, he’s probably not getting back during playoff time. So Job 1 is to stay out of the press box in the first place. Set expectations and hopes for the above, and anything better than that will be all the more satisfying.
With Tolvanen moved down the lineup and Viktor Arvidsson sidelined day to day, Craig Smith was moved up to the big line and picked up an assist. Since Filip Forsberg had a big game (three points), I suspect Smith has that job until Arvidsson returns (best guess is he’s back in two games – no source on that, just a guess).
The Preds are still resting their players on a rotating basis and now Pekka Rinne is getting in on it. Juuse Saros has started every second game for the last five games and seeing the most action of the season.
Nikita Kucherov has just two points in his last six games. For him, that’s a huge slump. He’s minus-5 in that span too. As a team, the Lightning have won just one of their last five.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, before January 5 (34 GP): 26-5-2, 2.04 GAA, 0.939 SV% and everyone’s Vezina slam-dunk winner.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, after January 5 (29 GP): 16-12-1, 3.45 GAA, 0.899 SV%
The Leafs could be catching this team in the playoffs at just the right time.
The top PP unit for both the Capitals and the Penguins got to play around seven minutes in their game Sunday, yet neither unit was able to convert. Go figure.
With Philipp Grubauer winning seven of his last eight starts, what we have in Washington is a good old fashioned goaltender controversy. Sure, Braden Holtby will be the playoff starter – I guarantee it. But that won’t stop the media, the bloggers and the fans on social media from clamouring for Grubauer. His overall season numbers are better, and since January 1st they’ve been absolutely stellar: 13-4-0, 2.04 GAA and 0.935 SV%.
Washington is basically rolling with three lines. And now Jay Beagle is out indefinitely. You think Coach Barry Trotz isn’t considering Grubauer? Not publicly, but you know privately he wants Grubauer. But he has to roll with Holtby and the only way to increase the odds of success with Holtby is to be 100% behind him and fully confident in public. So he’ll say the words, but he’ll be thinking different thoughts.
Tyson Jost has five goals and 26 SOG in his last 12 games. Sure, he has zero assists, but you can see that he’s starting to get more leash and gain more confidence. His PP time has seen a huge increase – he’s on the top unit – since late February. I suspect he’ll take a step forward next year, but watch for him to play a surprisingly productive role in the postseason if the Avs get there and steal a round.
With 42 goals and 75 points, William Karlsson has firmly crossed the Golden Boy threshold. It's one thing to get 39 goals and 69 points. But when you cross 40 and 75 it's a completely different animal. Besides the increased digit at the front of his million-dollar contract, Karlsson will have the full confidence of the coach (and himself) for the next three years – even if he sucks horribly. His ticket is punched – you can expect big points from now on. Just in case you were heading into the summer ready to treat him like a 60-point player with the potential to swing down to 50 points or up to 75 – you should change your thinking. Advanced stats point to him falling short of 40 goals next year, but I think he'll still make it close and he'll increase his assist total to make sure he reaches 70. I've – we've – underrated this guy long enough and it's time to stop.
Will I have the free playoff box pools available again this year? Yes. Look for that on Wednesday. You can follow the box pool Facebook Page for the announcement when that is out.
I’m off to celebrate my 44th birthday. This one is especially sweet, given that last summer I wasn’t sure I’d get here. Just cherishing life, man…
Here are the latest 20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts. See you next week!
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- Forum Buzz: Keller's Value With Kessel, Horvat's Ceiling, & Keeper Decisions
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- Ramblings: A new goal model; John Gibson, Linus Ullmark, and Cory Schneider - August 15
- Ramblings: Laine Contract Stall, Weber Comparable, Undervalued Players in CBS (Aug 17)
- Capped: Team by team buy and sell, part 2
- Frozen Tools Forensics: Impending Contract Years – Part 1