Ramblings: Thoughts on Philly goaltending, Connolly, Hirose, Bobrovsky, Lehner and more (Mar 25)

by Dobber on March 25, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Thoughts on Philly goaltending, Connolly, Hirose, Bobrovsky, Lehner and more (Mar 25)

Ramblings: Thoughts on Philly goaltending, Connolly, Hirose, Bobrovsky, Lehner and more (Mar 25)

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The Flyers have lost five of seven games and their playoff hopes hang by a thread. The team would have preferred not to toss young Carter Hart into the fire at this stage in his development, but they know that he represents their best shot at getting there. So the Flyers will juggle three goalies and ride Hart in all but the second of back-to-backs. Which was the case Sunday when Brian Elliott got the start (and took the loss).

It would be interesting to see how things shake out for Philadelphia between the pipes in the summer with both Elliott and Cam Talbot as UFAs. A thought I have is that the team re-signs one of them to be Hart’s backup, giving Hart the reins next season in what I think is a full year ahead of their original plan for him. On one hand you have a veteran who still seems to be adequate when called upon, but is injury prone. At 33, I think what you’re seeing from Elliott is what you get. On the other hand you have Talbot who seems to have completely fallen apart, and what I suspect started to happen when his life changed upon the birth of his twins a couple of years ago. He could fill in as a backup and at the age of 31 I think could at least rebound a little. He could shoulder the load whenever Hart stumbles or is injured. The point is, I suspect that one of the two will be back with the Flyers next season.

Brett Connolly’s career season continues to get better. He has eight points in his last six games. This is particularly impressive because his ice time is actually declining from quarter to quarter. Here is his quarterly breakdown:

 

Quarter

GP

G

A

PTS

SOG

PPP

PPTOI

TOI

1

19

2

8

10

34

1

1:12

13:10

2

22

7

7

14

36

1

1:06

14:13

3

22

6

3

9

31

0

0:11

12:20

4

13

6

5

11

27

0

0:04

12:04

 

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The favored goaltender for the Islanders has swung back to Robin Lehner. After Thomas Greiss was pulled March 21 against Montreal after giving up four goals on 22 shots, Lehner has started two straight games. He has stopped 65 of 67 and given the fact that Coach Barry Trotz rides the hot hand, I suspect this is late enough in the season for Lehner to ride this wave into the playoffs. Both goaltenders have 22 wins and SV% at 0.926 or higher (Lehner at 0.928). I don’t think the Islanders or Lehner are thinking about a contract, given the need to focus on the task at hand. But the reality is, Lehner is an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Isles have a ton of cap space and Lehner’s season is demanding a decent chunk of change, one that exceeds the $3.33 million that Greiss makes next year. The Isles do have a couple of young stud goalies on the way in Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom and really just need a goalie like Lehner for another two years, but I don’t think he signs for anything under three. I think there are plenty of teams willing to sign him for three years and $15 million-plus. At that price point, he will be a starter next year at 55 games be it with a new team or with this one. You don’t put $5 million per year on the bench for 40 games the way it’s happened for him this year at $1.5.

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He was held off the scoresheet for the fifth consecutive day but Vinnie Hinostroza had five shots on goal. We’ve been talking Hinostroza a lot here lately. Over the last three weeks (11 games), Hinostroza leads all Arizona forwards with five goals and six points, as well as 35 shots (tops Clayton Keller’s 30). His ice time has seen a bump lately as well, averaging over 16 minutes per game lately and 17:54 on Sunday. I’m bullish about him for next season.

The Coyotes have struggled to score this year, it’s no secret. They started the season with just three goals in five games, and their current rut is at four goals in the last four games. They’ve been shut out seven (!) times this year in all, including Sunday. They were held to just a single goal on 17 occasions. That’s 24 of 76 games (31.6%) scoring one goal or not at all. The Coyotes are 23rd in the NHL on the power play and second in shorthanded goals. But at even strength the team has just 139 goals, which sits 30th. I don’t really see a magic wand that can be waved over them in the summer that will make this an NHL team that ranks in the top half for offense, so being “bullish” on Hinostroza is all relative. If he finishes in the top three on the team in scoring next year, that may just mean something like 48 or 50 points.

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Petr Mrazek has been on fire this quarter though he didn’t get the start Sunday (Curtis McElhinney spotted him, and had a strong game to bounce back from a poor one on March 21). But Mrazek has posted a Quality Start in nine of his last 11 games. His last RBS (what we define as a Really Bad Start – 0.850 SV% or lower) was way back on January 20. Mrazek’s last 11 games:

9-2-0, 1.63 GAA and 0.944 SV% with 3 SO and 9 QS

Mrazek is yet another unrestricted free agent in the summer ahead and he’s completely revived his career. The Hurricanes were likely going to move on from him come July and now I think they’re interested in hearing what he’s looking for. If I was GM Don Waddell, I would see if I can’t lock him in for two years at a low cap rate of perhaps under $3 million. If this team can hang onto a playoff spot on the back of Mrazek playing another five or six strong games, he’ll be looking for a lot more. Carolina was a destination for one of the many UFA goaltenders this summer and Mrazek is doing what he can to shut the door on that opportunity for those people such as the aforementioned Talbot, Elliott and Lehner.

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One goalie is not unrestricted this summer is of course Carey Price. His numbers this season overall are mediocre but if you delve deeper you can see that the superstar is back. He has Quality Starts in six of his last seven games and since November 23 he has the following numbers:

27-18-3, 2.37 GAA, 0.923 SV%, 3 SO and 32 QS (65.3%)

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Colin Wilson has seen a surge in ice time with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen on the sidelines, seeing 17:48 Sunday and 19:01 Sunday. He’s still on the third line but he’s been a member of the top PP unit. No points Sunday, but he had two Saturday and has four in four games if you’re reaching for a short-term option on Wednesday, their next game. Then again, that game is against the white-hot Golden Knights so…maybe not.

JT Compher and Alex Kerfoot have been Nathan MacKinnon’s wingers, even on the power play. Compher has been snakebitten but Kerfoot has three points in two games, two on the power play.

Erik Johnson, who had six BLKS Sunday, has 21 of them in his last seven games.

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It’s a tight game and a desperate, if a longshot, run for a playoff spot. And Erik Gustafsson led Chicago in ice time with 23:33, and PP time with 3:40. We already know he’s the real deal but this kind of reliance from his coach bodes well for him maintaining his status as “the man” on the blue line next season.

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College Star and recent UFA signee Taro Hirose has an assist in each of his three games with the Red Wings. His PP time has been slowly increased (albeit small sample) and he’s been producing while playing with Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen, two capable veterans but hardly the elite performers  they used to be.  You can read his scouting report on DP right here.

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Sergei Bobrovsky returned in style Sunday and posted his second shutout in three games. The Blue Jackets really came to play and seemed as though Josh Anderson was the second coming of Tom Wilson in the way that he carried them – three points, plus-4, two PIM and one SOG. Anderson has quietly put together a strong year and lately he’s been huge with nine points in eight games (30 shots, 26 Hits). He, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel have formed a very strong second line and if team chemistry is finally starting to mesh, Columbus could make the playoffs after all.

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See you next Monday.