Ramblings: Thoughts on the Ducks, Rittich, Labanc, Atkinson, and more (Feb 10)

by Ian Gooding on February 10, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Thoughts on the Ducks, Rittich, Labanc, Atkinson, and more (Feb 10)


I swear that Randy Carlyle is like the cat with nine lives. As a player, he survived the rigors of NHL action without wearing a helmet, which would be unthinkable today. Now as a coach, he is surviving a total collapse of his team to compete in today’s NHL. I thought I read somewhere that Ducks’ GM Bob Murray would wait until the end of the season before making a coaching change, but I don’t know how that’s even possible now. Last weekend the Jets torched the Ducks for six first-period goals and nine for the game. On Saturday it was the Flyers’ turn with four first-period goals and six in total. As far as I know, John Gibson’s injury is day-to-day. But with just two quality starts in his last nine games, how much faith do you really have when he returns?

Doing the most damage for the Flyers was Sean Couturier, who finished the game with a goal and two assists with a plus-2 and five shots. Couts is now riding a four-game goal streak, a six-game point streak, and 19 points (8g-11a) and a plus-14 in his last 13 games. His performance has been instrumental for the Flyers as they climb out of the Eastern Conference basement. They now have nine wins in their last ten games and are now only six points back of a playoff spot. Carter Hart now has a personal eight-game win streak, which should put him on the short list for the NHL’s top rookies.

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Patrice Bergeron made game #1000 one to remember. The Bruins’ all-everything center scored the overtime winner and added two assists with a plus-3 and seven shots on goal in a 5-4 win. For fantasy purposes, Bergeron has been like fine wine in that he has gotten better with age. After scoring 53 points in 78 games two seasons ago (0.68 pts/GP), Bergeron scored at a point-per-game pace last season with 63 points in 64 games, and he has surpassed that even further with 50 points in 39 games this season (1.28 pts/GP). Assuming he stays healthy for the rest of the season, Bergeron is on pace for 84 points even though he can only play a maximum of 66 games.  

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Mark Stone and Matt Duchene continue to make good impressions for teams that might be interested in trading for their services. Each recorded two points in the Senators’ surprise 5-2 win over Winnipeg. With his two goals on Saturday, Stone now has multiple points in back-to-back games with six shots in each game. Both Stone and Duchene are averaging over a point per game, which is something we might not have expected entering the season. If Stone and/or Duchene are traded, you will be able to follow them on our Trade Deadline Tracker, which lists trades made dating back to January 14.

Anders Nilsson’s goaltending performance is also worth mentioning. Nilsson stopped 44 of 46 shots he faced, which now gives him wins in six of his last eight games. Nilsson was acquired as an injury replacement for Craig Anderson, but he seems to be forcing a timeshare in the Ottawa net, something that hasn’t been possible during much of Anderson’s time in Ottawa. Nilsson has earned more playing time than a typical backup, posting a 1.88 GAA and .949 SV% over the past month. In spite of that success, he’s still widely ignored in Yahoo leagues (just 8 percent owned).

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A week ago the Avalanche tried breaking up the top line, which meant that Carl Soderberg would center Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Fast forward to today, and Soderberg has been moved back off that line. So it would make perfect sense that Soberberg scored a goal and added two assists in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Islanders. Soderberg entered the game without a point in his last three games.

Someone other than Nick Leddy could be running the point on the Islanders’ first-unit power play soon, as Leddy has been held without a point in his previous eight games. That someone could be Ryan Pulock, who with his two goals on Saturday (one on the power play) now has six points over his last four games. Leddy’s overall lack of scoring (18 points in 54 games) is making him droppable in many league formats, even though he’s still receiving those first-unit power-play minutes.

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The St. Louis Blues have rebounded from a poor start to the point where they now occupy a playoff spot in the Western Conference. A key reason for that success has been the unexpected success of Jordan Binnington, who with a win on Saturday has now reeled off five consecutive wins and sports an impressive 9-1-1 record. Binnington’s recent success has pushed the inconsistent Jake Allen off the grid for a while. In fact, Allen hasn’t seen any playing time since January 17! The Blues haven’t played any back-to-backs since that time, so it’s possible that Allen starts the rematch in Nashville today (Sunday). Be sure to check Goalie Post for that information and more.

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Alex Galchenyuk scored two goals and added an assist in the Coyotes’ 3-2 win over Dallas. This was a much-needed result for Galchenyuk, who entered this game with just one point in his previous eight games. Between adjusting to a new team and missing the first few weeks of the season, this hasn’t been an easy season for Galchenyuk, who now sits at 29 points in 45 games. If Saturday’s game is any indication, Galchenyuk could still help fantasy teams down the stretch.

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Kevin Labanc hasn’t been much of a goal scorer during his NHL career, as his career high is 11 goals (set last season) and he entered Saturday’s game with six goals. Yet the Sharks’ winger recorded his first career hat trick in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Oilers. For much of the season, Labanc has been on what would be considered the Sharks’ third line with the aging Joe Thornton and Marcus Sorensen. Yet he seems primed to surpass his career high of 40 points, set last season. As well, Labanc now has 12 points (5g-7a) over his last 11 games.

Interesting quote about Labanc’s development from an Edmonton media member. Hmmmm…
 


With assists on two of Labanc’s goals, Thornton has now tied Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe for ninth all-time in career assists (1049).

Evander Kane logged 23:45 while scoring a goal and adding an assist. He’s on quite a run with 29 points (15g-14a) over his last 23 games. Kane is only six goals away from reaching the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. He’s been an absolute beast in multicategory leagues with top-5 numbers in both penalty minutes (105) and shots on goal (214), and he’s also in the top 50 in hits (117).

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In a losing cause, Brett Connolly has reached a career high of 29 points in just 55 games. Connolly, who is on his third NHL team since being drafted sixth overall in 2010, is on pace for his first 40-point season. He probably won’t live up to that draft billing, but he appears to still be a useful middle-6 forward. Unfortunately for Connolly, he took a slashing penalty late in the third period, with the Panthers eventually scoring on the resulting power play in overtime.

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I might be biased as a Canucks’ fan, but this is one helluva goal of Elias Pettersson setting up Brock Boeser.

During the first month of the season, I watched a few Calgary Flames games and thought to myself that they could be a serious contender if they could ever find the goaltending. David Rittich became the hot hand with a run of an 8-1-0 record and a 2.04 GAA and .930 SV% while Mike Smith struggled badly. Since that time, Rittich’s ratios that have gravitated back toward earth (2.80 GAA, .908 SV% since November 23).

Because of the strong team in front of him, Rittich has continued to earn the wins during this time, as he sports an overall 20-4-5 record. As well, his overall play has been strong enough that he deserves to start the playoffs over Smith. However, how much of a disadvantage will goaltending be for the Flames if Rittich has to face proven veterans like Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne in a seven-game series? Yes I know their overall season numbers are all similar, but I’m also taking into account experience. In other words, we don’t have enough of a sample on Rittich to know how effective a goalie he really is.

The Canucks had no business winning Saturday’s game against the Flames, as they were outshot at a nearly 2-1 ratio. Yet Rittich (3 GA, 22 SV) was outplayed by Jacob Markstrom (3 GA, 44 SV), whose play over the past two months has been a significant reason that the Canucks are against all odds competing for a playoff spot.    

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As I mentioned yesterday, it seems to be a question of when, not if Artemi Panarin will leave the Blue Jackets. Whether that happens at the trade deadline or in the offseason, Cam Atkinson owners will need to prepare. About 70 percent of Atkinson’s even-strength minutes have been with Panarin on his line, where over 80 percent of his even-strength points have resulted from. You can look at the with or without numbers for the two to confirm, but it’s plain to see that Panarin matters to Atkinson, and the Jackets likely won’t be able to find a replacement playmaker with the ability of Panarin in the near term. That could hurt Atkinson’s production, as well as that of Pierre-Luc Dubois.

In the present, though, Atkinson is scoring lots of goals with Panarin setting them up. Atkinson scored two goals (#30 and #31) in the Jackets’ 4-3 win over Vegas, with the Bread Man assisting on both of them while adding a goal of his own. Watch how this great “bank shot” assist from Panarin helps Atkinson score. That’s not to take anything away from Atkinson, who shows his own ability to drive the play that should serve him well once he adjusts to life without Panarin.

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For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.