Ramblings: Toews Stealing Anisimov's PP Time, Havlat Retires and more.
Only one game on the NHL slate last night so I guess we are getting a deep dive on the Blackhawks and Wild.
I’ve already spent a lot of time discussing the explosive offense that the Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Mikael Granlund line has been producing. They were held off the board for the second straight game. Two quiet games isn’t going to change anyone’s opinion so let’s all stay entrenched on whichever side we are on. If you are on “team slow down” the time to sell was two games ago when Granlund hit his peak value with a hat-trick and four-point performance but you can probably still move him for a slumping star.
And let’s be clear, when I say “team slow down” this doesn’t mean I am rooting for these players to fail. If I’m wrong, I’ll go back and assess how I got it wrong. If I’m right, I suppose my methodology was sound. Of course, I like being right, but ego shouldn’t get in the way of trying to improve.
For the second straight game the Wild had Charlie Coyle centering the third line:
#1 22.3% COYLE,CHARLIE – PARISE,ZACH – POMINVILLE,JASON
#2 20% HAULA,ERIK – STEWART,CHRIS – TUCH,ALEX
#3 20% NIEDERREITER,NINO – SCHROEDER,JORDAN – STAAL,ERIC
#4 16.7% GRANLUND,MIKAEL – KOIVU,MIKKO – ZUCKER,JASON
That’s a damn good third line, especially with Jason Pominville flashing back to his Buffalo days. He was straight up fecal in the first half but is on a heater having scored 14 points in the past 10 games.
Only two of those 14 have come on the power play so it isn’t like he has taken full advantage of the time he has gotten playing alongside Granlund and Co. while up a man. Instead, he’s clicked with Parise whether it’s been Coyle or Erik Haula centering them. It’s hard to see this type of scoring holding up for two more months, but as I recommended last week, jump on Pominville while he is hot.
Coyle has scored in both games since being moved to center. Seems like the button pushing is working for Bruce Boudreau as Coyle had been held scoreless in his previous three games, although he still hasn’t scored a goal in going on 15 games now.
It’s nice flexibility to be able to move Coyle to either center or the wing. This sort of interchangeability might help the Wild find different line combinations in a playoff series. And of course, coaches love having centermen play on the wing and having them sub in for faceoffs on their dominant side. I don’t think faceoffs matter in the aggregate but offensive zone and defensive zone draws can be important situationally. Every edge matters.
With the Wild playing as well as they have they will likely be buyers at the trade deadline. The flexibility that Coyle offers is even more of an advantage. They don’t have to key in on a forward at a specific position. They can add a player either on the wing or at center depending on who comes cheaper and if the fit is right.
I think that every team should be calling Arizona and asking for Martin Hanzal but Radim Vrbata makes a solid consolation prize too. No matter which one they’d bring in the result would be pushing Jordan Schroeder to the press box or to the fourth line. Either way, that’s a solid upgrade.
For what it’s worth, I’d like to see Coyle back on the top line with Eric Staal and Nino Niederreiter. My goodness is that line a load to deal with. They can play bully puck with the best in the league. This is from earlier this year but my goodness Niederreiter can be a force:
Niederreiter beasting on Ellis. pic.twitter.com/dHTXPKyrRy— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) December 16, 2016
Niederreiter has gone off since being promoted to the top line with 12 points in the last 10 games.
“Sometimes it is tough when you have to start that chemistry over,” Toews said. “Sometimes, even if I go a few games without scoring or producing, it’d be nice to start to build that chemistry and start to know where the other two guys are on your line.”
It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. Oddly enough, Toews has spent more time skating with Patrick Kane on his wing than anyone else this season. I wouldn’t have guessed that considering how good the Kane, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov trio has been but that’s how much mixing and matching the Blackhawks have had to do to stay afloat.
Toews has also seen a bunch of Richard Panik, which was great when Panik was scoring on a quarter of his shots early on and not so much now that that mark has been cut in half.
It was Toews with Panik and Nick Schmaltz last night. Schmaltz has scored last night but has three goals and four points in 10 games since being recalled. He’s a part of their future but I’m not sure he’s a top nine guy if they have championship aspirations for this season.
Toews has power-play points in three straight games bringing him to 10 PPP on the year. He has enjoyed being bumped onto the top PP unit in lieu of Anisimov. This might be the only way to get Toews’ fantasy value up to the stature that his name value brings. I can’t imagine that he’ll last in this role with how much line juggling has taken place in Chicago but it would be awesome if he did.
Anisimov, by the way, hasn’t scored in 14 straight games and has just six assists in that span. The bubble has burst. What’s crazy is that Anisimov’s shooting percentage is still above 20%, even with this cold streak.
Ryan Hartman has goals in three straight games. Consider that a nice bonus. The reason he’s on your fantasy roster (if you have him) is because he offers value as a multi-category producer averaging over a hit per game and over two SOG per game. That he can chip in the odd offense is just a bonus. Where he has real value is in keeper leagues because that multi-category ability should expand in the next few seasons.
Some goodies in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:
18. On Gostisbehere: very early interesting parallel to Montreal and P.K. Subban. It’s very clear that he’s the target of everyone who faces the Flyers, and his strengths are being attacked just like Klingberg’s. It becomes a battle of wills. You’ve got Dave Hakstol saying, “This is what the next step has to be.” You’ve got Gostisbehere saying: “This worked just fine for me, thanks.”
You grind away to find a solution. Just because it didn’t work between Montreal and Subban doesn’t mean Philadelphia will go the nuclear option. Vincent Lecavalier and John Tortorella figured it out. Hextall strikes me as the type of guy who will wait as long as he can.
You know who else is going to go through this soon? Mike Babcock and William Nylander.
This is ominous and lends some credence to the notion of the sophomore slump. I don’t like the sophomore slump idea because it doesn’t apply across the board. Some players get even better, even as teams make adjustments so I wouldn’t use it as a blanket philosophy. For instance, I’m not banking on Auston Matthews slumping next year. I assume he’s going to get even better. Each player is different.
Regardings Gostisbehere, I discussed him in the Tuesday ramblings so you can check that out for further low down. One thing I didn’t discuss was analytics. Gostisbehere has positive shot differentials. He continues to be a play driving force just without the goal results. It really seems like the Flyers are valuing results over process, which is killer in the long run, but I could be wrong.
This kid is awesome. No doubt his declining shooting percentage has something to do with adjustments teams have made, as has simple regression. Still an elite offensive defenseman. Unleash him or drown.
A few people have inquired about the fantasy impact of the Panthers getting healthy. I took a deep dive on their team in my latest Puck Daddy column.
I thoroughly enjoyed hearing our old friend Michael Clifford on the latest episode of the Roto Hockey Show. Be sure to check that out for some tips on players who should surge in the second half of the season.
Martin Havlat officially retired yesterday. He was a gem once upon a time. Havlat will turn 36 this spring and I have to think that if you ran his career 100 times, he’d still be playing in at least 20 of them, even as just a power-play specialist. Injuries plagued him his whole career. His best season: 2008-09, the year before the Blackhawks won their first Cup in this mini Dynasty. He scored 29 goals and 77 points in 81 games that year. It was the only year he skated 80 games in a season. He had several other seasons of a point-per-game or close to it but only hit that 70-point plateau once. I spent a good chunk of time watching highlights yesterday, this was the best video I could find on Youtube:
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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