Ramblings: Update on Zibanejad, Backstrom, Rantanen, Bergeron; Kase; Lehkonen – November 26

by Michael Clifford on November 26, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Update on Zibanejad, Backstrom, Rantanen, Bergeron; Kase; Lehkonen – November 26

 

Mika Zibanejad skated with the team before practice but did not suit up for Monday night’s tilt at home against Minnesota. It is expected that he’ll return Wednesday, though, so fantasy owners can start making their arrangements to get him off the IR.

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Mikko Rantanen was skating with the team in practice on Monday but in a non-contact jersey. The team wouldn’t rule out that he’d be ready to skate on Wednesday, but it seems more likely he’ll be back for the weekend.  

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Patrice Bergeron is not travelling with the team to Montreal for their next game. That offseason injury just keeps lingering. It’s expected he’ll miss Tuesday in Montreal and Wednesday in Ottawa.

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Vegas is back to their normal top-6 with their regular top line and Paul Stastny between Pacioretty and Stone. It’s really what makes the most sense, I think.

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Nicklas Backstrom still not skating with the team, either, and is expected to miss the game on Wednesday night.

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Steven Stamkos was also not skating with the Lightning, and he missed a game on the weekend seemingly out of the blue. Something more sinister at work or a guy who just needed a few days off?

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Hintz was centering Benn and Seguin for Monday night’s game but Hintz was pushed to a separate power-play unit. All the same, it’s a great spot to be for the young centre.

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Fantasy owners may be without Rasmus Dahlin for a little while:

 

 

Dahlin left the game and did not return. The team wouldn’t disclose the nature of the injury initially, but Ralph Krueger said after the game that it is indeed a concussion. Check waiver wires just in case Ristolainen is kicking around. 

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Alex Kerfoot was suspended two games for his hit on Erik Johnson on the weekend. It was a very dangerous hit and it’s something on which I wish the league would come down harder. I have a little bit on suspensions at the end of these Ramblings.

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Fun little thing going on in the NHL

 

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Joonas Korpisalo stopped all 25 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season, a 1-0 win at home against Ottawa. It was also Korpisalo’s first shutout since the 2016-17 season. After a poor start to the season, his save percentage has now climbed over .900 for the season, settling at .902 for now.

Despite just the lone goal, Zach Werenski still managed a solid fantasy night with an assist, two shots, a blocked shot, two penalty minutes, and a hit. Werenski is now on a seven-game point streak and is on a 53-point pace for the season. That’s pretty good considering the limited offence the team has.

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Two short-handed goals in the third period, one from Ondrej Palat and one from Cedric Paquette, salted away a 5-2 win for Tampa Bay over Buffalo. But, as mentioned earlier, the concern for the Sabres is the health of Dahlin.

Palat had a goal and two assists to lead the way in the win.

Anthony Cirelli had an assist in this one, extending his point streak to five games. He now has 15 points in 20 games on the season.

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I know that Zibanejad’s impending return likely means reuniting him with Artemi Panarin, but that can’t be easy for a coach to do given how Panarin and Ryan Strome have fared since Ziba’s injury. Panarin had three assists in New York’s 3-2 overtime win over Minnesota while Strome had a pair of helpers himself. Since Zibanejad’s injury on October 27th, Strome has 17 points in 14 games, while Panarin has a monster 23 points in that span. I just don’t know how you break up that duo right now.

Tony DeAngelo had a great game himself with a goal, assist, blocked shot, and hit.  

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At time of writing, there hasn’t been any bloodshed in the Blues/Preds game. That’s just the end of the second period, though. We have the whole third period!

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John Gibson ended a little skid he was on with a 26-save shutout of the New York Islanders on Monday night, leading his Anaheim Ducks to a 3-0 win. Funny that I should write later in these Ramblings about Ondrej Kase and how he’ll soon be on the top line, because Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist in this one to lead the Ducks. He now has seven points in his current five-game winning streak.

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It’s been a triumphant return from injury for John Klingberg as he had an assist in his first game back last week, and three assists on Monday night, two of them coming on the power play. Add a couple shots and a couple blocks, and it was a pretty good fantasy night.

The power play was the story, with Alex Radulov scoring a pair of tallies, and adding another assist along the way.

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I was one of those people, a couple years ago, who was incredibly concerned about Montreal’s future down the middle. They hadn’t really had a true top-line centre in, well, years? Then Jesperi Kotkaniemi has a very good year last year and now Nick Suzuki is off to a great start this year.

The growing sentiment from some Habs fans seems to be that Max Domi and Nick Suzuki should be sticking together, and I agree. Don’t forget about the third wheel on that line right now, though, in Artturi Lehkonen. He’s in the 91st percentile for shot rate among forwards so far this year, meaning he’s a guy who likes to shoot a lot. Domi has shown himself possible of creating goals since he got to Montreal, and Suzuki looks every bit the playmaker he’s been built up to be. Lehkonen, then, could stand to be the beneficiary, as he was with two goals on Saturday night.

I’m worried that Claude Julien will keep tinkering, especially with Joel Armia, who has seen some time on the second line. Lehkonen is a guy that doesn’t mind laying the body, considering he had 120 hits last year and is on pace for around the same this year. That combined with his shot volume makes him someone to keep in mind, but his current slotting makes him a guy to add in banger leagues.

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It’s been a tough start to the year for one of my favourite player in Ondrej Kase. He has just nine points in 18 games and hasn’t been able to stay completely healthy, which is an ongoing issue. He’s also playing less per game this year (15:17) than he was last year (15:39). So what exactly is going on here?

It should be noted his shot volume on a per-minute basis is down from last year as well but even with his own personal decline, he’s still top-10 in the league, ahead of names like Arvidsson, Skinner, and Evander Kane. Personally, I think it’s a matter of time before we see Rakell-Getzlaf-Kase reunited, and at that point, all three players will very much take off in the fantasy game.  

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So I have to admit, after some serious scuffling in their first nine games, in which Dallas was 1-7-1 through the team’s first nine games and expected goal share in the middle of the league, they’ve been a lot better.

I know, hot take that the team that is 13-1-1 in their last 15 games has been playing better (14-1-1 in 16 games if they hang on Monday night, it was 3-1 at the end of the second period when I scheduled this post), but it’s not just a result of high shooting or save percentages, as is often the case in winning streaks. (I mean, yes, the PDO is very high in this winning streak, but it’s certainly not the only reason they’re winning.) Since October 19th, the team is 7th in shot share and 2nd in goal share. Not only are they getting luck, but they’re playing considerably better.

A big reason for that? Jim Montgomery has finally stopped choking the life out of this team. Case in point: the team, as of Monday afternoon, is at 2.67 expected goals per 60 minutes and 59.72 shot attempts per 60 minutes through this little stretch going back over a month. Before that, those numbers were 1.87 and 46.9. It’s night and day.

Imagine taking a team with a lot of good offensive players and allowing them to play to their strengths. What wizardry is this? Also, does this situation seem familiar to anyone else? Maybe fans and followers of a certain Ontario team?

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Just a quick rant about the NHL and cross-checks.

By now, we’ve all seen the incident from Saturday night where Robert Bortuzzo cross-checked Viktor Arvidsson from behind into the crossbar and then another cross-check, this time downward and into his left kidney. That second cross-check is largely viewed as the more dangerous one, and it wasn’t the one that sent a player flying into the crossbar from behind. That kind of speaks volumes about this whole situation.

Of course, this incident is both entirely predictable and entirely preventable. I mentioned as much a year ago when a cross-check incident came up in an Oilers game:

 

 

The next time you have a chance to watch a game from start to finish, keep track of how many cross-checks go uncalled. I don’t mean only the absolute worst of the worst, I mean every time a player has his stick parallel to the ice and forcefully applies it to an opposing player. It’ll happen 4-5 times anytime a player is in front of the net or battling for a puck in the corner. I have no idea who taught these players to do this when they were younger, but their youth coaches should be ashamed of themselves. Of course it’s going to lead to incidents of escalating violence, that’s how it works when you allow illegal play to go unpunished; players will just take it as far as they can go, and then when their knuckles get rapt, they’ll back off a little. How about we just start calling all cross-checks and stop with this absolute nonsense that it can only be a penalty when it’s dangerous or when a player is injured? And the argument of Well How Do You Get The Guy Out Of The Crease? Stop that. You don’t get free reign to try and snap a guy’s spine in two because you’re bad at defensive positioning.

Whatever happens to Arvidsson, he surely won’t be the last victim of the NHL’s complete inability to properly police the game. It’ll happen again, and again, and again. We just have to try to act surprised when (not if) a player is paralyzed or killed on NHL ice after being crunched from behind.