Frederik Andersen was back in net for the Leafs in practice on Wednesday, but don’t anticipate him to make the start on Thursday. It looks like his target for return will be Saturday night. At the least, those in weekly fantasy leagues will really only miss out on one start from him. Everyone else should be getting ready to activate him off the IR on Friday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have new power play units:
Different look on the power play units at #Leafs practice:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) January 9, 2019
PP1: Marleau, Matthews, Nylander, Johnsson and Gardiner.
PK1: Hyman, Brown, Hainsey and Zaitsev
PP1a: Kapanen, Tavares, Marner, Kadri and Rielly.
PK1a: Gauthier, Lindholm, Marincin and Holl.
I’ve often railed against teams spreading their talent across two power play units and this is no exception. I get they want to try something new given the power play has gone cold, but it’s only really been a couple weeks that the power play has struggled. Maybe something small, say, replacing Nazem Kadri with William Nylander, rather than blowing the whole thing up would be the first plan of attack. We’ll see how long this actually lasts.
Alec Martinez was skating in Kings practice on Wednesday. He hasn’t played in a month with an upper-body injury. When healthy and getting minutes, he can be a good peripheral guy. Whether he gets those minutes – he’s getting about two fewer minutes per game this year than last – will decide his fantasy relevance.
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Matt Duchene didn’t make the trip to California with the Senators in anticipation of the birth of his first child. It appears he’ll miss the entire trip. All the best to the Duchene family with their new addition!
The Blackhawks welcomed Henri Jokiharju back to the lineup as he returned from the World Juniors. We’ll see if he can get the minutes, especially at even strength, that he was getting early in the season.
Something interesting I saw on Tuesday night: down three goals with under five minutes left, the Flyers went to four forwards and one defenceman. It didn’t last long as when they had extended offensive zone control, Philly pulled their goalie for a 6v5. But you can see four forwards in the picture below, and Shayne Gostisbehere was the lone defenceman back on the left point. It’s one way to get added offensive threat late in the game when needing a goal without having to actually pull the goalie. They did score not too long after this. I wonder if more teams follow suit? It certainly seems like a good idea.
I wanted to share a few hockey articles I’ve enjoyed recently (aside from the ones here at Dobber).
First, this article from Justin Bourne on the legacy of playing mini-sticks. I’m sure there are hundreds (thousands?) of you reading this right now who were instantly transported back to being in elementary school, maybe being at a friend’s house or on the road for a hockey tournament, who can remember playing hours upon hours of mini-sticks as kids. I remember my childhood home having a perfect open square space under the counter where the garbage can was, and that provided a perfect ‘net’ for my brother and I. I can also remember a road tournament when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old and a few of my teammates and I were going from floor to floor, hall to hall to get away from hotel staff so we could keep playing mini-sticks. I don’t think our parents were too happy about that. What are some of your favourite mini-sticks stories? Hit the comments.
Second, Part 1 and Part 2 from Shayna Goldman at Hockey Graphs about the actual take-home pay of NHL players, considering relevant taxes, escrow, and other variables. Another article that isn’t fantasy relevant but is good information to have when those barroom arguments about player salaries comes up.
Finally, about a week ago, Travis Yost at TSN discussed the depth scoring from the Washington Capitals. Namely, about how Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller can get the puck to teammates in dangerous shooting areas consistently. We’ve seen it often in the past: top-heavy teams can win a round or two in the playoffs but that’s about it. I’ve said Eller is one of the most important cogs on this team because if he can get a depth line going offensively, it gives the Caps three scoring lines, something not many teams can boast. There are maybe three or four other teams in the East who can boast the same. Lars Eller playing like he can means the difference between the Caps being a one-and-done team like the Penguins squads of 5-ish years ago, or the Caps making another Stanley Cup run (where Eller was so important last year). We shall see.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Ondrej Kase has managed 1.95 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five. For reference, teammate Rickard Rakell is just above him at 1.99. League-wide in that span, Kase is tied with Matt Duchene for points/60, and is just behind names like Vladimir Tarasenko (1.98) and Sean Couturier (1.97). Also league-wide, among 268 forwards with at least 1700 minutes in that span, Kase is 15th in goals/60 minutes. The reason for his not being higher in points/60 is obviously, then, because of low assist rates. That’ll happen when you play on a low-scoring team and spend just 271 minutes out of over 1700 with either Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg, the team’s only two consistent scorers (apologies to Corey Perry). It’ll also happen when you have just 150 minutes of 5v4 ice time in those 144 games, or about a minute per game. When you don’t play with other goal scorers very often, and don’t get much power play time, you’re unlikely to rack up assists.
The question, then, is if everything breaks right for Kase, what is his upside?
We’re kind of seeing that already this year with 19 points in 25 games heading into Wednesday night’s action, but he has more goals than assists and just four power-play points. I used to get mad about Randy Carlyle not playing Kase on the same PP unit as Ryan Getzlaf, but maybe he has a point: since the start of the 2016 season, with Kase and Getzlaf on the ice for a 5v4 power play, the team is landing about 45.8 shots on goal per 60 minutes. Anaheim’s most-common unit this season (which doesn’t include Kase) is landing over 53 shots per 60 minutes. Being able to generate roughly 16 percent more shots on goal is very significant. I’m not here to debate power play structure but in the opportunities given, Kase hasn’t been a big factor on the power play. He could be better suited for the second unit.
Now, in saying all this, maybe a new coach figures out how to make it work in the not-too-distant future. All I’m saying for now is that I wouldn’t expect Kase to spend much time on the top power play unit, especially with Rickard Rakell back in the lineup, and definitely when Corey Perry eventually returns.
As for Kase’s upside, under the assumption he’s not seeing prime PP minutes anytime soon, I would look to Jason Zucker’s 2017-18 season. He finished the campaign with 33 goals and 31 assists, with just 16 of those points coming on the PP. He was playing a little bit more per game than Kase is right now by about a minute, but I think it’s an apt comparison. A very talented scoring winger (though Kase is good defensively as well) who can land a lot of shots on goal, leading to 25, 30 goals or more.
Just as a small aside, while going through Kase’s stats for the season, I noticed something: Vladimir Tarasenko is top-10 in the league in shot attempts/60 minutes at five-on-five. His shooting percentage? An even five percent. His lowest mark in any season was 7.7% in his rookie 2013 campaign (the lockout season), and he hasn’t been below 10.4 percent since. Were you to double his shooting percentage at 5v5 this year to 10 percent, which would still be the second-lowest of his career, he’d be on pace for 35 goals in an 82-game season. According to our Dobber tools, Tarasenko already has 93 shots on goal within 30 feet of the net. Last year, that number was 148. So he’s on pace for about 40 more shots on goal from within 30 feet of the net and his shooting percentage has cratered. I don’t know what to say about the Blues anymore, but I find it hard to believe that Tarasenko is just falling off now at this age. I seem to say it often, but buy a second-half rebound from Tarasenko. He should be cheap enough to acquire in trades now.
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