Ramblings: Updates on Hart, Lehner, Larkin, and Tatar; Robert Thomas; Jake Guentzel; More – March 12

by Michael Clifford on March 12, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Updates on Hart, Lehner, Larkin, and Tatar; Robert Thomas; Jake Guentzel; More – March 12

 

Tomas Tatar was skating with the Canadiens at practice on Monday after missing their last game with an illness. Normally this isn’t worth reporting but given that we saw Mike Green shut down for the year with a virus, it seems we’re at the point where we need to share when a player returns from an illness.

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Robin Lehner skated by himself before the Islanders hit the ice for gameday skate on Monday. It’s good to see him back on the ice but seeing as he’s returning from a head injury, it’s the first of many steps before returning from game action. Fantasy owners should be prepared for another option for at least this week. It should be Thomas Greiss continuing in net in the near-term. Greiss, by the by, shutout the Blue Jackets on Monday night, saving all 31 shots against. 

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On the topic of goaltenders, Carter Hart was the backup for Brian Elliott on Monday night. Hart will get in a game later this week, just not yet.

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It looks like Dylan Larkin will be out for another week

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Viktor Arvidsson missed practice with the Predators and had Wayne Simmonds take his spot. A little later I’ll get into coaches lying a bit later in these Ramblings but Filip Forsberg had a maintenance day a few days ago and then missed Saturday night’s game. I won’t believe anything coming from the coaching staff until we see Arvidsson back on the ice.

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With Vladimir Tarasenko out until at least the middle of next week, fantasy owners are scrambling for options. At Monday’s practice, the Blues had Robert Thomas skating with Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly. Given that he’ll be on the top line for the time being and will earn at least secondary PP minutes, Thomas is a player worth consideration for the playoff push. St. Louis has four games this week and three of them are good-to-great matchups with Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo on the docket.

In that same practice, Pat Maroon went down hard and had to be helped off with what looked like an injury to his right leg. David Perron filled in for him on the second line with Jaden Schwartz and Tyler Bozak. They’re saying he’s fine but we’ll know for sure tomorrow.

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I don’t normally mention the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week because there’s not much value in doing so but it’s worth noting that Anaheim rookie Troy Terry won Third Star from the NHL last week for his two goals and five assists.

I had a lot of hope at the outset of the season for many of the Anaheim rookies, namely Sam Steel. Terry has loads of skill but I was concerned about him being stuck behind Corey Perry, Jakob Silfverberg, and Ondrej Kase whereas I saw Steel as the potential 3C. Needless to say, that hasn’t exactly worked out.

Terry’s fantasy upside is a fair debate because he’s not a guy who has shot much in the AHL (92 shots in 41 games) or the NHL (20 shots in 23 games). As a rookie, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt but there aren’t a lot of guys who can have significant fantasy relevance while averaging under two shots per game; from what I can tell, there is one skater in the top-100 players in standard Yahoo! leagues averaging under two shots per game, and that’s Brandon Tanev, and he’s exactly the 100th player, and he has 232 hits, a total which Terry may not amass in his entire NHL career.

Again, there is time and room for growth here, but he has played well since Randy Carlyle was replaced (as the team has been better). Lots to be encouraged about here for 2019-20.

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Over the weekend, the Seattle Hockey Analytics Conference took place in, well, Seattle. This is a gathering of mostly amateur data scientists, bloggers, game trackers, and every other intersection of hockey stats. I don’t use the word amateur as a disparagement, just not that many people in attendance are officially working in hockey front offices. You can watch the presentations on YouTube (starting here) and they include a wide array of topics from the value of different faceoffs, evaluating prospects, goaltending, and more. There are several hours to get through and some can get very heavy on math so it’s maybe something to bookmark for the offseason.

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With Jack Eichel suspended, the Buffalo Sabres have a very different look in practice:

 

 

This is, by the way, a great opportunity for Casey Mittelstadt to showcase whether or not he can play a feature role. He’ll never supersede Jack Eichel in the pecking order, but it’ll give fantasy owners a glimpse into whether or not he can be relied upon to be the second line centre, which would be a boost for him next year. Two games, of course, won’t give us a final determination one way or another, it’s just something to watch.

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Something I noticed looking at player performance so far this season: there haven’t been huge surprises in elite fantasy performances. If you look at the top-20 skaters in standard Yahoo! leagues this year, only six had ADPs outside of the top-50: Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho, Brayden Point, Leon Draisaitl, and Elias Lindholm. The only top-20 skater with an ADP outside the top-100 was Lindholm.

Not that this is a huge surprise. The season prior to this saw the Vegas guys have great years out of nowhere, Dustin Brown had one last hurrah, and so on. Other than that, it’s mostly names we’d expect. It does hammer home the point that when it comes to fantasy hockey, nailing your early picks is important. It might not seem that way because so many people will inevitably hit their early picks, but if someone misses on their first two picks of a draft, in all likelihood most of the rest of that person’s league has hit on theirs, and the hope of finding a diamond in the rough on the waiver wire is minimal. Yes, of course getting guys like Lindholm will help put you over the top, but missing early picks is a quick way to the bottom of the standings.

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Can I just say that, in general, I’m disappointed with the Dallas Stars? We saw quotes from coach Jim Montgomery before the season that he wanted to play a faster game than they did under Ken Hitchcock, stressing things like zone entries and maintaining possession. Well, as we stood on Monday, the Stars are 25th in adjusted shots for at five-on-five, just ahead of the Islanders and Oilers, and 23rd in adjusted shot share, just ahead of the Oilers and Kings. Yes, they’re in a playoff position, but I would credit that to the team’s goaltending leading the league in five-on-five save percentage more than the team playing well.

Maybe I’m the sucker here. I’ve gotten used to ignoring almost anything any coach (or GM) says because they’re often lying, or at least obfuscating the truth because there is no incentive to be honest. The offseason quotes from Montgomery got me excited not only because of the big guns on the team, but guys like Miro Heiksanen, Denis Gurianov, Roope Hintz, Esa Lindell, and Julius Honka could certainly benefit from a faster, more offensive-oriented system. While those guys have had varying levels of fantasy relevance from some (Heiskanen) to none (Honka), I thought a rising tide would float all boats. Instead, it’s as if Hitchcock never left.

Just another mark in the Don’t Pay Attention To Coaches side of the ledger.

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Tampa Bay skated out of Toronto with an easy 6-2 win on Monday night. It was 4-0 just five minutes into the second period and it was cruise control from there. Tyler Johnson had a pair of goals from the Lightning, his 23rd and 24th of the year. He’s now five off his career high of 29 in 2014-15.

With a pair of helpers, Ryan McDonagh now sits at 36 points, needing four to crack the 40-point mark for the third time in his career. He also had three shots, three hits, and a blocked shot for good measure.

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Ryan Pulock scored in the first period for the Islanders, his ninth goal and 33rd point of the year. That surpasses his 32 points from last year. The first-round pick from 2013 took some years but he’s finally living up to that billing. In leagues that count peripheral stats, he’s going to be a beast for years to come.

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The Oilers lost Oscar Klefbom in their 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers. Klefbom to a shot to the, let’s say, lower mid-body about halfway through the first period and did not return. We’ll provide an update when we get it.

Leon Draisaitl had a goal and two assists while Connor McDavid had one and one. Draisaitl is now 11 points away from the magical 100-point mark and he has three and a half weeks to get there.

Darnell Nurse, by the way, took over the top PP unit back from Klefbom after the injury.

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Brendan Perlini completed his hat trick with four seconds left in Chicago’s 7-1 rout of Arizona. He’s been a nice addition to the line with Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat. It’s a wonder how long he stays there but he shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

That was Corey Crawford’s third straight win, by the way, saving 24 of 25 Coyotes shots. Outside of the bombarding by the Kings (???), he’s looked pretty good since returning from injury. Let’s hope for more of this.

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As we stand on Monday afternoon, Jake Guentzel sits with 34 goals and 65 points on the season. Those 34 goals tie him for 11th in the NHL with Steven Stamkos, one behind Nathan MacKinnon and one ahead of Nikita Kucherov. Before the season, I wasn’t overly concerned with Guentzel’s ADP picking up steam if only because he can provide a healthy amount of hits which meant that even if he didn’t have a great offensive year, he could contribute elsewhere.

Well, he does have a healthy amount of hits.

It’s easy to point to his 18.2 percent shooting and say that he’s simply the result of a lot of good luck. The thing is, over the first 159 games of his career before this season (including playoffs), he shot 18.1 percent. Simply pointing to a high shooting percentage doesn’t really do him justice.

Playing with Sidney Crosby, of course, helps immensely. But is there anything that has changed with Guentzel’s game that has helped pushed him to the season he’s currently enjoying?

Two things are worth pointing out here: at five-on-five, Guentzel is enjoying a career-high in shots per 60 minutes and minutes per game. League-wide, Guentzel’s 15:22 per contest is top-20 among forwards (minimum of 600 minutes), in the same range as names like Aleksander Barkov, Sean Couturier, and Ryan Getzlaf. Garnering that level of ice time (about 90 seconds more per game than last year) will be a big help to anyone’s fantasy profile.

As far as the shots are concerned, he’s added about one every 60 minutes compared to last year. That’s moved him from the 60th percentile to the 80th, and by the end of the year, will add about 20 shots in total. With his conversion rate, that’s an additional four goals so far this year through an increased shot rate alone.

When looking ahead, it’s worth mentioning that Guentzel has done all this while not earning much power play time (a little over two minutes per game). He’s largely been kept off the top PP unit, only filling in for Patric Hornqvist when injury struck, or when the coaching staff mixed around the PP units when it has been scuffling. He has just eight power-play points, so he’s far from reaching his fantasy ceiling.

Again, it’s worth pointing out he’s played about 90 percent of his five-on-five ice time with Crosby compared to roughly 58 percent last year. That is certainly a big help. But there are other factors helping Guentzel, and generally speaking they are of his own making; he’s shooting more and he’s earned the extra ice time. We’ve now seen his ceiling without a prominent PP role. Imagine what he can do if he does get one?