The Nashville Predators are starting to look like the team many hope they can be, and that’s just largely a function of getting their players back. Viktor Arvidsson has put his injuries behind him, P.K. Subban looks great as always, and now Kyle Turris has returned to the lineup, suiting up on Thursday night. He skated on the second line flanked by Calle Jarnkrok with the newest Predator, Brian Boyle, on the left.
On the topic of Boyle: he was on the top PP unit in Craig Smith’s usual spot.
Dylan Larkin was back in the lineup for the Wings much quicker than expected. They thought he might be out up to two weeks, or at least one. He was back in six days.
Lots of good news on the Arizona injury front as Kevin Connauton, Jakob Chychrun, and Christian Dvorak all skated in the game-day skate. The last on that list was in a non-contact jersey but considering there was a possibility he’d miss the entire season, Dvorak being able to return sometime in the next couple weeks would be a boost to their centre depth. He probably won’t be fantasy relevant for the balance of the season but getting some games under him and a full offseason of training should help a lot for next year.
Chychrun could be back this weekend.
Patrik Laine was moved off the top PP unit in favour of Jack Roslovic. I know this is in response to Laine’s current slump (two goals in 21 games) and it’s undoubtedly temporary but this kind of move never made sense to me. One of the best goal scorers in the league is in a shooting percentage drought, so you take him out of the best situation he has to score? I would better understand moving Laine down the lineup at even strength and playing him with Mathieu Perreault or Adam Lowry.
The Kings are not expecting Jeff Carter to play anytime soon though there’s hope he can return to the lineup by the end of their current road trip on Monday in Washington. Michael Amadio took his spot on the second line but honestly, I wouldn’t even be reaching that far. This is a dead zone of fantasy value. The L.A. Kings are the AT&T of fantasy hockey.
We got an update on Thatcher Demko’s injury and it’s a sprained knee. The team said they expect him to miss 7-10 days, so it’s nothing too serious. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.
With no points in six games, a player with a short leash is going to get a tug. That’s exactly what happened as Brandon Pirri was a healthy scratch on Thursday night. So it begins. Again.
I remember before the season I was debating keeping Kevin Fiala over Viktor Arvidsson in one of my keeper leagues. I am still very high on Fiala but sometimes the obvious choice is obvious for a reason. There’s a fantasy sports lesson to be learned here.
It was another tough night for John Gibson and Ducks fans as not only did the team lose 2-0 to Ottawa, but Gibson left the game after the second period due to injury. His own defenceman crashed into late in the second period backchecking on Senators forward Matt Duchene and slammed into Gibson. The netminder finished the second but did not return for the third. Updates will be posted when they become available.
Jonathan Drouin continued his hot streak with a pair of goals in Montreal’s 5-1 win over Winnipeg, adding a pair of assists along the way. He has four goals and 11 points in his last six games. He had a season-high eight shots on net as well. If he can keep consistently shooting as he has been (over 2.5 per game since Christmas, consistent with much of his season), it makes him even more of a threat offensively. He doesn’t have to score 40 goals but shooting as much as he has puts 25 goals in play every year.
Phillip Danault had a four-point game along the way with one goal and three assists. Danault has tied his career-high of 40 points set back in 2016-17 and is now two goals shy of tying a career-high 13. His two-way game is very much underrated, though his upside in fantasy will always be capped as long as he’s not on the power play.
How much longer can Randy Carlyle last?
Mike Matheson had a goal and an assist in Florida’s 3-2 overtime win. He hasn’t taken the next step offensively like many (me) hoped but games like tonight where he stood out offensively beyond just the box stats are what keep reeling us back in.
Jeff Skinner scored a pair of goals, both in the third period and the second with under a minute left, to help Buffalo salvage a point in their 5-4 overtime loss to Carolina. He had six total shots on goal with a pair of penalty minutes to boot. That’s the seventh multi-goal game of the season for Skinner, one shy of his high in his 37-goal campaign when he had eight multi-goal contests.
Teuvo Teravainen had two goals and an assist to pace the ‘Canes to victory, including the overtime winner.
The San Jose second line ran over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night in their 5-2 win; Evander Kane had two goals and an assist, Tomas Hertl had two goals and an assist, and Joonas Donskoi pitched in a couple helpers. Hertl is now one point shy of 50 (he’s already set a career-high with 49) and he’s starting to fulfill on all that promise he’s shown for basically five years. Everyone talks about how good that San Jose blue line is, but that top-6 can stand toe-to-toe with just about anyone in the NHL.
Jordan Binnington pitched a shutout in St. Louis’s 1-0 win in Tampa Bay. That pushes the rookie goaltender’s save percentage to a .931 in 12 games. Things like his HDSV% and GSAA are all very stellar as well. It’s still far too early to tell but if Binnington can be their goalie of the future, with the way this team is playing now, the Blues are a dangerous team if they sneak in the playoffs.
Alex DeBrincat scored a pair of goals in Chicago’s 4-3 overtime win at home against Vancouver. That pushed him to 28 goals (tying last year’s mark) and 50 points (two off last year’s mark). Since entering the league, DeBrincat is 11th among all forwards in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five (min. 1500 minutes). It feels like we should be talking about that more?
We have about two months left in the season. The trade deadline is just around the corner in a little over a couple weeks and then it’s the push to (hopefully) a fantasy title. Pushing for that fantasy title usually means deftly handling games played and schedules, but it also means taking chances. Most people pushing for a title aren’t in a comfortable enough position to stand pat. They aren’t first place in their roto leagues by 15 points, or they aren’t stacked to the gills in their head-to-head leagues. Most people have to fight for the title.
As I mentioned, this means taking chances. Those chances could include trading for a player who has had a down year to date but has the potential to rebound. I thought it’d be fun to go through some guys I was high on before the season who’ve not performed well to date, but could turn it around down the stretch. These are taken from my Ramblings at the end of September here and here.
Before the season, I was very much gung-ho on DeBrusk in the anticipation of top power-play minutes. That Ryan Donato (remember him?) earned those minutes early on worried me but I was still drafting DeBrusk. He’s still on pace for a 20-goal campaign but his ice time has been declining of late. He still has those top PP minutes, and the question is whether he can turn it on down the stretch.
The problem with the decline in ice time is that there’s a similar drop in his shot rate as he’s now below two shots per game over his last 11 games. It’s not only a function of his ice time drop, but over the last four weeks, his shot attempt/minute rate has gone down by about 20 percent.
What gives me hope is Boston’s upcoming schedule. Out of their next 20 games through the third week of March, they only have nine games against teams currently in a playoff position (with only a few of those games are against top defensive teams) and their next four games are against Colorado, Chicago, Anaheim, and Los Angeles. At best, those teams have one good defensive line which should be swallowed up by Boston’s top line, allowing DeBrusk and his line mates to run wild on the depth. The latest trends concern me, but if DeBrusk is going to turn his season around, I expect to see it in the next handful of games, and then fantasy owners can make their decision.
It hasn’t really been a bad year for Mantha. His 82-game pace right now is about 25 goals, he’s just missed some time with injury. All the same, he has multi-shot games in eight straight contests heading into Thursday night’s action. His ice time per game is all over the place (over his last 10 games he has as many games under 15 minutes as over 20 minutes) but he’s consistently getting to the net, and that’s what matters.
Mantha has often been skating on the second line for Detroit, especially since he returned from injury last month. The likely trade of Gustav Nyquist and injury to Tyler Bertuzzi currently leaves the top line wide open aside from, I guess, Justin Abdelkader for some reason (as a small aside, the Red Wings sure don’t catch enough from the media for this awful contract). Mantha is on the ice for more goals per minute when playing with Larkin than he does with Frans Nielsen, although the gap isn’t much. More than anything, a promotion to playing with Larkin should lead to more consistent high-end ice time rates than he has endured lately.
It’s been a brutal year for Rakell. He had averaged 24 five-on-five goals over the previous two seasons and would be on pace for eight this year had he been healthy all season.
Injuries have been a factor with the Ducks all year, but it looks like they finally have their typical top line of Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry back together. That trio averaged nearly three goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five last year. Whether Perry is up to speed is up for debate (and unlikely) but at the least the conditions are there for Rakell to rebound. His issues this year are almost all driven by shooting percentages, but it is worth noting that his individual expected goal rate is a four-year low (via Corsica), and considerably lower than the previous three seasons. Does this change with Perry back in the lineup? We’ll see.
This is one player that has a lot of uncertainty. The Ducks are terrible in almost every facet. That doesn’t mean the top line will be terrible, but can they recapture the production of last season? Time will tell. I think it’s worth the gamble if you need to push for a title win or a playoff spot.
The Oilers are a favourite punching bag of many, and rightfully so. All the same, Klefbom is an excellent talent and he still plays on a team that boasts Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He cannot be ignored.
The question for Klefbom is where he fits. He just returned from injury, but Darnell Nurse has maintained his role on the top PP unit. They’re going to ease Klefbom back into his minutes but when he’s back to full gear, he should be back to 24-25 minutes a night.
When McDavid has been on the ice with Klefbom over the last season and a half, the Oilers generate about six percent more shots and though it hasn’t led to more goals (it’s close), I will usually bet on the side of volume. Give it another week or so for Klefbom to get some games under him and then see if he can be had for cheap in your leagues. He’s a guy that can be had for the price of a fourth or fifth defenceman with the upside to be a number-2 over the next two months.
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