The biggest news from Friday was that Carey Price would indeed return to action for the Habs on Saturday for a home game against Buffalo. If there was ever a game that would help ease him back into action, it’s a home game against a bad team playing the second of a back-to-back on the road. Let’s see how it goes.
Charlie Lindgren was sent down which means Antti Niemi is the backup in town. Kudos to Lindgren on a job very well done. He started eight games and managed a .924 save percentage in those games. The team only won three of them but he’s helped keep their meager playoff hopes alive. If he didn’t perform as well as he did, this team could be fighting with the Sabres for the basement of the East.
I’m interested to see how Price performs. He had a miserable start to the year and this injury was apparently not related to his knee injury last year. The thing is, the team needs him to be the goalie he was two years ago, and they need it now. They can’t wait two weeks for his game to come around.
There’s no fantasy relevance here yet but I’m keeping an eye on how he looks and how the coach uses him over the next four or five games. Going into Friday’s game against the Coyotes, they had scored 20 goals in their previous 10 games. In the higher-scoring NHL this year, two goals a game is not going to cut it.
At 35 years old, Gaborik is not the player he was even five years ago when he was still with the Rangers. However, over his first three seasons in Los Angeles, he managed 0.73 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. For reference, on his own team, Jeff Carter was at 0.75, and league-wide, he was in the same neighbourhood as guys like Wayne Simmonds (0.75), Jakob Silfverberg (0.74), Tomas Hertl (0.73), and Andrew Ladd (0.72). If he can be that player again for the Kings, it’ll be a much-needed shot in the arm offensively. I suspect he’ll join Anze Kopitar’s line at some point, but it’ll probably take him some games to get up to full speed first. Yes, he did assist on Kopitar’s goal, but it was just Kopitar double-shifting. Gaborik stayed on the fourth line the vast majority of the time.
Speaking of increased scoring, this was interesting from Micah Blake McCurdy, the proprietor of HockeyViz.com:
At 5v5 this season, compared to last season, teams are shooting more, and from not-dreadful places. pic.twitter.com/HGim4ZcGC3
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) November 24, 2017
Basically, at five-on-five this year, teams are taking more shots mostly from better spots than last year. The power plays are part of the increase in scoring, but it seems coaches and players both are getting the memo on how to create more chances at even strength.
Rasmus Ristolainen played his first game in three weeks in Buffalo's 3-1 win over Edmonton. He had two assists, five shots, six blocks, and played over 27 minutes. It's safe to say they're not easing him into the lineup. Start and play him as you normally would.
We had one early game (depending on where you’re located) with Boston and Pittsburgh facing off in Beantown.
And a game-tying goal for Sidney Crosby too! pic.twitter.com/897d2d9YY0
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 24, 2017
He had six goals on the year heading into Friday, and I’m sure some fantasy owners are panicking. The thing is, it’s not the time to trade Crosby away, it’s the time to acquire him.
From 2014-2017, Crosby averaged 3.19 shots per game, and going into Friday’s matinée he averaged 3.26. His individual high-danger shot attempt per 60 minutes rate this year (4.08) is higher than 2015-16 (3.62) and just below 2014-15 (4.11). At five-on-five, going back to 2007, he hasn’t finished below 10 percent shooting in a year; he’s at 2.27 percent right now.
Of course, it all depends on return. Here are some trades that went down in Yahoo leagues on Friday:
If you need a defenceman and can get Karlsson, then sure, that’s a fine trade. But that may not always be the case. Remember that Crosby had three goals in the first 20 games of the 2015-16 season and then he scored 33 in his next 60 games. I firmly believe Crosby will turn things around, and maybe he can be had for cheaper than he should be in one-year leagues.
In the 4-3 Boston win, Matt Grzelcyk (pronounced ‘grizzlick’ I guess) scored his first NHL goal. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.
David Pastrnak had the game-winner in this one, scoring on a breakaway in the third period. I mentioned this the other day, but he’s been unbelievably good so far in his career:
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) November 24, 2017
I should add: Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, and Patrik Laine could all join this list. That’s pretty elite company for Pastrnak. Keeper/dynasty owners: hang on tight. He should be valued just outside the top-tier of wingers.
I like to harp on the NHL (and they deserve it) but the league also deserves continual praise for instilling three-on-three overtime a couple years ago. We had a pair of them in the late afternoon games (5-4 Islanders win in OT and 3-2 Minnesota win in a shootout) and they were both delightful to watch. It’s not something I would want determining a Game Seven, but this is great regular season entertainment. Especially when you get to watch Nathan MacKinnon do his thing.
It’s worth noting that in the five games since the return of Mathieu Perreault, Laine has managed just 77:39 in total ice time, or about 15:31 per game. That’s nearly a minute and a half less than he was averaging up until Perreault’s return (November 16). This is a problem.
Let’s keep in mind, before we hit the panic button, that Laine is still on pace for 41 goals and 66 points. Fantasy owners would take that. Food for thought, though: 15:31 per game works out to a little over 1273 minutes in a full season. Only two players (Mogilny in 2000-01 and Vanek on 08-09) have cracked 40 goals with under 1300 total minutes of ice time in the last 20 years. It’s very hard to produce at an elite level with that little ice time. Something to monitor.
Some (many) people may be wondering whether Vegas is for real or not. One thing I can say: the line of Karlsson-Marchessault-Smith is definitely for real.
Going into Friday’s game, the trio had played nearly 140 minutes together, or about 12 games. Their shot attempts per 60 minutes generated as line was 70.89, fifth in the league, and sandwiched between Connor McDavid’s line and Ryan Johansen’s line. That’s pretty good. Their expected goals per 60 minutes was over four. That was leading the league, a half-goal clear of the third-highest line (Toews line in Chicago), and over a goal ahead of Brayden Schenn’s line in St. Louis.
Some people may think they’re just a product of playing at home in Vegas. Well, they actually had a higher shot rate on the road (71.21 per 60) than at home (70.89). That number is good for fourth in the league, trailing only the top lines in St. Louis, Chicago, and Nashville.
Whether or not people want to argue whether Vegas is “for real” or not is up to them. That scoring line, though, has been great, and it’s not a mirage. Fantasy owners who were early adopters: enjoy the ride. This is a talented, talented line.
By the way, Shea Theodore played 22:50 in this one, had a goal and an assist, three shots and six blocks, and had by far the most power-play time of any Vegas blue liner. He’s the guy to own now among Vegas defencemen.
Malcolm Subban replaced Maxime Lagace for the third period after Lagace gave up four goals. I suspect it's time to cede the net back to Subban.
David Perron isn't on the Vegas bench at the moment. He took this shot from Timo Meier earlier. pic.twitter.com/x8Xqgbhz8n
— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 25, 2017
The official word after the game was day-to-day, but given Perron’s lengthy concussion history, this is very concerning. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.
— NHL (@NHL) November 25, 2017
Also, really cool to see Boyle score on Hockey Fights Cancer night. A good guy that deserves this moment.
Another ho-hum three-point night from Taylor Hall, who now has seven goals and 24 points in 22 games this year. If he can keep this up, it’d be the first time since 2013-14 he’s been a point-per-game player.
Hall and Nico Hischier are a ton of fun to watch, and they create a lot of offence together. With those two on the ice, the Devils create 13.24 high-danger shot attempts per 60 minutes. To compare, the Tampa Bay top line is on the ice for 13.67 per 60, and the St. Louis top line creates 11.11. If Hischier and Hall can keep this chemistry going, Eastern Conference goaltenders are going to be in trouble for years to come.
Johnny Gaudreau is on some kind of scoring bender. Going into Friday, he had eight goals and 11 assists in 11 games, and then he did this in the second period:
Never leave this child unattended or he'll steal your wallet: pic.twitter.com/jSgxAyxSog
— Mike Pfeil (@mikeFAIL) November 25, 2017
Head on a swivel, kids.
Not to be outdone, Sean Monahan had two goals and an assist in this one, giving him 14 goals and 24 points on the year. This is the dynamic duo fantasy owners were expecting last year. Better late than never, right?
Tyler Seguin stole the show at the end of the game, though. He scored two goals five minute apart late in the third, including the game-winner. He had 10 shots on goal in this one, and is up to 90 shots on goal for the year. He has 12 goals and 22 points this year and really hasn't had a sustained hot streak. He'll be just fine.
The lineup blender was out for Mike Dad Bab Clock in the Leafs game against Carolina outside of their scoring lines; Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov had multiple five-on-five shifts with each of Nikita Soshnikov, Patrick Marleau, and Josh Leivo.
Frederik Andersen stood on his head in this one. Yeah, he allowed four goals, but he also faced 47 shots, including 20 in the third period (the Leafs had 25 all game). That’s the third time in five starts he’s faced at least 40 shots after not facing more than 38 in a single game through his first 16 starts of the year. He has a .929 save percentage over his last 16 games. For all the daggers that were out for him a month or so ago, he's helped keep this team afloat through their November funk.
After scoring his 15th goal of the year against Tampa Bay, Alex Ovechkin maintains his 50-goal pace. At this point, I’m just excited to see where he ends up on the all-time list by the end of his career.
Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist in Nashville’s shutout of St. Louis (Pekka Rinne had the 34-save shutout). Johansen probably ends up where he finished last year, goals and assist-wise. As you were.
Hopefully the flood gates are opening for a couple players.
Brent Burns scored his first goal of the year against Vegas. He now has one goal on 86 shots. At this shot rate, even if he scores on just five percent of his shots, he’ll push for 15 goals. Obviously not what fantasy owners are looking for on the season, but if you can buy low on him now, 14-15 goals over the final 61 games is just fine.
Cam Atkinson had a pair of goals for Columbus in their 5-2 win. It has been a very slow start for him with just four goals and seven points in 18 games heading into Friday. He’s still earning 18-20 minutes of ice time, though, and shooting three times a game. This could be the game where his offence starts picking up steam. Let’s hope.
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