Weber, Dubnyk, Philly goaltending, plus more…
If scoring is up this season, Saturday may have proven to be the revenge of the goalie. A total of four goalies earned shutouts, although there were many skaters also worthy of mention.
Let’s start with the early game. For the “that helps almost no one file”: Anders Nilsson, who is all of 2 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, posted a 33-save shutout of the Panthers in the NHL’s only afternoon game on Saturday. Nilsson posted his third consecutive start, although Robin Lehner dressed as the backup. Lehner said he expects to be the starter for Sunday’s game in Winnipeg, though (Yahoo Sports).
Sam Reinhart scored his first goal of the season and added an assist. Both points came on the power play. Now playing on a line with Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons, Reinhart’s icetime has dipped below 16 minutes in each of his last three games. In fact, his even-strength icetime was only 11 minutes and change in this game. So it’s going to have to be that first-unit power-play time that will prop up his fantasy value for the moment.
Mike Matheson was a healthy scratch for this game, with Steven Kampfer taking his place. Matheson is currently number 4 in Dobber’s Top 50 Fantasy Prospect Defensemen. Living in the other end of the continent, I can’t really say that I’ve seen a lot of the Panthers this season, so I don’t know if he’s made a lot of defensive mistakes. But coaches aren’t always prepared to let young defensemen learn on the job when there are NHL games at stake. Matheson has played under 20 minutes in his previous two games, so maybe this is just a game for him to hit the reset button.
Craig Anderson has returned to the Senators, although under some tough circumstances: his wife has been diagnosed with cancer. Since Andrew Hammond left Friday’s game after the first period because of injury, Chris Driedger and Matt O’Connor are still with the team, one of whom could start Sunday’s game against Edmonton. This of course happening the first game after I recommended Hammond as a waiver-wire pickup for my new weekly Sportsnet article. So Ottawa isn’t the best place to go at the moment if you need a goalie. But as always, check Goalie Post for the latest.
There’s lots of talk about the Oilers right now and whether they are a playoff team after their 7-1-0 start. Or to translate for the Dobber audience, whether Connor McDavid will be in playoff pools. I’m going to sit on the fence on this one and say they’re 50-50. At the very least, they’re a much-improved team that should finish better than the 14th-place spot in the Western Conference that they’ve kept warm for much of the last ten years. On paper, the Oilers look like they got robbed in trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. But right now, doesn’t that trade look like the classic win-win scenario?
Sure, the Oilers will cool off. A fast start isn’t always equivalent to a happy ending. But the Kings and the Ducks and the Stars and maybe even the Blackhawks don’t look like a sure thing for the playoffs at the moment. In fact, is there any one team in the West that you’d say is the team to beat? I’m not sold on anyone being that team right now. Gotta love parity.
Some guy named Sidney Crosby scored two goals for the Penguins. And another guy named Evgeni Malkin also scored two goals for the Penguins. Sid has hit the twine in each of his first three games since returning from his latest concussion. Malkin also has five points of his own over that stretch. Now all the Penguins need to do is get Kris Letang back in the lineup and everything is good. Until the next injury from one or more of those three.
In goaltending battles, we often see one goalie pull ahead of the other. Such is not the case in Philadelphia, where neither seems to want the starting job. Steve Mason lasted a period on Saturday, allowing three goals on 13 shots. Then it was Michal Neuvirth’s turn, allowing two goals on 14 shots in what turned out to be a close 5-4 game (the Flyers took 42 shots). Not surprisingly, the Flyers currently sit 29th with a team 3.89 goals-against average. Frederik Andersen and the Leafs, believe it or not, have a better team goals-against average (3.63 GAA) after Saturday’s games. Bench whatever Flyers’ goalie you happen to own.
Speaking of Andersen, he has fared a little better recently, allowing two goals on 31 shots in back-to-back games. So Mike Babcock’s strategy of letting Andersen play through his struggles seems to be working (so far). The Leafs have a relatively easy schedule next week, although they have to face the red-hot Oilers before two winnable games against Buffalo and Vancouver. So things seem to be trending in the right direction for Andersen.
Before the Hockey Night in Canada telecast, Nazem Kadri was mentioned as a player who is taking on a more defensive role with the youngsters taking over in TO. He seems to be settling in on a line with Connor Brown and Leo Komarov, which is not exactly the Leafs’ top-scoring line. But the line did combine for 16 hits on Saturday, including seven apiece from Kadri and Brown. Usually it’s Komarov that’s known more for the hits, though.
Has there been a better fantasy defenseman in this first month of the season than Shea Weber? That’s four goals for Weber on the season, three of which are game-winners and three on the power play. Ten points in nine games with a +12 and 23 shots on goal. Obviously the goal pace has to come down, but should Habs fans really be that upset about the trade? We shouldn’t be saying that Weber is a better player than he is given credit for. But perhaps because of the other party involved, that’s what we’re doing. We’re also talking about a defenseman who scored 51 points last season, which scoring-wise isn’t a huge dropoff from you-know-who. (Name withheld for Habs' fans still bothered by the trade.)
Then there’s Alexander Radulov with another two assists. He was finally moved to the top line alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher and off the unit with Tomas Plekanec and Artturi Lehkonen. Paul Byron is not a terrible player, but the dropoff from Radulov to Byron should downgrade Plekanec and Lehkonen, at least until Michel Therrien shuffles his lines yet again.
Oh, and always start Carey Price against the Leafs.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) October 30, 2016
Hopefully you were astute enough to get Tuukka Rask back into your lineup. Making his return from IR because of a lower-body injury, Rask stopped all 24 shots he faced in the Bruins’ 1-0 win over Detroit. Dating back to his previous two starts, Rask has allowed just two goals. Could last season be a hiccup as opposed to a sign of things to come? Just keep an eye on his injury status, as he may still be dealing with both a hamstring injury and a groin injury.
Another season, another injury for Zach Parise that can be measured in weeks. So Joel Eriksson Ek was moved from center to left wing and appears to be a candidate for more icetime moving forward.
Here are the Wild’s lines, minus Parise:
26.94% EV GRANLUND,MIKAEL – KOIVU,MIKKO – POMINVILLE,JASON
12.79% EV COYLE,CHARLIE – ERIKSSON EK,JOEL – STAAL,ERIC
9.13% EV BERTSCHY,CHRISTOPH – GRAOVAC,TYLER – ZUCKER,JASON
7.76% EV DALPE,ZAC – NIEDERREITER,NINO – STEWART,CHRIS
Eriksson Ek has been solid with limited icetime, scoring five points in five games. His 12 minutes on Saturday was actually his highest total of the season. It will be interesting to see how the Wild use him moving forward, although he can be considered a candidate for keeper leagues at this point.
If Devan Dubnyk is your fantasy goalie in your head-to-head league, you are probably winning all your goaltending categories for the week. With his shutout of the Stars on Saturday, Dubnyk has posted three consecutive goose eggs. We probably won’t ever see him go on a run like he did when he was acquired by the Wild midway through the 2014-15 season, but he should still be considered an underrated option in net.
Speaking of the Wild, Teemu Pulkkinen has cleared waivers and will report to the AHL. Pulkkinen has an amazing shot (see Dobber Prospects profile here), but it may be time to wonder whether his AHL success will ever translate to the NHL level. I’m sure he’ll be recalled in the not-too-distant future, though.
Jake Allen was the fourth goalie to earn a shutout on Saturday, stopping all 27 shots he faced from the Kings. Allen has been remarkably consistent this season as the new full-time starter, as he has allowed more than two goals just once over his seven starts.
The Avalanche have played just seven games, which is the fewest of any team in the Western Conference. They are also on a two-game week this week. So Matt Duchene owners may not recognize that he is one of the league’s hottest players at the moment, scoring five goals and two assists over his last four games. Duchene added a pair of goals on Saturday.
Marcus Johansson was also a scoring star on Saturday, scoring two goals and adding an assist. He is also up to a fast start, scoring seven points in seven games. Johansson isn’t a huge shooter, which tends to keep his point totals to under 50 points. He is currently on pace to take approximately the same number of shots that he has in previous seasons, so his 23 percent shooting accuracy will no doubt decrease. So expecting much more than 50 points is a bit much, even if he is currently being centered by Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Enjoy your Sunday, and have a safe and happy Halloween. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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