Special to Yahoo Sports
Another week of fantasy hockey and some food for thought …
Catching up from last week: Drake Batherson was sent to the AHL, but Joshua Norris stuck around since the Sens are short on centers. Expect both to do a lot of shuttling between Ottawa and Belleville. … Lucas Carlsson was called up by the Blackhawks, but he hasn’t gotten any time on the power play (yet). … Pavel Francouz has been the league’s hottest goaltender the last two weeks (six wins, .941 Sv%, 1.76 GAA). … Jake Muzzin broke his foot and Rasmus Sandin registered an assist Saturday. … Gabriel Vilardi is now a regular and the Kings’ second-line center.
70.59: Yanni Gourde’s value on the rise
That’s Yanni Gourde’s CF% in Saturday’s win against Calgary, second-best on the team behind only Tyler Johnson, according to Natural Stat Trick. With Steven Stamkos likely out the remainder of the regular season, Gourde moved onto a line with Tyler Johnson and Barclay Goodrow after spending most of the previous game with Cedric Paquette, and in response scored a shorty to give him two goals in three games. After back-to-back 20-goal campaigns Gourde has struggled this season, but with his wrist shot and speed, you wonder how he managed to go 35 games without scoring. It’s going to be a tough test without Stamkos, but the Lightning have a lot of quality depth; despite their top two lines registering less than 50 CF%, their bottom two lines and special teams won them the game.
Gourde is just one of three Tampa forwards — the others being Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat — who log regular minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. He can be a streaky scorer, but he’s also been playing very well lately and it could be time to go on a tear. He’s rostered in just 10 percent of Yahoo leagues and his dual wing eligibility is a nice bonus.
53.72: Blues find new formidable duo
That’s Robert Thomas and Zach Sanford’s CF% in more than 170 minutes together at 5-on-5, which is slightly better than Ryan O’Reilly with David Perron (52.76) and Brayden Schenn with Jaden Schwartz (51.90), two of the Blues’ most effective pairings all season, according to NST. Granted, O’Reilly-Perron and Schenn-Schwartz have logged way more minutes, but Thomas and Sanford have combined for nine points in the last week or so, so the raw production supports the underlying metrics. Ever since Craig Berube put the two youngsters together, they’ve formed a third formidable duo, and both are playing regular minutes on the second power-play unit. Their pairings have been good and balanced at generating shots, and this is a team that ranks 22nd in shots per game.
Thomas has more upside than Sanford on offense, especially as the center, but both are rostered in less than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues, and if you have the roster space, picking up both ensures maximum exposure to that line. Could you imagine this team when Vladimir Tarasenko comes back? He may end up playing with Sanford and Thomas, with Perron moving back to a line with O’Reilly. Scary thought.
3:04: Pavel Buchnevich can help Rangers fill void
That’s Pavel Buchnevich’s total ice time on the power play Friday against the Flyers, his second-highest total since the calendar flipped. Losing Chris Kreider is going to hurt a lot, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time as the Rangers try to claw their way into playoff position. Dan Quinn really mixed up his lines after Kreider left the game with what turned out to be a broken foot, first replacing Kreider with Kaapo Kakko before breaking up Mika Zibanejad and Buchnevich. On the power play, it forced Quinn to lean heavily on his first unit with Buchnevich and Brendan Lemieux (2:52 PP TOI) taking turns. Buchnevich finished the game with one assist and two shots in 17 minutes, a rather pedestrian stat line, but it certainly beats Lemieux’s zero-point effort.
Buchnevich was a staple on the power play at the beginning of the season, before Ryan Strome was promoted to the top unit, and now he has a chance to earn back his spot. Without Kreider, the Rangers lack a big-bodied forward in front of the net, and that’s where Buchnevich comes in. Lemieux plays with more urgency (and less discipline), but Buchnevich clearly has the better skillset, so it’s his job to lose. He’s rostered in less than 15 percent of Yahoo leagues and that number is falling, but I’d think twice about dumping him, if only for that extra power-play exposure that can potentially offset the lack of even-strength playing time with Zibanejad.
1.88: Sell Islanders while you can
That’s the Islanders’ GF/GP the last two weeks, second lowest in the league and only slightly better than last-place Detroit. Sure, Semyon Varlamov has just two wins in his last eight starts and allowed four goals in each of his last two games, but the Isles offense has completely dried up despite adding Jean-Gabriel Pageau. As a result, the team has gone 3-5-2 in its last 10 and is hanging precariously onto the last wild card. We kind of knew this was coming; all season, the Isles managed to win games despite getting outshot and out-chanced on a regular basis. The last two weeks, they rank 28th in SAT%, just ahead of the Devils, Ducks and Rangers — not exactly the company you’d like to be in for a playoff team.
Only seven Islanders forwards have scored, for a total of 14 goals in eight games, 11 at even strength. Jordan Eberle’s recent scoring surge should taper off, too; after his hat trick against lowly Detroit, his shooting percentage (12.0) is now more in line with his career average (13.2) and already made up for his atrocious start to the season. The silver lining is that the Isles play Ottawa, Carolina and Vancouver next, three teams who have injured goalies, but exercise caution. With trade deadlines coming up for most leagues, it might be time to start dumping your Isles, especially the ones not named Brock Nelson or Mathew Barzal.