Howdy, it’s me, LackeyDrinksOnMe!!
As much as we love hockey and fantasy hockey, we don’t always have time to catch all the games we want. Viz is a champion at giving an impression of the player situation league-wide, but my plan is to narrow in on a game or two a week to cover two teams from top to bottom.
I’m going to watch a game or two each week and will take a deep dive on each team, moving period by period Twitter-update style with a wrap-up and then following that stream of thought with a few league-wide notes. This works better with my schedule and will be something I’ll be able to continue into the spring when things start getting crazy at work. Hopefully doing this gives my fellow Razzball readers a good impression of what some games are like, even if you have no interest in viewing them yourself, and depending on the depth of your league I hope this can provide some useful insights.
I’m watching the opening NHL game tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. I’m looking specifically for how Auston Matthews and John Tavares are used, how the defense in front of Frederik Anderson stacks up, how Montreal handles any power-play opportunities they are given, and how Carey Price looks in goal after a shaky campaign last year.
Lots of back and forth play with Toronto playing a bit of a dump-and chase. That sucks if they continue to play this way from last year. Nothing super notable until a 2-on-1 break from Toronto with a Kasperi Kapenen shot sailing wide. The Leafs are using a Tyler Ennis – Auston Mathews – Patrick Marleau line, which is a nice blend of youth and experience. Montreal lead 10 minutes in 6 shots to 1, and then Artturi Lehkonen scores on a wraparound (Max Domi assisting). Right after play resumes Zach Hyman misses a nice rebound, followed by a Carey Price save. Price is playing with a youthful vigor, hopefully he can keep it up. John Tavares draws a hooking penalty and we get our first power-play. Ennis, Gardiner, Nylander, Marleau, and Leivo are out first. Marner, Tavares, Mathews and Kadri are in and topped by Reilly, who is clearly comfortable managing this group. A Reilly to Matthews snapshot on the perimeter ties this game up. Price just got beat, fair and square. The Leafs have really taken control, now leading in shots 8-7 with 6:00 left to play. Jake Gardiner is flying and currently leads the team in TOI. A few plays by Montreal and they seem kind of scattered, although Charles Hudon almost shoves a wraparound past Anderson. Tavares has a couple of good chances around the 4:30 mark, and it’s clear he’s adding something to the team in terms of opening lanes up and drawing attention. I like Tavares with Zach Hyman, who has nice chunky size down low. Leafs are really in the driver’s seat as the period winds down. After several scuffles there’s a quick wraparound attempt by MON, but Anderson and the Leafs are playing lockdown D. Not much to say about the last few minutes. 9-9 are shots taken.
Mike Reilly takes a fast break but doesn’t capitalize, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher with him and this looks like the only fantasy relevant line on the team. Kapenen takes another shot from up high, but mostly it’s been a lot of play up and down the ice. Gallagher takes a huge shot from a few feet out and is blocked, and then Matthews takes the puck up by himself and is stuffed at the end. Tavares draws another penalty in front of Price (Lekhonen), and TOR goes on the power play again. Marleau-Ennis-Leivo- Gardiner-Johanssen, then they change to bring in the big guns. Price has a great save on Marleau, and MON gets back to even strength. After the longest media timeout ever, we resume play and MON just look desperate. Jonathan Drouin misses a nice cross down low, and then there’s another TOR power-play, which doesn’t look good for MON as the top PP unit are out first. Morgan Reilly leads the charge and misses on a dive, Tavares takes a shot and is blocked. Four on four after TOR screws up a change, and the ref misses another call. Now MON has its power play unit out but fails to threaten seriously. Price gets a good save on Kadri after the break, SOG are tied with 8 minutes to play. MON are really trying to make something happen, but Nazem Kadri’s line take a few shots with Price shutting the door on them. Andrew Shaw takes a potshot but Andersen sees it coming and stuffs it. Lots of action but no payoff. Danault takes a fast break shot that Anderson nearly misses, a minute later Paul Byron fires a screamer off the goalpost. MON definitely aren’t going quietly but they’re not doing a good job of putting up a fight, and then there’s Carey Price saving a tricky Josh Leivo shot, with the defense looking amateur. John Tavares breaks the ankles of Victor Mete and fires one past Price to make it 2-1. Here comes a MON power play off a Hyman foul: Gallagher-Tatar-Drouin-Petry-Armia. Jesperi Kotkaniemi gets a slick pass off to Max Domi, who dishes it to Andrew Shaw for a score. We finish with a penalty and it’s 2-2, MON leads shots taken in the period, 12-9.
Montreal begins on a power-play after a very late foul. Brendan Gallagher out again and has four shots already, which looks great. Max Domi nearly gets a nice juke and shot off, with two assists he’s certainly a key piece in this lacking offense. Mitch Marner takes a weird short-handed shot before even strength appears. Victor Mete rifles a shot through some legs but it ends up wide, MON is really trying here. Paul Byron fires off a shot to the top corner and Anderson gets a glove on it. TOR tries a rebuttal which ends in a Ryan Hainsey shot gloved by Price, then Hainsey gets a penalty called for interference on Gallagher. MON power play and a chance to get a point and then park the bus in front of Price. Jonathan Drouin with a shot, and then MON opens fire. Tatar, Drouin, Petry, Mete all getting an opportunity. Zach Hyman goes down after blocking a shot, Max Domi takes the last power play shot and MON comes up empty. MTL leads in period shots 6-1 with 12:00 left to play. Lots of up-and-down play with some aggressive moves by Morgan Reilly who I am starting to wish I had drafted. TOR is coming back into the game, John Tavares barely misses a wraparound attempt after TOR gets their set together. Max Domi gets a great rebound shot off that somehow doesn’t go in, and MON is pressuring again. Mitch Marner and John Tavares have some chemistry on a break, Max Domi comes back the other way and nearly beats a 1-1 against Travis Dermott. Philip Danault takes a decent shot that’s blocked by Anderson, which just indicates that top to bottom MON is playing like a bat out of hell. Xavier Ouellet delivers a massive hit to Auston Matthews and the TOR crowd is very displeased. TOR have regrouped and take a trio of shots, Carey Price doing what he can behind a porous defense. Tomas Tatar deftly sneaks the puck away from Tavares, and MON is pressuring again. Alas, now we’re headed into overtime, and MON deserves this point, at least.
Tavares-Marner-Reilly for TOR is awesome, against Petry-Drouin-Gallagher. Marleau to Auston Matthews after a quick change, and Auston shoots and it’s over. 3-2 TOR.
Montreal leads in shots 36-26 after that huge final period.
Toronto Maple Leafs
John Tavares – 18:04 TOI, 3 SOG. Tavares hasn’t lost anything on his moves and seems to have good chemistry with his linemates. Not worried about his high draft price ending in a bust.
Auston Matthews – 17:29 TOI, 3 SOG. Two goals and we’re right back where we left off. I’m not super high on Matthews now that he’s forced to split time, but if I had him I wouldn’t be complaining.
Patrick Marleau – 16:51 TOI, 3 SOG. Quietly a key component of this offense, Marleau saw time with both Matthews and Tavares and seems like he’s in a good value spot for fantasy. I would keep an eye on his lower ownership %, and if you think you can flip for value, give it a try before TOR takes off.
Mitch Marner – 18:35 TOI, 0 SOG. Probably a fluke due to the TOI, but I would start to be concerned if the SOG doesn’t pick up. Toronto is stuffed full of talented skaters, and odds are good someone is going to have a dropoff. If it’s Marner, I would try to flip him early if things don’t go his way soon.
Nazem Kadri – 17:03 TOI, 2 SOG. I liked what I saw from Kadri, and the two assists are nice. He was frequently on the Tavares line, which could pay dividends down the road. He seems like a sneaky DFS play.
Morgan Reilly – 20:06 TOI, 1 SOG. I’m jealous of Reilly owners due to the strength of this top powerplay unit and the fact that Reilly quarterbacks it. I would try to buy as TOR continues to gel.
Jake Gardiner – 22:29 TOI, 0SOG. Gardiner seemed to be everywhere, and is another defenseman I might have my eye on. He should get tons of assists down the road, so the window to buy will be closing.
Tyler Ennis – 15:55 TOI, 2 SOG. I was surprised to see the Ennis-Matthews-Marner line, but it was dynamic and connected well. He might just be a fill-in for Nylander for now, but might be worth a stream or cheap DFS play.
Zach Hyman – 14:55 TOI, 2 SOG. If Hyman sticks with Tavares he’s going to score, and against weak competition should be viewed as a competent streamer.
Frederick Anderson – W, 34 for 36. Anderson did great under pressure, with Montreal firing off plenty of shots in the third and his defensemen swooping and swinging around in front of him. I was big on him in the preseason, and think he could easily get to 40 or 45 wins. If TOR takes a nasty loss over the next few weeks, try to get him while the owner is feeling down.
Brendan Gallagher – 16:22 TOI, 5 SOG. He’s on waivers in quite a few leagues, and I like that Montreal isn’t planning on rolling over even with a depleted group of skaters. Gallagher is going to take a ton of shots and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a few to sail in. I’d keep him in mind at least as a streamer, and if you’re playing in a deep league and he’s available I’d grab him as a solid hold.
Tomas Tatar – 17:08 TOI, 0 SOG. I liked Tatar as a streamer last year, and with massively depleted ownership it looks like he’ll be in the same spot. With Gallagher taking so many shots I’d be wiling to bank on a well-scheduled week for a few assists, and he might be a nice well to go back to because of that.
Max Domi – 16:49 TOI, 2 SOG. Domi seemed to be everywhere when MON was turning up the heat, and nearly got loose on a 1-on-1. I’d give him a long look in deep leagues because it’s clear he’s putting effort forward and finding opportunities to be successful.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – 15:05 TOI, 2 SOG. MON would surprise everyone if it was competitive this year, and being on a weaker squad doesn’t always help a player’s development. The play-by-play guys had a lot of praise for Kotkaniemi, but I don’t see it yet, and would certainly avoid him in fantasy unless you’re a DFS player looking for that rookie breakout game lotto ticket.
Artturi Lehkonen – 16:38 TOI, 2 SOG. I liked Lehkonen a lot tonight, and although I might put him behind a few of his peers for streaming purposes if nobody else is available or you have a good feeling, I would say he’s worth a quick look.
Jonathan Drouin – 17:21 TOI, 2 SOG. Drouin parked himself in front of Anderson and had some good moments, but for me he’s on the outside looking in, even as a streamer.
Andrew Shaw – 12:03 TOI, 3 SOG. Shaw had a few blasts and got one past Anderson, but I don’t think he’ll see the usage he’d need to be fantasy relevant.
Carey Price – OTL, 23-26. Price had his work cut out for him, being forced to make several athletic saves after being let down by a fledgling defense. Odds are good he’ll improve from last year, but I would make sure I have another goalie to get my Wins category cleared up.
In subsequent weeks I’ll have more to say about other players and teams, but for now I’ll just advise you to take a close look at your waiver wire. Frankly, there are people who draft like idiots, and in my leagues guys like Erik Staal, Teuvo Terevainen, and Antti Raanta are just hanging out. Always look for player value and to get the most number of quality player starts possible.
Let me know if there are games next week you’d like to me to look into. Because this is my first article, I’ll probably figure out how to pare things down, but for now it’s a nice way to really look at some teams. Also feel free to reach out if you have questions or are looking for bits of advice.
Finally, my Razzball Commenter League drafts late on Friday, starting the week of the 8th. If you’d like to jump in, don’t hesitate to sign up!!