We found a new level of ridiculousness on Thursday night. The Canadiens were in Florida and they managed to tie the record for the most goals in a first period in modern NHL history, and they did it in barely over 13 minutes! Both Montreal goalies allowed 3+ goals in the first 13 minutes, and Sergei Bobrovsky allowed goals on the first three shots he faced. My god. The Panthers ended up winning 9-5 to keep pace in the Eastern playoff race. The only player who made more than two points was Matthew Tkachuk, who had a goal and three assists to keep up his torrid pace. Thanks Aleksander Barkov for not getting three points when I pick him in the three point challenge! Anyways, Florida is battling hard for a Wild Card spot, so expect their studs to get all of the minutes they can handle. For playing all games against Eastern teams the rest of the way, Florida's schedule is fairly soft, so expect it to come down to the wire. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Even with Columbus up 4-0 halfway through the game, it never felt remotely close to over. In the span of the first four minutes of the third period, the Penguins turned a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 battle. A careless overtime penalty set the stage for Sidney Crosby to score the overtime game winner to complete the comeback. Crosby had a goal and two assists with four shots in the win, setting up a game on Thursday with the Islanders for the first wild card spot. While he's not at his peak anymore, Crosby still has a chance for 100 points again. You don't need me to tell you how good Crosby is, but where he'll rank going into next season is an interesting debate. My guess is that it's somewhere around 20th overall, a clear second rounder in drafts, but perhaps it's a few spots above that. Even at 36, he's given us no reason to expect him to slow down. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Another star player has made his way to the Eastern Conference well ahead of the trade deadline. We already had Horvat and Tarasenko move, and now we have a former Conn Smythe winner. Ryan O'Reilly was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, along with Noel Acciari, for a bevy of draft picks. The Wild also acquired a pick for retaining salary, and there were prospects involved, but none of them are particularly relevant. For fantasy, we care about RoR and Acciari. Let's start with Acciari because it's easier. Acciari moved right onto Toronto's fourth line. He scored a goal against the Blackhawks on Sunday, and is piling up hits. He'll be a deep league value for his hits and decent goal rate. O'Reilly is an interesting debate. He's easily having the worst offensive season in the last decade. On the other hand, RoR has been playing much better lately, and he went right onto the second line with Tavares and Marner. He dished an assist in his debut on Saturday playing just over 16 minutes in the 5-1 blowout against Montreal. He also won 12 of 14 draws, which is notable that he bumped Tavares from the faceoff circle most of the time. I'm not rushing to pick up RoR, mostly because we know that he's not cracking Toronto's first power play unit. That said, there's upside in Toronto that he couldn't touch in St. Louis again. If you want to stream him on Tuesday against the Sabres and see where it goes, I can get behind that.
It has been a terrible year for Kris Letang on and off the ice, but mostly off. He suffered a stroke and his father passed away shortly after. After almost a month away from the team, Letang returned on Tuesday and carried the Penguins to victory. Letang had a vintage performance, scoring two goals and two assists with six shots, four hits, and two blocks in the 7-6 OT win over the Panthers. I'm not going to say Letang will have a monster second half based on one game in his age 35 season. The good news is that there's a lot of games left for him to make an impact, and we know how big the upside is. If I said Letang was a top five defenseman the rest of the way, would you be shocked? I wouldn't. Now, the floor is much lower in the past, even assuming he can stay healthy. However, Pitt is starting to round into form, offensively at least, and the opportunity is there for a big finish. If your team is in position where you need to take a gamble, I would float some offers to the Letang owner. If I had him and was patient through the first three months, fingers crossed that he can salvage the season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Dallas locked up the last part of their core on Tuesday, signing Roope Hintz to an eight year contract extension. Even being in the midst of a three game pointless streak, Hintz remains over a point per game and based on game score, he's a top ten forward in the league to this point of the season. I don't expect him to maintain that pace, but his line is right there for the crown of best in the NHL. Fantasy wise, I'd like to see the shot rate uptick 10-20%, but even with where he is, Hintz is a solid piece towards the top end of your roster. If DeBoer played him 20+ minutes like he should instead of 17 per game, the numbers would be even better. Congrats to Hintz for securing the bag! Let's see what happened over the last two nights:
Mikhail Sergachev had the game of the weekend, scoring two goals and two assists on three shots in the 6-3 win over the Capitals. However, I was starting this post with Sergachev after watching the first ten minutes of the game. Sergachev moved to the first power play unit and immediately delivered, with one goal and one primary assist coming there. That is a massive boon to his value. Whether it lasts, who is to say? I would bet against it staying that way for the whole season, which is why I wouldn't panic if I owned Victor Hedman. However, in the short term, this is enough to make Sergachev a #2 defenseman in a 12 man league, with upside to be a #1. Getting to feed Stamkos and Kucherov for shots over and over again is a godsend to fantasy value. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
The Sabres got off to a hot start this season despite their top line struggling to get on the scoresheet. On Saturday, they started the turnaround against the Blackhawks, but that game paled in comparison to what they did on Monday. Against the Red Wings, the Sabres scored eight goals, led by their $50 million man, Tage Thompson. Thompson had the game of the early season, scoring three goals, dishing three assists, and putting nine total shots on goal. All it took was two games for Thompson to turn his October into a monster month with 6+6 in nine games with over four shots per game. Granato told him that he needed to start shooting the puck more, and that's turned into 25 shots in the past three games alone. Obviously he's not going to keep up that rate, but Thompson could turn into a top 50 player if he pushes his shot rate to over four per game. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Kevin Fiala's first two games for the Kings left a lot to be desired. He didn't generate much in terms of chances, he took a stupid penalty in their opener against Vegas, and his ice time suffered as a result. His old team, the Wild, were coming off giving up seven goals against the Rangers and were big favorites to get their first win of the season. Instead, the Wild gave up seven goals again, with the Los Angeles top line leading the way. Fiala scored a goal and two assists with six shots in the 7-6 win, while Anze Kopitar dished three assists and Adrian Kempe scored two goals and an assist with three shots and four PIM. My biggest takeaway from this trio in the early going is that I was too low on Kempe this season. While he's not the focal point of the power play anymore, he's still vital to its success, and the addition of Fiala strengthened the top line. All of them are easy holds at the moment and I don't expect that to change. Let's take a look at what else happened on Friday and Saturday:
We're finally at opening night for the NHL season after two day games in Europe at the end of last week. I'll be back on Thursday doing my usual daily notes for the first two nights, but today, I want to hit on a few topics quickly. I want to discuss both games in Europe and what I took away from the Predators and Sharks. Then, I want to do a quick preview of Tuesday's and Wednesday's games highlighting some stuff that I'll hit on in Thursday's post. Then, I want to mention a few teams I'm higher and lower on than consensus when it comes to this season's expectations. Let's get to it!
What’s poppin, Razzpimples?
If you missed my Top 20 full-bangs defensemen piece (accounting for standard cats + blocks + PIMs), you can find it right here.
Below, you'll see #21-#40. After that, I'll give a list of names to watch for various reasons, but I don't see much point ranking guys when you get to that range. It'll depend on personal preference and your team build when it comes to deciding who should be our #4 or #5 defenseman. Odds are they won't stick on your roster all season anyway.
Keep in mind, these rankings are for categories leagues.
We move through more defensemen today going through my Top 40. For those that didn't see my Top 20, you can check that out here. I have some good news before I get going with these rankings. JKJ is going to be back! He's going to shift his focus this season towards defensemen, similar to what he does on the baseball side of things with relief pitchers. Look for him to be writing again in the near future, with a rebuttal to my defenseman rankings the first thing coming. And now, let's get to it!
I hope all you loyal Razzballers are doing well! We're just over a month away from the NHL season starting, and with football starting tonight (Go Bills!), it's time for people to transition to fantasy hockey drafts. I'm going to start my rankings next week, but for today, I'm going to look at every team's offseason. Some teams made massive changes and will have a longer write up e.g. Calgary, and others who did minimal will have a short blurb e.g. the Islanders. Let's get to it!