An easy win against the Kraken on Friday wasn't enough for Jay Woodcroft to keep his job. The most disappointing team in the league felt obligated to make a chance, and the easiest change is firing the head coach. Do I think this was the right move? Probably not. Woodcroft led the team to three playoff series wins over the last two seasons, losing to the eventual Cup champion both times. This season, McDavid rushed coming back to play the Heritage Classic and clearly isn't 100%. Ekholm looks hampered as well. Kris Knoblauch, who was their AHL coach and McDavid's former junior coach, takes over. I expect the team to improve because they've simply played well below expectations so far. So what does this impact in fantasy? Generally, teams play more focused on the defensive end when a new coach comes in. Is that even possible for the Oilers? Hard to say. If that does happen, Stuart Skinner could be the biggest beneficiary. He's been a disaster to this point, but it's clearly his job now (I have a hard time seeing Knoblauch turning to Pickard, even though he's been coaching him). We'll have to see tonight how the lines and usage change, but I suspect that he will ride the top players just like Woodcroft did. Let's take a look at the highlights of the weekend:
Even for Nikita Kucherov, the start to this season is on another level. Kucherov scored two goals and two assists with five shots and two PIM against the Maple Leafs, and then followed it up with a goal and an assist with six shots against the Canadiens. That brings Kucherov to 10+12 in 13 games, including 11 in the last three games. He also has 5+ shots in the last five games, and seven of the last nine. This game pushes him past Pettersson for the league lead in points. The top guys on Tampa look so much better, and I can't help but think that being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs helped them for this season. So many long playoff runs for the Lightning that a real offseason had to do them wonders. We can't expect this level, but Kucherov looks poised to give his 128 points from his Hart Trophy season a run for his money. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It was quite the low scoring day on Thursday, with eight of the eleven games going under their betting total, two of which needed overtime to do so, plus there was a miracle in Boston (more on that later). There were four shutouts on the night, all of which were quite surprising. I'll go in chronological order. The Avalanche were undefeated on the season, so naturally Tristan Jarry shut them out, making 31 saves. Jarry now has two shutouts, two dreadful starts, and one mediocre start. He's one of the highest variance goalies around. I'm lower on him than most, but I acknowledge that he could be a bottom end #1. Next, Jonas Johansson had his second consecutive shutout, making 23 saves against the Sharks. He's clearly must own for now, although like Jarry, the downside is undeniable. Joel Hofer shutout the Flames, making 27 saves. I was high on him because I don't believe in Binnington. Both have been off to a hot start, but I'm skeptical of the Blues being good defensively. I'm bullish in Hofer for dynasties, but in redrafts, he's a selective streamer with upside. Lastly, Jonathan Quick shut out the Oilers, making 29 saves. He made a couple spectacular saves, but color me skeptical. I think this says more about the Oilers without McJesus than anything. Quick is a reasonable streamer in plus matchups for now, but know that it could blow up in your face. Let's see what else happened on Wednesday and Thursday night:
You guys know I like to start my posts about players who could be available in a large percentage of leagues that you can target on the waiver wire. After all, being aggressive at the bottom of your roster is a huge factor in fantasy hockey. However, sometimes a player has a weekend so good that you have to give him his due. This time, that player is Auston Matthews. Matthews scored three goals on Saturday, recording his second hat trick in as many games. Look, everybody knows the upside. We're talking about a guy who scored 60 goals two seasons ago on his way to the Hart trophy. He's obviously in that tier right behind McDavid, and the only reason I had him towards the bottom of the tier is that he tends to miss 10-15 games a season. If Matthews can play 75+ games, a repeat of 60 goals is well within reason. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
If you didn’t see Part One, you can check it out here. My big takeaway from doing these rankings is that goaltending gets ugly fairly quickly. It’s going to be difficult to get a #2 that you feel safe with unless you reach for goalies early. Please, blog, may I have some more?
We're keeping things moving in the preseason with goaltending rankings coming today. All that I factor into rankings goaltenders are wins, GAA, and SV%. A big factor into determining wins is potential workload, so I give more value to workhorses than players in time shares. As I always preach in these parts, in head to head leagues, volume is king. In you're in a roto league where starts are capped, then you can give more value to the Gustavsson's of the hockey world. Let's get to it!
In a Pacific Division battle on Thursday, Stuart Skinner stole the show. Against the Kings, Skinner saved all 43 shots he faced in the 2-0 win. We all know about the firepower the Oilers possess, but they made the conference finals last season in large part because of Mike Smith getting hot as he was known to do. The Oilers replaced him with Campbell, but that has been an epic disaster. Skinner has established himself as the clear #1 and will be going into the playoffs. His numbers are that of a #2 in fantasy, and while I do like the 24 year old long term, I don't really see upside past that unless the Oilers completely revamp their defense. That said, for the Oilers to get on a run, they'll need solid goaltending, and Skinner has shown that he's capable of that. He's the goalie of the future and more importantly, the present. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
This year couldn't be going any worse for the Columbus Blue Jackets. A horrible record, terrible injuries to key players, and dreadful goaltending have sunk them from the beginning. Now that they're in the Bedard race, their fans probably aren't even happy that they won on Tuesday night. Their prize free agent signing, Johnny Gaudreau, dominated the game with two goals and three assists, plus six shots on goal. That brings him up to 62 points in 64 games, a far cry from last season, but not a complete disaster. The question isn't about what to expect from Gaudreau for the rest of this season, but going forward. He turns 30 in the summer, but I'm not expecting drop off in the short term. Can he approach 100 points again? I have my doubts, but if Columbus is lucky enough to get Bedard, it can't be ruled out. Bedard would be the perfect compliment, and Fantilli wouldn't be a bad consolation prize. I was lower on Gaudreau than consensus so I don't have any of him this year, but there's always a chance that with his talent, he makes a huge difference over the last month. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Surprisingly, we're having the most action ahead of the trade deadline that I can ever remember. There were a lot of trades over thee last two days that I'll be sure to cover below, but I have to start off with a four goal game. Anze Kopitar scored four goals in the 6-5 OT win over the Jets. I'm shocked that this was actually Kopitar's second four goal game of his career. Kopitar has a good chance for 30 goals now for the first time in six years. Kopitar has played his way into being a hold in all formats as he's closing in on a point per game. With the Kings in the thick of a playoff race, he should continue to get 20+ minutes a night. Kopitar has shown very few signs of slowing down in his age 35 season. He's one of the best players of his generation and doesn't get all of the credit that he deserves. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It's no secret in these parts that I'm from Buffalo and root for the local teams. I've seen plenty of devastating injuries over the years, from hockey players being severely cut, Pronger's collapse on the ice, soccer players collapsing like Eriksen in 2021, and I was at the Bills game when Kevin Everett was paralyzed. Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest was the first time that it felt like "life or death" on the football field. It seemed like an eternity between first responders helping him, getting him to the hospital, and waiting for any update. I can only imagine how it was for his family, friends, and teammates. Here's to hoping that Hamlin continues to progress in his battle towards recovery. The Sabres played in Washington on Tuesday night, with the entire team wearing "Love For Three" t-shirts for their Buffalo brethren. The Sabres won the game 5-4 in the most fitting way possible. Tage Thompson scored his third goal of the game, completing his third hat trick of the season, exactly three minutes into overtime, playing three on three, bringing him to 30 on the season, which is three off the league lead. You can't write a better ending than that. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights while we keep Damar in our thoughts:
What better way to become the third player ever to 800 goals than to score a hat trick? Alex Ovechkin did just that on Tuesday, scoring three times and adding an assist against the Chicago Blackhawks. He's only one goal behind Gordie Howe for second all-time, and then the real chase towards Gretzky starts. Ovechkin already has 20 goals this season in 31 games, a mere 53 goal pace for the 37 year old. He's over four shots per game, and while the plus-minus is disappointing, it's starting to turn around a bit. My love for Ovechkin is well known in these parts, so I don't need to belabor the point, but I can't wait for the greatest goal scorer ever to push towards 895. Here's to hoping he keeps battling father time and gives hockey fans a great chase. Let's see what else happened over the last two nights:
One of the goaltending performances of the season came in the marquee showdown on Tuesday. Toronto sure didn't make it easy on Matt Murray, taking seven penalties, but Murray stood up to the challenge and then some. Murray had a 44 save shutout, leading Toronto to a 4-0 victory. I thought the Toronto goaltending would be rough this season, but Murray has been very good when on the ice. Same goes with Ilya Samsonov. It could fall apart just like it did for Campbell last season, but the reason I liked these guys as #2 goalies is their floor is so high because of wins. When Toronto gets this level of goaltending, it's extremely hard to beat them. Here's to hoping Murray can stay healthy because he could be a big difference maker in fantasy. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights: