From an individual standpoint, this season couldn't be going any better for John Tavares.  That continued on Monday night as Tavares scored 4 goals in the 7-5 win over Florida.  That brings Tavares to 45 goals and 86 points, both career highs.  Obviously we know to roll Tavares every time out, but where does he rank going into next season?  He's bumped his shot rate back up to an elite level and his plus-minus is by far a career best.  Is that sustainable?  It might be given how good Toronto is.  This, of course, assumes that Marner returns next season.  I don't think he'll make my top 10, but it will be very close.  At the least, Tavares will be in consideration for the wheel in a 12 team draft come September.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
For those of you doing well in your head to head leagues, this is the most important post of the year.  This is my annual playoff manifesto where I break down every team's schedule for the last four weeks of the season.  I tell you who are the best teams and players to stream from, who you should look to trade for or away if your deadline hasn't passed, and it allows you to plan ahead with ease.  For those who haven't read it in the past, the numbers in the parentheses are how many games the team plays in each of those weeks, with the last number being the last week in the season and preceding accordingly.  This is going to be a massive post so let's get right to the 2019 Playoff Manifesto!
Eichel and Skinner are getting tons of credit for the great start to the season for the Buffalo Sabres, but Sam Reinhart isn't getting the love he deserves.  Reinhart had five assists in two games over the weekend, extending his point streak to 10 and reaching 32 points in 34 games.  I've long been a Reinhart supporter but this jump is to an unprecedented level.  The former second overall pick does all of the little things so well and this year, he's finally being rewarded for it.  I don't see why he can't get 70+ points come season's end.  His goals are actually down from last season and with how well the top line is playing, there's no reason why Reinhart can't end up pushing last season's total of 25.  He was always expected to be a playmaker going back to his junior days and now, he might set a new career high in assists by New Year's.  If you're in one of the 25% of leagues that Reinhart is still available, go grab him immediately.  For those who own him, I would definitely hold tight and enjoy the breakout.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
He hasn't been talked about much but as far as disappointments go, Ryan Johansen is near the top of the list.  It wasn't that long ago that he was a 22 year old scoring 33 goals and 30 assists, followed up by 26+45.  Johansen had 4 straight 60+ point seasons before this year and to be blunt, he's been awful compared to his high standards.  Johansen had his best game in quite some time Thursday, dishing three assists and putting three shots on goal in the 5-0 win over the Kings.  The main reason I'm encouraged by this?  Filip Forsberg.  The Swedish star returned from injury on Thursday and immediately went onto Johansen's wing.  Still, five goals and under 1.5 shots per game on the season isn't going to get it done for Johansen owners.  In the last three games, Johansen has at least three shots on goal, so I think he's going to keep building.  I don't think we see Columbus Johansen again, but I don't see why last season's Johansen can be back for the rest of the season.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Loyal Razzballers know the love that the writer, editor and chief of Razzball Hockey has for Sebastian Aho long term. He hasn't taken the league by storm but his rookie season has been incredibly impressive for a 19 year old. Aho had his second best game to date on Thursday scoring two goals and an assist with six shots in the win over the Rangers. That gives him 19+19 on the season with over 2.5 shots per game. He's been a great streamer most of the season but right now I would grab him for the rest of the season. Why? If you recall, the Hurricanes have the best schedule over the last four weeks by a country mile (schedule breakdown here). Aho will be a solid contributor at his current pace given the volume but as we've seen, there is plenty of upside as well. He's still available in over 75% of leagues so go pick up that Aho! Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights:
We're changing things up with the lede today, and by we I mean me! Carey Price was definitely the least valuable player of Thursday night. The superstar goaltender was lit up like a Christmas tree by the Wild allowing 7 goals on 24 shots. In his last 6 starts, Price has allowed, 7, 4, 3, 1, 4, and 4 goals. To say it's been a rough two weeks would be like saying repealing Obamacare is a bad idea. No kidding! Sorry, couldn't help myself. Anyways, how high is the panic meter on Price in my eyes from 1 to 10, 10 being highly concerned? Maybe a 3? We know how good of a goalie he is, I'm not overly concerned over a poor stretch. I doubt you'll be able to buy low on him but it's at least worth kicking the tires and finding out. Look for Price to get back on track sooner than later. Let's take a look at what else happened around the league the last two nights:
I certainly didn't think I'd be writing about Peter Budaj at any point this year. After all, he played in a whopping one game over the past two seasons combined. Alas, we're here in December with Budaj being a major talking point of the NHL season. After Jonathan Quick went down, the expectation was that offseason signing Jeff Zatkoff would get the majority of the starts but when he went down as well, Budaj stepped in and has kept the job. He had arguably his best two performances over the weekend. Budaj posted a 39 save shutout in the 1-0 OT win over the Penguins before making 29 saves on 30 shots in the 1-0 loss in Boston. Budaj is currently #12 in the ESPN player rater among goalies making him a bottom end #1 or elite #2. With the news that Quick is going to be out until at least March, it's Budaj's job going forward. Despite that, Budaj is still available in over 40% of leagues. Can I explain it? No, not one bit. If you don't already own him and he's available in your league, grab Budaj. Let's take a look at everything that happened around the league the last three nights:
There have been plenty of defensemen this season who have frustrated their owners due to lack of performance. A player who looked on the verge of a breakout after last season was Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres agreed with that take giving him a 5 year deal and early dividends were not there. Risto was accumulating assists but not much else. However, things are starting to change and it's no coincidence that it has occurred when Jack Eichel returned to the lineup. On Tuesday night, Ristolainen scored his first goal of the season, an amazing slapshot in overtime, and added two assists and three shots in the 4-3 OT win against the Oilers. That gives Ristolainen 1 goal and 6 assists in the 5 games with Eichel in the lineup. He played almost 30 minutes in each of the last two games showing how important he is to the Sabres depleted blue line and with how the top power play unit moves the puck, I expect Ristolainen to be a #2 defenseman the rest of the way with the upside to be a #1. Let's take a look at what else developed over the last two nights.
On the most recent podcast, Reid and I talked about the impending return of Jack Eichel. You can get extensive coverage at the link above but to summarize, everything that we expected showed its face in Tuesday's game. In the 5-4 win in Ottawa on Tuesday, Eichel stuffed the score sheet totaling a goal and an assist, both on the power play, in addition to five shots and two PIM. The "Big 5" for the Sabres all had multiple points in this game and it's not a coincidence. I'll get to the rest of them later but with Eichel returning, all of the top Sabres on the first power play unit get a major boost. Now is the time to either add (Sam Reinhart), buy low (Rasmus Ristolainen, maybe Ryan O'Reilly) or hold tight (Kyle Okposo) to the big guns. This should be a top 5 PP unit going forward and with Eichel returning along with 2 of their best 3 defensemen sooner than later, the depth on this team increased drastically benefiting everybody. Here's what else I saw around the league the last two nights along with some big news for the readers / listeners of the podcast:
I try not to lose faith in any of my players in the first month of the season. I prefer to stand by my draft decisions and ride out a player’s slow start, rather than regret dropping them too early. Of course, living up to that ideal is a whole other ball of wax, but it usually serves me well for a few weeks at least. If your crew of defencemen is lacking, now is a great time to start shuffling. It is a time of uncertainty and doubt for many owners, which means you can – and should – capitalize and improve your blue line before these cold starters warm up. Below are a few you should alternately covet, drop, and consider for the long run. P.S.: Today's post is not-so-subtly brought to you by the color Green and the word Day.