After laying a colossal egg in their home opener — an 8-2 loss to San Jose while losing winger James van Riemsdyk for up to six weeks to a leg injury — the Flyers came out with a new look against the Senators on Wednesday.
Jakub Voracek was re-united with Claude Giroux on the top line and produced a five-point night. Travis Konecny owners, meanwhile, can’t be thrilled that he was dropped down to the second line with Nolan Patrick, who wound up leaving the game in the first period after colliding with a Senator.
It’s been a nightmare start to the season for Patrick who, heading into Saturday’s matinee against visiting Vegas, was pointless with a minus-5 through the Flyers’ first five games. The 2017 No. 1 overall pick, actually, didn’t have a point since Game 4 of their playoff series against the Pens, and that includes the entire pre-season schedule last month.
All of this lineup uncertainty, meanwhile, has left fantasy darling Wayne Simmonds out on an island with regard to quality linemates, resulting in only one even-strength point so far, but three on the power-play.
♦ Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov did, in fact, play the Lightning’s opening game on the same line; this after some talk late in the pre-season of maybe splitting up the two superstars to promote scoring balance. And while websites that track line combinations had Ondrej Palat as the LW on that high-powered line, it was actually J.T. Miller in that spot for the entire Bolts opener against Florida last week with Palat on a potentially potent second line with Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde. However, maybe those websites were just ahead of their time. While Miller started the Lightning’s long-awaited second game on Thursday as the No. 1 LW, he was replaced halfway through by Palat with the Bolts struggling to get any offence going against the visiting Canucks. So, we’re still in wait-and-see mode as to who winds up with the plum assignment on the top line. Miller had nearly a point a game after being given the job late last year following his trade from the Rangers, but was replaced during the playoffs.
♦ Fantasy leagues with plus-minus as a category obviously tend to devalue skaters on teams expected to struggle. So, yes, it’s early but it’s a little surprising to see Canucks forward Markus Granlund and Senators defenceman Dylan DeMelo both sitting at plus-5, tied for the NHL lead, heading into Saturday’s games.
♦ Haven’t seen this in a while but, despite the fact he leads the NHL in scoring after Friday’s one-day hiatus, Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews was minus-1 after five games. All that means is the young superstar is producing regularly with the man advantage, which is eliciting a relieved ‘It’s about time, Babcock!’ from his fantasy owners. Matthews’ four power-play goals already are just one shy of his entire total for last season.
♦ Nikolaj Ehlers is back on the Jets’ second line for the Jets, for now. But the two-time 60-point winger’s struggles have not abated, with nothing but zeroes on the scoresheet through his first four games to go with a minus-2. Ehlers’ problems, however, go back to last season. Held without a goal through three entire playoff rounds, his goal-scoring drought is now up to 22 games and counting. And when coach Paul Maurice returned him to a top-six role following the Jets’ second game, replacing Mathieu Perreault, it was felt he had to produce or get sent back to a checking role. But as the second line has continued to flounder, it looks like the next option will be to try Jack Roslovic at centre between he and Laine and demote Bryan Little.
♦ Yikes! When we said in our fantasy preview that Roberto Luongo had become an injury risk, we didn’t think the veteran Panthers netminder would last only half a game before being hurt. In fairness, this one was just one of those unfortunate occurrences when a teammate fell on his leg, straining his MCL. He’ll likely be out another few weeks.
♦ Still in south Florida, the Panthers are using five forwards on their first power-play unit with Aleksander Barkov and former Senator Mike Hoffman manning the points. Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle work the back end on the second unit.
♦ Jonathan Toews is suddenly a fantasy force once again, with a 5-3-8 line through four games. The Blackhawks captain is crediting off-season conditioning but it’s interesting that he is doing this with Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kahun on his flanks, easily the least-accomplished set of wingmen he has skated with in years. No Patrick Kane, no Marian Hossa, no Brandon Saad. But Toews is on an early pace for more than 300 shots on goal, though that current 33% shooting percentage will be coming way down.
♦ Rangers defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk was a healthy scratch for Thursday’s game against the visiting Sharks. Shattenkirk, of course, is better than he’s shown so far and we wouldn’t advise dumping him or trading him for less than value.
♦ Nice to see the Oilers, Devils, Lighting and Panthers rejoining the NHL on Thursday after each played just one game through the season’s first eight nights. Don’t even look seriously at your pool standings until the schedule finds some sort of equilibrium.
WAIVER WATCH: With fantasy rating out of 5
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The good news is that last year’s bottom-six rookie, a 2017 NCAA free-agent signing, is now a top-liner, skating with Anze Kopitar and Ilya Kovalchuk and leads L.A. in scoring with 2-2-4 totals and a plus-5 in four games. The bad news is that both of his goals came in one game and he didn’t have a shot on goal in the other three. As such, we expect he’ll be back in a checking role once Dustin Brown (finger) returns to the lineup sometime next month.
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Chicago’s stylish first-rounder in 2017 has racked up five assists in his first four games with a plus-3. This after making the jump directly from the WHL where he piled up 71 points in 63 games for Portland last year. He plays fearlessly but don’t expect much in the PIM department after taking only three minor penalties in two junior seasons.
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If you include his two-game cameo with Carolina last season, the 22-year-old rookie has five goals in six career NHL games. It’s three goals in four games this year, skating on the second line with a couple of solid two-way veterans in Jordan Staal and Justin Williams, a trio that has played a huge role inthe Canes’ surprising early success.
With three goals in his first four NHL games (plus two assists and a plus-2) — And that includes four points on the power-play — he’s surprised even the Senators who made him a fifth-round pick in 2016. This outburst is a little uncharacteristic as he was not a high-end point-producer in either junior or last year in the AHL (1-14-15 in 56 games), but if you don’t mind the inevitable plus-minus woes, the rebuilding Sens have nothing to lose by giving him a long leash trying to replace Erik Karlsson’s power-play minutes.
HOT AND NOT Defencemen the first 10 days
Morgan Rielly TOR
3-9-12, 6 PPP, plus-3
John Carlson WAS
2-4-6, plus-4, 4 PIMs
Alexander Edler VAN
0-4-4, minus-1, 24 blocks
Jake Muzzin LA
0-2-2, plus 3, 9 PIMs
Robert Hagg PHIL
2-1-3, 8 PIMs, 15 hits
Mark Giordano CGY
1-3-4, plus-5 6 PIMs
Ron Hainsey TOR
2-1-3, plus-4, 8 blocks
Radko Gudas PHIL
0-4-4, plus-2, 9 hits
Mattias Ekholm NAS
1-2-3, plus-4, 7 PIMs
Charlie McAvoy BOS
0-4-4, plus-1, 8 blocks
Brady Skjei NYR
1-1-2, plus-1, 14 hits
– – – – – – – –
Victor Hedman TB
0-0-0, minus 3, 1 hit
Erik Karlsson SJ
0-3-3, minus-4, 1 PPP
Roman Josi NAS
1-0-1, even, 0 PPP
Aaron Ekblad FLA
0-0-0, even, 0 blocks
Alex Pietrangelo STL
0-0-0, minus-3, 2 hits
GAMES THIS WEEK
4 — BUF, MIN, TB
2 — CAR, CLB, OTT, PIT, SJ, STL, VGK, WAS
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies