Category: hockey

NHL DraftKings Tournament – 3/7/21

A good opportunity to play a competitive contrarian lineup in a two game slate presents itself this morning. One figures that most players will go Tampa Bay heavy but the underrated Blackhawks are at home, and a good Islanders team remains underappreciated.
Of note, starting goalies have not been announced so be prepared to swap Lankinen for Subban if that’s who Chicago slides out today. Good luck!


NHL DraftKings Tournament Lineup – 2/26/21

UPDATE: Grubauer is sitting tonight, so you can fairly comfortably pivot to Hunter Miska or, if you’re feeling a little more bold, one of the Kings goalies, whichever starts.

Today is a small game slate, which removes a little hit of variety in terms of your punting options. It also heightens the importance of not screwing up your goalie choice, and the best option today is probably Grubauer. If you believe in the fallacy of “due,” the Avalanche certainly are – hence the choice of their line here.
I’m avoiding the Kings except to punt with Maatta on defense as Doughty’s partner. It figures to be low scoring which might make Quick an attractive play but his stats actually look better than his play recently. If the Kings start Cal Peterson instead, you can start him with confidence and maybe upgrade a punt.

Of the punts available to you, the Rangers’ Lafrenierre is attractive on price point, power play time, and his opponent just leaked seven goals to the Islanders.

NHL DraftKings 50/50 Lineup – 2/20/21AM Games

I hate this slate of matchups. But I’ve been on a heater so why not play them anyway. The Capitals seem a bit underpriced in what could be a blowout against the Rangers. The Avalanche and Golden Knights are playing outdoors which could make for crappy ice and a low scoring affair, leaving Marc-Andre Fleury as a potential bargain in goal. That’s all I have for analysis. Enjoy.

The LA Kings Are Ready to Compete. So Why Won’t They?

Yes, just another armchair GM wondering what a guy who gets paid to do the job is thinking. This column isn’t meant to impugn the job Rob Blake has done as Kings GM. The team is almost universally regarded to have the best prospect pool in NHL, so he’s quite obviously done a remarkable job in accumulating talent. One could argue he waiting too long before conceding the team was in need of an overhaul, and flipping dependable veterans like Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin and Tyler Toffoli for young assets and draft picks. But all in all, if your team is number 1 in something like prospect quality, you get to take credit for that.

In the title, I say they’re ready to compete. This isn’t to imply they’re some kind of Stanley Cup favorite or anything, but they’ve shown me enough in a limited sample size, despite a brutal schedule and significant injuries to multiple key players, that they could be very much in play for a postseason spot in a very competitive Western Conference. Stars like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are playing as well as they ever have. Sean Walker and Matt Roy have emerged as two of the NHL’s best young defensemen. One-time captain Dustin Brown is aging like wine in an age when most NHL players age like bread. Cal Peterson is in the process of wresting the starting goalie job away from multiple time Stanley Cup hero, Jonathan Quick. There are a lot of reasons to be excited.

Oh, there are flaws. For one, they’re not deep. We saw how badly their defense sagged after Walker and Roy suffered injuries in the same game – Walker taking an errant slapshot to the eye, Roy on the receiving end of a brutal cheap shot into the boards by Minnesota’s Kevin Fiala. They’ve also got a few too many place holders keeping seats warm for whenever the prospects get called up. There’s nothing wrong with guys like Trevor Moore, Blake Lizotte, Michael Amadio et al as human beings, and they probably deserve to be employed in the NHL, but no team with designs on contending is giving them significant ice time. And there’s of course the big one, which has been the big one for several seasons now. The “experts” will tell you it’s secondary scoring. Secondary scoring is just a fancy way of saying…well, scoring. Funny thing about ice hockey, it’s a difficult sport to win games in if you don’t have guys who can smash the puck into the net with some kind of frequency. Kopitar is a likely Hall of Famer, and one of the best two-way players of this generation, but has always been a pass first guy. He’s on the top line with Brown and Alex Iafallo. Brown leads the team in goals to date with seven, but is unlikely to sustain that pace considering his last (and only) 30-goal season was thirteen years ago. Iafallo is a nice player with terrific CORSI and ‘goals for percentage’ numbers, but has never broken the 20-goal threshold. The only name hockey casuals will recognize from the second line is Jeff Carter, who is well past his prime as a goal scorer, but still a tremendous defensive forward and elite penalty killer. So where are the goals going to come from?

That deep prospect pool, right? Well… here’s the thing. None of the Kings’ top prospects are that Alex Ovechkin type scorer. I mean, Ovechkin is a unicorn and one of the greatest to ever play, so maybe his standard is unreachable. But there’s no Leon Draisaitl. No Alex DeBrincaat. No David Pastrnak. No Sebastian Aho. Name whomever you want.

Top prospect Quinton Byfield profiles more as a Kopitar type, and while that’s nothing to shake a stick at, it’s not an elite goal scorer. Alex Turcotte is a relentless energy guy and plays both ends of the ice, but again, not an elite scorer. Arthur Kaliyef has the talent profile to potentially develop as a goal scorer, but persistent concerns about his work ethic make reaching his ceiling prohibitively unlikely. The other guys: Gabe Vilardi, Samuel Fagemo, Rasmus Kupari, Carl Grundstrom, Jared Anderson-Dolan and a handful of others all project to be quality second and third line player – a tremendously valuable collection of assets there – but again… no elite scorer.

It’s hard to find an top end goal scorer. There’s maybe one Auston Matthews, or Nathan MacKinnon, or Patrick Kane to draft every year or two.

That’s what makes the Kings disinterest in grabbing one this season all the more perplexing. It’s the consensus missing piece to the contention puzzle. But when the salary cap troubled Vegas Golden Knights made Max Pacioretty available during the off-season, the Kings weren’t interested despite having the most available cap space in the league. When Winnipeg’s disgruntled sniper Patrick Laine became available early in the season, the Kings once again demurred, and Laine was ultimately flipped for fellow disgruntled stud Pierre-Luc Dubois and Jack Roslovic. Even when Alex Galchenyuk, a former third overall pick whose production never quite lived up to his immense talent, was essentially free to a good home with zero long term commitment, nothing.

Where are the goals going to come from, if not grown on trees?

Back to the current squad, all the Kings’ best players are north of 30. Kopitar? The 14-year veteran is now 33. Doughty? The 9-time all star is 31, having averaged an absurd 26 minutes plus of ice time over his career. Brown and Carter are both 36. If they wait too long to make another charge at a title with their current veteran core, they’ll have to replace them too.

It’s a frustrating and peculiar complacency being shown by the organization. It’s one that poses the question, what is it exactly that they are waiting for?

NHL Mock Draft

1. Buffalo – Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda HC
2. Carolina – Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Barrie Colts
3. Montreal – Filiop Zadina, LW, Halifax Mooseheads
4. Ottawa – Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas J20
5. Arizona – Brady Tkachuk, LW, Boston Univ.
6. Detroit – Oliver Walstrom, RW, US U18
7. Vancouver – Quinn Hughes, D, Michigan
8. Chicago – Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights
9. NY Rangers – Ty Smith, D, Spokane Chiefs
10. Edmonton – Noah Dobson, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
11. NY Islanders – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Assat
12. NY Islanders – Joe Veleno, C, Drummondville Voltiguers
13. Dallas – Barrett Hayton, C, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
14. Philadelphia – Joel Farabee, LW, US U18
15. Florida – Bode Wilde, D, US U18
16. Colorado – Rasmus Kupair, C, Karpat
17. New Jersey – Rasmus Sandin, D, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
18. Columbus – K’Andre Miller, D, US U18
19. Philadelphia – Vltali Kravstov, RY, Traktor Chelyabinsk
20. Los Angeles – Isac Lundestrom, C, Lulea HF
21. San Jose – Martin Kaut, RW, Dynamo Pardubice
22. Ottawa – Dominik Bokk, RW, Vaxjo Lakers
23. Anaheim – Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa Generals
24. Minnesota – Akil Thomas, C, Niagra IceDogs
25. Toronto – Jared McIsaac, D, Halifax Mooseheads
26. NY Rangers – Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads
27. Chicago – Grigori Denisenko, LW, Loko Yaroslavl
28. NY Rangers – Alexander Alexeyev, D, Red Deer Rebels
29. St. Louis – Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint Firebirds
30. Detroit – Benoit-Olivier Grouix, C, Halifax Mooseheads
31. Washington – Nicolas Beaudin, D, Drummondville Voltigeurs

Stanley Cup Final Preview

The Participants: New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings

How They Got There: Neither team has had it easy. The Kings have advanced to this stage on the merit of three Game 7 victories over tough Western Conference opponents. The Rangers have played only one fewer game, managing to oust the Montreal Canadiens in six. One could argue that the Kings have had the tougher path, coming back from a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 series deficit in the first round against San Jose, followed by winning the last two against the mighty Anaheim Ducks (see what I did there?) and finally beating Chicago on the road in overtime in the deciding game. Additionally, they had to dust off veteran blueliners Matt Greene and Jeff Scultz after injuries to the steady Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr. But the Rangers’ own improbably comeback against the formidable Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round shouldn’t be minimized either. They’re resilient and tough. 

Who to Watch – Rangers: Rick Nash. Honestly, you could pick any number of guys here. You wouldn’t know it by some of the high-scoring games the Kings have been involved in these playoffs, but they were the NHL’s stingiest defense during the regular season. Nash’s days of being among the league’s top goal scorers are likely in the rearview mirror, but the Rangers will need someone apart from the ageless wonder and surefire Hall of Famer, Martin St. Louis to offer a consistent offensive threat. Look for him, not to steal a basketball term, but “post up” on the talented but comparatively small Slava Voynov to try and create havoc in the slot. 

Who to Watch – Kings: Tyler Toffoli/Tanner Pearson. Ok, I’m cheating by using two guys, but they’re essentially causing the same problem for opposing teams. The Kings were towards the bottom of the league in offense during the regular season, in stark contrast to their defensive excellence. But it’s not a coincidence that once these two youngsters started playing a prominent role on either side of the prolific Jeff Carter that the team’s offense spiked. Sure, the Marian Gaborik acquisition turned out to be winning lotto ticket, but these two kids’s emergence give the Kings three lines that pose a threat, so the criminally underrated Ryan McDonaugh can’t always be on the ice against an offensive threat. 

Why the Rangers Can Win: Henrik Lundqvist is probably the best goalie in hockey, and plays his best when it matters the most, if these playoffs are any indicator. If a team is going to win that isn’t the best of the two, which on paper the Rangers are not, their goalie will have to steal a win or two and Lundqvist is up to the task. 

Why the Kings Can Win: Their top two centers, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, are top shelf. No disrespect to Derek Stepan and Dominic Moore, but they’re not on that level. If the Kings’ centermen, including third and fourth liners Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards assert themselves, it will be tough for the Rangers to make their mark. 

Why the Rangers Can Blow It: It kind of depends on how the series is officiated, but if the series is called closely by the referees, the chippy style of guys like Brian Boyle and Chris Kreider might end the Rangers up killing more penalties than they want, and a man short is not the way to beat the league’s top regular season defense. Kreider is a key cog in the machine for New York, but the microscope will also be on him after he took out Montreal’s top goalie Carey Price. Kreider swears he isn’t dirty, but Price isn’t the first netminder he’s injured. See: Anderson, Craig. If he plows over Jonathan Quick, you can bet there will penalties and a possible suspension. 

Why the Kings Can Blow It: Quick has been pedestrian. That’s actually generous. He’s been shockingly poor. When they won the Cup two years back, he was an impenetrable fortress. This year, he hasn’t “stolen” a single game for the Kings. In fact, one could argue that he’s handed a few games away. This 21 game stretch of the 2014 NHL playoffs is statistically among the worst of his whole career. Carelessness on rebounds, being out of position, not fighting through screens, it hasn’t been vintage Quick. If he’s as bad as he has been the first three rounds, it won’t matter that the Kings are so good on defense.

The Wild Cards: The officials. Admittedly, I have not seen every game of this year’s playoffs, but in many of the games I have seen the men in stripes have been shockingly bad. It’s borderline miraculous the Kings were able to get past Chicago as the calls went the Hawks’ way for the vast majority of the series. The Rangers have had their own zebra complications to overcome, as anyone who looks at Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin cross-eyed gets a 37-minute major. I’ve been accused of being a conspiracy theorist before, and to a certain extent that’s accurate, but this is a New York Los Angeles championship series. The best thing from a business standpoint for the NHL would be for the series to go seven games. To me it’s not a stretch for the officials to be inclined to do what’s in their power to make that happen, in either direction.

The Prediction: Kings in six. Yeah, they’re probably a little beat up. But the general rule is that the team with the preponderance of the good players should win a series that is best of seven. Add to that that the Kings have Drew Doughty, who has been the best hockey player on the planet for the last six weeks, I just don’t see the Rangers having enough. They’ll put up a fight, but it will be a valiant effort in a losing cause.