As someone who’s spent years studying, observing, enjoying (and sometimes enduring) the NHL on a league-wide level rather than just flapping a foam finger for one set of sweaters, it’s almost inevitable for some viewpoints and prejudices to evaporate.
Depending upon your mileage, you might begin to realize that losing in the playoffs often isn’t about a star player “choking”; sometimes it’s about luck and the caliber of your teammates/opponents. Don’t get me wrong, a phrase like “clutch” is too delicious just to totally throw away; now I mainly use these terms for everyday life instead of to question an athlete’s manhood. Example: my wife picking up iced coffee was definitely “clutch.”
There are a ton of really dopey (or almost reasonable) assumptions I no longer make, yet that doesn’t mean that I’ve dropped every theory I once held dear. If you’ve been following the Hockey Daily Dose with even intermittent interest, you may notice that I fixate on contract years in a way that parallels Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins’ obsession with “hockey gods.”
Then again, some long-held beliefs make more sense than others; believing in contract year motivation is like “following the money.” I can’t make the same kind of defense for my illogical fear of the jinx.
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Much like any semi-adult who clings to a silly, wildly unscientific theory, I realize that fearing the jinx doesn’t make sense. Talking smack doesn’t cause you to lose something you otherwise would have won; getting out-played (or out-lucked or out-other-stuff’d) does. Still, you will rarely find me counting unhatched chickens.
So, while I praise Lars Eller for feeding the Oilers a little bulletin board material by saying that their structure sometimes resembles that of a “junior team,” a reptilian part of my brain believes he made that comment a day or two early. Why feed your opponents even a morsel of extra motivation when you can slam them the same way just 48 hours later, when you’re virtually assured not to see them again until 2014-15? (Barring a wildly unlikely Habs-Oilers 2014 Stanley Cup Final.)
I’m glad he said it, though, because it added a lot of spice to Tuesday’s proceedings.
Anyway, we can let the hockey gods sort that out. In the meantime, let’s get to some game summaries.
EDMONTON 4, MONTREAL 3
-- I made some pretty strong overtures for people to hang with Devan Dubnyk, and it seems like the hockey gods are finally giving him some love, as he's won two games in a row and has a point in three of four (2-1-1). His overall numbers aren't great, but they should even out, though he'll definitely have some rough nights. Still, he's been steady with nice individual numbers since his sophomore season in 2010-11, so as long as he gets support beyond what you'd expect from a QMJHL/OHL/WHL team,* he should be a useful third goalie/OK second one. He's only owned in 43 percent of leagues right now.
-- Speaking of guys who are coming around, Tomas Plekanec (62 percent) has five points in his last five games after recording one assist in his first four. There's no reason he should be on waiver wires in most formats, as he does a little of everything, usually with 60-70 point potential.
-- It's easy to be disappointed with Carey Price until you look at his .932 save percentage.
-- Mark Arcobello continues to blow my mind. He has 10 assists and zero goals in 10 games on 22 SOG, with five points in his last four games. He ranks sixth among Oilers forwards with 17:34 ice time per night, including 2:06 on the PP. He's getting 2.2 hits per game. I can't guarantee that he'll be a fixture on your roster for long - Sam Gagner’s likely to gobble up many of his minutes and opportunities whenever he comes back - but if you're hurting, it's hard to argue with a guy who has a point-per-game and a nice role (he also somehow has a +4 rating). He's available in 85 percent of leagues ... consider this sort of a perplexed recommendation; you never know, he could be the next Martin St. Louis or at least Cory Conacher. Then again, with Taylor Hall out about a month, maybe those worries aren't as serious.
-- It's nice to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins heat up, as he has two goals and three assists in his past two contests after a goose egg in three games.
TORONTO 4, ANAHEIM 2
-- After having little puck luck to start the season, Phil Kessel was on fire last night, with an impressive hat trick. James van Riemsdyk + Kessel might just be the most dangerous duo for the U.S. Team in Sochi come February.
-- I'm not crazy about Mathieu Perreault's ice time (14:24 per game), although a big chunk of his reps come on the PP (2:45). I wouldn't give him an enthusiastic thumbs up, yet the talent and production (nine points in nine games) make a compelling argument for at least an audition if you’re leaning his way.
-- I've griped a bit about the headaches that come with Jonas Hiller vs. Viktor Fasth, but Hiller hadn't technically lost yet this season until last night. It’s not about either one being a “bad” goalie … I’ve been impressed by Hiller since he helped the Ducks upset the Sharks in the playoffs many moons ago.
-- Hard to see the Leafs goalie situation as a true platoon, as Jonathan Bernier is clearly in the lead and is the organization's preference.
VANCOUVER 5, ISLANDERS 4 (SO)
-- Could this be budding power forward Kyle Okposo's long-awaited breakthrough season? I don't know, but he's been red-hot, with four two-point games in his last five contests. Still, it's Tuesday's statline that adds to the confusion: great production (two assists) and time on ice (20:40) yet zero shots on goal and nary a penalty minute. It's resounding to look at his career-high 249 SOG in 80 GP from 2009-10 because he seems pretty gun-shy (101 SOG in 48 GP last season, 17 in nine GP in 2013-14). Those misgivings shouldn't stop you from adding him, but when I see a hot player with low SOG and weak peripherals, I get a little queasy.
-- Presenting Okposo's polar opposite: average/small, speedy winger Chris Higgins. He has a ridiculous (for his visibility level) 43 SOG in 11 GP, just one shot shy of four per game. His production is finally matching his efforts this season. While it hasn't happened since his early days with Montreal, it's worth remembering that Higgins had three consecutive 22+ goal seasons there. I wouldn't be shocked if he matches his career-high of 27 tallies if his role stays the same.
-- John Tavares reached his 300th NHL regular season game. The career outlook is splendid: 116 goals, 144 assists for 260 points. Don't blame him for that -40 rating, either.
After the jump: more players who are sorely under-owned in fantasy leagues.
* - I kid, I kid.
MINNESOTA 2, NASHVILLE 0
-- It's unclear how stubborn the Wild might be about giving Niklas Backstrom reps, but Josh Harding is clearly earning at least a platoon situation. Sure, he only had to make a laughable 16 saves last night, but a shutout's a shutout. He's owned in 42 percent of leagues.
-- Zach Parise continues to shoot up a storm, as his four SOG from Tuesday give him a ludicrous 55 in 10 games. It's a crime that he only has four goals and seven points to show for it. If you can swindle someone into a trade, jump on it as soon as you can.
-- Tough to recommend anyone beyond the top players for Nashville.
-- Viktor Stalberg isn't exactly living up to the excitement he generated by signing with the Preds. He's pointless, but worse than that, he's doing next to nothing; just six SOG, a -2 rating, zero PIM. Blah.
WASHINGTON 5, WINNIPEG 4 (SO)
-- People are showing Mikhail Grabovski (now owned in just 37 percent of leagues) about as much patience as Randy Carlyle did. Maybe he raised expectations too high, because he's a fine enough depth forward.
-- If you ever need to win an argument about Nicklas Backstrom being more than just Alex Ovechkin's caddy, just show people this ridiculous move he made to assist Troy Brouwer on Tuesday.
-- Alex Ovechkin isn't letting up, adding seven SOG (61 total) and two goals (nine in nine games) to his increasingly absurd numbers. Health and/or Olympic exhaustion are the only things that seem capable of stopping him.
-- Maybe people are disappointed that he hasn't hit 31 goals since his breakout in 2008-09, but Bryan Little remains a perfectly useful depth forward.
-- "How good would the Jets be if they had a more competent goalie than Ondrej Pavelec?" = a question that will be asked with increasing frequency as long as Winnipeg sticks with the mediocre Czech netminder.
CHICAGO 3, FLORIDA 2 (SO)
-- Just when it seemed safe to keep Tim Thomas, he got injured again last night. There are differing opinions regarding whether it's a recurring groin issue or a new knee injury, but either way, it's bad news. If a year-long layoff isn't to blame, vote for bad luck or Father Time creeping up (Thomas is 39).
-- Jonathan Toews' struggles seem to fly under the radar, don't they? At least until the playoffs. Anyway, he broke a four-game pointless streak with a goal last night.
-- Dmitry Kulikov has been shockingly useless (aside from 23 PIM going into Tuesday) so far this season, but he was everywhere last night, collecting a goal, four PIM, four blocked shots and four hits. I wouldn't add him but at least keep an eye on his progress.
PHOENIX 4, CALGARY 2
-- I probably should've given Mike Ribeiro more benefit of the doubt. After three pointless games to start the season, he has nine in his last seven and four in his last two.
-- Why is Jiri Hudler only owned in 58 percent of leagues? He has 12 points and is getting 21:29 minutes per game. Sure, his peripherals aren't the greatest, but the opportunities and production look great.
-- Mark Giordano quietly puts up respectable depth defenseman numbers in a variety of areas, so hopefully his injury issues will be short-lived.
COLUMBUS 4, NEW JERSEY 1
-- Brandon Dubinsky's versatility makes him a no-brainer in leagues with stats like hits, as he has 27 so far in 2013-14. He's a two-time 20-goal scorer who has eclipsed the 100-PIM mark three times (548 PIM in 431 career GP) and takes a respectable amount of shots (25 in nine games so far). Generally, the deeper your stats go, the better. You might say he "only" scored 20 points last season, but note that he did so in 29 games. Dubinsky's only owned in 20 percent of leagues.
-- Jaromir Jagr's heating up with three assists in his last two games. Quite the career for the future Hall of Famer, who has amassed 1,400 career regular season games. Imagine where his all-time numbers would be if not for that KHL sojourn.
-- Losing to Columbus will probably prompt the Devils to start Martin Brodeur over Cory Schneider, which is not the solution to the Devils' ills.
-- Sergei Bobrovsky could be a fantastic trade target. His record isn't great (3-5-0) but his save percentage (.921) indicates that better times could come. I expect Columbus to be an average team, but he’s likely to get workhorse minutes and put up respectable numbers. Newbie owners might already be getting fed up with him.