Every now and then, it feels like the planets align for you. And by that I mean, “occasionally a few convenient things happen simultaneously to produce a pleasant result.”
(The planets align bit has a much nicer ring to it, though, doesn’t it?)
Either way, things came together nicely on Thursday, as the Nashville Predators hosted the Edmonton Oilers in a Thanksgiving game that happened to feature Ilya Bryzgalov’s first start of the 2013-14 season.
While I think people beat up on the TV-watching hockey experience too much - many underestimate the value of announcers and frequent replays - there is indeed something to be said for soaking in a game in person, even if you have to deal with fans relentlessly mugging for cameras, long lines to the restroom, drinks that cost more than a typical meal.
This is my way of admitting that I might have been more impressed with Bryzgalov’s 33-save shutout if I wasn’t in the building where it happened.
Now, that’s not to say that Breezy wasn’t sharp. He was. Obviously, the Russian netminder stopped every puck that went his way and made some heads-up plays. The only criticism I’d really lob at him is that he remains an absolute “adventure” when it comes to handling the puck.
Still, my impression was that the Predators’ opportunities were more of the quantity-over-quality variety. Really, it was the perfect game for Bryzgalov to return; Nashville was on the tail end of a back-to-back set, and while there are Predators players I like on a mid-level, they don’t boast the kind of firepower that many other West teams might throw at Bryzgalov.
As far as I can tell, he mostly made saves on deflections and medium-dangerous opportunities. There weren’t a lot of “all alone in the slot” heart-stoppers.
Again, I want to reiterate that it isn’t Bryzgalov’s fault that he faced a series of chances that weren’t (in my in-the-moment opinion) super-threatening. I just want to note that he didn’t need to be a superstar last night.
And he might need to be one to drag a bad Oilers team out of the cellar.
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(Note: Bryzgalov is worth an add if you need a third or even fourth netminder. He’s only 21 percent owned. While I think he’ll face some serious ups and downs - much like his fellow barely signed netminder Tim Thomas - he has a lot to play for and has a track record you’d rarely see in a goalie on the waiver wire two months into the season. Just don’t get too excited.)
As much as I attempted to focus on Bryzgalov to inform The People about how strong or weak he looked last night, the flow of the game divided my attention.
Here are a few takeaways from the game:
-- No doubt, Shea Weber’s injury is a concern. All I saw was Weber leaving the ice in hasty fashion, with his face bloodied. Visors are your friends, kids.
Be on the lookout for news regarding his status over the weekend/coming week. It’s frightening to realize that the Preds’ short-term future could hinge on two upcoming injury updates: the severity of Weber’s issues and the clarity of Pekka Rinne’s MRI.
(Weber’s considered day-to-day now, but who knows.)
-- I wouldn’t hang the loss on Marek Mazanec, who allowed two goals in a 4-on-4 situation after he was bumped by Ryan Smyth. Mazanec is unspectacular, but still in a pretty solid situation.
-- It’s funny that Bryzgalov faced the exact team that I thought would be the best fit for him - even before, but especially after Pekka Rinne’s injury - in his first start of the season.
-- I’ve been pumping up David Perron (52 percent owned) even before seeing him in a recent live game. After watching him pretty closely, I came away that much more impressed. I love what he brings to the table when you consider his nice scoring (18 points) with his impressive peripherals (22 PIM, 81 SOG, 33 hits).
Perron might just earn another NHL deal for Ryan Smyth.
-- The Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle seemed like they really owned the puck. Extra Skater’s stats say there were other Oilers who were more dominant possession-wise, but the trio generated three goals, two assists and 10 SOG between them.
VANCOUVER 5, OTTAWA 2
-- To put things lightly, things aren't going well for Craig Anderson. Ryan Classic points out that the American netminder has allowed as many goals in the last 11 games as he did in 24 contests in 2012-13 (40, apparently?). While Robin Lehner's record is just 4-4-2, he has a .937 save percentage this season. At minimum, Lehner deserves to be the 1B to Anderson's 1A; I'd be tempted to give him an extended audition as the top guy, to be honest.
-- Bobby Ryan has been splendid. One hidden benefit is that he's living up to the power forward billing hits-wise, with 49 already. There's no doubt that he's featured in Ottawa far more than he would be in Anaheim (and probably happier there), but I still think the Ducks dropped the ball. That might become more painfully clear once Teemu Selanne regrettably retires.
-- Mika Zibanejad is worth monitoring: three goals and two assists for five points in his last five games. He's not getting a ton of ice time, but he isn't shy to shoot. Also, he has DJ experience, which we can all agree is highly important.
-- Jason Garrison is a very useful depth defenseman. He also has a luscious beard, which is a solid tie-breaker in my book.*
A FEW TO BE THANKFUL FOR
Be grateful that Bryzgalov’s debut more or less killed Thanksgiving/Black Friday stuff, but for those who actually wanted to theme it up, here are some players we should be thankful for:
Alexander Steen - I mean, it couldn’t be more obvious, right? Many probably didn’t expect much more than 20 goals overall this season, let alone in about two months.
Radim Vrbata - Somehow he was given an O-Rank of 247. Somehow he's only owned in 52 percent of leagues. He's the odd example of a player who owners SHOULD be more thankful for ... if they would add him.
Tomas Hertl - He's done more than merely generate maybe the goal of the year. He's consistently collecting points, although he only has an assist in his last four games. So we'll see if the gratitude continues.
Duncan Keith - While he only has one goal, those 20 assists are fantastic. And it's not as if he isn't trying to find the net; he has 73 SOG. We all know he's a very good or even great defenseman, but it hasn't always translated to fantasy. This year his skills are.
Josh Harding, Ben Scrivens, Steve Mason, etc: if there's been one key area of value, it's been goaltending. It's amusing that there are just as many success stories revolving around guys who were barely on the NHL radar as there have been among the highest-paid netminders. Those who believe it's best to stock up on quality skaters early in drafts and get value goalies can point to the first months of this season as a prime example of the merit of that strategy.
Click here for a full list of injuries and suspensions.
* - I could actually fathom a chapter of a book being about beard-based tie-breakers.