1. Why does Bob Hartley hate Sven Baertschi?
On Monday, ahead of the shootout win over the Jets, it was speculated that Sven Baertschi would not be in Bob Hartley’s lineup despite the fact that he had points in the two previous games and had generally been pretty good when it comes to puck possession.
That this was outrageously poor decision-making was obvious, but that it barely raised eyebrows was sad. This is what we’ve come to expect from Hartley vis a vis the former first-round pick: Inexplicably unfair treatment. Now, it should be said that he’s not piling up the shots and he’s been sheltered a pretty fair bit recently, but he’s nonetheless keeping the puck. This, however, apparently only warranted 13:49 in an overtime game. Who knows why any more?
But it’s worth asking what purpose this all serves. He’s a player now just 43 games into his pro career and Hartley is acting as though he’s a veteran whose mistakes must be paid for in healthy scratches and benchings. Kids make mistakes, right? That’s why we’re so willing to give Sean Monahan a pass when he disappears altogether for games at a time.
Baertschi has exactly 22 games more NHL experience than this wunderkind who gets all the leeway he wants, and perhaps it would be wise to start treating him that way. Monahan gets 16-plus minutes a night. Baertschi doesn’t. And almost all the extra time comes on the power play. Think that’d help Baertschi’s production? Maybe his shot total? Nah, the kid just needs to think about the game in the press box every once in a while. That’s the ticket.
2. Whither Monahan?
Speaking of the rookie, after he scored the shootout winner against Winnipeg the other night there was a whole lot of talk about how he’d turned the corner, or whatever. I can’t imagine anyone who thought that actually watched the game.
Yes, he was on the ice for a goal for at even strength, but corsi when he was on the ice was atrocious. I didn’t know until I looked it up exactly what they were, but they certainly weren’t pretty: 20 against and only six for (23.1 percent). Not that I necessarily hold it against him, as he too should receive the benefit of the doubt given his youthful inexperience, but we’re really ready to say he’s broken out of a slump, and overlook the fact that he got drilled in the course of playing regular hockey, because he scored a shootout goal? Just because he snapped that six-game losing streak? That seems crazy to me.
3. We’re a quarter of the way done already
Crazy to think of, isn’t it? Not a lot of good to pull from the already-no-longer-smoldering wreckage of this campaign. As I write this, they’re 13 points out of a playoff spot and only six up from the bottom of the league, which I guess is right around where I thought they would and should be.
Your mileage is obviously going to vary on what you’re getting out of this campaign, but for me, it’s going to be interesting to see just how much worse they can get. It’s been said a million times but the sell-off is coming. Mike Cammalleri has been playing some inspired hockey of late, no doubt in a pronounced effort to get the hell out of town, and bidders are going to come calling soon enough. A few other veterans will probably go along with him. And that opens up minutes for the kids on this team to either sink or swim with, as well as really and truly tanking it, which is all the better for what should be the end goal: Giving yourself as high a draft pick as possible.
Obviously I’m of the belief that this should have been the goal all along, and maybe it secretly was. But I wonder. Just as I don’t think this is a team that should be going 4-2-2 for any stretch of the season, I also don’t know that things are bad enough that they should be going 2-7-1 in any 10 game stretch. I don’t think anyone except maybe Buffalo is that bad.
This team is likely to settle into a groove of losing very soon. It’ll be for the best. One other thing that’s going to help…?
4. All the goalies suck
Wow are they terrible. Reto Berra is well on his way to being the worst on this team, which is saying something given how Karri Ramo has played this season. I’d say they’re young too, and be a little bit willing to give them the benefit of the doubt along with the team’s other youngsters, but both have been playing pro hockey for about a decade at this point. They know what it takes, and none of this should be taking them by surprise.
NHL players are obviously better than those in Finland and Sweden and the KHL, and adjustment obviously takes time. With that having been said, even on a baseline level, you should be able to post save percentages — individually and as a team — north of .890. This is honestly astounding; by the end of this season it’s very likely that the Flames are going to account for the two worst team save percentages in the Behind The Net era.
Good for the tank job, and other teams’ goal totals, but not exactly enough to inspire be confidence in the team’s decision-making.
5. Checkin’ in on Providence College
The good news about the goaltending situation, if there is any, is that Jon Gillies is looking more and more like the real deal. In case you missed the news over the weekend, he recorded the eighth shutout of his college career in just his 45th start. It was also his third in 10 games this season, so it would seem he is picking up the pace.
To say that he’s been revelatory in the crease for Providence is no exaggeration. His save percentage this season is .949, and no, that isn’t a typo. His GAA, as you might expect, is extremely low at 1.59, and consequently his record this year is 8-1-1. With that having been said, he’s played a relatively soft schedule so far this year (only one of the five teams he’s played against is above .500 a month into the season). The thing is, though, that he’s also perfectly capable of doing this against the best teams in the nation, too. And he probably will all season.
There’s less good news to report with the oft-discussed Mark Jankowski, though. After starting the season with 4-1-5 in his first four games, and often looking like a difference-maker in those games (which is to say that these weren’t easily-come-by points), he’s once again faded into the background almost entirely. He has just two goals and no assists in his last seven games, and both those goals came in a breezy win over Merrimack College (currently just 3-6-1).
Worse, his shot totals — usually a good indicator of how involved a player is in proceedings, since corsi isn’t readily available for college games — have dropped off a cliff. He has 20 SOG this season, but of those, 14 came in his first seven games. A good rule of thumb in NCAA hockey is that two shots a night is above average, and three is excellent. (By way of comparison, Johnny Gaudreau is the best forward in the country, and has 46 in 11 games.)
Jankowski has six shots on goal in his last six games, and that’s awful. Especially considering that all of them have come against Hockey East bottom feeders BU, Merrimack and, most recently, Vermont. Worse, four of those shots came in that two-goal game against Merrimack.
I thought he was invisible in watching the Vermont games over the weekend, apart from the fact that he took a bad penalty next to the Vermont net. The stats back that up: Two games, no shots on goal. Despite his age, he really needs to figure it out quickly. It’s gone beyond just not moving his feet, which was a problem earlier in the year. He’s not in any way asserting himself at this point. It’s confusing.