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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Evaluating Duchene with Senators

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Nov. 22 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday throughout the 2017-18 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

What do you think about the Colorado Avalanche's Samuel Girard and how Matt Duchene is playing with the Ottawa Senators? -- @GeauxAvs

Duchene has no points in five games since being traded to the Senators, but he's been a threat in at least three of them and probably should have had better results. He seemed to be establishing chemistry at forward on a line with Bobby Ryan. Duchene is going to produce. He will make an impact on the score sheet. It takes time to adjust to a new team, especially the new system because the Senators have a distinct style. He seems to be adjusting well; now he just needs some results. They'll come soon enough.

I really like Girard's game. I think the rookie defenseman is a terrific fit for the Avalanche, especially alongside Erik Johnson. I was surprised coach Jared Bednar paired him with Tyson Barrie in his first two games, but the pair worked out OK in the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series games against the Senators. But I think pairing him with Johnson is better because it frees Girard to move up in the play, and though it doesn't preclude Johnson from doing the same, it gives Johnson the ability to stay back, which conserves some of his energy, a necessity considering the minutes he plays. Girard looks like he can handle the minutes too.

 

What team do you think would suit Rasmus Dahlin the best, assuming he will be picked first? -- @ene_adam

From everything I've heard about Dahlin, a 17-year-old Swedish defenseman playing for Frolunda in Gothenburg, any team would be lucky to get him in the 2018 NHL Draft. I hesitate to make comparisons between prospects and Hall of Famers or established players, but the two names that have come up in conversations I've had about Dahlin with contacts from Sweden are Erik Karlsson and Nicklas Lidstrom. That's lofty, so let's not go there yet. From what I've heard, and seen in snippets, is Dahlin, a lefty, has the skillset that is basically a requirement for defensemen in the NHL these days. Mobility, agility and composure are his strengths. I've been told he is also unpredictable. He moves the puck well. He skates well. He has a sense for how to generate offense. He's a threat on the power play. He can play 20-plus minutes per game. Considering that description, you can see why he gets compared to Karlsson, who also played for Frolunda. Dahlin had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 19 games going into Frolunda's game against Malmo on Tuesday. That he's contributing against the best competition in Sweden at the age of 17 is impressive to say the least. Any team would be thrilled to get him. He has the look of a future No. 1 defenseman.

 

Do you buy into the notion that American Thanksgiving is the time to panic if your team is playing lousy? -- @JChristian94

Panic is too strong of a word. Worry would be more appropriate. And for good reason. The statistics are telling. In three of the past four seasons, 13 of the 16 teams that were in a Stanley Cup Playoff position on U.S. Thanksgiving, which is Thursday, wound up making the postseason. It was 12 teams in the 2015-16 season. For example, last season the Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings were in playoff position by Thanksgiving, but they didn't make it. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames jumped in after being on the outside.

The Thanksgiving holiday in the United States always falls around the first quarter of the season, which is when the evaluation period normally ends because teams are showing who they really are and general managers have a firm handle on what they may need to upgrade. The problem is, in the NHL salary-cap era it's hard to upgrade until closer to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26, when many teams decide if they're going to be sellers or buyers. The parity in the League is so strong that panicking now would be a waste of time, but if you're not in a playoff position after the games Wednesday then you obviously have reason to worry.

 

Despite it not being all his fault, do you think Philipp Grubauer's performance has hurt his trade value/reputation? What happens with him in the long run? -- @gdohlke79

Grubauer has numbers (0-5-1, 3.86 goals-against average, .876 save percentage) that when looked at on the surface must have an impact on how the Washington Capitals backup is viewed around the League. However, proper evaluation is necessary to be fair to Grubauer. All five of his regulation losses have come in the second half of back-to-back sets playing in place of Braden Holtby. Five of Grubauer's six starts have come on the road, including four on the second half of a back-to-back. That's the life of a backup goalie. It's rarely easy. His starts often come in sub-optimal situations. But the best backups, the ones who eventually get a chance to be a No. 1 goalie, thrive in those sub-optimal conditions. That is how Martin Jones got his chance with the San Jose Sharks, Cam Talbot with the Edmonton Oilers, Scott Darling with the Carolina Hurricanes, Andrei Vasilevskiy with the Lightning, and Cory Schneider with the New Jersey Devils. Grubauer clearly isn't on their level, yet.

Video: WSH@VGY: Grubauer swallows up Gaudreau's redirection

 

If the World Cup was tomorrow, who would your starting lineup and starting goalie be for Team North America? -- @mikeybox

Assuming the same parameters from the World Cup of Hockey 2016 are in place, meaning the pool of players available is limited to players from Canada and the United States who are 23 years old and younger as of Oct. 1:

Auston Matthews -- Connor McDavid -- Nathan MacKinnon

Zach Werenski -- Aaron Ekblad

Matt Murray

Remember, you asked me to pick my starting lineup, not my entire roster. I'd probably eventually have Matthews center his own line, and possibly MacKinnon too. The defense was easy because it's a lefty-righty combination with speed, awareness and physicality. Murray was the only choice for the goalie.

If you look back at Team North America now, 12 of the 23 players on the roster, including goalies John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck, would be ineligible if there was a World Cup this year. Forwards Clayton Keller, Mathew Barzal, Brayden Point, Anthony Mantha, Brock Boeser, Nolan Patrick, Mitchell Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and Alex DeBrincat, along with defensemen Will Butcher and Girard, would be candidates for the roster now.

 

Are the New York Rangers for real now? -- @zach_helfant

They're playing like playoff contenders again. If that is the definition of being for real, then they are. 

Their special teams have improved, especially their penalty kill, which is 27-for-31 in the past 10 games. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk seems to have settled in on the second pair with Brady Skjei. Shattenkirk has made an obvious impact on the power play, which is scoreless in the past three games after going 8-for-19 during a six-game winning streak. His ability to quarterback the top unit and create opportunities by shooting or faking shots and passing has been something the Rangers haven't had since Keith Yandle. When was the last time they had a right-handed defenseman making that big of a difference on their power play? Michal Rozsival from 2005-09 is probably the answer. He had 20 power-play points in 2006-07. Shattenkirk already has nine in 21 games. 

Save for the 6-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 15, goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been better. He's moving better. He's been more aggressive. He's cut down on the so-called goals against that he would want back. 

Mika Zibanejad is playing like a true No. 1 center. Left wing Chris Kreider has been more visible, especially around the net. Forward Rick Nash did not get frustrated by his lack of finish in October and has been rewarded with five goals in eight games this month. Their defensive structure, particularly through the neutral zone, has improved. They have been better at the start of games, which was a huge problem last month. 

Put it all together and you've got a team that is 7-2-0 in its past nine games after going 3-7-2 in its first 12. They're back into the race.

Video: OTT@NYR: Lundqvist slides across to stone Hoffman

 

Should the New Jersey Devils be in the market for a defenseman and playoff push with a surprising start season and injury to Mirco Mueller? -- @sammylammyyk

The answer here is always, and I would expect Ray Shero, typically one of the most active GMs when it comes to trades, to be scouring the market to see what he can come up with before the deadline. The good news is, salary cap space now and in the near future isn't a concern, so the Devils don't have to look only at the rental market. However, the Devils should be in no rush to fill Mueller's spot. Their formula is working now and they need to be careful who they trade away, if he is a current player, although it's possible American Hockey League forwards John Quenneville, Blake Speers and Joseph Blandisi could be potential trade targets for some teams. Options will open for them if they're still in the thick of the race after the All-Star break (Jan. 26-29). If there is major slippage between now and then, they might act quickly.

 

Which restaurant in Stockholm has the best meatballs? -- @kreidqvist

Restaurant Pelikan is my favorite. I highly recommend it.

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