It was a busy day on the ice in the National Hockey League, and for whatever reason people were feeling a little feisty. We had several players in the NHL, including Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, rack up more than 10 penalty minutes. We also had one hat trick and one goaltender shutout, too, making for a great day of fantasy action. In PyeongChang, it was Germany giving the Olympic Athletes of Russia all they could handle in the gold medal game, but eventually it was talent beating out heart as the Russians picked up their first medal in hockey since a bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002, and their first gold since winning one as the Unified Team in Albertville back in 1992. The head coach of the OAR, Alexei Zhamnov, was a forward on that '92 squad which edged out Canada. It was an outstanding Olympics, and the nation and people of South Korea were equally beautiful and gracious. They have set the bar high for future Olympiads going forward. Let's get started!
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Saturday's Fantasy Five
It wasn't just a day for fans of Russian Olympic hockey to be proud. Evgenii Dadonov, born in Chelyabinsk, was able to post the only hat trick in the NHL on Saturday as his Florida Panthers registered an impressive 6-5 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was his first-career hat trick, as he continues to play well in the month of February. Over his past seven games he has potted seven goals with a total of 10 points. Two of the markers during the run have gone for game-winning tallies, and he has lit the lamp once while offering a helper on the man advantage during this latest seven-game run, too.
Keeping with the Russian theme, how about the game from Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals? And, amazingly, he is from Dadonov's same hometown of Chelyabinsk. The Russian center posted a goal, three assists, a plus-3 rating, joining fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin with a multi-point game. The Moscow-born Ovechkin lit the lamp twice, as it was truly a day for the Russians. Kuznetsov has managed four goals with 13 points through 12 games so far in the month of February. Just in case you were wondering, too, Chelyabinsk is a city in west-central Russia with a population of about 1.13 million. You might have seen the YouTube video of the meteor air burst which damaged more than 7,200 buildings in the city a few years ago.
Antti Raanta snapped the Russian monopoly in the Fantasy Five, stopping all 26 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season, and the 10th of his career. Perhaps he was feeling the heat with the team acquiring Darcy Kuemper from the Los Angeles Kings earlier this week. He is expected to make his team debut on Sunday in the second end of the back-to-back situation. Raanta is 5-2 with a 1.66 goals-against average in seven starts and eight appearances in February, so Kuemper better be in for a fight for starts in his new home.
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Mitch Marner's name has been bandied about in trade rumors, as some talking heads, and of course the team's rabid fan base, are always looking for the team to be extremely busy and upgrade at the deadline. The way Marner is going right now, it would be a mistake to see him playing his hockey elsewhere. He posted a goal with three assists, including two on the power play, and a plus-2 rating in a very important victory against the Boston Bruins. His amazing February continues, as he is now up to eight goals with 16 points and a plus-3 rating across 12 outings. Might someone like Ottawa's Erik Karlsson or Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers look good with a maple leaf crest on his sweater? Yes. But is it worth someone like Marner, or William Nylander, who also struck for two assists and a plus-2 rating on Saturday? The answer should be no.
Nikolaj Ehlers of Denmark took out a nation's frustrations of not winning any medals in PyeongChang, posting a goal with two assists and a plus-3 rating with a blocked shot in Saturday's 5-3 win in Dallas. He has managed four goals with seven points over his past seven contests. While he is sailing along at a point-per-game clip lately, he hasn't struck on the power play in 18 outings dating back to Jan. 9 in Buffalo. The home fans haven't witnessed Ehlers register a point on the man advantage since he picked up a power-play assist on Jan. 5, also against the Sabres. Despite the lack of power-play points, he remains an obvious fantasy must-start across all pools.
Fantasy Game of the Night
The Pittsburgh Penguins were able to roll up five goals, but they were on the losing side of the ledger in Sunrise on Saturday night. The Pens were led by Evgeni Malkin from, you guessed it, Russia. Geno hails from Magnitogorsk, as Chelyabinsk cannot get all the love on this day. Malkin posted his second consecutive three-point game, and third in the past four outings, going for two goals with an assist and a plus-2 rating. He has managed six goals with 12 points during his six-game point streak, and he has 10 goals with 21 points through 11 games in the month of February. In other words, Malkin is Красный горячий, or red hot if you're unfamiliar with Cyrillic. Carl Hagelin picked up a goal with an assist and a plus-2 rating, giving him four goals and nine points in February. He has also been even or positive in the plus/minus rating in each of his past 14 outings. Bryan Rust went for a goal, an assist, a plus-1 rating and six shots on goal across 16:38 of ice time. Patric Hornqvist went for a goal with nine shots on net and he rolled up 10 penalty minutes thanks to a late-game misconduct infraction.
On the Panthers side of the ledger, we mentioned Dadonov's exploits above. However, Aleksander Barkov was able to pick up three assists with a plus-1 rating in his 22:56 of ice time, and he went 10-10 in the faceoff circle. It has been a fruitful February for Barkov, who is actually Finnish-born to Russian parents from Novosibirsk. Sasha went for five goals and 15 points through 11 outings in February, and four of his points have come on the man advantage with two game-winning markers. Alex Petrovic and Keith Yandle each picked up two assists in the home win, and both players were credited with a blocked shot, too. Nick Bjugstad added a helper with a plus-1 rating and he was able to rack up seven PIM in the game, the only Panthers player to spend any time in the sin bin. Checking line center Derek MacKenzie posted a goal with a plus-1 rating on three shots in just 9:24 of ice time while winning two of his three faceoffs. Unlike the other Florida players on this list, he isn't someone who warrants fantasy consideration despite the scoring. As far as the crease is concerned, someone had to win this game, and Roberto Luongo held on for the win despite allowing five goals on 37 shots. It was a far cry from the performance of Tristan Jarry, who allowed four goals on 16 shots before getting chased midway through the game. Matt Murray finished up, yielding two goals on 16 shots in his 30:27.
Quick Hits: Brandon Manning went for a goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating with four blocked shots and three hits in matinee action in Ottawa. Claude Giroux of the Flyers also got onto the board with a multi-point game, posting a goal with an assist and a plus-2 while winning seven of his 12 faceoffs. … Petr Mrazek is fitting right in, stopping 25 shots while picking up a victory in Ottawa. It was Philly's fifth straight overall, as they continue their march up the standings. … Mike Hoffman was a bright spot for the Sens, posting a goal and an assist with three hits. … Duncan Siemens managed an assist with three blocked shots, a hit and three separate penalties for 14 PIM. … Garnet Hathaway nearly matched Siemens in bad behavior, posting 12 PIM. … T.J. Brodie posted a pair of assists with a plus-2 rating and a blocked shot, doing what he does best. Mikael Backlund posted a goal with two assists and a plus-1 rating after entering the game with just one helper over his previous 10 outings. … Jon Gillies stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced against the Colorado Avalanche for an impressive home win. … Brad Marchand picked up two goals with a plus-2 rating and he won his only faceoff, too. Patrice Bergeron also got onto the board with two assists, a plus-2 rating and two hits. David Pastrnak added two helpers with a pair of hits, too. … Nazem Kadri struck for a pair of power-play goals, but he did finish with a minus-2 rating. … As mentioned, Stamkos was in a bad mood, racking up 17 PIM. He also had an assist, a blocked shot and he won 11 of his 16 faceoff chances. … Danny DeKeyser posted a goal with a plus-1 rating, three shots on goal, an incredible seven blocked shots and a hit. … DeKeyser's busy game helped backstop Jimmy Howard, who allowed just one goal on 29 shots to keep the skidding Hurricanes down. … Sergei Bobrovsky allowed two goals on 33 shots to pick up a win against the Blackhawks. He has allowed two or fewer goals in six of his past seven appearances. … Dustin Byfuglien rolled up three assists with a plus-2 rating, a blocked shot and a hit in his team's road win in Dallas. … John Carlson and Matt Niskanen picked up two helpers each as the Caps undressed the Sabres, 5-1.