We are going to call March 21, 2015, the 'Day of the Goalie' because of the amount of first-rate performances around the league. Five shutouts, plus a few other notable efforts from the masked men.
Let's get right to the 13 recaps.
WILD 6, BLUES 3
— Another day, another game in which Devan Dubnyk is in net for the Wild. Dubnyk wasn’t his best, in stopping 26 of 29, but he has now started 30 games in a row for Minnesota (31st overall). Though he has looked more human lately, the Wild aren’t securely in a playoff spot without him.
— Offensively, the Wild were led by Justin Fontaine, who scored and assisted twice. The 27-year-old has only 27 points on the year, with 91 shots on goal. So he is not worth picking up for a late-season jolt.
— Jonas Brodin (goal, assist), Chris Stewart, Thomas Vanek, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu were the other goal scorers. Minnesota is a deep team with the ability to score throughout the lineup. Koivu’s goal was his first since Feb. 22. Stewart now has three goals since being acquired by Minnesota. He’s not a bad option if you’re looking for a goal every now and then, mixed with some feistiness.
— Jaden Schwartz (goal, assist), Vladimir Tarasenko (goal, assist) and Paul Stastny scored for the Blues. Just 22, Schwartz has already proven he’s a rising star in this game. With 24 goals and 55 points, he is one goal and one point from tying his career highs, set last season. He’s a player to target in postseason leagues and next year, too.
— Dubnyk was helped out by his counterpart on the other side of the rink. Brian Elliott gave up four goals on 16 shots, getting pulled 4:05 into the second period. Jake Allen came in and stopped 10 of 12 he faced. Not a night the St. Louis netminders want to remember, that’s for sure.
BLUE JACKETS 3, FLAMES 2 (overtime)
— Slowly but surely the regression is hitting the Flames, who are a disaster when it comes to possessing the puck. Calgary is 1-2-1 over its past four games. Luckily for the Flames, Los Angeles continues to be erratic, so they are clinging to a playoff spot, with 84 points.
— Rene Bourque scored twice for Columbus, so he has goals in two consecutive tilts. The luster has been scrubbed from his game, though, as he’s not close to that 27-goal scorer from several seasons ago.
— Artem Anisimov is going to be a sleeper to target next season later in drafts. He has points in three of his past five games. The 20 points aren’t exciting on the surface, but with 42 games under his belt, he has produced at a career-best rate.
— Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler each picked up a goal and an assist, firing a combined 10 shots on net. They’ve also combined to record 13 points over their past five games, too. Hudler’s career year has seen him score 26 times, with 64 points. Monahan has 29 goals and 54 points. Don’t forget: Monahan is only 20 years old, in his second season. Imagine what he'll do when gets stronger and understands the game more.
— Sergei Bobrovsky made 38 saves to essentially will Columbus to the win. He’s another guy I wouldn’t hesitate to draft next year. There’s no way this team can face such bad luck with injuries two years in a row.
JETS 3, CAPITALS 0
— Ondrej Pavelec (28 saves) posted his first shutout since Nov. 11, 2014. More impressively, though, is that he’s won his past four starts while giving up a total of four goals. I am still very hesitant to recommend him because his career save percentage is .907. Every player goes on good and bad streaks.
— Remember Mark Scheifele in next year’s pools. After the goal-assist effort, he has six points and three goals over his past five games. He has 13 goals and 44 points. Next season could be his true coming-out party. He has big-time offensive ability.
— Braden Holtby (21 saves) made his 15th start in a row. Even though he has had a very good season and is young, his workload (64 games) worries me once the playoffs start. In this day and age, you need to be able to rest your starter more regularly.
CANUCKS 4, KINGS 1
— The Canucks couldn’t have picked a better time to beat the Kings this season. It’s a win that will further complicate the Kings’ efforts to reach the playoffs. Los Angeles is two points out.
— It all started well for the Kings, who got the game’s first goal from Marian Gaborik, 24 seconds into the second period. The power-play goal is his 22nd of the season. His 39 points in 58 games aren’t as glowing.
— Nick Bonino and Radim Vrbata scored the other legitimate goals. The final two Vancouver scored with the net empty. Bonino hasn’t really filled the second-line role the same way Ryan Kesler did, with 13 goals and 31 points. Vrbata has been everything Vancouver hoped for, though. He’s aiming for his second 30-goal season.
— This game could’ve slipped out of hand much sooner had it not been for Jonathan Quick’s 38 saves. His .916 save percentage is a tell-tale sign of what this season has been like for him: average.
— Eddie Lack (25 saves) has won three of his past four games. In those games, he has posted a save percentage of at least .962 in the three wins. Think Vancouver is reconsidering why it signed Ryan Miller? Things could get a little interesting this offseason as Lack, with one year until he becomes an unrestricted free agent, should be a number one somewhere.
CANADIENS 2, SHARKS 0
— Carey Price (29 saves) became the first goalie to reach 40 wins this season as he posted his second consecutive shutout, his ninth of the season. Is there anything else you can say to praise this guy? Price has been the Canadiens this season, and if he continues to play like this, the Canadiens will be a tough out in the playoffs. He leads the league with a 1.86 GAA and .938 SV%, too.
— Tomas Plekanec is one of those players who don’t necessarily carry that flashy name, but has proven to be a solid scorer in his career. After his second two-point night in a row, Plekanec has 22 goals and 52 points this season. It's been several seasons since he's looked this good.
— It’s kind of sad to see the Sharks struggle like this. They had a chance to gain in their efforts to reach the playoffs. Instead, they are in a three-way tie with the Avalanche and Stars, with 78 points.
SENATORS 5, MAPLE LEAFS 3
— Andrew Hammond (22 saves) continued his fairy tale-like start to his NHL career. He is now 13-0-1 as a starter for the Senators. It’s worth noting that even though he has yet to lose in regulation, he has given up seven goals over his past two games. Fantasy owners should fear not when it comes to using Hammond. Roll with him.
— The Senators are one point out of a playoff spot, with a game in hand on the Bruins. The way the Senators are playing, the top seed in the East might not want to play them once the postseason starts.
— Kyle Turris scored twice, the second game in a row with two goals. With 11 games remaining, Turris has 21 goals and 52 points. He had 26 and 58, respectively, last season. Does he have enough of a hot stretch in him to set new career highs?
— The Senators also got contributions from Erik Karlsson (goal, assist), Curtis Lazar and Mike Hoffman. Hoffman is among a number of talented rookies this season. The goal was his first since March 8, though Ottawa can’t be complaining about 25 goals and 43 points in his first season.
— As a former first-round pick — even if it seems ages ago — it would behoove the Leafs to give a long look to Tim Erixon the rest of the way. He scored his second goal of the season, and first with Toronto.
PANTHERS 2, BRUINS 1 (shootout)
— The Panthers can ill afford to give points away, though they’ll take their first win against the Bruins since March 15, 2012. Florida is four points back of Boston for the final playoff spot in the East.
— Roberto Luongo (26 saves) has been splendid since missing six contests with a shoulder injury. He has given up two goals total in those starts. He’s proof that goalies in their mid-30s can still play at a very high level. He has a 2.32 GAA and .932 SV%.
— Tuukka Rask (25 saves) pretty much matched him, though he came up short in the skills competition. Speaking of, isn’t that such a lame way to end a game, especially one with this much on the line? A nice bounce-back effort from Rask, who had given up five on Thursday.
— Jimmy Hayes was a healthy scratch Thursday, but he did his best to ensure he doesn’t sit in the press box anytime soon, scoring his 18th of the season. He has shown some nice improvement this year, despite some bumps along the way. This Panthers team has some exciting pieces.
ISLANDERS 3, DEVILS 0
— Ryan Strome is going to be a beast of an offensive player, and it might come as soon as next season. He has teased us all season — with 15 goals and 45 points. Strome, 21, has the ability to put up over 20 goals and 60 points next year, he’s that talented.
— After missing the past two games with a lower-body injury, Jaroslav Halak stopped all 26 shots he faced. Halak has actually been mediocre this year — 2.41 GAA, .913 SV% — he’s just been substantially better than what the Islanders have gotten between the pipes in recent season. I’m not sure he’s going to be good enough in the playoffs.
— Per The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti, the Devils are 4-11-3 since the coaching teams vs. teams currently in the playoffs. They are 7-0-0 against the Sabres, Coyotes and Leafs.
RANGERS 3, HURRICANES 2 (shootout)
— This year, more than any in recent memory, seems to be so much about the unheralded backup goalie. Cam Talbot is one of those as he’s been brilliant with Henrik Lundqvist out with an injury. Talbot made 28 saves, but he was a difference-maker in the third period, stopping 16 of 17. Even though that goal forced OT, the Rangers don’t get their without Talbot. New York seems to sit back far too much with leads.
— J.T. Miller was moved up to the second line with Martin St. Louis injured, and he answered the bell with his eighth goal. Fast was also elevated, to the third line, and he scored on a spinning wrist shot. He had not scored since Jan. 3. It boggles the mind that these two players, both fitting in very well, had a tough time cracking the lineup early in the season.
— Playing center in the NHL is no easy task. The defensive responsibilities alone make it extremely difficult. That Elias Lindholm has 16 goals and 35 points, while playing center, in his second season is very impressive. The offensive comfort can also be shown by his 149 shots in 70 games. A 20-goal, 45-point 2015-16 should not be out of the realm of possibility next year.
PREDATORS 3, SABRES 0
— Pekka Rinne stopped 24 shots en route to his 38th win and fourth shutout. He has a chance to reach the 40-win plateau for the second time in his career. That would be an amazing feat considering the hardships he faced the past few years.
— Even though his 23 goals and 41 points don’t scream “breakout,” especially because he hasn’t yet passed last season’s numbers, Smith has shown he is the real deal. He has upped his shots-on-goal numbers ever so slightly, too. Next year he could make 25 goals and 60 points a reality.
— Can’t really fault Matt Hackett (40 saves) for this loss. He had given up eight goals on 60 shots during the previous two games. It’s going to be a neck-and-neck battle between the Sabres and Coyotes for the worst record in the league.
STARS 4, BLACKHAWKS 0
— Kari Lehtonen (33 saves) has sank so low this season that even a .930 SV% March has not even improved his numbers to an “average” level. Though he has looked better lately, the .908 SV% and 2.82 GAA warn of what could happen if you try to run with him down the stretch.
— Patrick Eaves and Jason Spezza each notched a goal and an assist in the win. Eaves also had six shots on net. He’s hard to recommend because he’s never shown he could sustain any kind of offensive production.
— Spezza’s best goal scoring days also seem behind him. With Saturday’s goal (16), he still might struggle to reach 20 goals this season. The last time he did that was in 2005-06, in his second full season in the league.
— Corey Crawford (25 saves) entered on a 6-0-1 stretch. To shed more light on how good he’s been, he had given up a total of four goals over his past three games.
PENGUINS 3, COYOTES 1
— The best player in hockey has 24 goals and leads the league with 74 points. And we are treating Sidney Crosby like a mortal this season.
— Daniel Winnik scored his first goal as a member of the Penguins. It took him 11 games. In that stretch, he had three assists. Brandon Sutter also soared, his 16th of the season. Let me know when 28 points warrants fantasy consideration.
— Marc-Andre Fleury (30 saves) has enjoyed the most impressive regular season of his career. But can he stand tall when the limelight is on his back in the playoffs?
— If a goalie who has improved greatly since a disastrous start, yet still sports a 3.18 GAA, .901 SV% and has lost five in a row is your type, then go right ahead. But I’m waiting until next season to even consider Mike Smith.
OILERS 5, FLYERS 4 (overtime)
— The Oilers seem to have gotten one thing right, and that’s the selection of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall in the 2011 draft. The 21-year-old has already become a legitimate top-flight number-one center. He scored twice, including the overtime winner, and had an assist. He has 22 goals and 31 assists this season. RNH has points in five games in a row. Hold onto him tightly in keeper leagues.
— Claude Giroux scored two times, so he now has 21 goals. He’s been undone by an 8.2 shooting percentage, which is three percent less than his career average. His 67 points is eighth in the league, but a few more goals and even that looks better, too.
— Philadelphia got its other goals from Ryan White and Michael Raffl. The latter has 18 goals this season, though it comes with a 16.1 shooting percentage. Can’t have too much faith in the sustainability of that.