Happy holidays to all who celebrated something this week. The NHL gave us a short break, and then the gift of nine games Saturday night. So let's get right to the recaps.
SABRES 6, BRUINS 3
— Welcome to the big show, Jack Eichel, who returned to Boston for the first time since college. The 19-year-old rookie posted a career night with two goals and two assists. Sure, he scored one on the empty net and added an assist on Ryan O’Reilly’s empty netter. But the stats count the same, don’t they? The Sabres came back from a 3-1 third-period deficit, with Eichel getting the tying goal. For my money, Eichel is been on the brink of a breakout all season long. He has 108 shots on goal (13th in the league), with 11 goals and 20 points. More good times are ahead.
— O’Reilly also added a goal and an assist to his empty netter, too. He has been everything the Sabres have looked for in a top-line center, now with 14 goals and 32 points, plus a very underrated defensive game. He should easily be able to set career highs; 28 goals and 64 points is what he’s aiming for.
— I’ve been looking for more from Evander Kane, who scored. He has eight goals and 13 points. The promising news is that he has 89 shots on goal, five of which came Saturday, and points in three games in a row. Stick with him.
— Chad Johnson (30 saves) has been decent this season, with a .918 SV%. He has given up six goals over his past four games, so hey … roll with him for now.
— The Bruins got goals from Patrice Bergeron, Matt Beleskey and David Krejci. Beleskey’s goal was his fifth of the season and 16th point. Didn’t expect him to score on 15% of his shots like last season, did you?
— Tuukka Rask will be in net tomorrow against the Senators. For now, though, Jonas Gustavsson (23 saves) is left with a tough one to swallow. The Bruins were up 3-1 early in the third before Buffalo scored three goals in a row on him.
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LIGHTNING 5, BLUE JACKETS 2
— The Lightning might only be 18-15-3, sixth in the Atlantic Division, but they have all the ability in the world to charge to the top spot. Could this be the start?
— Steven Stamkos scored two goals, part of a three-goal, power-play outburst. He also had an assist on Nikita Nesterov’s marker. Remember when we all wondered what was wrong with Stamkos? Everyone goes through slumps, even the game’s best. He has five goals in his past four games, to give him 16 goals and 28 points this year. He will be fine.
— Mike Blunden (goal, assist) has two goals and four points over his past five games. Don’t get too excited about that, though.
— You probably can’t get him at a discount now, but Ben Bishop (30 goals) is having a stellar season (2.00 GAA, .927 SV%). He has given up two goals in three consecutive games. As the Lightning get going, he will benefit.
— Scott Hartnell scored and received 17 penalty minutes, via a charging call on Bishop and game misconduct. Fantasy owners won’t complain. This type of game is exactly what makes him valuable.
— The Blue Jackets had so much potential this season. It’s a shame one of their downfalls will be goaltending. Joonas Korpisalo (14 saves on 18 shots) lasted two periods. Curtis McElhinney gave up a goal on seven shots. Stay far away from both of these guys. CBJ sorely needs Sergei Bobrovsky back.
CAPITALS 3, CANADIENS 1
— If you lead a game recap and you’re a goaltender, you know it has to be for a good reason. Braden Holtby (29 saves) is simply the best in the game right now. After giving up three goals in two games in a row, it was back to his old self. Holtby has a 1.92 GAA and .932 SV%, and a league-leading 22 wins. I see no reason why he can’t remain a top-tier option the rest of the way. It helps that the Capitals are the East’s best (if not the NHL’s).
— Jason Chimera’s (goal, assist) nice night is all well and good for the Capitals. Even with goals in three games in a row and points in four straight, he does not interest me because his track record has never really included “great offensive player” at all.
— Evgeny Kuznetsov (goal) is pretty good, too. It will be interesting to see how many Capitals get selected to the All-Star team. You could make cases for at least five.
— The Canadiens’ schedule since Carey Price went down is ugly. Three wins in 14 games. It’s not as if it’s only on the goaltending (Mike Condon made 30 saves in this one). They aren’t scoring enough, either.
HURRICANES 3, DEVILS 1
— On paper, this did not seem like an intriguing game. But for the hardcore fans/stats geeks out there, it was. Carolina is a very good possession team that lacks finishers … and good goaltending. The Devils aren’t great in the possession department but they are opportunistic and stifle offense well … and they have exceptional goaltending.
— Cam Ward (19 saves) outdueled Cory Schneider (22 saves). I have been hard on Ward all season, but now is the time to praise him; he has allowed five goals over his past four games. I still would not recommend using him in fantasy leagues. He has a .901 SV% and hasn’t been average (over a season-long stretch) in quite some time.
— Schneider has given up three in three of his past four starts. No reason to worry here. Just not great timing in a short week.
— Justin Faulk has 13 goals, and he finally scored his first at even strength, the game winner. He also had an assist, a plus-two rating and three shots on net. Faulk is an elite offensive producer on the blue line, with 29 points and 105 shots. Don’t worry about the plus/minus (minus-nine).
— Brett Pesce (goal) has three goals and 10 points in 28 games. Not too bad. I’d like to see more shots on goal (34 in 28 games) before recommending him.
— Kyle Palmieri has set a career high in goals, with 15. He is three points away from tying his career high of 31, too. The 24-year-old has been a keen acquisition … more responsibility has translated to increased production, though I doubt he scores at 17% of the time the rest of the way. Wonder if the Ducks could use a player like him right now.
RED WINGS 3, PREDATORS 2
— Can’t say that Brendan Smith’s goal/assist night helped many fantasy owners. Even though he has four of his seven points over his past four games, he should not be on fantasy radars. He offers next to nothing offensively.
— Little upside for Red Wings scorers … Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening got the other goals. None of these guys are recommended. Good for the Red Wings, though. You can’t win in the NHL without depth production.
— I do wonder how good Petr Mrazek (24 saves) could be if he was the full-time starter. The Red Wings will eventually have to move Jimmy Howard, which is probably the reason they continue to split both (21 games played for Mrazek, 16 for Howard). It has worked out well … it’s not fun for fantasy owners, though.
— Filip Forsberg (two goals) has not had the year we expected after starring in his rookie season. He has only nine goals and 24 points, though five points over his past four games. With 105 shots, expect some positive regression. He’s the most talented Predators forward, and it would not be surprising to see him go on a run soon.
— The 2015-16 season has not been kind to Pekka Rinne (20 saves). He has a .910 percentage, 33rd in the NHL. He has posted a save percentage of .910 or better twice over his past six games. He and the Preds’ ineffectiveness on the penalty kill (29th) are not helping things.
PENGUINS 3, WILD 1
— As bad as the Penguins have looked this season, you can’t count out a team that has Sidney Crosby (goal, assist), Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang (two assists). Crosby finding his game will do wonders for this team, though the struggles are certainly not only on him. He has five points over his past three games. If an owner has been antsy, I would swoop in on him immediately. Crosby’s also shooting at 7%, half his career rate.
— Patric Hornqvist (goal) is another one I’d pay a discount to get. I wouldn’t pay full price … but cheap, sure. He has 97 shots and six goals. The 12 points are ugly, too.
— Matt Murray made 25 saves in his third career start. He has wins in back-to-back games, having allowed five goals on 76 shots in his career. Marc-Andre Fleury is dealing with a concussion, so Murray could be worth gambling on for a little bit. He has posted some great rates in the AHL (.938 this year, .941 last season).
— Expecting Devan Dubnyk (29 saves) to replicate last season’s run with the Wild was foolish. A .916 SV% might be a little less than the projections, but it’s not way off. He should remain a solid second goaltender for fantasy purposes.
— I own Jason Zucker (goal) in a points league that counts hits/blocks/shots on goal, so he has some limited value there. Despite only nine goals and 17 points, I do like his increased shot output (93 in 34 games).
BLUES 3, STARS 2 (shootout)
— One came true as Seguin scored his 20th (and 47th point). It’s very difficult to contain players as talented as Seguin as Benn.
— The Stars were outshot 37-24. They can thank Antti Niemi (35 saves) for getting them a point. Niemi has allowed five goals over his past four games, a stretch in which he is 3-0-1. If the Stars can get goaltending like that, there is no reason to think they can’t make real noise later in the season.
— Alexander Steen (goal) picked up his 12th goal of the season, and 33rd point. Steen has recorded 60-plus points in two consecutive seasons. With 33 points, he could get to 70 for the first time.
— In a stacked rookie class, Robby Fabbri (goal) is a guy who is getting overlooked. Sure, his eight goals and 12 points don’t jump off the page. But he is coming along nicely.
— I can’t put my finger on it … but Jake Allen (22 saves) is not a goalie I’m buying at his .927 SV% price. Perhaps it's the fact that among all goalies who have logged at least 500 minutes, Allen ranks 27th in five-on-five save percentage (.9256). He also wasn’t good last year in 37 games (.913 save percentage). He’ll probably prove me wrong, though.
KINGS 4, COYOTES 3 (overtime)
— The wildest game of the night award goes to this one. If you’re the type who likes to tune into games in the last period/quarter, then you got all you wished for as five goals were scored.
— The Kings scored three goals in a row to start the period — Drew Doughty, Tanner Pearson and Dustin Brown — before the Coyotes answered back with two goals in a row on the power play to tie up the game at 3.
— Anze Kopitar’s nifty backhanded goal was the difference. He also added an assist. At Kopitar’s draft position, he has certainly underperformed expectations, with 10 goals and 22 points. He is very capable of getting hot … and he has. Kopitar started with three points in 10 October games.
— This might be the year Doughty (goal, assist) wins the Norris trophy, even if the underlying metrics don’t point to him being the best defensemen. He has six goals and 22 points. I’ll still take him on my team.
— Jonathan Quick gave up three power-play goals. He has given up three or more goals in three of the past four games, though I can’t be too hard on him because five of the goals he’s given up in the past two games have come with the Kings on the PK. His name carries more value than his numbers.
— Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored twice, so he has three goals and four points over his past four games. The new youth on this team has overshadowed the tremendous season from OEL. He has a chance to top 20 goals and 50 points this season. There are few better defensemen out there.
— Louis Domingue (29 saves) gave up double the goals he had allowed over the previous two games, both wins. He has stopped 99 of 107 shots against in four games. Call me crazy but I think he’s worth taking a chance on for those in need of a goalie.
CANUCKS 2, OILERS 1
— Jannik Hansen (two goals) is in the midst of a career season, now with 12 goals and 22 points. Do I think he will keep this up? Not at all. He has never surpassed 16 goals and 39 points, and he’s 29 years old. Do I think he’s worth owning? Sure. There’s value in adding these types of players before it fizzles.
— Ryan Miller missed another game because of muscle cramps. That’s OK because Jacob Markstrom (32 saves) is starting to show why he intrigues so many. He has given up four goals of this past three starts, improving his ratios to 2.33 GAA and .924 SV%. The Canucks would have a better chance of winning with him in net than Miller, who has not been above average since his time in Buffalo.
— Speaking of netminders having trouble regaining their past form, Cam Talbot (22 saves) is finding out what it’s like to play with a less stout defensive unit and without Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire. A 2.93 GAA and .905 SV% is nothing to be excited about. Talbot has given up three goals over his past two games, though. Can’t say I feel too confident in him yet.