Hard to believe that this is the penultimate Saturday on the NHL’s regular-season slate. Still so much to be decided in the final week.
Let’s get right to the recaps.
HURRICANES 3, FLYERS 2 (shootout)
— Their 29-38-11 record might not quite show it, but the Hurricanes are a sleeper team for me next season. Since the start of the new year, Carolina has the 11th-best score-adjusted Corsi (52.5).
— Despite winning the possession battle throughout, Carolina did its best to try to lose this game, jumping out to a 2-0 lead then allowing the Flyers to tie it up on a goal from Sean Couturier with 1:50 remaining. Couturier is an excellent defensive center whose offensive game has been slow to develop. Even with the goal-assist effort, he has just 14 and 19 on the year, respectively.
— Carolina got goals from Elias Lindholm and Jordan Staal. Lindholm’s made some nice progress this year, scoring 17 times (with 39 points), while firing over two shots on goal per game. Staal remains one of those players whose real-life appeal outweighs what he does in fantasy.
— Cam Ward made 21 saves for his third win in five games. With a 2.42 goals-against average and .909 save percentage, it’s clear the Hurricanes will need better goaltending next year to get to the next level.
BLUE JACKETS 5, PENGUINS 3
— Don’t look now, but the Blue Jackets have won nine in a row and are doing their best to sway playoff races. In those nine games, they have beaten seven teams with legitimate playoff aspirations. They have two (of four) games remaining with playoff teams. Would you believe it if I told you they are 39-35-4?
— I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I never expected Nick Foligno to break out anywhere close to this, let alone continue such strong play all year. After his first career hat trick, he has 27 goals and 67 points. I’d comfortably project him with around 25 goals and 60 points next year.
— Scott Hartnell and Matt Calvert scored the other goals. Hartnell has turned in quite a year, with 26 goals, 55 points and 98 penalty minutes. Brandon Dubinsky added three assists, so he has points in four games in a row. Don’t forget about these Blue Jackets next season. Injuries ruined big-time expectations.
— Sidney Crosby, Brandon Sutter and Ben Lovejoy potted goals for Pittsburgh. Crosby has points in four consecutive games, good for 80, first in the league. He’s still the best player in the game to me.
— Marc-Andre Fleury (30 saves) has been hot and cold of late. After a .908 SV% in March, he has given up eight goals in April. Pittsburgh will go nowhere in the playoffs without him getting back on track.
JETS 5, CANUCKS 4
— Life is not going to be easy for Winnipeg with Dustin Byfuglien serving his four-game suspension. The Jets have four games remaining, and they are technically out of the playoffs, despite being tied for the final wild-card spot.
— Lee Stempniak is really enjoying his time in Canada, isn’t he? He was underutilized in New York, and now he’s standing out with the Jets. He has five goals and seven points in 14 games in Winnipeg. Great production from a depth forward.
— Mark Scheifele, Michael Frolik and Jim Slater also notched goals in the win. The 22-year-old Scheifele has 47 points this year, as he’s grown more comfortable as the season has dragged on. He had 11 points in March. This is a player to target in next year’s drafts he boasts first-line talent.
— The Jets’ chance at the playoffs will be determined by their goaltending. Ondrej Pavelec made 26 saves. Despite the win, he has posted a .875 SV% or lower in three in a row. I’d be much more optimistic for their chances if he weren’t in net.
— Alex Burrows netted two goals. He has four goals and five points in his past four games. An effective player who plays with an edge, Burrows is a solid depth guy in fantasy because he fills the box score.
— The Sedin brothers accounted for five points in the win. Daniel had a goal and two helpers, while Daniel picked up one goal and one assist. The points for Henrik ended a drought of four games. Both are still worthy of drafting around the fourth round in drafts next year.
BRUINS 2, MAPLE LEAFS 1 (shootout)
— Wondering why this game was so close? Look no further than James Reimer, who made 49 saves. He faced 19 shots in the first, 12 in the second, 16 in the third and three in overtime. He’s given up two goals on 91 shots over his past two starts.
— It won’t happen, but Patrice Bergeron deserves MVP love. He scored in regulation and had the winner in the shootout. His 22 goals and 54 points aren’t exactly eye-popping, however the way he defends and hounds the puck is second-to-none. There isn’t a better puck-possession and two-way player in the league.
— Tuukka Rask (27 saves) is the reason no team should look forward to playing the Bruins in the playoffs. He has won five games in a row, and he’s posted at least a .906 save percentage in six consecutive.
SENATORS 4, CAPITALS 3 (overtime)
— The Senators’ fate could’ve been close to sealed had they not escaped with the win in overtime. Can’t be blowing 3-0 first-period leads if you want to make the playoffs. Ottawa is three points behind Boston for the final wild-card spot, with one game in hand.
— It has taken some time, but Kyle Turris is emerging as a bonafide top-line center. He scored the game winner Saturday off of a poke-check and five-hole goal on a breakaway, to give him 23 goals and 58 points this season. He needs one point to set a career high. Further proof that there is no set way that players develop.
— Andrew Hammond’s (three goals) story has been a great one, I’m not denying that. Still doesn’t mean I’d feel very confident with the Senators if they squeak into the eighth playoff spot.
— Mark Stone scored, so he now has points in five games in a row. With Filip Forsberg, Johnny Gaudreau and Aaron Ekblad stealing the spotlight, players like Stone have flown under the radar. He’s had quite the rookie year, though.
— Braden Holtby (24 saves) yielded three goals on 13 first-period shots, then was perfect until overtime. He has helped the Capitals earn at least a point in four games in a row, though he’s given up eight over his past two. His 70 games lead the league. That could be a problem come playoff time.
— Troy Brouwer scored and assisted, to give him 41 points on the season, two off his career high. With 21 goals, he also surpassed the 20-goal mark for the third time in his career. He’s the type of player coaches love come crunch time because he’s a big body who plays a gritty game and “does the little things right.”
LIGHTNING 4, PANTHERS 0
— The Panthers’ playoff battle lasted until early April, as this loss officially knocked them out. Don’t think there’s many who expected that possibility this late in the season.
— Steven Stamkos scored twice and added an assist. His 42 goals are second most in the league, while his 71 points are ninth. With the other young scorers emerging on this team, Stamkos has quietly had another fantastic year, it seems.
— Tyler Johnson and Ryan Callahan each picked up a goal and an assist. Johnson is one of those “young scorers” who has built on a stellar rookie season. He has 27 goals and 69 points, which is second on the team. How was this guy not drafted?
— Ben Bishop (34 saves) has given up two goals over the past two games, on 68 shots. To me, he’s the x-factor for the Lightning in the playoffs. He has no experience under that spotlight so it remains to be seen how he handles it all.
— Roberto Luongo (18 saves) picked the wrong night to struggle. The future is very bright in Florida, and it starts with Luongo’s steadying presence between the pipes.
ISLANDERS 3, SABRES 0
— The Sabres showed up on the Islanders’ schedule at the perfect time. The Islanders have won just five times since the beginning of March, and they’re clinging to the second spot in the Metropolitan division.
— Jaroslav Halak (21 saves) has given the Islanders average goaltending (.915 SV%). But he does have the ability to steal games, now with six shutouts, though this one was an easy one. New York will look to him in the playoffs, where he’s posted a .923 SV%. But will that be enough when the games are tight?
— Kyle Okposo has two goals over his past three games. Getting his confidence in order will go a long way for the Islanders’ aspirations. He has four points since his return from injury Jan. 19.
— All things considered, Andrey Markov (31 saves) performed quite well in his NHL debut. He posted a .902 SV% in the AHL, before getting recalled. Not an easy spot for a 21-year-old.
RANGERS 6, DEVILS 1
— The Rangers are four points away from becoming the Presidents’ trophy winners. It’s almost like things are going too easily for them. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out in the playoffs when teams will have days to game plan. Their experienced core should benefit them greatly.
— Thirteen Rangers recorded points in this game. Keith Yandle scored his first goal at Madison Square Garden, and he also had an assist, to give him 50 points. The defenseman has nine points in 17 games. He’s added a different, offensive-focused element to this back end. Yandle has posted 50 points two times now.
— Dominic Moore scored twice, one off a nifty no-look, backhanded pass from Tanner Glass. He has goals in two games in a row. Rolling four capable lines will be crucial come the playoffs as the Rangers learned last season.
— Rick Nash (goal, assist), Derek Stepan (goal, assist) and Derick Brassard were the other goal scorers. Stepan is five points from his career high, which was set in 82 games last season. He’s played in 64 this year.
— Henrik Lundqvist (35 saves) was 3:30 away from a shutout. King Henrik has given up five goals in three games after giving up four in his first game back from injury. A rested Lundqvist is a good thing for the Rangers moving forward.
RED WINGS 3, WILD 2 (shootout)
— Detroit has 95 points, tied with two others (both of which are leading the wild card). It has four games remaining, starting tomorrow with the Capitals, who have 97 points with one more game played.
— Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan picked up the goals for the Red Wings. Nyquist has 26 goals, three coming over the past five games, and 53 points. He had 28 goals and 48 points last year, marks that were going to be tough to hit unless he was the newest version of Pavel Datsyuk. Nyquist has a bright future ahead of him, and seems to be one who will score at an above-average rate (14.4% this year).
— Will the Red Wings go with Jimmy Howard (22 saves) or Petr Mrazek tomorrow? It’s a situation coach Mike Babcock will have to figure out before the playoffs. I’m not normally a proponent of starting goalies in back-to-back games, though Howard might need the confidence boost.
— Devan Dubnyk (20 saves) is now 0-1-1 over his last two games, one of the worst stretches with the Wild as he’s given up five goals. That tells you all you need to know about his time there. He has a 1.74 GAA and .937 SV% in Minnesota, so we’ll allow him to have an off night here or there.
— Zach Parise is one of my favorite players to watch, as he can play in all situations, and has a high motor with high-end offensive skills, especially around the net. Parise scored twice, to give him 32 goals, 10th in the league. He has eclipsed the 30-goal mark six times in his career.
STARS 4, PREDATORS 3 (overtime)
— Cody Eakin won a regular season game in the most dramatic way, converting on a penalty shot after he was tripped on a breakaway by Mattias Ekholm. He’s still a boring player in fantasy leagues, with just 18 goals and 38 points. Perhaps he’ll be a decent late-round flier next year.
— Colton Sceviour and Travis Moen each recorded a goal and an assist. Tyler Seguin netted his 37th, his fourth consecutive game with a goal. Incredible that he’s been this productive when he missed 10 games because of an injury.
— Filip Forsberg and James Neal both registered a goal and an assist. Forsberg is tied with Johnny Gaudreau for tops among rookies with 61 points. Neal has 23 goals, but just 37 points this season. Maybe Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin really did make a huge difference as his centers …
— If Carey Price didn’t have the Vezina locked up already, he should have it by now. Pekka Rinne gave up four goals on 24 shots, the second game in a row in which he’s given up four. He is sixth in the league with a a .924 SV%.
COYOTES 5, SHARKS 3
— It speaks to how bad the Coyotes are and how good Oliver Ekman-Larsson is that the blueliner leads the team with 23 goals, two of which came Saturday. He also added an assist, so he’s comfortably in the lead in points with 43, too. He is quite the building block and is a defenseman to covet in fantasy leagues.
— Shane Doan had a goal and two helpers, tying the same amount of points he’s had in his 10 games prior. Doan’s demise this season probably has more to do with the lack of playmakers around him than age getting the best of him.
— Mike Smith (42 saves) is doing everything he can to end his season on a high note. Even with a strong finish, it will be tough to rely on him next season because this team is still a long ways from contending. It’s worth noting he had a .934 SV% in March.
— Chris Tierney (goal, assist), Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton picked up the goals for San Jose. Hertl’s rise flew off the rails this season, as he has 13 goals and 31 points in 79 games after scoring 15 and tallying 25 points in 37 games during his rookie season. I think he’s going to be a good one; his rookie season raised expectations too quickly, though.
KINGS 3, AVALANCHE 1
— This was a Sabres-esque performance by the Avalanche, who managed just 10 shots (!) on net and 22 (!) shot attempts at five-on-five play. Jonathan Quick (nine saves) had one of the easiest nights of his career. He didn’t face more than four shots in any period.
— Marian Gaborik, Dwight King and Alec Martinez lit the lamp for the Kings. Gaborik has 26 goals and 46 points this season. Can’t count him out in fantasy leagues; just know he’ll put up the goal totals when all is said and done.
— Ryan O’Reilly had one-fifth of the team’s shots on goal. He also scored the only goal, upping his total to 16 and 54 points on the season. Another one of those players whose real-life value goes beyond the point totals. He’s excellent defensively, too.
FLAMES 4, OILERS 0
— Kari Ramo left the game 58 seconds in after suffering what looked like a leg injury after he went down to make a save on a shot that went wide. All Jonas Hiller did was stop the 27 shots he faced. Not fair to Hiller that he won't get credited with the shootout, especially with Ramo not having to make a save. Calgary is in third place in the Pacific division.
— Markus Granlund netted two goals for the Flames. He has three of his eight goals and four of his 18 points over his past five games. He’ still only 21 with limited experience, so it’s hard to bank on him for any consistency next year. He might be a year or two from being relied upon in fantasy leagues.
— Dennis Wideman recorded a goal and two helpers. He’s had an incredible year from an offensive standpoint, now with 15 goals and 52 points this season. Both of those are career highs.