It’s been a while since we all lowered our heads and decided to grind out some good old-fashioned (?) game notes, so let’s do just that, shall we?
ANAHEIM 4, NASHVILLE 3
-- This game gets prime position because I was there (albeit with a stomach dangerously brimming with tangy barbecued brisket). Usually, I feel like I compile a lot of “circumstantial evidence” - aka findings that may or may not be refuted by “fancy stats” - after seeing live games. The odd thing is that little changed from this experience; I still hold the unscientific view that Ryan Getzlaf is better than Corey Perry, my belief in the Predators’ shabby team structure/worldview remains in place and I still don’t know what to make of the widely held (among stats bloggers) belief that the Ducks are just riding good luck.
It feels like being a detective in a noir film in which every observation only comes with more questions. (Not as much gatling gun or black & white usage here, though.)
-- One thing that changed yet stayed the same: I expected Teemu Selanne to be lousy, but instead he scored his (approx.) gazillionth power-play goal and still showed a dangerous shot and offensive instincts. So the creeping fear of his uselessness changed. What stayed the same? I’ve always come out thinking more highly of “The Finnish Flash” after seeing him in the flesh. I fear Thursday was the last time that will ever happen, however. (I wouldn't add him in fantasy, though.)
-- I’ve seen quite a few games in which Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton have played in net, and I remain unmoved by both of them. They’re both mediocre, yet neither stands as Nashville’s “real” problem. I can’t help but feel that David Poile genuinely believes that everything would be OK if Pekka Rinne was playing, even if the jury’s out regarding whether he’ll be elite post-Ryan Suter.
-- Craig Smith has been quite the force (relative to the Predators, at least) since Dec. 14, scoring 10 points in 12 games. I'm not sure I'd grab him unless you're in an especially deep league, but at least keep an eye on the Wisconsin native.
CAROLINA 6, TORONTO 1
-- I actually gave Anton Khudobin another thumbs up on Thursday, but with flavor-of-the-month options slightly more scarce lately (though more abundant, big picture, than I can recall in any other season), it seems wise to emphasize this again. So, to reiterate: take Khudobin and worry about long-term concerns later on … at least if you need any help in net. Eventually, “the market” will correct itself and he’ll be owned in more than 29 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The 27-year-old is now 6-0-0, with four of those wins coming in the new year.
-- Jordan Staal is probably at least almost as strong defensively as he was hyped to be back when people hyped him with Pittsburgh (now no one really talks about him, come to think of it) ... but don't get fooled by his four-point game. There's an exception, however: he's a nicer asset in hits leagues, as he has more of those (99) than SOG (94) so far this season.
-- Could Elias Lindholm be buoyed by his World Junior Championships sojourn? Maybe. (Yup, that's all I have.)
-- Jeff Skinner is on fire. My favorite stat of the moment: he's collected the game-winning goal in three of the last four games. Outstanding.
-- It's hard not to feel bad for James Reimer, but maybe things will go poorly enough for him that he'll find a new, more nurturing home?
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LOS ANGELES 4, BOSTON 2
-- Justin Williams isn't one of those guys who puts up sexy stats; instead, he's just quite good. Still, that lack of sizzle probably explains why he's owned in as few as 72 percent of leagues. His point production (14 goals, 14 assists) is nice, and he also brings solid PIM (30) and 133 SOG this season.
-- Tuukka Rask has lost three of his last four games and was also pulled on Dec. 28. Did the Finn make some weird negative New Year's resolution?
-- Jonathan Quick has played really well in his return, going 2-0-1 while allowing only four goals in three games. Bad news for owners of Ben Scrivens (and maybe still Martin Jones), but promising for the Kings, Quick owners and David Poile.
ST. LOUIS 5, CALGARY 0
-- Jaroslav Halak earned his first win since Dec. 19. Remarkably, he's still had a strong season in the record regard, as he improved to 18-6-3. He remains on track to blow away his modest career high of 27 wins (he hit 26 two other times). Will he hold off Brian Elliott? We'll see.
-- Vladimir Tarasenko is red-hot right now, with a five-game point streak going (three goals, five assists). He also has four goals and eight assists in his last eight contests. He's not getting great ice time, but that production is tough to ignore. If you don't just go ahead and add him, you should at least be tempted.
-- Weird game for Dennis Wideman on Thursday: he has a -3 rating, four PIM and four SOG. Pretty disappointing stuff overall from a guy who's at least good on paper.
WASHINGTON 4, TAMPA BAY 3
-- Maybe Marcus Johansson's over a brief lull? He slowed down in December (six points in 13 games), but now has three points in his last two games. He doesn't do anything peripherals-wise, though, so if his offense dries up again, he's pretty lousy.
-- Mike Green has been experiencing an odd year, though the goals (five) are finally coming. The -12 rating is a bummer, but he has really been nailing the peripherals; 46 PIM, 12 PPP, 104 SOG, 35 hits and a nice 63 blocked shots.
-- Speaking of peripherals, hidden gem Radko Gudas suffered a lower-body injury on Thursday. Definitely something to watch, as you won't find many guys with brute force stats (88 PIM, 147 hits and 74 blocked shots in 39 games) with passable other stats (11 points, 68 SOG). He even logs decent minutes (20:12 TOI). So hopefully he'll only be sidelined for a brief amount of time.
SAN JOSE 4, DETROIT 1
-- The Sharks' cavalcade of injuries might benefit Joe Pavelski, who scored twice to move his 2013-14 total to 21 tallies.
-- Tomas Tatar only scores highlight reel goals. Except when he scores normal-looking ones. (Sorry, kinda blew that one.)
-- David Poile has to hope that things never come down to Jimmy Howard proving him "wrong" or "right" in naming the Red Wings goalie to the U.S. Olympic team ... because he certainly hasn't been playing well.
MINNESOTA 4, PHOENIX 1
-- It's safe to say that this is a breakthrough season for Mikkel Boedker. He's already set a career high for goals (14) and points (30) despite just playing 43 games in 2013-14. Judging by his work since December (14 points in 16 games), it's difficult to deny his relevance.
-- Could Niklas Backstrom bounce back after many counted him out (57 percent)? It would be oddly fitting considering that he was usurped by a guy many gave up on in Josh Harding. Backstrom is currently on a three-game winning streak. On the other hand, Mike Smith seems to be slipping, although maybe he’s just tipping his cap to Jimmy Howard, fellow questionable third choice for an Olympic team?
NEW JERSEY 1, DALLAS 0
-- I've said this before, but again: if the Devils really want to make the playoffs, they should ride things out with Cory Schneider, who really seems to need to be almost perfect to succeed this season. Three of his six wins this season have been shutouts.
-- Adam Henrique has been heating up as of late, with six points (three goals and three assists) in his last seven contests. Probably more watch list material than anything else, though. I'd probably pick Michael Ryder over Henrique, but that's splitting hairs, to be honest.
-- Times have been tough for Kari Lehtonen lately, as he's lost three games in a row and also had one non-decision in the last four games. You can't pin Thursday's loss on the Finn, however, as he stopped 33 out of 34 shots.
FLORIDA 2, BUFFALO 1 (SO)
-- Is there a matchup with less concentrated fantasy talent than this one, at least among 2013-14 NHL teams? There may be, but it's not fun to think about, is it?
-- OK, I've gotten excited about Tim Thomas (at least on a third or fourth goalie level) a few times, but now I'd recommend caution. He's been injured and/or inconsistent all season long. Still, Florida has been playing well lately and Thomas could very well have a strong second half of the season ... getting an Olympic break wouldn't hurt.
-- Jhonas Enroth deserves some sympathy: he's still stuck at one win (1-8-4) despite solid numbers (.916 save percentage and 2.46 GAA) this season. At least he'll get a trip to Sochi out of it, though …