A few quick notes to pass along, before the day's (12 games) recap. Sidney Crosby was a late scratch Saturday because he wasn't feeling well, and Evgeni Malkin left because of a lower-body injury. James Neal also missed Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury. Roberto Luongo (shoulder) could return to the net against the Rangers on Sunday, as he's traveling with the team on their road trip. Keep an eye on their statuses on Sunday.
Let's get to the rest of the day's notes:
FLYERS 7, RED WINGS 2
— I had to look twice at this score, to be sure I was reading it correctly. This is not how it’s supposed to go for a Detroit team that is trying to improve its playoff positioning. Philadelphia is 10 points out of the final wild-card spot. The Red Wings have not won in Philadelphia since the 1997 Stanley Cup.
— Brayden Schenn scored twice and added an assist. For a guy drafted fifth overall in 2009 and who arrived with a world of offensive promise, the transition has not been smooth. With 39 points, Schenn will beat his career high of 41 points, though he’s unlikely to come close to his 20 goals, as he has just 14 this season. The goals were his first since Feb. 26. The future is still bright for the 22-year-old.
— Wayne Simmonds filled up the stat sheet, scoring, assisting twice and recording 14 penalty minutes. The points were Simmonds’ first in five games, though he’s had a solid fantasy year, with 27 goals, 20 assists and 66 penalty minutes. There’s an outside chance he matches the 60 points from last year.
— Zac Rinaldo scored his first goal of the season, in 46 games. It’s worth a headline when he provides offense, as he’s one of the worst regulars in the game, typically only getting noticed for dropping the gloves.
— Steve Mason (31 saves) was sharp, earning his first win in five games. He has the fifth-best save percentage (.926) and 10th-best goals-against average (2.25). He’s made very owners very happy this season, considering he didn’t really enter the year with high expectations.
— Erik Cole scored his first goal as a member of the Red Wings. It also snapped a six-game goalless skid. Cole gives the Red Wings a skilled big body, though I’m not sure if he’s really a difference maker. Detroit has one win in its past five games.
BRUINS 2, PENGUINS 0
— The Bruins have won five in a row, and quite honestly, this was a game they had to have. Pittsburgh played practically the entire game without its two top centers. Crosby took the ice for pre-game warmups, then didn’t play in the game. The team has not released any information other than to say he wasn’t feeling well. Malkin suffered a lower-body injury and played 4:15. Coach Mike Johnston is unsure whether either will play Sunday, though the Penguins said "think they might be able to play."
— Milan Lucic has been a disappointment this season, though he’s shown some life lately. He scored what’s considered the winner, and he has points in four consecutive games. Lucic has only 15 goals and 39 points this season.
— Tuukka Rask blocked 30 shots for his third shutout of the season, and fourth win in a row. After a bumpy start to the season, Rask has been his old self. He now sports a .924 save percentage, which is seventh in the league. That it’s only his third shutout, with such a strong SV%, speaks to his consistency of late.
— Christian Ehrhoff played for the second time since Jan. 28 and first time since Feb. 25 due to a concussion. The defenseman tied for the team high with six shots, in 21:24.
BLACKHAWKS 6, SHARKS 2
— Patrick Sharp has been one of the unluckiest players in the league this season. Even after his two-goal effort, Sharp has only 12 goals due to a shooting percentage of 6.2%. Sharp has 192 shots on goal (six on Saturday) and just 12 goals, a rate that is well off his 11.4% average. It’s hard to believe that these were his first goals since Jan. 28, a span of 19 games. Some better puck luck to end the season (and in the playoffs) could change the perception of him entering drafts next year, but regardless if there’s some favorable regression, he is still a player to target in 2015-16, perhaps coming at a discount. People see 12 goals and 22 assists and think time has passed him by. There’s nothing to worry about in his game; he sports a 56.2% Corsi and is creating chances every night. Prolonged bad puck luck happens.
— The Blackhawks also got goals from Brandon Saad (goal, assist), Marian Hossa (goal, assist), Duncan Keith and Bryan Bickell. Saad has 21 goals and 45 points, two shy of his career high. He’s just touching the surface of his ability.
— Hossa, meanwhile, continues to be a force, even at 36. He has 19 goals and 51 points this year. He’s another player suffering from a poor shooting percentage (9.1 compared to 12.6 in his career). Nothing to indicate a major fade is coming, either.
— Corey Crawford (33 saves) has not given up more than two goals since Feb. 22. In those six games, he’s let in seven goals. With only 47 games played because of injuries, he will enter the playoffs fresh. Chicago is 6-1-1 over its past eight games.
— Joe Thornton scored his 14th goal of the season. Another guy you can’t write off because he’s entering the twilight of his career. Thornton is still a top center in this league.
RANGERS 2, SABRES 0
— Mackenzie Skapski was supposed to spend at least the next few seasons in the minors before he cracked the NHL lineup. So what he’s done in his first two starts — albeit both against the Sabres — is still noteworthy. The 20-year-old recorded his first shutout, on 20 saves. He has a 119:46 shutout streak. Depending on how long Henrik Lundqvist is out, Skapski might only be good for another start or two.
— Keith Yandle recorded his first point in six games as Ranger, the game-winning goal on a wrist shot in the third period. Comfort with his new teammates and the system will unlock his offensive game in New York.
— Can’t fault Anders Lindback (31 saves) for this loss. Amidst an abysmal season, Lindback has actually been great with the Sabres: 2.68 GAA, .925 SV%.
JETS 2, LIGHTNING 1
— Ondrej Pavelec has been the worst starting goalie in the league over the past few seasons. So when he gave up the winner from center ice Tuesday, it was easy to assume that it was a bad choice to go with him again Saturday. Pavelec proved coach Paul Maurice right, stopping 15 shots. Still don’t trust him moving forward.
— All the goals were scored in the third period, starting with Nikita Kucherov’s 26th. He also had 15 penalty minutes. The 21-year-old has enjoyed a fantastic season. I’m curious to see how he does come playoff time.
— Drew Stafford tied the game up at one with a power-play marker, then Blake Wheeler got the winner a few minutes later. Stafford has renewed life with the Jets, with five goals and eight points in 13 games. He’s worth rostering moving forward.
— Wheeler has recorded points in four consecutive games. In that span, he has six points and three goals. Another fine season that goes beyond the 20 goals and 52 points. He’s the type of big body that should really fare well come playoff time, if the Jets can hang on.
CANADIENS 3, ISLANDERS 1
— At this point, what seemed like a sure thing — the Isles winning the Metropolitan Division — has now devolved into them likely finishing third in the division. The Islanders are three points behind the Rangers for tops in the division, but the Rangers have played four fewer games; the Penguins are two points behind them, with three games in hand.
— Carey Price (35 saves) would need to have an epically bad rest of the season to lose his stranglehold on the Vezina Trophy race. After giving up five in his previous game, Price got back on track in this one. 38 wins, 1.91 GAA, .936 SV% all lead the NHL. He is Montreal’s hope for the Stanley Cup.
— Max Pacioretty’s 34th goal came shorthanded, the second game in a row he’s got one while on the penalty kill. He is five away from tying his career high in goals, and with 60 points, he’s five away from his career-best point total. He’s also second in the league with 267 shots on goal. This is a player to covet in all types of leagues.
— Michal Neuvirth (27 saves) is 1-1-1 since being acquired by the Islanders. Funny how it works out. He wins when he posts an .800 SV%, then loses when he records a .931 SV%.
PANTHERS 2, HURRICANES 0
— Can’t say I expected this. Dan Ellis has a 3-0-1 record since taking over the top job with both netminders injured. He recorded a shutout on 27 saves, his first since Feb. 1, 2014. As I said earlier, Luongo might be back for the 5 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden. Florida is six points out of a playoff spot, with a game in hand on the Capitals.
— Brandon Pirri and Dave Bolland (empty net) got the goals for Florida. If you’re looking for some forward help as the season winds down, Pirri could be your guy. He has three goals of his 14 goals over his past five games. He has played in just 35 games this season, so that is a very solid pace, especially for a 23-year-old with his limited experience.
— Cam Ward (20 saves) was a pretty good story earlier this season, but he has been below average (.910 save percentage) for much of the year. He’s someone the Hurricanes should try to move, but his one year at $6.8 million ($6.3M cap hit) is going to make it tough.
CANUCKS 4, MAPLE LEAFS 1
— Ryan Miller’s injury has been a blessing in disguise for the Canucks because it has forced them to use Eddie Lack, the goalie who gives them the best chance to win, and not the guy they pay the most. Lack made 29 saves, and has been sensational in March, with a .931 save percentage in seven games. Miller is still a few weeks from returning, and it’s possible Lack has saved Vancouver’s season.
— Derek Dorsett scored and assisted twice. That the goal was Dorsett’s first since Jan. 16 misses the point that he is the "fighter" who can last in this era less about fighting and more about rolling four lines. Dorsett’s 150 penalty minutes is fourth in the league, but he is a capable player who is not a liability when he’s on the ice.
— Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen and Shawn Matthias (empty net) scored the other goals. Higgins has registered points in four games in a row, though with nine goals and 21 assists, he’s still not a fantasy option. He is a key cog for the Canucks as a possession driver, though.
— Phil Kessel scored for the first time in nine games. It came on a penalty shot. I think it speaks to how good Kessel is that even though he’s been quiet of late, he still has 24 goals and 29 assists. A strong finish could mean he reaches the 30-goal mark for the sixth time in his career. Toronto needs a massive package for Kessel, or else it should just build around him. There are fewer better goal scorers in this league.
WILD 3, BLUES 1
— Minnesota has been a positive possession team that rarely gets caved in. One of those nights came Saturday against the Blues, as St. Louis had 63 shot attempts compared to 27 for Minnesota. Devan Dubnyk, then, had one of his best games, stopping 41 shots in the win. It was his 27th start in a row with the Wild, and he’s 20-5-1 with a 1.66 GAA and .939 SV%. If he can maintain this, there is a good chance he can be rewarded with a third-place Vezina finish.
— David Backes got the goal scoring started, tallying his 23rd at 4:57 of the second period. The offensive upside isn’t very high — 23 goals, 47 points — but coupling that with 94 penalty minutes makes him a valuable fantasy player. He has four points over his past five games.
— Thomas Vanek tied up the game at one less than a minute after Backes' goal. But the biggest stunner was the two goals scored 17 seconds apart in the third period. Nino Niederreiter and Kyle Brodziak got those.
— Vanek has four goals and five points over his past four games. The 30-goal seasons from him seem long gone, though he’s still doing a decent job at creating offense. He fits in well now with a very solid Wild team.
— Brian Elliott (16 saves) saw his three-game winning streak end with this loss. Previously, he had given up seven goals over his past four games. Hey, it happens. Keep rolling him out there and the averages will play out. Elliott will be an asset down the stretch.
DEVILS 4, COYOTES 1
— If the Devils score four goals, they are likely going to win because Cory Schneider (30 saves) has been brilliant this season. With more wins, Schneider would be generating more buzz as a Vezina finalist. Expect strong rates the rest of the way, but the wins could be hard to come by.
— Mike Cammalleri and Jordin Tootoo each notched a goal and an assist. Even though the Devils are 28th in goal scoring, Cammalleri has performed up to expectations, with 25 goals and 36 points in 57 games. Expect more production from him next season if the Devils can find additional top-six talent this offseason.
— Adam Henrique scored, and he now has three goals and five points over his past five games. He’s an example of a rookie season setting unrealistic expectations for his career. After 16 goals and 51 points in 2011-12, Henrique has settled in as a guy who will likely top out more in the 25-goal, 50-point range for much of his career. The issue with him is that he doesn’t get a lot of shots on net, so he’s counting on an above average shooting percentage (15.5 this season) to buoy him.
— Shane Doan’s 13th goal of the season is his first since Feb. 9. Normally I’d point to a substandard 8.3 shooting percentage, however I can’t be too optimistic because there is such little weaponry around him. Can’t say I’d want him in a depth role next season, either.
— Mike Smith (25 saves) looked more like his old self in this game. He has one win over his past 13 games. Suffice to say, if you still own him, your team is probably not very good.
AVALANCHE 3, FLAMES 2
— You wouldn’t know it by their place in the standings, but the Flames are neck-and-neck with the Avalanche to be the second-worst possession team in the league. The Flames have been riding a high shooting percentage — 9% at five-on-five — that will surely come back to Earth; whether that’s soon or next season.
— Semyon Varlamov (29 saves) has won five games in a row, giving up a total of five goals. He is good enough to make a huge difference in fantasy leagues down the stretch. The volume of shots didn’t faze him last season, and he’s on one of his hot streaks now, so take advantage.
— Alex Tanguay (goal, assist), Ryan O’Reilly and John Mitchell netted the goals. Tanguay has 19 goals and 45 points. The goals are the most since 2010-11, and with four more points, he’ll tie his mark from the 2011-12 campaign.
— Despite the solid fantasy nights from David Jones and Lance Bouma — both with a goal, assist — neither are worth owning. Mikael Backlund (two assists) is, though. He has points in eight consecutive games.
PREDATORS 2, KINGS 1
— This win for the Predators and the Blues’ loss has allowed them to jump back into first place in the Central Division. It might be short-lived, however, as Nashville has played two more games than the Blues. The Kings are on the outside of the playoff picture, with 79 points, one behind the Jets for the final wild-card spot.
— Pekka Rinne (23 saves) has two wins over his past eight games. He has given up five goals over his past five games, though, so he seems to be digging himself out of the mini rut.
— Craig Smith’s 22nd goal of the season, on the power play, ended Nashville’s 0-for-18 slump on the man advantage. He’s going to set career highs in goals very soon, but he will have trouble surpassing the 52 points from last season.
— Can’t blame Jonathan Quick for this loss. The Kings clung to a one-goal lead for much of the game, then Quick gave up a goal on the power play, and one on the next shot, a deflected pass off of Jake Muzzin’s stick. Viktor Stalberg converted for his first goal of the season, but his intention was to pass it to Call Jarnkrok at the far post. Instead, it deflected high and to Quick’s blocker side. He had been rolling with a shutout streak of 118:10 before the first goal beat him.