With five games last night, it seems like the right mix to just jump in and share some solid thoughts on each contest. Let’s do just that, then.
LIGHTNING 6, RANGERS 2
-- The Rangers won the shot battle in every period, firing 35 to 21, but they didn't really dominate possession until the third period (when the Lightning scored three goals, including Ondrej Palat's empty-netter). Things have been bumpy again for Henrik Lundqvist, who seems to be feast-or-famine lately; in the last five games, he allowed just two goals in two wins but 14 in three losses. I was a touch worried that a rough offseason for the Rangers might hurt Hank's stats, but certainly not to this degree. Yikes.
-- It could be a rough couple months for the Rangers. Five of their next six games are on the road. Things really don't clear up much until Jan. 29, either. If there's a coin toss between a Ranger and another player, I might lean toward the latter, at least for the medium term.
-- Brett Connolly's an interesting case, and not just because of his two goals. He seems to be rolling with solid linemates (not as much Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow as Jonathan Drouin and Valtteri Filppula), but the truly exciting thing is that he's part of the main power-play unit alongside Filppula, Steve Stamkos and Ryan Callahan. Not really saying add him right away, but the slow-starting first-rounder is someone I'll be keeping tabs on.
-- Victor Hedman might say that he's having trouble adjusting, but maybe that's because Tampa Bay is throwing him into the thick of things right away? He logged 24:42 TOI on Monday, including 4:02 on the PP. That last number has to leave Hedman owners smiling almost as widely as those three assists.
-- Since returning to action on Nov. 28, Ryan McDonagh has a three-game assist streak. Promising. He's one of those guys I can't help but expect nice work from after seeing his at-times-brilliant playoff play. I guess everyone generates a blind spot for this stuff, even if we've coached ourselves against such things?
-- Derek Stepan has only failed to score a point in two of 12 games so far in 2014-15. He's currently on a seven-game point streak (one goal, eight assists). It would be nice to see more tallies in there with all those apples,* yet he's had his moments with solid SOG totals (just irregularly). He's a pretty good depth forward in fantasy, just not spectacular.
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DUCKS 3, BRUINS 2
-- The Sharks game was definitely a bump in the road for Frederik Andersen, but he's still provided more good than bad work lately. His overall numbers make that argument: 11-4-4 with a .917 save percentage. Not bad considering how small an investment he typically required.
-- It looks like Matt Beleskey is the latest person to audition for a spot alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. He’s been doing quite well, too, with three goals and four points in his last four games. I said it a while back, but if you're going to hitch your team to any possible winger with those two, Beleskey's my favorite choice.
This still makes Dustin Penner’s continued unemployment stunning. Is he THAT much of a lazy lump that he can’t help an NHL team?
-- Loui Eriksson - Carl Soderberg - Milan Lucic is the most common Bruins line combo in the last three games, according to Left Wing Lock. That just feels weird to type. David Krejci remains on IR during what’s been a frustrating season for him health-wise.
-- Fantastic stuff so far from Sami Vatanen, who has six goals and 20 points in 26 games played. You probably know the refrain by now, but his 16.2 shooting percentage is high for a forward, let alone a defenseman. It doesn't mean he can't be a productive member of your fantasy team, though.
-- Tuukka Rask certainly hasn't been bad, yet he's mysteriously dropping to "just good" when the team around him slips. It's almost as if every goalie is prone to slide with his team. Hmmm ...
CANADIENS 4, AVALANCHE 3
-- P.K. Subban has been fine, but maybe not quite to the level of his draft position. Six goals and 16 points is enviable for most defenseman, but maybe not for a quite who was pegged as even more valuable than Erik Karlsson. That said, neither of those guys are in the top five in defensemen scoring right now, which is just odd.
-- One guy ahead of them: Tyson Barrie. He has 19 points in 25 games, and unlike quite a few other hot blueliners, he's not riding some wacky shooting percentage luck. The kid's for real.
(Roy just seems disgruntled by nature, doesn't he?)
-- Max Pacioretty's only carrying a $4.5 million cap hit. I know that doesn't matter to fantasy owners, but it just seems like one of those things that begs a mention. With six SOG last night, he has a resounding 96 SOG on the season.
-- It’s tough for me to get too excited about Calvin Pickard, aside from the occasional joke about his crazy-eyed photos (and even those are seemingly getting less crazy).
COYOTES 5, OILERS 2
-- Kevin Lowe must feel like he lives in some alternate universe where failure is rewarded with promotions. He's basically the hockey version of a Wall Street CEO. If only all of us could enjoy such ridiculous job security.
(Actually, scratch that, society would collapse based on such a lack of merit and competence. I'm actually sorry for even joking about that.)
Let me share my thoughts once more: the Oilers should clean house and just give the former Pittsburgh combo of Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero the sweeping power and buckets of cash they need to salvage this mess.
Truth be told, I'm more of a Bylsma supporter than Shero, although I find it tough to imagine either one failing to improve upon this tragicomic disaster.
-- I wonder if Taylor Hall and the rest of that still-good top line even remembers what winning hockey looks like. I mean, aside from when they're looking to other benches and whatnot.
-- Tobias Rieder scored two shorthanded goals last night. /Imagines Oilers fans laugh-crying.
-- It's tough not to think that the Coyotes might as well tank, too, however. Grinding into oblivion doesn't really seem the way to get things done in the NHL any longer, so why not add the blue chip talent they haven't landed outside of their blueline?
BLUE JACKETS 2, PANTHERS 1
-- Woof, this game seemed to have the scent of boredom, and considering less than 50 combined SOG ... woof. Look, I get that the Panthers are a tough draw in Florida, but it doesn't help that they're frequently deploying Lemaire-like "paint-drying" hockey.
-- The Blue Jackets just seem like they're in a perpetual losing streak, don't they? They snapped a six-game skid last night. They can't ever just win in a 24-hour period, though; they announced that Artem Anisimov will miss 2-3 months earlier on Monday. Brutal.
-- Hey, a good game for Sergei Bobrovsky! To be fair to him, his save percentage climbed to .910, so he's showing subtle signs of improvement. I wonder how many dollars he's losing each week of the 2014-15 season, though.
-- Remember when Scott Hartnell was on fire? That feels like a distant memory, as he's failed to score in 10 straight games. He still has his peripheral moments, but jeez.
* - Sometimes we get weird while trying to vary language instead of just saying "goals and assists" every single time.