This is about the time of year where comfort, nostalgia, commercialism and family swirl together for holiday fun. Try to be safe out there, and enjoy this moment to recharge a bit from hockey (doubly so if you’re someone who lives and dies with fantasy on a day-by-day basis).
Editor's Note: This is your chance to try FanDuel risk free! Sign up today and if you lose your first contest, you’ll be refunded the entry fee up to $10. Play now.
BLUES 2, BRUINS 0
-- This was a matchup of two rising clubs featuring plenty of familiar faces (if more desperation). The Blues have now won four of five games while this marks just the second time Boston hasn't generated at least a standings point since Nov. 19 (going 11-2-3 in that span).
Boy, the Atlantic Division heads into the break as quite the logjam. Only three points separate free-falling Montreal (who have played 36 games, tied for most in the NHL) and fifth-ranked Ottawa (who hold a game in hand over Montreal).
Boston currently has three games in hand over the Habs and only trail by a single standings point, so they still generally go into break time with their heads held high.
-- "Autovladic" Vladimir Tarasenko extended his current point streak to seven games, only failing to score a goal in that span on one occasion (six goals, five assists).
Usually when I hear people rave about someone's "consistency," I get bored, but Vlad brings brilliance on a nightly basis that is really captivating.
-- Robby Fabbri isn't getting terrible minutes, but if I were Ken Hitchcock, I'd at least try to maybe bump his TOI subtly as the season goes along. Maybe an extra shift per month until he's clocking in at, say, 16:30-17 minutes per contest?
-- Jake Allen is starting to feel it again, generating wins in three of four games, with this being the standout as a 32-save shutout. His overall numbers look great: 16-8-2, five shutouts, .928 save percentage.
RANGERS 3, DUCKS 2 (OT)
-- After averaging 30 shots per game last season (still just 15th in the NHL), Anaheim is now 19th with 29.3. I guess a single shot per night isn't really panic material, but I wonder if it denotes a lesser rate of play?
Even their wins have generally been low-event: 2-1 over New Jersey on Dec. 19, 2-1 over Pittsburgh on Dec. 6 and 1-0 vs. San Jose on Dec. 4.
Maybe the Ducks need this break just to shake off the stank. As bad as things have been, the Pacific is so bad that they can conceivably make up ground and grab a playoff spot, maybe even including home-ice for a round.
-- Weird to see Derick Brassard (two goals to go to 13) and Mats Zuccarello (one to hit 15) ahead of Corey Perry (11th goal) without any major injuries limiting anyone. Brassard and Zuc are quality creators, yet that's still another damning note for the sad little Duckies.
Both Brassard and Zuccarello also grabbed assists in this one.
-- Rickard Rakell ended a three-game drought with a goal and an assist, giving him a point (15) every other game (30 GP total).
DEVILS 4, RED WINGS 3
-- Every time I expect the Devils' big guns to totally sink, it seems like someone steps forward. This time around, it was mainly Kyle Palmieri who hit the 27-point mark with his 14th goal and 13th assist of the season.
-- The Red Wings really need to find a way to get more out of Mike Green, who just scored his second goal of the season (and he's played 28 games). He only has 13 points.
Meanwhile, Cory Schneider improved to 15-9-5.
CANUCKS 2, LIGHTNING 1
-- Look, I know (and generally commend) the Lightning for hanging in there with key forward injuries ... but yikes, 1-for-10 on the power play? Even with lower-end scorers (Jonathan Marchessault’s name is cool, but I'm not sure you want him featured too highly on your group, at least not at this phase of his career), that's maddening.
The Lightning also only managed 27 SOG in this one, which just seems a little ridiculous.
The Canucks did block 18 shots to just four for the Lightning, but how could it be the other way?
-- Seriously though, how do the Lightning not get more from that? Steven Stamkos received 12:45 PP TOI and couldn't grab a point. Maybe you give different units a little PP time in this situation, as there were a select group of players who really logged a lot of minutes here (Jason Garrison's not much more than his shot in this situation, but no PP time for him at all?).
Tampa Bay's coaches should spend the entire break studying video of power plays that actually work.
-- Jacob Markstrom sandwiched a lot of frustration between winning his first start of the season (Nov. 10) and this last game heading into the break. Even so, he boasts a respectable .917 save percentage and probably deserves more reps.
PANTHERS 2, SENATORS 1 (SO)
-- Oh man, the high-stick Jaromir Jagr took (complete with a fairly horrifying smile all of a sudden) is a staggering sight. It seems especially uncomfortable to see these older guys deal with such issues; I always think of a great Globe & Mail article from years ago featuring Keith Tkachuk when this stuff comes up.
Jagr’s probably headed for a very unpleasant dentist trip soon, I’m guessing, and I mean that even compared to typical (and unpleasant) visits.
Naturally, Jagr managed an assist on this night regardless of the chicklet loss.
-- The Panthers really deserved this, their fifth consecutive win. They generated a 40-16 shot advantage, including more SOG in the second period (19) than Ottawa managed in an entire game including OT.
Craig Anderson absorbs the loss, but he's been really strong lately, a great sign for a Sens team that can light up the scoreboard on better nights.
WILD 2, CANADIENS 1
-- I was hammering this road trip as dangerous for Montreal, but things have been even worse than expected so far. They've lost all three of the games on this sojourn, only managing four goals in that span. They've dropped nine of 10 games overall, and they're not even getting pity points (1-9-0).
It will be interesting to see how this team responds with a little rest. Their remaining road games are broken into two chunks (three games on Dec. 26-29, two on Jan. 1 and Jan. 5) to make it easier than it looks, but the Habs are so vulnerable right now that you never know.
It's easy - and reasonable - to use this as a way to indirectly praise Carey Price, but for all the things I like about Marc Bergevin, I wonder if this team erred in underrating the value of a more established backup.
-- Daniel Carr's starting his NHL career with friendly bounces, as his three goals in nine GP come on just 17 SOG (good for a 17.6 shooting percentage). He's an undrafted forward who scored 24 goals in the AHL last season and had 17 points in 21 AHL games in 2015-16, so perhaps there's at least a moderate bit of potential there for him to provide much-needed complementary scoring for Montreal.
-- I expect P.K. Subban to grab some of Carr's puck luck. It's no so bad for Subban to be on 24 points in 36 games, but one goal? He has 95 SOG in 36 GP, so a 1.1 shooting percentage is bound to rebound (his career mark is 5.8, and he enjoyed an 8.8 season in 2014-15).
STARS 4, BLACKHAWKS 0
-- Pretty convincing "we own the Central" win for Dallas, as they generated a 32-20 SOG edge on the strength of another overwhelming third period (17-3 SOG for Dallas). I'd wager that the Stars are the scariest third period in the league, and maybe the scariest in a long time. It's as if they really start to lick their chops when they notice that their opponents are getting the slightest bit tired; three goals came in that span, too.
-- Strong play lately from Patrick Sharp (one goal and one assist on Tuesday, five points in a three-game run) and Jason Spezza (also five points in a three-game streak). As overwhelming as Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin must be, the Stars must elicit a feeling of hopelessness from opponents when they have another dangerous duo rolling.
Seeing Lindy Ruff basically find a better version of the Drury-Briere-Roy-Vanek/etc. Sabres in Dallas is a spirit-lifter for fans of the game at its most ideal. It makes me want Bruce Boudreau to coach Montreal.
-- Antti Niemi is on a nice run. This 20-save shutout bumps him to three straight wins (three goals allowed) and victories in five of six games (with two shutouts). Kari Lehtonen's played a little better at times this season, but Niemi seems to be the hot hand.
FLAMES 4, JETS 1
-- The Flames are on a 10-game winning streak at home, which is more than just a cool stat. Once they get back from the break on Sunday, they play three straight games in Calgary and seven of eight at home. Might be time for a short-term investment in the Flames (even if their opponents are tricky and things get bumpy starting in mid-January).
-- Karri Ramo has steadily improved from month-to-month.
October: 4 GP, 1-3-0 with a terrible .868 save percentage
November: 11 GP, 5-5-1 with a .909 save percentage
December: 8 GP, 6-2-0 with a nice .923 save percentage
Goalies ... they are weird.
-- Johnny Gaudreau playing well is just one of those automatic smile generators. This marked one of his best games of a torrid run, as he generated a hat trick, +2 rating and six SOG. He has 16 SOG in his last three games alone.
It will be intriguing to see if the magical little guy (no way he's just three inches short of six-feet-tall, unless maybe that's on skates) ends up being one of those high-percentage shooters for his entire career. He's at 16.7 shooting percentage this season after going 14.4 in 2014-15 (and scoring on his only SOG in his only game in 2013-14), giving him a career percentage of 15.5.
The sample size is small at just 115 GP (along with 16.7 percentage for four goals in 11 playoff games), but I wouldn't dismiss his chances outright.
COYOTES 3, MAPLE LEAFS 2
-- Big game for Shane Doan, who factored into all three Coyotes goals with two tallies and one assist. That included two goals in 14 seconds, combining with Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk for a blistering three goals in less than 30 seconds.
-- Toronto generated a 39-26 SOG advantage, but Louis Domingue was game, stopping 37 out of 39 shots for his second win in a row, with his previous victory being a shutout.
I imagine Domingue's on the short (?) list of players who are on a rare roll and wish that the break was coming in, say, a week or a month instead.
-- Is a little bit of luck coming Nazem Kadri's way during a season of shaky bounces?
He scored his sixth goal of the season, which is his first tally since a two-goal game on Dec. 5. Looking at goals alone is misleading; Kadri continued a four-game point streak (that one goal plus four assists) on Tuesday.
-- Jonathan Bernier is extremely lucky that this isn't the last season of his current contract.
SHARKS 5, KINGS 3
-- It looked like Los Angeles would win this one in a stroll after building a 2-0 lead just 4:32 in.
It's not as if San Jose dominated after that, either. The Kings' biggest advantage did come in the first period (2-1 lead, eye-popping 21-6 SOG advantage), as the Sharks only managed a 17-15 SOG edge after that.
Every now and then Jonathan Quick has a blame-worthy game, and maybe this was one of them (though San Jose's last goal was an ENG, so it wasn't TOO bad).
-- Tyler Toffoli was fantastic in his own right, scoring twice for Los Angeles. Surprising that he only received 15:22 TOI. He also has an impressive +17 rating so far this season.
-- Brent Burns scored two goals and one assist as well, getting bumped below headliner status just a touch since his second tally was an ENG.
He now has a ridiculous 14 goals and 31 points in 34 games; considering his shooting rate, I wouldn't laugh at the notion of Burns hitting a whopping 30 goals this season. His career-high was 22, and he managed that many in just 69 games back in 2013-14.