The first Sunday Dose of 2017 was written in a familiar place in Texas, albeit after the familiar frenzy that is New Year’s Eve. This next one takes place in a Howard Johnsons in unseasonably cold Tampa Bay, as your imperiled author must ROUGH IT to find reliable WiFi. THAT’S WHAT WE CALL HOCKEY TOUGH?
(Winces, fights back tears from mild cramp in calf.)
Anyway, let’s get cracking before they kick me out of the lobby.
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SABRES 4, JETS 3
-- There aren't any substantial updates yet, but things sure did not look good for Patrik Laine after a big - but by consensus, clean - hit by Jake McCabe. He took some time to leave the ice and there are multiple indicators pointing to this being a concussion, maybe a bad one.
Laine grabbed an assist in this one to extend a point streak to four games (2G, 5A), hopefully not a season-ending streak. That said, Winnipeg needs to be careful with its 18-year-old wunderkind at the same rate.
-- If losing Laine wasn't bad enough for the Jets, they also squandered a 3-1 lead in the third period, and they didn't even get a "charity point" since that 4-3 Brian Gionta tally came about midway through the third period. Ouch.
-- Connor Hellebuyck stopped 32 of 36 shots while Robin Lehner won in turning aside 32 of 35. Lehner also grabs the major edge in the always-relevant category of "frightening anger." Stay away from that guy, goalies who might pick their spots for possible, glorious goalie v. goalie fights.
Actually, most players should stay away too. He's weird.
-- Sam Reinhart has been productive lately. In the past five games, he's generated four assists, including one helper on Saturday. He also has a point-per-game in 2017 (three in three).
FLAMES 3, CANUCKS 1
-- Calgary got a sweet win here: ending their hated rival’s six-game winning streak. There’s certainly some playoff positional jostling to consider, but even ending that run has to feel pretty good for the Flames.
-- Speaking of streaks, Chad Johnson ended a personal four-game losing skid by only allowing one goal in this win. Brian Elliott had gone on quite the run of his own to maybe wrestle the Flames’ top job back away from him, but now the conversation can begin anew. The biggest winners? Why, the Calgary Flames as a whole, of course.
-- Jacob Markstrom wasn’t really the catalyst of this run, as Ryan Miller’s 40+ save performance from Friday really highlighted. He was the one who lost the streak, however, giving up three goals on 31 shots.
RANGERS 5, BLUE JACKETS 4
-- At first, it looked like Columbus would respond to its first loss in ages with a big victory. Markus Nutivaara scored his second goal of the season and Cam Atkinson already has 19 as Columbus went up 2-0. Scott Hartnell finished a mind-blowing play to make it 3-1.
You'd think that would be enough, especially once Lukas Sedlak made it 4-1. It was not enough.
Michael Grabner's 17th goal of the season began quite a turnaround, as Adam Clendening scored twice (his first two goals of 2016-17) and Grabner notched the game-winner with 17 seconds remaining in the third period for a regulation win. (So that gives Grabner a remarkable 18 goals already). Grabner generated a three-point night with an assist to go with those goals.
-- Oscar Lindberg scored his first goal of 2016-17 and also grabbed an assist, a welcome sight for a Rangers team that has made life tough for the solid depth player by adding so many other solid depth players.
-- Hartnell had a two-point night (1G, 1A) and Sam Gagner (two assists) as Columbus seemed pretty unstoppable ... to start.
-- Henrik Lundqvist improved his 2016-17 record to 18-9-1 with a win here. More recently, he's generated W's in three of his last four games, even as he's allowed a rather human 12 goals. His .912 save percentage isn't up to his standards, but he's still doing well overall.
BLUES 4, STARS 3
-- Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 20th goal of 2016-17 with a power-play tally assisted by Paul Stastny and Alexander Steen. Tarasenko extended his goal streak to three games: four tallies during that span. He's now at 43 points in 40 games, one of the best paces in the NHL.
His career-best for goals is 40 from last season, something he'll need to work hard to match or exceed. He's in a strong position to really set a new bar for himself from a playmaking standpoint, though.
With 23 assists in 40 games, he's been distributing more lately. His career-high for assists is 36 from 2014-15, and he had 34 last season. If he maintains this general pace it wouldn't be surprising to see him in the mid-40s to low-50 assist area.
Then again, Vlad may very well go a little G-heavy in the second half of the season, and I doubt Blues fans or staff would mind. I imagine fantasy owners are taking a "just keep doing what you're doing, bud" approach with Vlad.
CAPITALS 1, SENATORS 0
-- Nicklas Backstrom became the 10th Swede to generate a 500th career assist. Backstrom’s assist obviously made a difference, too, as it was the catalyst for T.J. Oshie’s game-winner, the only tally of a game Alex Ovechkin openly labeled as “boring.”
-- The most entertaining activity surrounding that game might just revolve around wondering why Bobby Ryan was a healthy scratch on Saturday. All Guy Boucher would say when asked about injuries or discipline issues was that he hoped Ryan would play during Sunday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. Does this mean a trade could be possible, too?
My guess would be that Ryan showed up late to a meeting and was being punished, but maybe we’ll eventually get a better idea about what actually happened.
-- Keep an eye out for Oshie updates, as he suffered an upper-body injury. Any other information will have to come on Sunday or later.
-- Braden Holtby stopped all 30 shots for his fifth shutout of 2016-17 and his second straight shutout (59 out of 59 in those two games). Holtby improved to 18-8-4 with a brilliant .931 save percentage and 1.93 GAA. Perhaps he can creep into the Vezina conversation with a strong second half of 2016-17?
FLYERS 4, LIGHTNING 2
-- The Lightning have lost the last three contests by a combined score of 16-7. It sure looks like they’d need to secure one of the top three spots in the Atlantic Division, so slipping badly now could do them in for the longer-term future. Not promising.
-- The Flyers ended a five-game losing skid by scoring four goals in the second period. Four different skaters found the back of the net for Philadelphia; Travis Konecny, Michael Raffl, Sean Couturier and Radko Gudas were the goal scorers. Jakub Voracek picked up two assists.
-- Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves for the win. It was his first game in goal since November 12th, accounting for 24 missed games.
-- Andrei Vasilevskiy made 40 saves in the loss. He was shaky against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, but this one clearly isn’t on him.
-- Wayne Simmonds caught J.T. Brown with a big hit that might get a look from the league. Just be cautious about starting Simmonds well in advance, just in case some sort of supplementary discipline happens.
KINGS 4, WILD 3 (OT)
-- Tanner Pearson scored in overtime to give Los Angeles a win over the Wild, but it is Jeff Carter that continues to carry the Kings offence this season with a goal and two assists. Carter now has 12 points in his last nine contests. Some people will joke that Carter is the only guy who can score for L.A., but Pearson stands as an actual exception.
-- A goal that was credited to Marian Gaborik actually went off the face of Ryan Suter into the Wild’s net. Yeah, it was pretty much as funny as you’d imagine it being. (Some clever soul even called it an own-face. HILARIOUS.)
-- Jake Muzzin also scored for the Kings, ending an 18-game goal scoring drought. His four goals is better than Gaborik’s two and Anze Kopitar’s three this season. How do the Kings win again? Oh, hogging the puck and begging Jeff Carter to save the day? OK.
-- Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle were the goal scorers for the Wild. Minnesota had won the previous three meetings between the two clubs. They’ve still only failed to generate at least one point in one game since December began and only have three wins overall during that span. Wow.
CANADIENS 5, MAPLE LEAFS 3
-- Significant injuries did not stop the Canadiens from rolling past the Maple Leafs. The Habs have won all three meetings between these two teams this season. Going even deeper, Montreal’s won its last 13 games against Toronto. Yow.
-- Max Pacioretty, Artturi Lehkonen, Alex Radulov, Nikita Scherbak and Michael McCarron each scored for Montreal. Radulov now has a six-game point streak (four goals, eight points). It was Pacioretty’s fourth goal in his last three games.
I was on hand for Radulov’s boo-soaked return to Nashville, which stood in amusing contrast to Shea Weber’s hero’s return. (Amusing since, you know, the Predators didn’t want Radulov back while Weber once signed an offer sheet with the Flyers that was designed to make it difficult for Nashville to keep him. These things can be funny, right?)
Anyway, back to that game … Radulov was insane. In a game where, frankly, few stood out beyond Weber and maybe a handful of others - Viktor Arvidsson seems legit by the “eye test” - Radulov seemed to hog the puck every moment. He was the first star of that game, if you ask me.
-- Mitch Marner assisted on all three Toronto tallies. Marner has 32 points in 39 games, good for third among NHL rookies behind only teammate Auston Matthews and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine. Buds fans can entertain themselves with the enviable debate of “Who’s better, Marner or Matthews?” for years. Fans of most other rebuilding teams can then just grumble and refresh Rotoworld’s prospect-centric pieces.
-- Carey Price won his 20th game of the season with 33 saves on the night. You know, I think he might make it in the NHL.
COYOTES 2, ISLANDERS 1 (SO)
-- The New York Islanders are the ideal team to break your slump, apparently. The Avalanche got a much-needed win against the Islanders this week, then the Coyotes ended their nine-game skid with this far-from-exhilarating victory.
The Coyotes play their next two games at home to end this mini-stand in Arizona, then play three on the road. After that, it's five straight at home and seven of eight in Arizona from Jan. 21 - Feb. 11.
Tanking-minded management might not want them to make the most of that span, but if you're hoping for a Canucks winning streak-style opening, that would be when it happens.
-- Thomas Greiss probably wants to make his goal support great again. He allowed one goal on 27 SOG and two on 39 over the last two games (back-to-backs to boot) and left with shootout losses in each case. He had won three in a row while allowing two goals or less, so he's been really sharp. The rest of the Islanders? Not so much.
-- Louis Domingue needed this one. He made 27 out of 28 saves to improve his record to 5-10-1, his first win since Nov. 8.
BRUINS 4, PANTHERS 0
-- Brad Marchand had a bear of a game, scoring two goals, including an especially pretty shorthanded tally. Marchand now has five points in as many games (2G, 3A) and seven in eight. The rising pest has quite the 2016-17 so far: 12 goals, 22 assists for 34 points, +3, 42 PIM, four GWG and 119 SOG in 42 games.
-- Tuukka Rask also hit his fifth shutout of 2016-17 by stopping all 25 SOG here. The Bruins have been taking good care of him lately at least in terms of sheer volume, as they've allowed 25 SOG the last three games and 27 the one before it. That's the kind of workload Rask owners like to see, as more often than not, he'll nail that opportunity.
-- David Backes scored his 10th goal of the season in his return to action, also firing three SOG. He didn't deliver any hits, which might surprise those who are used to him generating a controversial collision or two.
-- Reimer slips back to .500 (6-6-3) by giving up four goals on 37 shots. He's been acceptable for Florida so far in his first season with the Panthers, generating a solid .916 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.
OILERS 2, DEVILS 1 (OT)
-- The score was a lot closer than the level of play. Edmonton hammered on NJ to a tune of a 43-20 shot advantage. This had to be a great rebound for Cory Schneider's confidence. After getting a quick hook on Friday (allow three goals on five shots), Schneider stopped 41 of 43 shots by Edmonton. He still doesn't get a win out of either game, though, so his spirits might not have been lifted even if his confidence should be mostly restored.
-- Taylor Hall couldn't generate a point against his former team, instead firing three SOG in 17:26 TOI. Miles Wood was the only Devil to dent against Cam Talbot, a goalie probably quite familiar with the Devils from his time as a Rangers backup.
-- Adam Larsson was pretty quiet, as you'd expect, so I imagine those dying to scream LARSSON BEATS HALL will need to rely on anecdotal stories/a heavy dose of "Who won?"
SHARKS 6, RED WINGS 3
-- Not that long ago, Joel Ward was a healthy scratch for the Sharks. BREAKING: He probably doesn't want to be a healthy scratch, so he's responded lately, with two straight two-point games. He scored a goal and an assist against the Wild on Jan. 5 and then collected two helpers against the Red Wings in this one. That'll make Ward tough to bench, which honestly was pretty surprising in the first place.
-- Joe Pavelski collected two goals, giving him three in his past two games and 15 overall in 2016-17. He had gone four games without a goal before this nice little burst.
-- Brent Burns is that much closer to being a point-per-game player, generating two assists to give him 39 points in 40 games so far in 2016-17. He's unreal, and honestly, I can't outright deny arguments that he's in Erik Karlsson's neighborhood, which is significant since no one else has been in ... ages.
-- This already marks the 20th win of the season for Martin Jones, who improves to 20-13-2. He is in a strong position to best last season's breakthrough record of 37-23-4. Sure seems like the Sharks got themselves an above-average to strong starter for money teams hand to guys they don't quite know how to gauge. Nice.