I don’t have anything in the line of a verbose lead-in, but the recaps below are more robust than a meaty chili dog.
(I figure that won’t make you hopelessly hungry, as I assume you’re reading this closer to breakfast. If that still makes you hungry, you might have a Chili Dog Problem.)
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PENGUINS 6, DEVILS 1
-- Are the Devils this year's Coyotes?
OK, maybe the Coyotes are this year's Coyotes, but still. What I mean by this is: Arizona was remarkably scrappy and competitive last season ... until they stopped managing to grab points.
It's a chicken and the egg thing as far as "tanking" goes.
As much as you might want to beat them up for it, are we sure these teams are botching it as much as they're not going b's to the wall to squeeze out every point? The Devils' 145 goals ranks dead last in the NHL, two goals fewer than second-worst Toronto despite the fact that New Jersey has played in two more games.
Frankly, they've been playing with little margin for error, and letting Lee Stempniak go hurts (in the short term).
The Devils are easy pickings, at least whenever Cory Schneider isn't in net.
< --- Is still nervous about betting against the Devils as far as daily lineup decisions go, as New Jersey loves to kill fantasy numbers.
-- Justin Schultz finally made his debut for the Penguins, collecting assist (albeit with six goals, he kinda should have) in 16:23 TOI. He ranked third among Penguins defensemen in PP TOI with 2:13, about a minute behind second-place Trevor Daley.
If Schultz can take some reps from Daley, he could be awfully interesting.
(Just don't get your hopes up because ... you know, it's Justin Schultz.)
-- Bryan Rust scored almost as many points (three on one goal and two assists) as he generated in his previous 29 games played (two goals and two assists for four points). We'll see if he can put a meaningful string together.
-- A special demerit to Jon Merrill, who was a -4 in this game. Yes, I just wanted to make a play on words there.
ISLANDERS 6, RANGERS 4
That's what happened, so Raanta stayed in despite allowing three Islanders goals within the first five minutes (4:45) of the game. He gave up four goals overall, but Jaroslav Halak wasn't much better, giving up three tallies in that 4-3 opening frame.
-- Does anyone else want to refer to Brock Nelson as Brock T. Nelson? No, just me? Cool.
-- Fantastic game for Johnny Boychuk: two goals, +1 rating, two PIM, five SOG and one hit. That's an effective game for a guy who received fewer minutes than Thomas Hickey, Travis Hamonic and Nick Leddy.
-- After going three games without a point and with just three SOG in about 15 minutes of ice time each night, Eric Staal finally had a nice evening.
Staal scored a goal and an assist with a +1 rating and four SOG in 19:07 TOI.
-- Kyle Okposo continues to enjoy a strong contract year, with this week presenting especially strong work. He's on a three-game streak of two-point games, including Sunday's one-goal, one-assist performance. He has 54 points in 62 GP, putting him in a good position to match his career-high of 69 points.
(With 17 goals, he'd need a hot finish to match his best 27 goals, though.)
BLACKHAWKS 4, RED WINGS 1
-- This is one of those games that probably makes Red Wings fans feel that much more grateful that they're out of the West and especially the Central Division. Can you imagine how much Detroit would struggle behind Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis and Nashville? Honestly, they'd probably be behind Minnesota and maybe even Colorado as well.
Instead, they get to sort of wheeze along in the East.
(I could be wrong, of course.)
-- With his 38th goal of the season, Patrick Kane now has 89 points, a new career-high. If he's healthy, it would be downright stunning if he's not at 100 points in April.
-- Relative to his previous work, this has been a great season for Artem Anisimov, but it has to generate some serious envy for Anisimov owners to watch Artemi Panarin basically generate as many assists as Anisimov has points.
It's the fantasy hockey equivalent of marrying the lesser twin in every way - looks, sense of humor, intelligence, mode of transportation ...
-- This is a Stuart Smalley-level season of affirmation for Corey Crawford.
His 35 wins already marks a new career-high, and his .929 save percentage shows that it's not just a matter of being in the right net and the right time (it's also a career-best mark).
His career save percentage is now at .919. There was a time when it seemed like the Blackhawks may have stumbled at least in one area - paying too much for their goalie, like many other teams - but now even that appears to be false.
STARS 2, SENATORS 1
-- Yuck, you'd at least expect some fireworks from these two teams.
Instead, it was a stale affair with just 49 combined SOG.
I imagine that the Senators thought that dumbing things down would be the most likely way to beat the Stars, and while this one was close, I'm glad this didn't work. Assuming that was the mindset.
-- Jason Spezza's 24th goal of the 2015-16 season also leaves him with at least one goal against every NHL team (now that he's scored against his former cronies in Ottawa).
Spezza now has a goal in three straight games, his best total since 2011-12.
Aside: is there any player making about as much money as Spezza dealing with less pressure? Maybe Brian Campbell now that "Soupy" isn't in a market where people are constantly worried about the cap?
-- I know it's frustrating, but try to be patient with Tyler Seguin.
Yes, he's a -7 during a four-game pointless streak, but he has 16 SOG in that span. It's not as if there's zero effort there.
Now, if I were Lindy Ruff, would I rest Seguin here and there? Yes, but maybe Ruff is more focused on a division title than he is on focusing on more playoff-centric micromanagement.
BLUES 4, WILD 2
-- Minnesota might just "back in" to the playoffs, because a) its competition in the bubble race is pretty weak and b) it faces a schedule that's fairly friendly.
Granted, they do have two games against Chicago and one against Los Angeles, but their road is littered with teams that may be slinking out of the picture more and more with each passing day.
Their upcoming slate captures that spirit nicely:
March 10: vs. Edmonton
March 12: at Montreal
March 15: at Ottawa
March 17: at New Jersey
March 19: vs. Carolina
Now, it's not ALL easy, as they do face the Blackhawks twice and Kings once.
Still, my message is simple enough: let's not hand the Jack Adams to John Torchetti if the Wild make the playoffs. Deal?
-- At least the Wild have a pulse these days: the two teams combined for 67 SOG, and the Blues were forced to block a ridiculous 23 shots to Minnesota's eight.
-- This recent burst of positive energy (Sunday ended a four-game winning streak) puts Devan Dubnyk more or less statistically in line with Darcy Kuemper, but I wonder if the Wild should still give the latter more chances.
If Minnesota ends up facing Chicago in the first round, the Wild might as well exhaust every avenue instead of exhausting every narrative about how they may never get over that Blackhawks speed bump.
OILERS 2, JETS 1
-- Cam Talbot is playing so well, he might help the Oilers avoid the whole "tanking their way to their billionth No. 1 overall pick" embarrassment/luck.
(Do the Oilers even want the top pick again? I guess maybe, but sheesh.)
Talbot made 39 out of 40 saves to win his fourth consecutive game. While his record still sags at 16-22-4, his save percentage is impressive (especially on the Oilers) at .919.
Other teams would have to sink because the Oilers have played 68 games, but it's at least in the realm of possibility that the Oilers could pass the Jets (tied with Edmonton at 59 points), Coyotes (at 62) and Canucks (62) in the West along with Buffalo (61) and Columbus (62) out East.
Again, that might be best ... for the universe.
-- Patrick Maroon goes from getting occasional opportunities with great linemates in Anaheim to starting off with a fantastic setup in Edmonton. So far, he's nailing this audition with Taylor Hall in Leon Draisaitl, scoring two goals and two assists for four points in his first three games with the Oil.
He's only owned in two percent of Yahoo leagues and is worth a solid look.
-- If the Jets are deploying Ondrej Pavelec to tank, that's some solid anti-hustle.
He's now lost three of four games, and his stats are positively Pavelecian: 7-10-2 with a horrid (but kind of expected) .903 save percentage.
Somehow, he still has the 2016-17 season remaining on his five-year contract, which has sometimes felt eternal and seemed ill-advised from the moment it was signed.
For Jets fans, seeing Pavelec flop once again is frustrating.
For the rest of us, there's an amusing comfort food feel to this: as unpredictable as hockey and especially goaltending can be, Pavelec is bizarro Lundqvist: one of the only guys you can count on to be terrible.