Eight games are still a lot of games.
Even so, Saturday’s slate was unusually small for a Saturday. Once I wrapped up these recaps, I had to rub my eyes and scroll around a few times in confusion before I confirmed that, yes, Saturday had a relatively light eight games.
I didn’t miss any, did I?
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CANADIENS 3, MAPLE LEAFS 2 (OT)
-- Carey Price passed Ken Dryden with his 259th win, moving to third all-time in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. Price doesn't turn 30 until Aug. 16 and has more than a month to add to his regular season totals, so who knows where he'll end up?
In the smaller picture, this is a nice confidence-booster for Price and the Habs. He's allowed two goals in each of his last four games, winning twice. You'd hope Claude Julien could find a way to get more goal support out of the Canadiens in front of him if he can make that happen often.
-- Auston Matthews' shot took a wacky bounce at beat Price, starting off a two-goal night that put him to 30 on the season, tying Patrik Laine (you might have heard their names said together a time or two this week). Matthews has eight points in his past five games and 10 in his last seven.
Price made an OT partial breakaway stop on Matthews, factoring into Montreal sweeping the season series against Toronto. They've won 14th in a row against the Buds.
-- Need another reason to point to when discussing how remarkable Matthews' rookie season has been? Consider that high-end sniper Max Pacioretty scored his 29th goal of 2016-17 on Saturday. Even with Patches' foot injury in mind, it's remarkable that a rookie could be one ahead of Pacioretty.
-- Andrew Shaw really earned his OTGWG, crashing into the boards afterward. He had an assist as well on Saturday. Shaw, by the way, is somehow just 25.
KINGS 4, DUCKS 1
-- It's truly weird to say a guy is back "already" when that player's been sidelined since Oct. 12, but Jonathan Quick's return was a pleasant surprise for the Kings. For Peter Budaj owners? Maybe not so much, although Budaj could still get some starts here and there as Quick rebounds into form.
Quick had the better game (32 out of 33 saves) than his former backup Jonathan Bernier (29 for 32), a good sign given that he had a busy one in net.
-- Speaking of Bernier and backups, I'm a little puzzled as to why the Ducks wouldn't give Jhonas Enroth a start, even just to try to drum up a little trade deadline interest.
Enroth really isn't that far from putting together strong work against the very team that beat Bernier on Saturday. In 16 games (13 starts) last season, Enroth managed an impressive .922 save percentage. That's obviously a small sample size, yet with a .909 save percentage in 153 career games (and nice AHL numbers lately), there's strong evidence he can outperform a Carter Hutton or Jonas Gustavsson.
Personally, it sure feels like Mike Babcock gave Enroth zero leash in Toronto, but that doesn't mean he can't help a team. "Decent backup" might not be super-exciting, but even in an age of parity, teams overlook how helpful it can be to have a more competent guy in net for the, what, 1/4 of games your No. 1 won't play? Just saying.
-- A healthier Kings attack could make Los Angeles the biggest threat of any team outside of the West playoffs to climb into a wild card spot, especially if the Blues continue to underwhelm.
Jeff Carter joined the 30-goal club (and added an assist, giving him 55 points in 61 games), but that's old hat. The bigger difference is that Tyler Toffoli is back, providing helpful juice to a largely aging group of scorers. Toffoli has three goals (including two on Saturday) in three games while Tanner Pearson collected three assists in this one.
PREDATORS 5, CAPITALS 2
-- To some extent, the Predators "had" to win this one. The Capitals were closing off a back-to-back set and had to travel to Nashville. Braden Holtby was given the night off in favor of Philipp Grubauer (who we must all call “Hans”). There were also injuries hurting Washington, something that’s rarely troubled the Caps so far this season.
But … hey, they followed through and won against the top team in the NHL. Now they’re ahead of the Blues for third place in the Central, where one would assume they’d peak.
-- For the third straight game, Filip Forsberg generated three points.
In this case, he scored a goal and two assists, falling short of back-to-back-to-back hat tricks. The slacker!
-- Forsberg's top line looked awfully dangerous in this one. Viktor Arvidsson grabbed a goal and an assist, while also setting up Forsberg for a different opportunity that was somehow stopped. Ryan Johansen was no slouch, either, collecting three assists.
-- Roman Josi is on an absolute roll right now. Josi collected two goals in this game, extending a point streak to four games (2G, 4A). He's already at 11 goals on the season, putting him in position to exceed his career-high of 15 goals from 2014-15 (also had 14 last season). He's collected at least 11 goals in four straight seasons.
PENGUINS 4, FLYERS 2
-- Hey, this game was played outside! Woo. I must give the Penguins some style points for the Steelers-inspired font on their duds. Not quite must-buy, but pretty inspired considering the bajillion designs they've had to pump out considering that they stand alongside the Blackhawks and a few other teams as the guys who continuously get invited to/invited to host these things.
-- Sidney Crosby started the scoring in this one, scoring his league-leading 34th goal of the season.
Jake Guentzel's pass was the star of that show, really, a brilliant play that likely prompted casual fans to wonder "Who is that No. 59?" He grabbed two assists in this one, also nabbing the primary helper on Nick Bonino's 2-0 goal.
Guentzel was also the target of a Brandon Manning hit that might draw some league attention.
-- Shayne Gostisbehere grabbed his fifth goal of the season, also generating four PIM in this one. Two games before that, he had three assists. At some point the Flyers have to figure out that, for all his faults, he probably gives them a better chance to win in the lineup than "learning" from the press box. Right?
-- Wow, quite the season of affirmation so far for Matt Murray. In stopping 36 out of 38 shots, Murray improved to 23-7-3 with a fantastic .926 save percentage. This work has to be reassuring for those who are nervous about Marc-Andre Fleury being out.
SHARKS 4, CANUCKS 1
-- Luca Sbisa left Saturday's game with a "stomach flu," prompting the usual bathroom jokes and also plenty of concerns about the mumps epidemic hitting Vancouver (and their opponents?). For what it's worth, Vancouver denies that his issues are mumps-related. Probably wise to keep tabs on your Canucks guys in general, but you already knew that.
-- With the 98th GWG of his career, Patrick Marleau broke a tie with Guy Lafleur and Jarome Iginla for sixth all-time in that "clutch" category. Iginla is still active and thus could get in a tug-o-war with Marleau for positioning there, especially if a contender nabs Iggy. Still, all things equal, it sure seems like Marleau's got more tread left on his tires. This was his 22nd goal of a surprisingly spry 2016-17 season.
-- Despite the illness going on, Vancouver gutted out some solid effort here, firing 36 SOG on Martin Jones. Jones stopped all but one of those SOG, however, pushing his wins total to 29 on the season.
-- Ryan Miller's playing poorly enough lately to a) likely put the last nail in Vancouver's playoff coffin, though management is less ... clear-headed about this than others and b) cast doubt over whether he might even find a backup job going forward. His future is an interesting situation to watch, either way.
RANGERS 4, DEVILS 3 (OT)
-- After managing a mere assist in his last six games and going without a goal since he scored two (and closed off a three-game goal streak) on Jan. 17, Mika Zibanejad made a cheeky move to score the OTGWG here. He also had an assist to help the Rangers win this game.
Many were hoping for a bit more of a breakout season for Zibanejad, who has been limited to 36 games played because of injuries. With 24 points in that span, there are still signs that he could make another step forward soon.
And, hey, a less-than-spectacular contract year might save the Rangers quite a few bucks in the long run.
-- Chris Kreider endured an essentially identical cold streak as Mika Z, managing an assist in his past six assists. So, fittingly, Kreider scored a goal and an assist as well on Saturday. He's already at a career-high for goals (23), and with 42 points, he's four away from matching his career-best of 46 points. As anticipated, that $4.25 million cap hit is looking like a nice steal for the Rangers.
-- In scoring two goals on Saturday, Kyle Palmieri is now at 18 tallies and 38 points in 59 games this season. He's been on a hot run lately, generating three goals and two assists during a three-game point streak.
All things considered, the Devils have to be pretty happy with what he's accomplished this season, right? He's already at second-best marks for goals and points, second to last season's 30 goals and 57 points. A strong finish could leave him at least reasonably close to those marks in 2016-17.
Not spectacular, but the 26-year-old (turned 26 on Feb. 1) could be a nice building block depending upon how long the rebuild takes in Newark.
BLUE JACKETS 7, ISLANDERS 0
-- I'm still not sure where exactly to rank the Columbus Blue Jackets among the East's and NHL's best, but they might just be the most punishing team in the league for anyone having an off game. The Islanders were their latest victims.
The score wasn't' just lopsided; Columbus also generated a significant 45-24 SOG advantage despite what's often the focus-draining impact of generating a 3-0 first period lead.
Instead, they generated a shot advantage in every period, though the first period's 17-9 edge was the most lopsided.
JFB's work so far this season: 3-2-2, 3.38 GAA and .894 save percentage. It's quite possible that Berube will grow at 25, with just 18 games of NHL experience under his belt. So far, he doesn't seem like he was worth the trouble of keeping three goalies alongside Jaroslav Halak all that time, however.
-- Joonas Korpisalo hasn't gotten much work this season, but he's been effective when used. This marks his first shutout as he stopped 24 SOG< but he's now on a three-game winning streak. The 22-year-old has shown some promise so far in his limited NHL reps.
AVALANCHE 5, SABRES 3
-- Hey, just about any accomplishment is something to celebrate for Colorado right now. And this one's actually legit.
Jeremy Smith, a little-known 27-year-old goalie, got his first NHL win on Saturday. He's closer to 28 than 27 (turning 28 on April 13), so who knows how many shots the Michigan native might end up getting for wins at this level?
(Not to say it's impossible that he'd catch on somewhere; in limited exposure of three games, he has a respectable .914 save percentage. You rarely know with goalies, right?)
-- Gabriel Landeskog put a five-game pointless streak behind him with a two-goal, one-assist performance. Tough to imagine a nice outburst really providing the camo for a weak season (26 points in 50 games), but there could be some scouts who saw that and pictured him bringing more nights like these to a team with something more to play for.
-- Both Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Nieto grabbed two assists in this game. Sure seems like MacKinnon's development has been a bit stunted in Colorado; then again, maybe we're being greedy in expecting more than the 41 points he's produced in 60 games?
-- Congrats to Evan Rodrigues, who scored his first goal of the season and second at the NHL level.