Even for those who enjoyed personally strong 2015’s (I’d be a fool to complain about my life), I think most would agree that 2016 will be welcome.
It was a tough year for the world, and the sport of hockey wasn’t immune to such thoughts. The off-the-ice storylines were ugly to the point of being horrific at times, and while it won’t be all rainbows and unicorns in the future, the trend was often disturbing.
So, here’s hoping for more goals and fewer terrible headlines in 2016. Hopefully it can only go up from here.
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.
BLACKHAWKS 4, AVALANCHE 3 (OT)
- This marks two straight one-goal, two-assist games for Patrick Kane, who improved his NHL-leading points total to 56. He certainly didn't generate his trio of points by sheer luck on Thursday, as he also generated seven SOG. Twelve of his goals have come on the power play so far this season. Artemi Panarin continues to be a great co-pilot for Kane, as the young forward grabbed two assists in this win.
- Jonathan Toews certainly doesn't discourage "clutch" talk. He scored yet another OTGWG, bumping his season GWG total to six (almost half of his 13 goals overall). His 24 points in 39 games are solid (if unspectacular), and the variety of benefits he brings to the table really helps him illustrate some of his real-life value in fantasy. He's on a nice mini-roll with three points in as many contests.
- Erik Johnson helped Colorado secure a point by grabbing an assist as well as the goal that sent the game into overtime. He now has 16 points in 2015-16. Matt Duchene was a key contributor as well with a pair of assists.
- Semyon Varlamov couldn't pull a rabbit out of a hat here, yet he was busy, stopping 39 out of 43 shots in defeat. His record dropped to 12-9-3.
STARS 5, PREDATORS 1
- Your fearful author was actually at this game, planted right behind the Predators' bench (and often directly behind an increasingly angry Peter Laviolette) along with my gorgeous wife, who hopefully grabbed much of the camera's attention. I haven't seen more than a screenshot yet, but I imagine that footage will really catapult me toward getting my New Year's Resolutions in full swing.
The camera adds, like, 50 lbs., right?
- Boy, the pace of this game was fast. It was interesting to see the Predators return to the bench after each hectic shift. There were times when Nashville seemed capable of sticking with Dallas, but this was the sort of contest that really spotlighted some of Nashville's high-end scoring deficits. They could be a team that would really benefit from a little trade deadline rental shopping if the prices aren't too outrageous.
- Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn with time and space = a helpless feeling for a goaltender. From my (weird but exciting) standpoint, it's difficult to determine how much blame Pekka Rinne deserves, but his .907 save percentage this season argues emphatically that he needs to resolve to stop more pucks in the new year. I'm a bit surprised that the Predators haven't tried to grab a more suitable backup than seldom-used Carter Hutton, to be honest.
- Antti Niemi continued his strong recent run, stopping 33 out of 34 pucks for his 16th win of 2015-16. His performance may have exaggerated the difference between Nashville and Dallas a little bit more than the score suggested.
(Dallas was still clearly superior, mind you.)
- On that note, allow me to assert my opinion that the Stars are clearly the best team in the NHL heading into Jan. 1, even if there might be a tug-o-war with Washington for the actually top standings spot. The most obvious bullet in Dallas' chamber is playing in the cruelly competitive Central, but context doesn't matter as much as the Stars just being THAT GOOD.
KINGS 4, FLAMES 1
- Hate to say it, but this was sort of the mediocre effort that seemed to be approaching for Karri Ramo. The Kings only managed 24 SOG, and while an ENG made things look a little worse than they were, my guess is that goaltending remains a question mark - at best - for Calgary right now. Ramo fell to 13-12-1 this season.
- Marian Gaborik scored a goal and an assist on Thursday, pushing his points total to a meager 15 in 37 games. I'm not sure how much of it is the aging process and how much of it falls on the slight creativity-stunting nature of the Los Angeles setup, but Gaborik's gone from a guy whose totals were limited because of injuries to a guy who's seemingly lost much of his explosiveness. He's just 33, but injuries and a long career (his rookie season of 71 GP came way back in 2000-01) might make him "an old 33."
- This is more or less the sort of game Milan Lucic owners envisioned: a goal and seven PIM. He now has 23 points and 40 PIM in this intriguing contract year.
- Jonathan Quick finished 2015 with a 21-9-1 record, which I'd confidently say is in the high end of what most would expect from the American-born goalie. He's earning those victories, too, with a nice .922 save percentage.
DUCKS 1, OILERS 0
- That's two consecutive shutouts for John Gibson. Don't overflow him with credit, mind you, as he made 21 saves on Thursday and just 14 in his previous appearance to get this perfect streak going. Fantasy owners probably don't care that much about those details, at least short-term, and Gibson's really taking hold of the rotating Ducks gig with three straight victories. He's 7-4-2 with a .931 save percentage, with more than half of his wins coming via four shutouts. He might just save Anaheim's season, or at least do so with Frederik Andersen (whenever things settle down for that still fairly promising netminder).
- Cam Talbot was probably the actual in-net standout in this one, keeping Edmonton in this game by stopping 34 out of 35 shots. He hasn't been generating a ton of wins lately, yet Talbot's showing signs of settling in with Edmonton. They just need to give him a little more support.
- His 20 assists make things easier to digest, but it's still near-unfathomable that Ryan Getzlaf's goal - the only one of that game, obviously - was just his third tally of the season. His three goals break down as two PPG and one ENG. An optimist will look at it a different way, though: two goals in his past three games.
COYOTES 4, JETS 2
- Louis Domingue deserves the gold star here; the Jets generated a 37-21 SOG advantage but couldn't grab a win in large part because of Domingue. He's worth a short-term glance with the way he's been shining lately.
- Tough night for Connor Hellebuyck, who saw a two-game winning streak end after giving up three goals on just 20 shots. I've generally liked what I've seen from him, but Winnipeg goalies have been a somewhat dangerous investment for some time.
- Adam Lowry scored both of Winnipeg's goals, pushing him to three goals and 10 points on the season. Lowry ended a four-game pointless streak in the process.
- Shane Doan produced two more goals, giving him five tallies in two games. He also has seven goals and eight points in his past five contests. I'm not sure what prompted this recent eruption, but it's a great sign for a Coyotes team that needs every point it can get.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson already has 10 goals (and a solid 26 points) so far this season. His shooting percentage is a little high for a defenseman at 9.6 percent, although OEL is in that talent range where you never know; he might just flirt with 20 goals even if his puck luck slows.
ISLANDERS 2, SABRES 1
- Thomas Greiss made 42 saves to grab the win for the Islanders. Greiss is fairly well-established among us hockey dorks as a great backup who could probably moonlight as a solid starter in the right situation, and he's really been thriving in Brooklyn. He's now 11-5-2 with a sparkling .936 save percentage.
- Nikolay Kulemin scored the game-winning goal to extend his goal-scoring streak to three games.
- The Sabres went 1-for-4 on the power play. Ryan O'Reilly scored the lone goal for Buffalo, his 15th tally and 33rd point of what’s been an impressive first year in Buffalo.
- Tyler Ennis missed the game because of an upper-body injury he sustained from an Ovechkin hit suffered Tuesday night.
- Rasmus Ristolainen already has 18 assists and 25 points on the season. He ended a four-game points drought on NYE.
PENGUINS 5, RED WINGS 2
- Kris Letang had two goals and an assist. Patric Hornqvist had a goal and an assist. Basically, the usual suspects who haven’t shown up as much as hoped for Pittsburgh stood out in this game, a positive sign heading into the new year. All of a sudden the playoffs really don’t look so out of reach for the Penguins.
- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored goals 34 seconds apart in the third period. Crosby has three goals and five assists in his last six games. Looks like he may be returning to form for the first time this season.
- Darren Helm probably didn’t pop some champagne on Thursday, unless it was to drown his sorrows. He was on the ice for three of the Penguins goals, ending up with a -3 rating.
HURRICANES 4, CAPITALS 2
- Eddie Lack made 30 saves for the win while Grubauer made 33 shots in the loss. Grubauer moves to 4-3-1 on the season. Lack earned himself at least a couple Lacko Tacos.
- Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom scored for Washington. Ovechkin has seven goals and two assists in his last seven games. Nice to see Backstrom back and healthy after an upper-body injury caused a bit of a scare.
- Dmitry Orlov finished the night with a -3.
WILD 3, BLUES 1
- After going 17 games without a goal, Erik Haula finally found the back of the net for the Wild, breaking a third period tie with 8:32 remaining in regulation. Haula also added an assist.
- Tomas Vanek added an empty-net goal. Nino Niederreiter scored the first goal for the Wild and also nabbed an assist.
- Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves for the Wild. His record improves to 16-10-2.