Ten games on Saturday's slate, and it started early with two afternoon contests. Let's get right to the recaps.
KINGS 5, PENGUINS 3
— The Kings’ 33 points might not be indicative of it, but there’s a case to be made that they are one of the best teams in hockey … again. Best possession numbers point to great things moving forward, too. And they aren’t starting off the year slowly like they have in the past.
— Not often do you see a period that features six goals, four of which came from Los Angeles. Six goals on 26 combined shots. No bueno.
— Milan Lucic (two goals) is on a bit of a roll now, with points in four of his past five games. This run has propped up his numbers to nine goals, 16 points. Most promising thing is that he has 11 shots over his past three games.
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— Jake Muzzin (goal, two assists) has played with Drew Doughty for so long it has masked just how good the former is. Muzzin is now with Alec Martinez, and he is a 57% possession player, so he’s not a byproduct of Doughty at all. Muzzin has two goals, 13 points this season; his shot output (52) has been down this year but perhaps this will get him going.
— Doughty had a goal and an assist, while Christian Ehrhoff picked up one. If you’re counting at home, that’s three goals from defensemen.
— Not Jonathan Quick’s (17 saves) best game, but he has helped L.A. earn at least a point in five games in a row.
— Sidney Crosby scored his sixth goal, while also adding an assist. He has a point in six of his past seven games. Buy buy buy.
— That Marc-Andre Fleury (32 saves on 36 shots) has a .926 SV% speaks to how good he’s been this season. He deserves to have more than 12 wins in 21 games.
JETS 2, CAPITALS 1 (overtime)
— Let’s get this out of the way: No way should any coach’s challenge take eight minutes to review. It was impossible to tell from replays whether Blake Wheeler’s foot was off the ground, thereby rendering him offside when Mark Scheifele entered the zone prior to his game-winner with 19 seconds remaining.
— In other news, Scheifele has four points over his past two games and six shots in both of them. Forgot to set my lineup in one league and left him on the bench. Ugh.
— Andrew Ladd got the other goal, extending his goal streak to three games. He has a goal in four of his past five games, too.
— Connor Hellebuyck (37 saves) is proving what many thought as early as last season: He is the Jets organization’s most talented option in net. He has stopped 83 of 86 shots against in three games, all wins. He’s worth snagging now with the upside he keeps the job for an extended period. Braden Holtby (34 saves) did a pretty good job, too.
— Nicklas Backstrom (goal) has a point in five consecutive games. He’s a major part of a formidable top-six in Washington.
SENATORS 3, ISLANDERS 2 (overtime)
— Quite the win for the Senators, who trailed 2-0 in the third period before they scored three unanswered goals.
— Erik Karlsson (goal, two assists) is that catalyst of this offense, and that he was in this one. He assisted on Mark Stone’s and Mike Hoffman’s goals, then won the game in overtime. Karlsson has six goals and 32 points this season, good for fourth in the league. The 25-year-old is on a mission to post his first point-per-game season.
— Hoffman and Stone have combined for 21 goals and 49 points. Hoffman has goals in four games in a row and points in seven in a row. He’s going to reach star status this season.
— Jaroslav Halak (26 saves) did not have a good night. With a .924 SV%, though, he’s been strong this year. If he can do that, the Isles will go far.
RED WINGS 5, PREDATORS 4 (overtime)
— We’ll get to the Red Wings’ comeback in a few, but for now some history: Shea Weber netted a hat trick to become the first Predators defenseman to achieve the feat. Every goal was scored on the power play, on three shots. The goals are Weber’s first since Nov. 17, a span of eight games. Weber is a strong fantasy option, especially for goals/defensemen. With nine this year, he could shatter his career high of 23 pretty easily.
— The Red Wings entered the third period down 3-2, then 4-2 at 8:03 of the frame. Gustav Nyquist potted the game winner, along with an assist on Justin Abdelkader’s power-play tally that sent the game to OT. Five of the game's nine goals were scored with the man advantage.
— Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin each notched a goal and an assist. It took some time, but Jeff Blashill’s group is looking like a top-tier team in the East now. Possession game is improving and players are adapting to his system. Heck, even Brad Richards scored his first goal of the season (in 14 games) in this one!
— Just need the goaltending to cooperate. Peter Mrazek made 28 saves. He’s given up four goals in two games in a row, though he hasn’t lost in regulation since Nov. 14.
— Woof, Pekka Rinne (31 saves). His year has been abysmal: 2.44 GAA, .906 SV%. He can’t afford to do this, especially because the Predators' offense isn't dangerous.
HURRICANES 3, CANADIENS 2
— Jeff Skinner loves to tease us, doesn’t he? He scored twice in this one. Nights like this remind us that he has otherworldly talent. But then you look at the seven goals and nine points and you get depressed.
— Let’s just say, even the worst of NHL netminders can look good on some nights. Cam Ward (38 saves) was fantastic. But don’t let that fool you. Ward has been among the worst starting goalies for several years now. A 2.50 GAA, .902 SV% simply will not cut it.
— Daniel Carr lit the lamp in his first NHL game. You’ve got to love stuff like that. He played 8:21 in his debut, getting three shots on goal. Carr has shown a good scoring touch at every level. He had eight goals and 17 points in 21 AHL games. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.
— Mike Condon (20 saves) is quickly looking like nothing but an average goalie. Remember when he went nearly a month without giving up more than two goals? Well now he has a 2.22 GAA and .913 SV%.
MAPLE LEAFS 4, BLUES 1
— Your eyes are not fooling you. Garret Sparks (27 saves) and the Maple Leafs showed St. Louis they’re not to be taken lightly this season. Sparks has given up seven goals on 87 shots this season. Still wouldn’t really want to bet on him to carry the load on your fantasy team, though.
— In fantasy, we judge players by what they do on the scoresheet. It makes sense. But savvy owners can assess the big picture for their players, too. Nazem Kadri (two goals) is a perfect example. He has 101 shots this season and five goals, good for a 5% scoring rate, half of his career average. He’s also been a positive possession player. There’s good times ahead for the 25-year-old center.
— The Maple Leafs also got goals from Brad Boyes (second) and P.A. Parenteau (seventh). Parenteau’s goal was his first since Nov. 17.
— Quite a bizarre sequence of events for Jake Allen (25 saves), who was pulled after giving up the third goal, seen jawing with coach Ken Hitchcock, then put back in net after he talked his way back in a few minutes later. Allen has given up at least three goals in three of his past five games. He has a 2.23 GAA and .922 SV%.
— Vladimir Tarasenko potted his 15th of the year. Very good chance he gets to 40. That’s not someone you want to consider ever moving off your team.
BLUE JACKETS 4, FLYERS 1
— Nick Foligno’s three-point (two goals, assist) night gave him four goals and 14 points this season. Is it really all that surprising to see him come back to earth this season, after one in which he scored 31 and posted 73 points? I don’t think so. Foligno had been more of an 18-goal, 45ish-point player before that. His goals should tick up but I’m not banking on him returning the force level of last season.
— Scott Hartnell (goal, two assists) had a nice return to the lineup after John Tortorella made him a healthy scratch Friday. Tortorella wants him to be more disciplined, which is bad news for fantasy owners because that is part of what makes Hartnell so appealing. The points were his first in five games.
— Sergei Bobrovsky (27 saves) is turning back into a fantasy stalwart again. He has allowed two or fewer goals in six consecutive games. Bobrovsky was a new man in November (1.82 GAA, .940 SV%) and it's continued now in December with four goals allowed in three games.
— If I could embed a roller coaster in this post for Steve Mason, I would. He can’t seem to put together a sustained stretch of great goaltending. His past five games are a good example: four goals against, two GA, 0 GA, two GA, four GA.
WILD 3, AVALANCHE 0
— A game in which the final score and shot total did not do the Wild’s dominance justice. They outshot the Avalanche 44-20 and out-possessed them 58-30 at even strength.
— The Wild got goals from Matt Dumba, Justin Fontaine and Jason Pominville. None have been fantasy factors this season, though Pominville has three goals over his past five games. Dumba has a goal in two games in a row, but he only has four and seven points on the season. He boasts considerable offensive upside, though.
— Devan Dubnyk (11 saves) left in the second period with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. The Wild cannot afford to be without him long-term. Darcy Kuemper (nine saves) just hasn’t exhibited any sort of consistency the past few seasons to make them comfortable with him in net night after night. He has a .907 SV%.
— Semyon Varlamov (41 saves) has not had a good season — 3.04 GAA, .898 SV% — this game notwithstanding. In fact, he’s given up three goals on 68 shots in the past two games. He’s been way too erratic to trust moving forward.
BRUINS 4, CANUCKS 0
— Raise your hand if you expected the bruins to be 14-8-3 after 25 games. Boston is third in the Atlantic Division and has done so while many “experts” wrote them off.
— What’s even more astonishing is that until recently Tuukka Rask (17 saves) had been an anchor, instead of the team’s life vest. He has a 2.72 GAA and .906 SV%, still not good, but much better than he started the year with. Rask’s SV% has improved each month.
— Brad Marchand (goal) is an effective player because he’s agitating, yet skilled to make you pay if you forget about him or let him get under your skin. He has never cracked 30 goals … with 13 this year, he’s on pace for more than 40.
— Torey Krug potted one, his third point in four games. He has two goals this season, a far cry from the 12 he posted last season.
— Jacob Markstrom (18 saves) could carve out a larger role. But not with performances like that. He has a 3.06 GAA and .904 SV% this season.
LIGHTNING 4, SHARKS 3
— If you looked just at the shot totals (34-20 Sharks), you’d think this game was lopsided. In fact, it was skewed because of eight Sharks power plays. The Lightning outplayed them at even strength, though that didn’t make things easy in the third as the Sharks scored two in a row to pull within 4-3.
— Nikita Kucherov (two goals) was a factor, and that’s something that hasn’t been said enough about him this year. His goals were his first since Nov. 21. Kucherov has his work cut out for him to even get close to repeating last season (29 goals, 65 points). He has eight goals and 15 points.
— Ben Bishop (24 saves) gave up two goals before leaving in the third period after Tomas Hertl’s stick went through the mask and near his eye. Reports after the game indicate he just had some redness there. That would be great news because it didn’t look good. Andrei Vaselevskiy made seven saves in 11:10.
— Brent Burns makes watching hockey fun. Not only did he assist on Joel Ward’s power-play goal that made it 4-2, he also buried a pretty goal himself on the power play — top shelf. Burns has 10 goals and 22 points this season, along with 119 shots on net.