John Scott being voted in as an All-Star captain stole all the early headlines, but there were still 12 games in an action-packed Saturday, so let’s get right to the recaps.
RED WINGS 4, SABRES 3
— It’s been tough to get a read on the Red Wings this season. Started off slowly, reeled off a nice stretch and are now in the midst of another rough patch. This win snapped a three-game losing streak.
— Even though the Red Wings are paying Brad Richards (goal) $3 million, I think they expected more than four goals and 11 points in 26 games. Though he has “heated up,” with all four goals coming since the start of December. He’s not much of a fantasy play right now.
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— Tomas Tatar (goal, assist) is, though he’s been in a funk himself with this goal being his first since Dec. 11. He has 12 goals and 25 points this year, so he’s right on the heels of last season’s breakout effort. Don’t think he’ll ever be a star but Tatar will be a solid contributor for fantasy purposes.
— Henrik Zetterberg’s decreased shot output (90 in 39 games) is a bit concerning. His goal gave him seven for the season. He’s dipped from 2.9 shots per game last year, to 2.5 now. Relying on a guy for solely assists is risky.
— Jack Eichel scored twice, so he has 13 on the year. His breakout has been bubbling at the surface for a while now … and it’s finally bursting through. He has four goals and nine points in his past five games. It would not surprise me to see Eichel get a point-per-game from this point forward.
— Sam Reinhart’s numbers (nine goals, eight assists) might not seem all the great now. But he’s 20 years old, and there’s a good chance he becomes a fantasy factor next year. Keep him in mind. He scored Saturday to end a 10-game drought without one.
PENGUINS 5, ISLANDERS 2
— Where are all the Sidney Crosby doubters now? Crosby scored two power-play goals and fired seven shots on goal in 17:40. His offensive game is coming to life as he has five of his 11 goals and 10 of his 29 points over his past seven games. Right now, his 29 points rank 42nd in the NHL. Would it surprise anyone to see him in the top 10 by season’s end? Daniel Sedin, with 37 points, is 10th now. So, no, it is more than possible.
— All the players who need to be factors for the Penguins, were. Patric Hornqvist had a goal and seven shots, while Phil Kessel also scored. Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin each recorded a trio of assists. This firepower is what made it hard to believe the Penguins were done, even as they look disheveled. They are 4-1-1 over their past six games.
— Add in Marc-Andre Fleury (38 saves) and his high level of play, and the Penguins are still viable contenders. He has given up two goals in four of his past five games. You can win with that.
— Thomas Greiss (22 saves) was pulled midway through the game after he allowed four goals. Every goalie has a downright awful night, it just happens to come with Jaroslav Halak nearing return. Christopher Gibson made 16 saves in his NHL debut.
— Speaking of another star who has not reached expectations yet … John Tavares. While he has 15 goals, he only has 14 assists, which rank 96th in the NHL. He needs some more puck luck from linemates and he’ll finish strong. No reason to think he won’t post a point-per-game the rest of the way.
OILERS 4, COYOTES 3 (shootout)
— A 16-21-3 record doesn’t show it, but the Oilers are on the brink of becoming a threat. They’ve gone from “easy win” status to being competitive. Still need to address the defense and goaltending.
— Their collection of talented forwards helps their cause. Jordan Eberle scored twice, the final one essentially forcing overtime. We forget that Eberle is still a very skilled winger, with tons of ability and a great resume in the NHL. He’s not quite showing that with 10 goals and 16 points. Eberle is the type of player I’d be willing to buy low on.
— Both Eberle and Taylor Hall scored their first goals since Dec. 15. Of course, Hall has had a more productive season. His 41 points rank fourth in the NHL. He’s in my MVP discussion.
— The Oilers did not acquire Cam Talbot (31 saves) with the belief he’d be posting a .906 save percentage. He’s not doing himself any favors in attempt for a long-term next contract.
— Anthony Duclair (goal) is a different story, even if it’s come in spurts and flashes. The talent is there to be a top-six forward … but three shots over his past seven games show he’s been having a tough time generating offense.
— Louis Domingue (38 saves) is worth a look if you’re in need of a goalie. Limited sample size detracts from his value. But there’s an ownable player here. He has posted a save percentage of at least .927 in four of his seven appearances.
KINGS 2, FLYERS 1
— Surprised Drew Doughty’s power-play one-timer did not rip through the net. He has seven goals and 24 points this year, and his plus-16 rating is top-10, too. As long as he continues similar production, the Norris will be his for the taking. He’s been a finalist twice.
— Dwight King got the other goal. He has two goals and three points in three games. King is an effective role player, but his offensive upside is limited. Don’t fall for the good puck luck.
— Jonathan Quick (29 saves) has 22 wins, with five in a row. During that streak, he has recorded a plus-.955 SV% four times. Cory Schneider has a good chance to be the Team USA goalie in the World Cup, but quick is making sure he’s still considered the top dog. His .923 SV% would be his best in four years.
— Brayden Schenn is a former fifth overall pick who tore up the WHL prior to being drafted. He should be better than eight goals, 16 points, especially after he recorded a career-high 47 points last year. Big issue with the Flyers is their lack of bonafide scoring-line players.
— Michel Neuvirth’s .937 save percentage through 17 games leads the NHL. He made 30 saves in his first game since Dec. 15. Steve Mason was supposed to be the Flyers’ No. 1 … but Neuwirth is giving them the best chance to win. Their split caps Neuvirth’s value in fantasy.
MAPLE LEAFS 4, BLUES 1
— If I were a betting man, pretty sure I would’ve picked this game (Blues win) as one of my locks. Good thing I’m not a betting man.
— Full credit goes to Jonathan Bernier (39 saves). It wasn’t long ago that he looked like a hopeless netminder, lacking confidence and needing to be sent down to the minors. Now he’s won two in a row and three of his past four in which he’s allowed three goals in those wins. It will be interesting to see, once James Reimer is healthy, which way coach Mike Babcock goes.
— James van Riemsdyk picked up his 14th goal. He has points in six games in a row, with four goals and eight points. He’s on pace to post his second career 30-goal season. Don’t see why that isn’t a realistic target.
— Nazem Kadri (goal) might not have the gaudiest offensive totals — seven goals, 20 points — but he’s been a very effective player. His 127 shots on goal rank 10th, so there’s positive regression coming his way.
— Whenever Vladimir Tarasenko touches the puck, you think goal. He’s that skilled with the puck. He’s the type of player you pay to watch because he’s so explosive and makes it look so easy. Tarasenko has 23 goals.
— Jake Allen (29 saves) has lost two games in a row, despite giving up five goals. Over his past five games, he’s given up 10 goals. The fast start and decline I expected has not occurred yet. Do I think he stays in the top ten in SV% (.926)? No.
LIGHTNING 3, WILD 2 (shootout)
— Just when you think the Lightning are starting to find their stride, they lose three of four (before this one). This team is still plenty dangerous, the type that if they make the playoffs, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
— Thirty-nine games into the season, I did not expect Nikita Kucherov to be the Lightning’s leading point producer. After his goal, he now has points in eight games in a row. There is no reason to think he won’t replicate last season’s 29-goal, 65-point campaign.
— Andrei Vasilevskiy (30 saves) will likely have to wait until 2017-18 for his first chance at being an NHL starter. That’s when Ben Bishop’s contract expires. Many around the game believe Vasilevskiy has star potential. It can’t hurt the 21-year-old to get acclimated as a backup first.
— Charlie Coyle (goal, assist) has two goals and four points over his past three games. He’s a pretty boring player for fantasy purposes. But he’s on pace to shatter his career-highs of 12 goals and 35 points, so that’s something, right?
— Devan Dubnyk (28 saves) won’t ever be as invincible as when he arrived in Minnesota, but a 2.30 GAA and .920 SV% is more than acceptable. He has given up four goals over his past three games. Dubnyk is a strong middle-tier option.
PANTHERS 3, RANGERS 0
— The Panthers are for real, folks. They have won eight games in a row. What’s not to like about how this team plays? They have some old (charismatic) guys defying age. They have youth up and down the lineup — and it has tremendous upside. Plus, they are hungry to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
— None of their “big” names found the scoresheet in this one. Logan Shaw, Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri picked up goals. Trocheck holds the most fantasy value. He has one more point than last season (22) in 12 fewer games. I’d rather own him than someone like Coyle.
— Roberto Luongo was stellar, making 40 saves for his third shutout of the season. He has won seven games in a row. With a 2.09 GAA and .929 SV%, Luongo is deserving of an All-Star nod, which the league will announce Jan. 6. The best part for Florida is that it has become a team that's more than just its goaltender.
— Something needs to happen with the Rangers, who have four wins since the start of December (14 games). Even though they were better in this game, the defense needs to be shaken up.
— Henrik Lundqvist (17 saves) has come back to Earth after a strong first two months (.943 SV%, .929) to .892 in December. The Rangers are lucky they banked so many points early. They are two points ahead of the final wild card spot.
DEVILS 3, STARS 2 (overtime)
— Don’t sleep on the Devils. They are two points behind the Islanders for second in the Metropolitan Division. What’s most impressive in this one is that the Devils and Stars were tied in score-adjusted even-strength shot attempts. The fact New Jersey has been so competitive leads me to believe the front office should be active to find scoring as the season progresses.
— Kyle Palmieri must like playing near his hometown. He is 17 goals are 10th in the NHL. All jokes aside, Palmieri is taking full advantage of top-line duties. He has four goals over his past five games. Palmieri won’t keep shooting 17.5%, but he should remain among the Devils' most productive.
— The Devils have found lightning in a bottle with Bobby Farnam, who has five goals on the season. This was a guy who had 17 goals across three AHL seasons with the Penguins. John Moore won it in OT, his second OT winner of the season. He only has three goals.
— After giving up three goals in back-to-back contests, Schneider has given up two total in two games. He is the reason you can’t count out the Devils. He should remain top 10 in the league in SV% (.927).
PREDATORS 2, HURRICANES 1 (overtime)
— Not a whole lot of fantasy owners extracted value from the Predators’ goal scorers tonight: Paul Gaustad netted his first of the season, while Mattias Ekholm recorded a goal and an assist. Ekholm doesn’t get enough love because of how good his defense-mates are. With five goals and 14 points, he’s two goals and four points away from matching his career-highs.
— Pekka Rinne (27 saves) has not had a good year (.909 SV%). Before this game, he had given up 11 goals in three games. While his track record says his ratios should improve, I want to see it for more than a game here or there.
— Victor Rask is second on the Hurricanes with 26 points and third with 11 goals, which ties his rookie high. Much of his growth is shown through his shooting rate increasing from 6.4% to 12.9% this season. No reason to think he 20 goals, 50 points isn’t his floor moving forward.
BLUE JACKETS 5, CAPITALS 4 (shootout)
— This game gets the award for wildest of the night. Not only were there lots of goals, there was also some late chaos. Curtis McElhinney (23 saves) started and played most of the game, until he injured his 55 seconds into overtime. The Blue Jackets summoned Anton Forsberg, who was recalled Saturday, and he had to make six saves in overtime (and two of three in the shootout). Even crazier, this was his season debut ... and first NHL win.
— Brandon Saad (two goals) is on fire right now. During a seven-game point streak, Saad has five goals and 11 points. He’s on pace to hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.
— Jack Johnson (two goals, assist) recorded his first multi-goal game of his career. The points were his first since Dec. 5. His offensive production (11 points) has dipped this season, so he doesn’t come highly recommended.
— One of my worries entering the season for the Capitals was their center depth. After nearly half the season, they might have two of the best in the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov registered a goal and an assist. He has 12 goals and 35 points. To think he’s only 23 years old, in his second full season …
— Marcus Johansson also had a goal and a helper. Slowly, he is progressing as a player, making him a solid plug-in guy for those in need of a back-end forward with upside.
— T.J. Oshie seems like a lock to set career highs in goals, which sit at 21. But he’s probably not going to reach 60 points, a mark set in 2013-14 with the Blues. That being said, he’s been just what the Capitals asked for when they acquired him.
— Even the league’s best netminders can have off nights. Braden Holtby (25 saves) had given up three total goals during his prior three games. He has not lost in regulation since Nov. 10.
FLAMES 4, AVALANCHE 0
— Dougie Hamilton (goal) was supposed to fit in seamlessly in the Flames’ defense. That hasn’t exactly been the case. While he has played much better lately (nine of his 14 points) since the start of December, his production is way down. He’s a defenseman to take a chance on if your blue line is underperforming.
— Karri Ramo (26 saves) recorded his first shutout. Even though he has posted a save percentage of at least .950 in three of his past five games, I would stay far away from him.
— Semyon Varlamov (15 saves) has not played well lately. After an eight-game stretch in which he didn’t give up more than two goals, Varlamov has given up four, four, two and six goals, respectively, over his past four games.
JETS 4, SHARKS 1
— If the Jets can get some things figured out, Connor Hellebuyck (27 saves) could be a major asset in fantasy leagues. He has won three of his past four starts, giving up five total goals. In dynasty leagues, he’s a gem. The 22-year-old needs to be owned in all leagues regardless.
— Stay patient with Mathieu Perreault. With five goals on 64 shots, his scoring rate is about seven points from his career average. He’s a very effective player, and he hasn’t totally sunk you because he has 21 assists.
— Nikolaj Ehlers’ goal was his first in 26 games. It came via the empty net, but who’s counting? After an eight-point first month, he has five points since. When he grows more comfortable with the NHL game, watch out.
— Martin Jones (17 saves on 20 shots) was yanked after two periods. His strong October (.938 SV%) teased us as it’s dropped in each month — .914, .889, .850. Still think there’s an above average goalie here.