The 11-game slate on Saturday started with a lunchtime game between the Islanders and Capitals, and ended with the Stadium Series tilt between the Kings and Sharks.
70,205 watched at Levi's Stadium in a great battle between teams vying for playoff positions. While I certainly don't want an outdoor game every other day, I don't think I'll ever get sick of watching hockey played outdoors in the elements. At this point, Dan Craig and his staff seemingly make the ice as good (or bad) as any found indoors, and the atmosphere at the venue only adds to the appeal.
KINGS 2, SHARKS 1
— Don’t look now but the Kings have won seven in a row, and yes, they are back in the playoffs. They currently occupy the final spot in the Pacific Division, with the Sharks slipping out. The away team has now won 11 of 15 outdoor games, according to the NBC broadcast.
— Jonathan Quick was excellent. He gave up a goal he’d probably like to have back on a bad-angle shot from Brent Burns, but that was it. In the seven wins, Quick has posted a save percentage of at least .913 five times. Quick has been more average than spectacular in his career, but steadiness like this will vault the Kings into Cup favorites, yet again. Sure, Los Angeles is 13 points back of Anaheim for first in the division, but it also has two games in hand. Would anyone be surprised if the Kings made a run at the division? If anything, it could be a closer finish than anyone could've anticipated a month ago.
— Marian Gaborik got the game-winning goal in the third period. He also had seven shots on goal. The goal was his first in seven games. Could this be the start of one of his patented hot streaks?
— Antti Niemi made 27 saves in the loss. This performance notwithstanding, the Sharks’ fall has a lot to do with an average goalie exposing a team that does not drive play enough.
CAPITALS 3, ISLANDERS 2 (shootout)
— Barry Trotz’s group is proving that it is for real, winning its fourth game of the row to pull within four points of the Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
— Braden Holtby (30 saves) is the key to this team. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were always going to produce. The defense is improved. But Holtby has shown he is among the game’s best netminders. His 2.14 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and 29 wins rank fourth in the league. He has given up four goals in his past three games. No reason to doubt him moving forward.
— From a sheer points perspective, Matt Niskanen (three goals, 17 assists), has not been all that impressive. He certainly won’t finish near last season’s totals. He’s at least doing his job at driving possession when he’s on the ice.
— Even though Eric Fehr has 17 goals, he is not someone I’d want as the season winds down. He’s way too hit or miss and doesn’t generate a lot of shots. Fehr hadn’t scored since Feb. 3.
— Ryan Strome is going to be a star in this league, and he might break out in a big way next season. He has four goals over his past five games. With 13 goals and 25 assists, the 21-year-old has not looked out of place in the NHL. I’d target him in next season’s drafts.
FLYERS 3, PREDATORS 2 (shootout)
— If I told you team X had 48 shot attempts and team Y had 36, the majority would say the Predators would hold that advantage. That would not be correct in this game. Philadelphia had 29 scoring chances compared to 18 for the Predators, according to War on Ice. Just an inexcusable effort for Nashville, which was lucky to end up with a point.
— Wayne Simmonds is on a roll, and he’s not just putting up points on the power play. Simmonds’ goal gives him points in seven games in a row. With 23 goals and 18 assists, the 26-year-old is having a very solid season, despite the underwhelming (for him) penalty-minute totals (48). He has a real chance to crack the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.
— Colin Wilson (19th) and Craig Smith (18th) each scored for the Predators. Smith is riding a four-game point streak with four goals in that span. He also has 184 shots on the season, which is 16th in the league.
— Pekka Rinne certainly wasn’t the reason the Predators lost. He made 31 saves. A great bounce-back effort after giving up five on 40 shots against the Islanders in his last game. He and Carey Price are neck-and-neck for the Vezina trophy, in my mind.
RED WINGS 7, STARS 6 (overtime)
— The best game of the night, bar none, was this one. If you like offense, porous defense and so-so goaltending, then you’d agree with me here. I’m glad this is one I watched for the duration.
— Pavel Datsyuk netted two goals and added two assists. He has four goals and eight points over his past eight games. Even at 36, Datsyuk is showing he is still among the most dangerous players in the game. One of his goals was off a trademark takeaways. Detroit might have to rely on him even more, after Henrik Zetterberg suffered an upper-body injury in the second period.
— Jakub Kindl doubled his goal output to four, and he now has 11 points. So, no, he probably didn’t do much for any fantasy lineups, but he can set a new goal mark with another one. He is producing offense at the highest rate of his career, however, and setting a new high in points (20), can't be out of the question.
— Coach Mike Babcock pulled Jimmy Howard (26 saves) in favor of Jonas Gustavsson (two saves) with about 10 minutes remaining in the third period. Howard got very little help from his defense in the high-scoring areas, so this move was no-doubt made in an effort to change the mindset a little bit. Detroit scored three times after it.
— Jamie Benn is riding a six-game point streak. He scored, assisted and had seven penalty minutes. Benn has seven goals and 11 points during the streak. After a lull in December, Benn has 24 points in 22 games in January and February. Even without Tyler Seguin, Benn can take over a game on his own. It helps to have Jason Spezza on your team, too.
— Kari Lehtonen made 29 saves on 36 shots. Dallas continues to have major problems with its defensive coverage in front of the net, and Lehtonen is simply not playing well enough to make up for those lapses.
MAPLE LEAFS 4, JETS 3 (overtime)
— There hasn’t been a lot to celebrate for Toronto this season. This game was a different story. The Maple Leafs rallied from a goal down to win and snap a five-game losing streak.
— That James van Riemsdeyk has 22 goals and 45 points this season is pretty amazing considering he had gone 10 games without a marker until the game winner in this one. He had just two assists during that span, too. The Leafs have everyone on the block, so it will be interesting to see if JVR is someone they deem part of their future or if they really blow it up and move him.
— Daniel Winnik got a goal and an assist, and so did Nazem Kadri. It’s only a matter of time before the former gets moved, so noteworthy games help the Leafs’ cause. Kadri (along with Morgan Rielly) are two players I would not part with if I were Toronto.
— Mark Scheifele got a goal and an assist, both coming on power plays. He has nine goals and 33 points this season, so it might be next year when we see the big breakout. I’m thinking at least 20 goals, and 55 points.
— Michael Hutchinson (29 saves) has been very erratic since December. After a .912 save percentage in January, he’s at .881 in February. The Jets, holding the first wild-card spot in the West, can say bye to their playoff aspirations if this continues.
CANADIENS 3, BLUE JACKETS 1
— Max Pacioretty scored twice to extend his point streak to four games. He also has four goals during that timeframe. With 29 goals — sixth in the NHL — and 52 points, Pacioretty will likely reach the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career. He also has 227 shots on goal, second most in the league. Pacioretty is one of the best goal scorers in the game.
— If the season ended today, Carey Price would not only be my Vezina Trophy pick, he'd also get serious consideration for the Hart Trophy. He made 31 saves, and is 6-0-1 over his past seven games. His 1.91 GAA and .935 SV% lead the league. His 33 wins are second most. The Habs are a bottom-tier playoff team without him.
— Nick Foligno keeps on producing, and fantasy owners shouldn’t expect it to end. He has points in six of his past seven games as well. Foligno will be an interesting case next season as this type of production is well beyond anything he’s ever shown in his career.
SENATORS 4, PANTHERS 1
— Kyle Turris scored and assisted twice. He’s on a roll, with four goals and nine points over his past six games. Continuing this hot stretch is what it will take for him to come close to his 26 goals and 58 points from last season.
— Andrew Hammond made 21 saves for his second NHL win. He has been sharp in his first two starts this season, giving up three goals on 63 shots. Don’t think anyone could see this coming, though it remains to be seen whether he can keep this up. He might be worth a look for those who desperately need goalie help, but don’t expect miracles.
— Roberto Luongo gave up four goals on 39 shots, in one of his worst outings in several weeks. This is the first time since Feb. 2 in which he’s posted a sub-.900 save percentage. Wins might not be easy to come by the rest of the way, but Luongo is a workhorse and that will benefit fantasy owners.
DEVILS 3, HURRICANES 1
— Keith Kinkaid (17 saves) appeared to be destined for his first NHL shutout when he left with a lower-body injury after stretching to make a save in the second period. Luckily, it doesn’t appear to be serious. Cory Schneider made his first relief appearance of the season, stopping 14 shots.
— Tuomo Ruutu, Adam Henrique and Andy Greene picked up the goals for New Jersey. Greene’s goal was his first of the season. In total, these guys have accounted for 20 goals this season. You can where the Devils' problem lies
— Jeff Skinner netted his 14th goal, and third in his past five games. With 167 shots on goal, Skinner is still getting plenty of chances. I believe he’s a good bargain buy for next season. We know he has the talent, and he’s only 22 years old.
DUCKS 2, OILERS 1
— Ryan Getzlaf potted the game-winning goal as he continues to rack up points with the best in the game. His 57 points are 11th in the league.
— John Gibson blocked 26 shots for his second win in a row. Don’t discount how important this game was for him as he has not looked good since taking over the number-one job with Frederik Andersen sidelined. Despite the inconsistencies that come with a young player, Gibson has tremendous talent, enough that I’d be willing to roll with him in fantasy leagues.
— Teddy Purcell picked up the only goal for Edmonton. He has eight goals and 27 points this season. Not a high-end point producer to warrant picking up in fantasy leagues, but Purcell is valuable as a guy who can drive play and that makes him valuable in real life.
PENGUINS 4, BLUES 2
— Blake Comeau had two goals and an assist. He continues to be a valuable addition for those who took a chance on him, but he’s one of those players that will be nearly impossible to move, because this season is pretty much coming out of nowhere. So just enjoy the rewards yourself, though he's tough to bank on week to week because he's put up points in bunches.
— Patric Hornqvist has two goals in February, and his play has cooled off significantly after a hot start. He missed a bunch of time in December, but still has only 10 points in 23 games after November.
— Brian Elliott’s struggles continued, as he gave up four goals on 29 shots. I’m a fan, though he has not been good in February, with a 3.29 GAA and .897 SV%. Hard to sit a guy like this, though, especially on a team as strong as St. Louis.
LIGHTNING 4, COYOTES 2
— Ondrej Palat’s two-goal night extended his point streak to four games, giving him three goals and six points during the streak. He has 14 goals and 46 points this season and should continue to be a solid contributor the rest of the way.
— Ryan Callahan got a goal and an assist, so he’s on pace about 24 goals and 58 points. Steven Stamkos scored on the empty net, while on the power play.
— Ben Bishop (22 saves) has won three games in a row, giving up just five goals in that stretch. It’s hard to count on him for strong rate stats, but the wins should be there down the stretch.
— Mike Smith, on the other hand, remains a dicey play. He gave up three goals on 26 shots in this loss. Even with a 2.35 GAA and .925 SV% in February, Smith still is below a .900 SV% (.895) and has a 3.26 GAA for the season. IF you’re a contender, I’d still look elsewhere for goaltending help. Smith hasn’t been reliable enough.