Weird how in an 82-game season in which each is weighted the same — two points for a win, one point for an overtime/shootout loss, none for a regulation loss — the closer you get to the playoffs, the more the games "matter," at least according to the mainstream.
Now that we're fully into the second half of the season, this type of lingo will start to become commonplace in the NHL, even though games in the beginning of the season are just as important in the grand scheme. Food for thought if your team misses (or makes) the playoffs by a few points.
With that being said, think of this 11-game Dose as the appetizer before the main Super Bowl course, if you will ...
CANADIENS 1, CAPITALS 0
— The Canadiens have won five straight games, and they continue to defy the advanced-stats model — winning with subpar possession numbers.
— The thing is, they are able to do it so often because their man in net, Carey Price, is one of the best. He notched his second consecutive shutout, this time on 36 saves Price is rolling with a 153:03 shutout streak.
— Again, same story line with the game-winning scorer. Max Pacioretty beat the Rangers on Thursday, then did the same against the Capitals on Saturday. He also had seven shots on goal. Pacioretty has 23 goals and 40 points this year. Don’t discount the possibility of 40.
— Can’t fault Braden Holtby (30 saves) for this loss. Pacioretty’s goal was of the tipped-in variety. Holtby has allowed one goal over his past two games. He’s playing like a number-one fantasy netminder this season with a 2.22 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, both of which are seventh-best in the NHL.
RED WINGS 4, ISLANDERS 1
— I can't help but think that this game pitted the two best in the conference, even if the point totals for the Islanders are two off the pace — Detroit and Montreal lead with 67. It was a low-event game, with a strong neutral-zone presence from each team. The difference came down to the goaltending.
— Petr Mrazek rebounded just as the Red Wings had hoped after a rough 10-saves-on-15-shots two-period performance in his last game. He made 22 saves in this one. Up to this point, Mrazek had given up 16 games over his past four games. The Red Wings have shown that if they can just get average goaltending, they can be one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
— Rough outing for Chad Johnson, who stopped 15 of 19 in the loss. New York simply needs more from him in his starts. There has to be very little confidence from the coaching staff when he’s in net. Johnson has a 3.43 GAA and .865 SV% this season.
— The Red Wings have two players who should easily reach 30 goals, and it’s neither Henrik Zetterberg nor Pavel Datsyuk. Tomas Tatar (22) and Gustav Nyquist (20) both picked up goals in the win. They are also showing that they can continue to score at a high rate as both have shooting percentages in the 17s. (And, of course, with 15 goals, Zetterberg has a chance for 30, too.)
SENATORS 7, COYOTES 2
— Ottawa scored four times within 5:26 in the third period to add insult to injury for the Coyotes.
— Abysmal goaltending continues to define the Coyotes’ season. Mike Smith couldn’t complete the game, letting in five goals on 20 shots in 42:15. Smith is under contract for another four years after this one, with a cap hit near $6 million. Things could stay ugly for the Coyotes. He has a 3.49 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. The silver-lining viewpoint is that he has posted at least a .900 SV% in three of his past five.
— Four Senators — Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone and Mike Zibanejad — recorded goal-assist performances. We know that Ryan and Karlsson are worth starting in fantasy leagues, but many might not realize that Stone and Zibanejad have had fine seasons, too. Stone has points in his past eight of nine. Zibanejad has registered points in four in a row. Both are worth looks for depth purposes.
— Robin Lehner made 35 saves on 37 shots. It doesn’t appear like it by the score, but Lehner was important in this game because neither the scoring chances nor five-on-five shot attempts were lopsided in Ottawa’s favor.
BRUINS 3, KINGS 1
— To me, this is still a good old-fashioned heavyweight battle, even if the Kings are three points out of a playoff spot. Right now, the Bruins are starting to climb, while Los Angeles won just three times in January. The Kings have remained a strong possession team, so that bodes well even with their struggles.
— Tuukka Rask has helped key the Bruins’ resurgence lately. After the 31-save effort, Rask ends January with a 7-1-3 record, 1.61 goals-against average and.949 save percentage. I’ve preached patience with him all season, and now it’s paying off. You just don’t give up on players of his caliber.
— Super pest Brad Marchand scored twice, the final one going in with the net empty. He also had seven shots on goal. The offensive ceiling isn’t high, but 15 goals and 27 points is still pretty disappointing. At least he has a goal in three of his past five games — and 64 penalty minutes on the year.
— All you need to know about Jonathan Quick’s 30-save performance is that it was his best one of the month. Quick ends January with a 3.18 goals-against average and .878 save percentage. He’s one of the more overrated players in the game, in my opinion.
STARS 5, JETS 2
— You don’t see too many four-point nights in the NHL, let alone those types of performances from a defenseman. John Klingberg had two goals, two assists, two penalty minutes and two shots on goal in 22:38. Of his four points, three came on the power play. He has six points over his past two games. Until this game, just three of his points came with the man advantage. Klingberg has shown he can be a valuable contributor, but as his first three months show — eight points, three points, nine points — it will not always be a smooth ride. The promising point for him is that he has 43 of his 55 shots in the past two months (24 games).
— There haven’t been many opportunities to praise Kari Lehtonen this season. Saturday, he was fantastic, making 38 saves. In January, he had just three outings in which he posted a save percentage of .900 or better. With the Stars a few points out of a playoff spot, his play will ultimately determine their fate.
— Andrew Ladd scored and assisted. He has 18 goals and 24 points, so he has a chance to clear the 30-goal, 60-point mark for the first time in his career. Ladd has always been a very good possession forward, and this year his offensive stats are starting to tick upward, too.
— Michael Hutchinson (27 saves) has given up nine goals in his past two starts, both losses. His rates have “inflated" to a 2.15 GAA and .927 SV%.
DEVILS 3, PANTHERS 1
— Don’t get too excited, Devils fans. Your team has recorded 14 shots in back-to-back games. Pretty pathetic. Roberto Luongo (11 saves) really had no chance on both of the goals against, either, so I can't really fault him.
— Mike Cammalleri was signed to add jump to a Medicare forward group. While he has 16 goals, the 23 points are nothing to be excited about. Not like he’s playing with a bonafide top center, either, so that could be contributing to the lack of production, too.
— Jaromir Jagr’s goal was his first since his hat trick Jan. 3, a span of five games without a point. General manager Lou Lamoriello should put most of his players on the table come trade deadline, and Jagr is one who should be moved. The Devils need to get younger.
— Brandon Pirri has shown some offensive flair during his time in the AHL. It has come and gone in the NHL, though after the goal Saturday, he has markers in three of his past five games. Even more notable is that he has 13 shots in that timeframe.
RANGERS 4, HURRICANES 1
— The Rangers’ 2-0 lead in the first period was as misleading as they come. They were flat for the first half of the game, and Carolina was jumping all over them. At one point in the second period, New York was outshot 21-10.
— Henrik Lundqvist (31 saves) was the difference. The Rangers almost saw their season end when their netminder took a puck to the throat early in the second period. It’s not often you see Lundqvist collapse to the ice, legs flailing, in pain. Luckily, he only needed several minutes to gather himself and stayed in the game. He said he was dealing with some headaches and light-headedness, but there are no worries of a concussion.
— About halfway through, with the Rangers still trying to figure things out, coach Alain Vigneault threw the players in a blender and mixed up the lines. The Mats Zuccarello-Kevin Hayes-Chris Kreider trio showed immediate chemistry. Kreider scored, with assists to his linemates. Derek Stepan, Rick Nash (goal) and Martin St. Louis did not play well from a shot-attempt perspective, though.
— Dan Boyle scored his first goal in nine games. He acknowledged during an intermission interview that he has struggled with some of the responsibilities of a new system, so that has surely affected his offensive side, too. Boyle has five goals and 10 points in 31 games. Remember that it took last year’s Rangers half the year to gel within Vigneault’s approach.
— Coach Bill Peters saw Cam Ward’s stellar relief effort Friday night, and thought he’d take that into Saturday, but he really should’ve started Anton Khudobin. Ward gave up four goals on 37 shots. Khudobin has a 0.98 GAA and .969 SV% against the Rangers this year. I think he’ll get the next start Tuesday at the Ducks.
FLYERS 1, MAPLE LEAFS 0
— Michael Del Zotto’s career started off on a high note, but the past few seasons have illustrated that a defenseman grows at his own pace, and the early years are often ripe with lowlights. Del Zotto is playing with as much confidence as he’s ever had in the NHL. His fifth goal of the year was a beauty — joining the rush as the second Flyer in the zone and flipping a shot past James Reimer. The 24-year-old has points in six games in a row, and 17 of them on the year. Del Zotto also led the Flyers in ice time (22:06) and has played over 22 minutes in five of his past six. I would pick him up.
— I have never been a fan of Steve Mason, and he’s certainly proving me wrong this year. Mason stopped 30 shots for his second shutout. He has given up three goals on 88 shots since his return from injury. On the year, he has a 2.32 GAA and .924 SV%, too.
— Just some quick notes here on the deployment under Peter Horacek on Saturday: Cody Franson (24:47) led the team/defensemen in ice time; Jake Gadiner (23:36) was second; Phil Kessel (20:31) and James van Riemsdyk (19:45) were tops among forwards. Trevor Smith (7:36), David Clarkson (9:33) , Richard Panik (9:44), and Mike Santorelli (9:54) were the players who logged under 10 minutes.
— Can’t blame James Reimer for this one. He made 17 saves. A nice bounce back effort after he allowed four goals on 26 shots 10 days prior. He last recorded a win Dec. 14.
LIGHTNING 3, BLUE JACKETS 1
— Per NHL.com, the Lightning set a record for their 10th win in a row at home. With 68 points, they are also the best in the Eastern Conference, and tied for second in the NHL.
— Tampa Bay got goals from three different lines: Brett Connolly (ninth), Cedric Paquette (10th) and Valtteri Filppula (10th). You want to know a staple of a team that makes a deep run in the playoffs? Depth. The Lightning’s ability to roll four lines will be huge during the dog days.
— Ben Bishop (34 saves) has allowed two goals over his past two games, both wins. In fact, he has given up two or more goals just once of his past six contests. He’s a strong start in fantasy leagues. His 26 wins are fourth-most in the NHL.
— Ryan Johansen lit the lamp with 3:26 remaining. He has 19 goals and 45 points in 48 games, with two of those goals coming since the All-Star break. This is the floor for the production pace we should see from him over this season, and even the next decade. He is one of the more exciting young players in the game and should be coveted in all dynasty leagues.
FLAMES 4, OILERS 2
— Things looked pretty good for the Oilers in the first half of the game — they had a 2-0 lead and were generally matching Calgary in shot attempts at even strength. But games in the NHL are 60 minutes long, not 30 … and the Oilers paid dearly.
— Calgary erupted for four goals in the third period to bury the Oilers. Lance Bouma scored twice, which gives him eight goals on the year. Paul Byron and Sean Monahan also got goals, with Monahan’s the game-winner, coming via the power play. Monahan has 16 goals and 32 points, two points off of last year’s total. He’s coming along nicely.
— Jonas Hiller gave up two goals in the first and then slammed the door for the rest of the game. Granted, he faced only 10 shots combined in the final two frames. In his last four games (one of which was half of one), Hiller has allowed a total of five goals.
— Is there a more disappointing player in fantasy leagues this season than Jordan Eberle? The 24-year-old has showed in his young career that he has 30-goal, 70-point ability. After the goal-assist effort Saturday, he has just 13 and 31, respectively. If the Oilers want to make some big changes at the deadline, I wonder if they move Eberle for a big package. I’d imagine 29 other teams would come calling if he was on the block.
— Ben Scrivens was perfect — 21 for 21 — for two periods. Then it all came undone as he gave up four goals on 12 shots in the third period. He has one win over his past five games.
SHARKS 2, BLACKHAWKS 0
— Melker Karlsson scored just over five minutes into the game, and San Jose essentially clung to that lead for the rest of the game. He has eight goals and 13 points this season. I would not be rostering him until his shot generation picks up — he has only 33 in 21 games, with a 24% scoring rate that's sure to drop.
— Joe Thornton had an assist on Karlsson’s goal, and scored on the empty net, with Karlsson also helping on that one. Thornton’s 11th goal matches last season’s total. He has points in five consecutive games, and 41 on the season. He’s not going to tally 90 points anymore, but Thornton remains one of the premiere centers in the game.
— Antti Niemi made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. He is 5-0-1 in his past six games. With a 2.51 goals-against average and .914 save percentage, Niemi is more of a second option in fantasy leagues.
— Antti Raanta has already emerged as one of the better backup goalies in hockey. He made 18 saves Saturday, in his first start since Jan. 20 when he stopped 35 of 36. Raanta isn’t rosterable unless Corey Crawford goes down again.