With the holiday break coming – play doesn’t resume until Friday the 27th – all but two teams were in action on a busy Monday night. In classic Laidlaw fashion we’ll have coverage of all the games, which will hopefully tide your thirst for material for the next couple of days.
Rangers backup Cam Talbot made both starts in a back-to-back Sunday and Monday, following Henrik Lundqvist getting shelled at the hands of the Islanders. Talbot won both games, including last night’s shootout “win” over the Leafs.
Considering this is an Olympic year, I say get Lundqvist as much rest as possible. Plus, considering the rumours that he’s been battling a nagging injury getting to take what amounts to a full week off could go a long way for Lundqvist.
Also, the Rangers are still trying to carve out space in the playoff race. They need points however they can get them. So last night’s dirty win has to be a good sign.
Benoit Pouliot notched an assist to extend his scoring streak to five games, with seven in nine December games.
This should come as no surprise but Jonathan Bernier had to be stellar to keep the Leafs in the game stopping 42 of 43 shots. That’s back-to-back one-goal shootout losses for Bernier.
Nazem Kadri did break the goose egg curse that followed him around last week, scoring the lone Leafs goal.
David Clarkson notched an assist and has points in two straight. Every little bit helps.
Mikhail Grabovski did manage a goal, giving him scores in two consecutive.
Nicklas Backstrom also scored a goal. He’s been as hot as anyone but Crosby and Kane with 17 points in 10 December games.
Troy Brouwer assisted on both Caps goals and has points in four straight. Brouwer has never been more than a 35-40 point guy but has shown flashes of more in Washington. He’s now on pace to finish in that 35-40 range but if this hot streak can last maybe this is where he becomes more than that.
Philipp Grubauer suffered his first regulation loss of the season. He ain’t no Martin Jones, who coincidentally also lost his first game of the season, later on in the evening. I have a feeling this is where the bubble bursts… for both of them. Holtby owners, assemble!
I really like what I’ve seen from Hampus Lindholm in the few games I’ve watched him. Obviously the scoring has been sparse, he has just 13 points after notching two last night but he has looked like a really solid puck mover to me.
Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano got two points apiece as well but obviously they have pretty limited upside. Cogliano is right around on pace to tie his career high of 45 points though. He set that all the way back in his rookie season in 2007-08. Who knew it would be all downhill from there?
Jonas Hiller didn’t have to do much stopping 17 of 19 shots but it was enough to win his seventh straight start.
His recent multi-point effort clouds this a bit but Cam Fowler has cooled off of late having scored just two points in his last six games, with both points coming in one contest, leaving a game log that looks a lot like a basket of eggs.
Mike McKenna hung on for his first win of the season. I still wouldn’t be buying on him though. Apparently Sergei Bobrovsky has been travelling with the team and could be back soon.
James Wisniewski has been back for two games now and has assists in each game. He’s always productive when healthy, unfortunately, “when healthy” has legally become part of Wisniewski’s name.
Ryan Johansen’s month-long scoring streak came to an end last week in Philadelphia but he has come back undeterred with three goals in the last two games. His breakout is legit, which is great news for current linemate, Nick Foligno, who is riding a four-game scoring streak.
Both Dubinsky and Atkinson have cooled off of late but they each managed a point as well.
Justin Peters delivered his first clunker in quite some time conceding four goals on 25 shots.
Alex Semin had his best game since returning to the lineup with a goal and an assist. He’s currently on a line with Jordan Staal and Nathan Gerbe who both managed assists. This strikes me as jackpot time for Jordan who hasn’t had linemates this talented since his Penguins days. He’s only a second unit power play guy though so temper your expectations but if Semin can start to turn his season around that whole line wins.
The only real loser here is Jiri Tlusty but as I am now always going to say, you can’t spell Tlusty without lose.
Evgeni Nabokov is finally providing the Islanders with something they haven’t had since the spring – good goaltending. Oh sure, he got beat up by the Ducks on the weekend but in five starts since returning from injury Nabokov has a GAA under 2.00 and a 0.934 save percentage. He shutout the Red Wings last night in a big win for the suddenly competitive Islanders.
Michael Grabner had been one of the hard luck cases of the season until this recent stretch. He has now scored three goals and four points in his last four games. That’s not enough to get me to buy in though.
I’m more interested in Kyle Okposo who has quietly kept plugging along on the top line with John Tavares and Thomas Vanek. He now has points in four straight games and feels like a lock for 60 points this year.
Big time slumper, Josh Bailey, now has points in three straight games. Like with Grabner, I need to see more before I buy in.
Petr Mrazek got the start for Detroit and didn’t do much stopping 16 of 19 shots.
Gustav Nyquist made his return to the Red Wings lineup but was held scoreless in 14:30.
Danny DeKeyser was back for his second game since recovering from injury but was held off the board. He skated the second most power play minutes among Detroit defensemen, though that isn’t saying much considering they had just one opportunity.
Ryan Miller continued his dominant run of late with another beauty in last night’s overtime win. He stopped 36 of 37 shots against one of the league’s best offenses.
Zemgus Girgensons was named the game’s first star notching an assist and firing seven shots on goal.
Tyler Ennis scored a goal but is still struggling to really get it going.
Christian Ehrhoff got back on track after his scoring streak was ended this weekend. He now has six points in his last eight games. I’m still sceptical given how anemic the Sabres offense is but Ehrhoff was underperforming even given those circumstances so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could be a really solid second half pickup.
This game was decided in overtime on a truly strange goal by Mark Pysyk.
I don’t know how the refs don’t blow that dead or say intent to blow that dead because Smith is able to skate that in from outside his crease. Oh well, at least we’ve now got the hashtag #ButtGoal.
Radim Vrbata was held off the board last night but landed eight shots on net, which is always healthy fantasy production.
Martin Hanzal scored the lone goal for Phoenix and now has a three-game scoring streak going.
OEL and Keith Yandle are both rocking five-game scoreless droughts. Only a matter of time before those are broken.
That Sens-Pens game was total bizarro world. Normally, it’s Craig Anderson out there torching goalie stats, while Marc-Andre Fleury has been one of the most dependable tenders this season. Not so last night, as Anderson shutout the Penguins – his first since opening night in Buffalo.
Erik Karlsson led the Senators’ attack (DUH!) with three points. The rest of the offense was spread out quite evenly.
I’m not sure how long this has been going on but after some experimentation with other line combos Clarke MacArthur was back on the top line with Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan. All three scored last night, making like it was still November or something.
Cory Conacher got a goal and found himself up on the Jason Spezza line opposite Milan Michalek. It was his first goal since October 15. He still only skated 12:29 with no power play time so I wouldn’t go and grab him or anything but progress is progress.
Conacher was replacing Mika Zibanejad who was a late scratch because of the flu, which is a little fishy considering he missed their previous outing for precautionary reasons following a tough hit by Erik Gudbranson. They are probably being honest but it’s a situation worth monitoring.
Spezza, who managed one assist, has been in a real funk with just three points over his last eight games.
Anderson deserves plenty of credit for shutting down the Penguins but tip of the cap to the normally dreadful Senators penalty kill – currently ranked 24th – for stopping the Penguins on all seven power plays. Pittsburgh’s power play currently ranks 2nd in the league so that’s quite the feat.
This was the first time the Penguins were shutout all season and it ended a number of impressive scoring streaks including: Sidney Crosby – 10 games, James Neal – six games, Pascal Dupuis – four games, and Matt Niskanen – three games.
I’m engaging in a fun little exercise in one of my keeper leagues. I am auctioning off Letang to the highest bidder and have put a closing date of January 2nd on it. I got the idea from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey who was looking to auction off one of his players earlier this month.
Of course, his deadline has since come and passed without a trade being made so perhaps this wasn’t the best model. Especially not when you consider that five days in I’ve yet to receive a formal offer.
The idea makes sense in theory. I’m making a plea to the intelligence of the GMs in my league. We all know that Letang is a really valuable asset. Here’s your chance to make your best pitch for him. But so far I’m headed towards a whole carton of egg on my face.
Whatever Scott Clemmensen had going on prior to last night’s game was rendered completely irrelevant by the Lightning. They absolutely gouged Clemmensen for six goals on 36 shots, ending his four-game win streak.
Virtually every Panther skater is in some kind of slump right now. Only Aleksander Barkov is doing anything resembling productivity with six points in his last seven games.
Scottie Upshall left the game early in the first period and did not return.
On the flip side, Tampa’s offensive explosion meant great things for those invested in the Lightning.
Martin St. Louis, obviously led the way with a three-point night. He is now riding a five-game scoring streak.
Valtteri Filppula isn’t far behind. He got two points last night and is riding his own five-gamer, despite not skating with St. Louis at evens. His linemates instead have been Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell, which is why I refuse to buy Filppula.
Killorn’s December slump is over. He’s now got five points over his last five games.
Intriguing rookie, Nikita Kucherov, ended a five-game drought with two assists last night. He’s not a great option for one-year leagues but you’ve got to try and get him in keeper leagues.
Victor Hedman has been back from injury for three games and has scored five points across those three games, making up for lost time, apparently.
The only guy to really miss out was Radko Gudas who led all Lightning defenders in power play time but was held off the board nonetheless.
Even JP Cote got on the board, notching his second assist in three games this season. He skated a season high 16 minutes last night. He’s yet to really get involved in the pugilism that he is better known for so don’t take his current scoring as an indication of where his value lies. If you score PIM and Hits then Cote has value. Otherwise, forget about him.
I think it’s safe to say that Philly has officially turned their season around. I fully expect to see them playing playoff hockey now. Too much talent there. It’s true that they got beat up by Columbus on the weekend but that was with Ray Emery in net, who hasn’t made a good start in over a month.
The biggest piece of this turnaround has been Claude Giroux getting his act together. Kudos to any of you who were able to buy low. That window has been closed for a while now but he has really cranked it up with a seven-game streak in which he has 13 points.
It took Jakub Voracek even longer to wake up but he’s now riding an eight-game streak, with 13 points of his own over that span.
Their linemate, Michael Raffl, hasn’t been anywhere near as fortunate with just one point over the last four games but he doesn’t see power play time so it’s hard to expect production.
Getting bumped off the top line obviously hurts Scott Hartnell. For those of you, like me, who are still hanging on, he does have three points in his last four games and is still on the top power play unit.
Hartnell’s new linemate, Wayne Simmonds, had a huge night with two goals and three points. He’s got a four-game scoring streak going with five goals in that span. Simmonds has been a power play regular all year but he’s really struggled to produce until recently. I could see him turning it on in the second half.
The Flyers are still getting very little production out of their defense but Mark Streit did have a four-game streak ended last night so perhaps he is finally getting his game going.
The Wild, on the other hand, look like a sinking ship. They’ve dropped three straight on their Metro road trip behind the goaltending of Niklas Backstrom, whose personal losing streak has now slipped to seven games.
Blaming Backstrom or rather the loss of the otherworldly goaltending of Josh Harding would just be making excuses to cover up the fact that things have been going foul for the Wild for a while now.
Their offense has slipped significantly over the past month and now sits 29th in the league. They are also now allowing more goals than they’ve scored, which is a sure sign this team is not as good as their record indicates. They currently sit in a tie with Phoenix for that last wild card spot in the West but if I had to bet I’d say both Dallas and Phoenix pass them by spring, barring some changes that is.
The reason I say so is because Harding probably doesn’t sustain his pace when he returns. Not because of his ailment but rather because no one should be able to sustain what he’s done so far. Natural regression is going to take care of things, which means the Wild’s anemic offense needs to step up in a big way and I really don’t see how they are going to.
Part of the Wild’s early success was boasting a dominant power play but that power play has been slipping down the efficiency standings for a while now. They currently sit 10th in power play efficiency but I’m guessing they finish closer to 20th based on what we’ve seen of late.
They did go 1/5 last night, which is basically on par with their current season average but over the past month they are just 5/39, which is 12.8%, better than only the power plays in Buffalo, Dallas and Florida. This is obviously a disturbing trend.
It didn’t help that leading scorer Zach Parise missed the game with an LBI. No word on how much time he’ll miss.
For Pominville that extended his scoring streak to three games, while Suter’s own streak was extended to seven. Suter still hasn’t scored a goal this season, by the way.
Cory Schneider’s once blissful looking stat line has really fallen off now that he’s given up at least three goals in each of his last five starts, including ceding five in last night’s blowout loss to the Blackhawks.
I’m trying not to read too much into Schneider’s decline considering he’s faced some pretty stiff competition of late but realistically, every team is stiff competition for the Devils. The reality is, even though his stats are still better than Martin Brodeur’s, Schneider is still slumping, while Brodeur has won three straight.
When you don’t even have the stats argument to make any more it’s impossible to argue for not starting Brodeur. You’ve broken me, Schneider.
I’d argue that this is good news for the Devils since it will help lower Schneider’s value and hopefully make it easier to re-sign him this offseason but the Devils are still in face saving mode as they try to avoid forfeiting a lottery pick.
Michael Ryder has had a pretty lowly season so far but he’s scored eight points in 10 December games.
Patrick Kane only scored one goal but that does extend his streak to 12 games with a point.
Bryan Bickell scored his first goal (and point) since returning from injury. This was his third game back. No power play time for him though.
Boston similarly unloaded on the Predators last night winning by the same 6-2 margin that the Blackhawks beat the Devils.
If you haven’t realized yet, Smith has been reeling in minutes alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with Loui Eriksson out. Not that those two have been great linemates to have this season but you still have to like the general idea of it.
Spooner hasn’t done much skating on the third line since being called up earlier this month but he does have points in two straight after last night’s outburst. He’s got some serious upside if you have the patience for him.
David Krejci only had one point last night but he’s been doing quite well with 11 points in 10 December games.
His linemate, Jarome Iginla, scored two goals last night to give him 10 on the year.
Torey Krug ended a five-game drought with an assist last night.
Carter Hutton got the start for Nashville but was chased just six minutes into the game after giving up two goals on four shots.
Marek Mazanec was not much better in relief and ultimately was credited with the loss. Pekka Rinne can’t get back soon enough.
Craig Smith provided the offense for Nashville with two goals. He is now riding a three-game streak with four goals in that span. He’s also fired 15 shots over those three games as he tries to endear himself to his few remaining fantasy owners.
Impressive tie for the Calgary Flames as Mark Giordano’s power play marker with five seconds left in regulation helped them complete the comeback from down two to start the third. They also won the shootout, which literally means bonus points.
Mike Cammalleri had a nice outing with a goal, an assist and six shots fired. He extended his scoring streak to three games.
His linemate, Mikael Backlund, also got two points and six shots on goal. Backlund has fired 17 shots over the last three games.
Rounding out that line is Paul Byron who has points in back-to-back contests.
Jiri Hudler also had a two-point night as his miracle fantasy season continues.
Sean Monahan has been held scoreless in four straight games and has skated less than 12 minutes in each of the last three games. Not looking good for the rest of this season.
For St. Louis, Jaden Schwartz’s hot streak continues. He now has goals in three straight games. He took some of Alexander Steen’s spot on the top line, which could mean serious production on top of what he was already doing in a secondary role.
I blame rookie forward Dmitri Jaskin, who also filled in for Steen on the top line but was scoreless in his season debut.
The Oilers put an end to their losing streak with a big 6-2 win over Winnipeg.
They rode a big night from Taylor Hall, who had three points to quietly creep over the point-per-game mark.
David Perron ended a five-game skid with a two-point night.
Looking at the box score I was really hoping that Yakupov engaged in some excessive celebrating following the sixth and final Oilers goal but it turns out the Jets were just frustrated and started the scrum themselves. Of course, Yakupov didn’t back down either, which could allow you to build whatever story you want. I was just hoping it was an excessive cely so we could all have something to argue about while there’s no hockey until Friday.
Ilya Bryzgalov got the win, though he didn’t have to do much making 18 saves on 20 shots.
Ondrej Pavelec was left on the hook for all six Oilers goals. I know the Jets skaters need to improve in front of him but that does excuse Pavelec who is not a very good starter.
As mentioned before, Martin Jones lost for the first time in his NHL career last night as he allowed four goals on 23 shots. Has the spell been lifted? I think so. Although that won’t preclude him from being a good goalie moving forward, he’s just going to be playing hockey, rather than whatever higher level sport he’d been playing before.
Despite the loss, Justin Williams had a decent night getting in on both Kings goals. He has been relegated to the third line with Jarrett Stoll and Trevor Lewis but he’s also up on the top power play unit, which means he’s still relevant.
Dustin Brown has typically found himself on that line as well, in Lewis’ spot but he missed the game with an illness.
Drew Doughty notched an assist and is ever so quietly having a solid fantasy season, on pace for 40 points with some excellent peripherals.
After getting shelled in Colorado a week ago Kari Lehtonen has turned in three straight impressive performances. I like to contrast Lehtonen, the former Thrasher goaltender, with Pavelec. Not that the Thrashers necessarily had a choice between the two, Lehtonen was a bust until he left Atlanta but it’s just interesting to see the stark difference between the two now. How many playoff appearances do the Jets have if they’ve got Lehtonen instead of Pavelec?
Sergei Gonchar missed last night’s game with a concussion and is set to miss the next week or so. Good timing, I guess.
Minor league journeyman Maxime Fortunus played in his stead and notched his first career NHL point. Nice story, not likely fantasy relevant.
Jamie Benn had a big game to bust his December slump. He had scored just five points in his previous 13 games. Hopefully this gets him going.
Cody Eakin scored a late goal to end a seven-game drought.
I had quite a few people ask me about who would Tomas Hertl’s spot on the Sharks top line. I figured maybe they’d just throw Marty Havlat at that spot to see if they could get him going. Oh hells no! He didn’t sniff that sort of combo on the weekend and was then a scratch for last night’s game.
The Sharks fiddled around with a few options but settled on Joe Pavleski moving up the ranks last night. He scored a goal, while the Joe Thornton-Brent Burns tandem he was sent to facilitate had three points apiece so it’s hard to complain.
Instead it’s the second line that’s slumping. Actually, it’s really just Logan Couture who hasn’t scored a goal in three weeks and hasn’t scored a point in six games. He’s firing the puck a ton though so it’s just bad luck, I suppose.
Patrick Marleau, his linemate, is also firing the puck a ton, with six shots in each of the past two games. He didn’t score in either affair but he was pretty hot before that so I’m not counting him as part of Couture’s slump beyond pointing out that that line is getting a ton of pucks on net.
Couture is shooting just 7.2%, which is well enough below his career 11.9% average to say he’s been unlucky.
Jason Demers has two goals this season. They’ve come in each of the last two games.
Antti Niemi has started to fall off since his hot start to the season, which helps confirm the good/not great vibe we’ve had on him. He hasn’t gotten a shutout since October, which isn’t necessarily a sign of bad play but I’m seeing a lot of games with three or more goals allowed on his game log. Like over 50% since October.
Despite also conceding four goals, Semyon Varlamov was much more impressive stopping 41 of 45 shots in a shootout loss.
Matt Duchene managed an assist to extend his scoring streak to five games.
Ryan O’Reilly extended his own streak to three games with two assists.
PA Parenteau ended a three-game slump with an assist of his own.
Gabriel Landeskog’s goal was his first of December.
I hope the Avalanche can find a buyer for Jamie McGinn. He has potential to be much more than he has been in Colorado. His goal last night was just his sixth point in the last 28 games. He could be a 40-50 point guy in the right circumstances.
Tyson Barrie led all Avalanche defensemen in power play time but saw his four-game scoring streak come to an end.
Erik Johnson wasn’t far behind him and got a goal and an assist to give him six points in his last five games.
Given a choice between those two I'd take Johnson in a one-year and Barrie in a keeper.
Grantland’s Sean McIndoe reviews the weekend in hockey.
Check out my Week 12 Fantasy Hockey review over at Puck Daddy.
I found a couple of pieces on SB Nation about the impact of the shallower nets this season. There’s a review of the numbers, from Eric Tulsky, for those of you who are statistically inclined, or a visual breakdown, from Evan Sporer, for those who’d prefer to #watchthegames. I recommend both.
News recently leaked that the NBA was considering scrapping their draft lottery and engaging in a “wheel format” where each team would pick in each of the 30 draft slots once every 30 years. This has sparked interest into whether or not the NHL should scrap the draft lottery (it should).
If you really want to get serious about this then what should really happen is to eliminate the draft entirely and allow players to negotiate with every team once they are eligible to turn pro. No sports league is ever going to go for that though. Rookie contracts are pretty much the only consistent market inefficiency out there and professional teams aren’t going to let go of such a valuable cost-cutting measure.
But if you are thinking about the interests of what’s fair/moral/just/etc. then the draft has to go entirely. If you are into half measures well there are plenty of ways to curb/eliminate “abhorrent tactics” like tanking and while the draft lottery is certainly one, this wheel idea takes it to a whole other level.
Big World Junior news, the Predators have agreed to loan Filip Forsberg to Sweden for the tournament. Sweden had to be considered among the favourites on home ice even before adding Forsberg. Now they look like they could be a truly dominant team.
I hope you have engaged in the old Jeff Angus strategy of scooping up players due to star in the World Juniors so that you can then sell them off for big prices once the hype gets big.
The Hockey Writers' Anatoliy Metter takes a look at Five Backups Under 20% Owned.
I normally rail against the shootout but props to one-time Predator, Linus Klasen, for this creative move:
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.