So as I’ve been watching RNH add more points to his rookie totals this afternoon, I’ve kind of been daydreaming about the end of the regular season. We’re only a couple of weeks away and when that hits, my schedule goes from seven days/nights a week to only weekdays. No nights. No weekends. #beauty
Anyway, I hadn’t noticed until today that the season ends on the last Saturday (April 7) this year instead of the Sunday (April 8) like normal. All 30 teams will be in action. You couldn’t ask for a better situation for poolies looking to utilize the Slingshot Effect. This is the first year in awhile I haven’t included it as part of my normal blog cycle at Sportsnet for this time of the season, but that link to last year’s is just as relevant (just account for the Saturday finish this year) and if you’re not familiar with the trick then that blog will clue you in. It's just below the Crosby blurb.
Scott Hartnell has been having a terrific season for fantasy owners and as much as the skills of Claude Giroux have been critical to that line's success, the influence of Jaromir Jagr has been key as well.
"I try to be the best player I can every day and take care of myself off the ice, be prepared at practice," said Hartnell, who will turn 30 next month. "When Jags talks to us, he's helped me out a lot in how I play and how I shoot the puck and control the boards in the corners. Things like that. I feel really fortunate to have Jaromor Jagr involved every day, and obviously playing with G, he makes some unbelievable passes and I give a lot of credit to him."
Travis Zajac will finally get back into the lineup tonight against the Penguins. He'll only have seven games to gear up for the playoffs, but he'll be given a shot to help poolies right away. The Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk line will be broken up and Zajac will have Kovalchuk and Alexei Ponikarovsky on his wings. Leaving Henrique with Parise, one might assume? Unfortunately for Henrique, no. Saturday's practice saw Parise - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus on one unit with Henrique between Petr Sykora and David Clarkson. Lines can change quickly, naturally, but FYI for Henrique owners.
Another goal for Gabriel Landeskog, tonight's guest on After Hours. Such a likeable kid and already a stud on the ice. Jamie McGinn scored and is up to 8-4-12 in 13 GP with the Avs, while Steve Downie now has 13 points in 16 games since he joined his new squad... including his usual assortment of PIM, hits and angry opponents.
Kevin Bieksa gave his owners another two points in Vancouver's 3-2 overtime win against the Avs, which brings him to nine points in 11 March starts. Chris Higgins had a two-goal outing, including the winner, and also has nine points in that same span.
Career assist 400 for Daymond Langkow in Phoenix's shootout loss to the Sharks. Linemate Gilbert Brule has six points in his past eight outings overall and Ray Whitney now only needs three points to hit 1000.
Tim Thomas has been looking more like his pre-FREEDOM!!!!! self of late. Some really sharp saves in the win over Los Angeles, especially near the end. In his past four starts, he's allowed two goals three different times with that 13-save shutout against the Leafs in there too.
Alexander Radulov logged his second start with the Preds since doubling back from the KHL and this was the first one in front of the home fans. He had 15:50 TOI in the debut, but jumped up to 20:29 this evening. Second unit PP time. I saw most of the first meeting against the Pens and only a few minutes against the Jets with seven clashes going on at that point.
Nashville has been trending as a more and more popular pick for a deep Western run since their moves at the trade deadline and the addition of an offensive flamethrower like Radulov has only fuelled the fire. For me though, the Preds won’t necessarily win because of those enhancements. If they emerge victorious – or at least make some serious noise - it’ll be because they’re one of the most relentless teams in the league; regardless of the score and without concern of whether they’re ahead or behind. They cycle so well in the offensive zone, they’re generally strong on puck support and they embody the definition of “team concept”. The West is filled with strong clubs, but the Preds are definitely one that aren't likely to go quietly into the night this spring.
So at the same time Nicklas Lidstrom plays his first game of March, his team erases a 4-1 deficit to rebound for two points against the Canes. Gustav Nyqvist, who’s seeing top six looks, has points in five of six on this call-up. Valtteri Filppula (3A), Henrik Zetterberg (2G) and Jiri Hudler (1G, 2A) combined for eight points.
On the Carolina side of things, Jiri Tlusty scored twice and is up to 18 points in 21 starts since the beginning of last month. He and Eric Staal had done exceptionally well together. Chad LaRose, also on that line, has eight points in 12 outings.
Steven Stamkos notched Nos. 51 and 52, along with points 85, 86 and 87. He had nothing at all in four games before this explosion. Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell chipped in a couple of points each as well in a 4-3 win over the Isles. Brett Connolly quietly has six points in his past 11. Tom Pyatt only has 17 points this season, but eight have come in 11 games in March.
Only one assist for Claude Giroux, so he’s at 86 points. Danny Briere had a hat trick in the first week of January, but then scored only once between then and tonight’s two-goal result.
Wild one in Ottawa. 8-4 final for the Sens. Daniel Alfredsson only had three points this month before racking up four tonight in a 2G, 2A effort. There was a lot of good news offensively for Sens’ poolie owners, but Ben Bishop was lost to a lower-body injury. Craig Anderson was sharp in relief though, turning aside 19 of 20 shots.
Add another two points to Sidney Crosby’s totals. He scored his first goal of the second comeback, added an assist and now has 11 points in six clashes. Matt Cooke had ANOTHER two-goal game, giving him multi-pointers in four of six. He and Tyler Kennedy have been like found gold for fantasy owners since No. 87 returned. No points and a minus-four rating for Evgeni Malkin.
Swept aside somewhat in the Malkin for MVP and Crosby Show storylines, with the ensuing trickle-down offensive mayhem, is the fact that Jordan Staal has now picked up 21 points in 21 starts since he came back from his latest ailment.
It took a shootout for the Rangers to beat the Leafs, but Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik had a pair of points each and Richards and Ryan Callahan delivered the victory after overtime. Again, Richards’ season on the whole has been so-so, but that Conn Smythe form is coming back at the right time of year. And don’t look now, but Brandon Dubinsky has 2-2-4 in four games. He could salvage what has been a miserable campaign with a great playoff showing.
Sabres beat the Wild 3-1 and Marcus Foligno scored AGAIN, giving him 6-4-10 in eight starts since being called up. He, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford have been tremendous as a trio. Cody Hodgson is also getting into a groove offensively and now has six points in his past four outings. He had the ENG here, but had an assist before that too.
Kyle Brodziak has nine points in seven games for the Wild.
The only day game Saturday was the Stars and Flames, where Jamie Benn scored twice and Steve Ott had eight hits. Benn had exactly 22 goals in each of his first two years and he came into this matinee, in his third campaign, with 22 as well. New career mark set and more to come as we finish the final two weeks, no doubt.
Despite the loss, at least the Flames got Michael Cammalleri back on the active roster and he scored the only Calgary goal too.
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For a more complete recap of Saturday’s action, visit the Live NHL Recap over at Sportsnet.ca.