We're really getting into the final days of the regular season for the National Hockey League, and every game is taking on tremendous importance for those jockeying for playoff positioning in the Eastern and Western Conference. We had 28 of 31 teams in action on Saturday, and the games resembled playoff-like hockey rather than some of the wide-open play we saw even a few weeks ago. Teams are tightening up a bit and getting ready for the battle that is Stanley Cup playoff hockey. It's wide-open in both conferences, too. The Tampa Bay Lightning have been heads and tails better than everyone, but after that there isn't a lot of difference between most teams. Let's get started!
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Saturday's Fantasy Five
Kyle Connor registered his first NHL hat trick in Saturday's 5-0 victory against the Nashville Predators just in the nick of time. His second goal actually came with 4:38 left in the third period, and his third goal came with just nine seconds remaining. Connor has rolled up 10 goals with 17 points over the past 16 games, including four power-play goals and three assists on the man advantage. He has jelled nicely with Kevin Hayes, who came over from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. Hayes added a goal, three assists and a plus-4 rating to give him four goals and 10 points in 13 games since his acquisition.Teuvo Teravainen posted a goal with two assists and a plus-3 rating, as he surpassed the 50-assist and 80-point marks in this one. He is the first Hurricanes skater since Ray Whitney in 2008-09 to post 50 apples in a single season. The last Hurricanes skater to post 80 or more points was Eric Staal, who was on the other bench on Saturday night. Staal accomplished the feat back in 2007-08. Sebastian Aho joined Teravainen in the 50-assist club later in the game, and the two are the first Carolina teammates to post 50 or more assists each since Whitney and Rod Brind'Amour, who is now the head coach in Raleigh.
Alexandar Georgiev turned aside 44 of the 45 shots he faced in Saturday's 2-1 overtime road win against the skidding Toronto Maple Leafs. Georgiev has had a career against the Leafs this season, winning both of his starts while stopping 99 of the 101 shots he faced in just two games. Look for Georgiev to split the starts with Henrik Lundqvist down the stretch, making him useful in deeper seasonal leagues and as a DFS salary saver.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 33 shots he faced against the Nashville Predators, posting his second shutout of the season and the 14th shutout of his NHL career. It was a rather impressive showing considering the Jets and Predators could potentially face other in the Western Conference playoffs. He improved to 32-20-3 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .910 save percentage, as he is rounding into form at just the right time for the playoff-bound Jets.
Brendan Gallagher scored two more goals to add to his team-leading total, and he also had an assist with a plus-3 rating and a game-high nine shots on goal. He is up to 33 goals and 50 points through 75 games, his second consecutive 30-goal campaign. He needs just five more points to set a new career best, too. It's possible he could do it, too, as he has managed 10 goals and 13 points with a plus-6 rating across the past 15 games.
Fantasy Game of the Day
The Boston Bruins topped the Florida Panthers by a football score, 7-3. The B's scoresheet was littered with big fantasy performances, too. Patrice Bergeron scored a goal with an assist and a plus-3 rating while taking a team-high six shots on goal. Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak also got on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist, and the points were Pastrnak's first after his lengthy absence due to a thumb injury. Zdeno Chara, who was just signed to a one-year extension, celebrated with a goal, an assist and a plus-4 rating with a pair of hits. Noel Acciari also lit the lamp, while Steve Kampfer managed a power-play goal with two blocked shots in his 12:34 of ice time. Danton Heinen has really emerged as a solid fantasy option in some season formats, posting two more assists with a plus-1 rating and a hit in this one. Heinen has a goal with nine points over the past nine outings. The support was more than enough for Jaroslav Halak, who allowed three goals on 34 shots in the win, improving to 20-10-4 with a 2.31 GAA and .924 save percentage. He and Tuukka Rask have split starts for a good chunk of the season, so it is going to be interesting to see how coach Bruce Cassidy handles that situation once they get into the postseason. Rotating goaltenders in the playoffs doesn't tend to work so well.
The fantasy production wasn't as great on the Florida side, but they still had some studs. Mike Hoffman went for a goal, an assist and a plus-1 rating with two minor penalties. He has rolled up 35 goals with 67 points across 75 games in his first season with the Panthers, and both numbers are new career highs. He also has 17 power-play goals and 34 power-play points for new bests. Vincent Trocheck posted a power-play goal, his eighth marker of the season. It was an ugly night for the likes of Evgenii Dadonov and Jonathan Huberdeau, who each were blanked with a minus-3 rating. It was an ugly line for Samuel Montembeault, too, as he coughed up six goals on 38 shots in another loss. The rookie is going to be a fine goaltender in the NHL, but right now he isn't someone to rely upon in seasonal fantasy pools.
Quick Hits: Darcy Kuemper allowed a goal with 31 saves in a hard-luck loss in New Jersey. Despite the loss he is still a rather impressive 13-7-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .928 save percentage since the All-Star break. Oddly enough he is 0-0-2 with a 1.38 GAA and .955 save percentage in two starts against New Jersey this season. … Mackenzie Blackwood allowed just one goal on 24 shots in a victory. He has won two of his past three starts since that ugly nine goals allowed in Calgary on March 12. … Robin Lehner allowed two goals on 24 shots in a rare win in Philadelphia. The Islanders entered the day 8-21 in their past 29 trips to Philly. … Josh Bailey broke out of his eight-game scoreless skid with two goals and a plus-3 rating. It was his first multi-goal performance since he posted a hat trick on Dec. 14, 2017 in Columbus. … Philipp Grubauer stayed hot, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced to move to 4-0-0 with a 1.00 and .970 save percentage over his past four starts. … Brady Tkachuk posted two more goals with a plus-1 rating, and he has five goals and seven points over the past nine. The rookie has come into his own, and it's going to be his team for many years to come. He has star written all over him. … Dylan DeMelo has been an unlikely fantasy star lately. He picked up an assist, giving him a goal, five assists and two helpers on the power play during his current four-game point streak. … Zach Hyman scored a goal, and he has lit the lamp in back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 11-12, 2016. … Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist, but he was also a minus-3. He has a terrible minus-6 rating over the past two outings. … Max Domi went for a goal, two assists and a plus-1 rating, giving him 26 goals and 41 assists with a plus-16 rating, all career bests. He and the Habs skate into Raleigh for a key battle with the Hurricanes on Sunday. … Tomas Tatar rolled up a goal with three points, giving him six points and a plus-5 over the past six games. … Jordan Staal scored a goal while adding an assist, besting his brother Eric Staal of the Wild, who managed a power-play goal in his old stomping grounds. … Petr Mrazek allowed just one goal on 25 shots to improve to 8-1-0 with a 1.65 GAA and .945 save percentage across the past nine outings. … Brett Pesce scored a goal and he had a giant plus-5 rating. Through 11 games in March he has two goals and 10 points, the best monthly total of his NHL career. … Brayden Point scored again, giving him 40 goals and 90 points for the season. It's his time scoring in back-to-back games since Feb. 10-12. … Jordan Binnington continues to cook along, posting another win, this time against the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning. He moved to 20-4-1 with a minuscule 1.84 GAA and .929 save percentage in 25 starts and 27 appearances. … Vladimir Tarasenko picked up two more points, and he is on fire since the All-Star break. He had 17 goals and 32 points with a minus-11 in 48 games before the break, and 12 goals with 28 points and a plus-16 in 21 games after the break, including all five of his season's game-winning tallies. … His teammate Brayden Schenn was credited with the game-winner Saturday, and he has four goals and nine points in 10 games in the month of March. … Jared McCann scored two goals with a plus-2 rating, and he has 11 goals and 15 points with a plus-6 rating in 26 games since his trade from Florida. … Cody Eakin scored his 20th goal for Vegas, setting a new career high. He is just two points short of a new best in points, too. … Brock Boeser had a power-play goal, giving him 25 on the season. He has four goals and 10 points during his nine-game point streak. … Anthony Mantha scored two in Vegas, including a power-play goal and a game-winning tally 19 seconds in overtime, snapping a six-game point drought. … Andreas Athanasiou posted two more assists, giving him multi-point efforts in three of the past four. … Carl Grundstrom is paying dividends in L.A. He scored his third NHL goal vs. Anaheim, and it was his second in as many games against the Ducks which will make him popular with Kings fans. … Mark Giordano had a goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating. He now has two goals and 10 points during his seven-game point streak.