Eleven games to recap, so let’s throw those tater tots right into the fryer.
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SABRES 3, DUCKS 0
-- Yeah, I think we can go ahead and accelerate that Bruce Boudreau hot seat debate after this one, whether it’s fair or not.
One quirk that ups the angst for Ducks losses as of late: each defeat has that much extra time to marinate.
Their schedule spaced out pretty typically until Dec. 6. Since then, they've only had two games: Dec. 11 and Thursday (Dec. 17). That's ... pretty odd. They won that Dec. 6 game, but they've lost the last two contests by a combined score of 8-1, so things are pretty tense.
With six of their next seven games coming on the road, it's difficult to imagine a happy hockey New Year in Orange County.
-- Scoring is definitely the biggest culprit, as the Ducks are easily the worst scoring team with just 55 goals in 30 games.
Boudreau pointed the finger of blame at his top players, which is fair ... but it's also often the sign of a guy on his way out.
He needs only to look down his bench at Paul MacLean to remember how well candid comments go over during tough times, especially when patience is wearing thin.
(Heck, both Ottawa and Anaheim boasts GMs named Murray ...)
As an aside, it's a bummer that the Penguins didn't wait to scoop up Boudreau assuming he gets fired. That would be like two sad divorcees starting a promising relationship.
-- Chad Johnson is on fire, with this 44-save shutout being his magnum opus. He also stopped 32 of 33 shots to beat Detroit on Dec. 14.
PANTHERS 5, DEVILS 1
-- Offense came from a variety of sources for Florida, as five different Panthers generated goals.
-- The score would make you think that it was a barrage by Florida, but instead it was just as much a rough night for Cory Schneider. Florida's five goals came on 26 SOG, although knock one off because Logan Shaw scored an ENG.
-- Perhaps the Devils' offense is officially drying up altogether? They only managed 16 SOG, including just three in the third period, which they began down 3-0.
Florida's pretty stingy on its best nights, but sheesh.
Naturally, Kyle Palmieri grabbed an assist on New Jersey's lone goal, so they're still subsisting off of the same handful of scorers.
FLYERS 2, CANUCKS 0
-- Henrik Sedin left this game and did not return because of a lower-body injury. The early word is that it's been a lingering issue, which might actually be worse. The Sedins are a pretty sturdy duo, so him leaving is a bad sign, but maybe he'll tough it out.
That would be best for your fantasy team ... not sure if that would really be the ideal scenario for a Canucks squad that may just be better off tanking.
-- Jakub Voracek grabbed an assist in this one, extending his point streak to three games (five points in three contests). He also generated 12 SOG in that span, which is honestly almost as comforting. Those pucks are going to find the net more often over the coming months.
-- Steve Mason did not cruise to his shutout, needing to make 36 save to secure the goose egg.
That's his second shutout of 2015-16, and his numbers are started to creep toward respectability.
SHARKS 5, MAPLE LEAFS 4 (OT)
However you feel about Bernier, that's a truly mind boggling mark.
-- Brent Burns had a monster game. His OT GWG marked his 11th goal of 2015-16, and he also generated two assists along with nice peripherals (six SOG, three hits, +1).
-- Dainius Zubrus scored his first Sharks goal a couple days ago. His numbers aren't really that great, yet he seems like a guy who can at least help your fourth line out. Maybe.
-- Martin Jones had some rough moments, but every now and then, he'll need the Sharks to bail him out. He's now 14-10-1 with solid individual stats.
KINGS 3, CANADIENS 0
-- On the bright side, Montreal likely deserved this game, generating a whopping 45-20 SOG edge. Jonathan Quick clearly stole this one for Los Angeles.
The dark side is strong, sadly. They're already staggering and now the Habs face a daunting eight-game road trip.
If there are Montreal players you consider "fringe" guys, it might be wise to drop them and then get them back in early 2016.
-- Anze Kopitar is reportedly on the verge of an eight-year contract with a cap hit under $10 million.
Despite railing on about Kopitar being one of those guys who's better in reality than fantasy (he scored his ninth goal of the season on Thursday), he's absolutely a real-life gem.
Still, he'll be 29 in the first season of that deal. The Kings have gotten burned by expensive follow-ups (see: Brown, Dustin), so are they really sure this is the best path?
Maybe Dean Lombardi just figures he'll find a way to void someone's contract like Mike Richards 2.0 and this is all a moot point.
-- Drew Doughty scored a goal and an assist, waking up all the dormant wind-up dolls who periodically complain about how little respect he gets ... who are probably the same people that don't mention him during quieter spans of production.
-- Dale Weise didn't score (obviously) but generated eight SOG. Can we get a verdict regarding whether or not he's even a useful player outside of Michel Therrien's twisted hockey mind? I'm officially confused.
BLUES 2, PREDATORS 1
-- Vladimir Tarasenko scored his third GWG of the season in this one, giving him a league-best 20 goals in 2015-16. He's also on a four-game goal streak that also includes two assists.
I'm still a little sore that the nickname "Auto-Vladic" didn't take off, but I guess there's time?
-- Roman Josi scored his eighth goal of the season in this one. His career-high of 15 came last season. I'd expect him to slow down a touch (10.4 shooting percentage this season vs. 7.6 career percentage) but he's still a gem.
If I were armchair GMing for Nashville, I'd float Shea Weber for Ryan Johansen. I know, I'm crazy, but the deal is a lot better in reality (23-year-old No. 1 centers don't grow on trees, especially in Nashville).
-- David Backes is quietly on quite the nice run. Thursday's goal gives him a six-game point streak (four goals, three assists). His ability to add some PIM here and there makes him a nice find if he can at least be a solid mid-level scorer.
WILD 5, RANGERS 2
-- Oh man, the slapper Antti Raanta took to his head/mask was legitimately frightening. I hope he's OK.
Henrik Lundqvist ended up absorbing the loss in this one, as he stopped 27 out of 31 shots to fall to 15-7-3 on the season.
-- Mikko Koivu is out of his mind this past week-or-so. With Thursday's two-goal, one-assist performance, the Finn now has a ridiculous eight points in his past three games. Four of those are goals on just eight SOG, making him about as accurate a shooter as Shaq was a free-throw man.
-- Ryan Suter's shooting percentage is a little high by his terms (five goals on 75 SOG for 6.7 percent, versus 4.4 for his career), but there's not much that stands out as a red flag for him to drop his production ... except that he hasn't really done this before.
He already has 24 points, as many as he scored in 82 games with Nashville in 2006-07. His career-high is 46, so I think he's likely to obliterate that mark if he manages to stay healthy.
Perhaps the simple message is: use a fringe fantasy pick on a big minutes guy like Suter. If his team scores more or he just "Feels it" that year, you might be in for a nice-to-fantastic bargain.
BLACKHAWKS 4, OILERS 0
-- Corey Crawford in his last four appearances: Dec. 11 - shutout; Dec. 13 - shutout; Dec. 15 - loss despite only allowing two goals; Dec. 17 - shutout.
In Thursday's case, Crawford made 33 saves for his league-leading fifth shutout of 2015-16.
If there's an underrated core Chicago player at this point, I'd easily say it's Crawford. His save percentage is .928 this season, inching his career mark up to .918.
He's been good-to-great for the last four seasons, really.
That's ... about as much as you can ask for most goalies. If nothing else, we can probably drop the liability talk, at least for a while.
-- For all the attention Patrick Kane's line gets, it was Chicago's other big three that did the damage here. Teuvo Teravainen supplied two goals and an assist, Jonathan Toews had a tally and two helpers and Marian Hossa stacked up three assists.
That trio bumped Crawford out of the three stars of the game, which I think underlines the "Crawford might be a touch neglected" argument.
FLAMES 3, STARS 1
-- Homer announcers almost always make me giggle. I think Dallas has some of the best local guys (although I miss Ralph Strangis, though I'm too lazy to google the explanation for his absence), but they're not immune.
One of the two really hammered the "Johnny Oduya is the new Johnny Hockey" line a little bit hard, which was amusing as Johnny Gaudreau assisted on the 1-1 goal about three minutes later. Sean Monahan scored that tally, and it was awfully nice.
-- Dougie Hamilton is heating up with six points during Calgary's seven-game winning streak. In his previous 24 games, he had just four points.
Hey, getting that big-money defenseman to at least produce offensively can help you turn things around. His plus/minus is even positive at +2 now.
AVALANCHE 2, ISLANDERS 1
-- Francois Beauchemin is one of those FanDuel curiosities. He feels a bit feast-or-famine, which is totally fine for a guy who's almost always in the delightful cheap-y range with a few outliers like Shayne Gostisbehere.
Beauchemin has a fantasy 19 points so far. A chunk of that comes in multi-point games; he had two goals (both of Colorado's tallies) on Thursday, two points on Dec. 12, two points on Nov. 23, two on Nov. 3, two on Oct. 10 and three on Oct. 8.
Every now and then, he logs big minutes, including an impressive 28:31 last night. Not bad for a 35-year-old few were excited about when he joined Colorado.
/cues a few THE DUCKS LET A GUY WITH INTANGIBLES GO arguments
-- I feel like Semyon Varlamov saw Patrick Kane's uncomfortable hot streak slowing down and was like "I got this, Patty." That 29-save shutout against Chicago was a passing of the conflicted feelings torch, really.
Varlamov is now on a five-game winning streak with uniformly brilliant performances. I wonder how many fantasy owners are cackling at grabbing him in a buy-low trade heading into December.
-- Thomas Greiss saw his own winning streak end, but not really because of poor play. He stopped 28 out of 30 shots and remains just a fantastic backup with his .933 save percentage being especially pretty.
BLUE JACKETS 7, COYOTES 5
-- Let me be plain about this: I'd probably pick Ryan Johansen over any other person connected with the Blue Jackets.
Their coach, GM, scouts, really any skater and certainly Sergei Bobrovsky are all worth less to me than a 23-year-old No. 1 center who's affordable and, with all that's happened this season, still one of their top scorers.
If it means Tortorella-or-Johansen, and anyone in that organization even hesitates to pick Johansen, they should be fired on the spot.
I'm not saying that I want someone to get fired, but that would be an enormous mistake. They should be forced to watch Jakub Voracek high-five with Claude Giroux on an endless loop before making any trade calls on Johansen.
-- How do we grade Brandon Saad's debut season with Columbus so far?
If you were to give him a grade for Thursday, it would obviously be an A+, with a goal and two assists (not to mention a +3 rating).
Still, that bumps him up to 21 points in 33 games, which is fine ... but maybe not what the Blue Jackets were hoping for.
His career-high is 52 points, so it's not like they can gripe too much. I'd say he's shown enough promise to be worthwhile, although I'll leave contract value judgments to others.
-- David Clarkson scored his first goal of 2015-16, also helpfully confirming that he isn't on an island or in a hospital bed in the process.
-- Curtis McElhinney exited the no-win close here, although he didn't exactly light the world on fire in stopping 27 out of 32 shots.
-- Stefan Elliott might have had the roughest night with a -4 rating, zero points and two SOG in just 15:01 TOI (with 1:44 on the PP).