There's about a month left in the regular season, with a number of playoff races to be decided and loose ends to tie up. That figures to translate to a sneak peek to the captivating theater of the playoffs.
Ten games on Saturday's slate, so let's get right to it:
BRUINS 3, FLYERS 2 (overtime)
— The Bruins kept some breathing room between them others chasing the final wild-card spot, while the Flyers' hopes took a hit. Boston, with two games in hand, has a two-point lead on Florida for the final wild-card spot in the East. Philadelphia, having played two more games, is five points back, with 16 games remaining.
— Brad Marchand scored two of his biggest goals of the year in this one, to extend his goal streak to three games. He tied it up at 2 on the power play with 15 seconds left. Then he scored in overtime to give Boston its third win in four games. Marchand has 21 goals and 37 points, and while he hasn’t been as valuable from an assists perspective, he is two shy of his shot total from last season at 147. His 82 penalty minutes aren't too shabby, either.
— Zdeno Chara got the other goal, while Dougie Hamilton chipped in with two assists. The past and the future for Boston, though both are playing at a very high level in the present. Carl Soderberg fired a whopping seven shots on goal.
— Jakub Voracek ended a seven-game goalless skid with one on the power play. He will easily surpass his career-high of 23 goals and could very well finish with over 80 points, as he’s at a point-per-game pace now (66 in 66 games).
— Tuukka Rask (29 saves) is rolling with five consecutive plus.-906 save percentage games. Don’t discount Steve Mason (34 saves) as the season winds down. He ranks sixth in the league with a .925 save percentage.
PENGUINS 1, KINGS 0 (overtime)
— Patric Hornqvist has been on a tear lately. After Saturday’s overtime game-winner, Hornqvist has seven goals over his past seven games. He also has nine points during that stretch. When factoring Hornqvist missed time due to injury, the Penguins really haven’t lost that much compared to what they got from James Neal. Hornqvist, in 52 games, has Neal beat across the board this season, with 22 goals (to 21) and 42 points (to 34). Hornqvist has a chance to crack the 30-goal mark for the first time since 2009-10. Quite the perk of playing alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, isn’t it? In all seriousness, Hornqvist should continue to wreak havoc as the season concludes.
— Marc-Andre Fleury was sharp, making 31 saves for his league-leading ninth shutout. Fleury has four wins over his past five games, and the Penguins are three points behind the Islanders for the Metropolitan Division crown.
— Jonathan Quick made 17 saves in the loss. The Kings are a point out of a playoff spot. Because they continue to dominate territorially, Quick’s play is going to determine whether they sneak into the playoffs. His overall 2.37 GAA and .913 SV% have not been good.
BLUES 6, MAPLE LEAFS 1
— On the heels of six different goal scorers, the Blues took care of the Maple Leafs, ending a two-game slide and earning seven of 10 possible points during their five-game road trip.
— The depth of this team makes me a believer come playoff time, but now that Vladimir Tarasenko (goal, assist) has truly emerged as one of the great offensive players in this game, I think it makes the Blues even more dangerous. You need a go-to scorer in the playoffs.
— Jaden Schwartz and T.J. Oshie each picked up a goal and an assist as well. Paul Stastny, David Backes and Chris Butler got the other goals. Jori Lehtera had three assists. Schwartz has 22 goals and 28 assists, and has notched a point in three in a row. Only one player (Ryan Raves) played less than 10 minutes in this game. Alex Pietrangelo (21:17) and Barrett Jackman (20:48) were the only players to get over 20 minutes of ice time.
— Brian Elliott made 23 saves, and has three wins over his past five contests. Elliott sports a 2.16 GAA and .923 SV%, so he’s clearly on board as a number-one in fantasy leagues.
— All you need to know for the Leafs in this one is that 14 players finished with negative ratings. Dion Phaneuf was the only one with a positive plus/minus. He also had two penalty minutes. David Booth picked up the goal, just his second on the year. Remember when he was a solid source for secondary scoring? That was five years ago.
LIGHTNING 5, STARS 4
— Sure, the Lightning picked up an important win in this one, but I’d be remiss to not write about Tyler Seguin first. Not only did he miss just only 10 games after spraining his MCL, he scored twice in his return, looking as good as ever. Seguin’s 31 goals are seventh-most in the league, and he has 61 points, which is nine away from John Tavares' league lead. Seguin is unlikely to cover the ground on Alex Ovechkin (44 goals), but it would not be surprising to see him get hot and still win the Art Ross. Pretty amazing that he's still in contention. The Stars are unlikely to make the playoffs, but if they make a run to get into the picture, Seguin should get some MVP love. They went 3-5-2 without him in the lineup. Would they be in a better spot in the standings had he been healthy? You better believe it.
— Victor Hedman scored, assisted and racked up a minor penalty in the win. The 24-year-old has five points over his past five games. He’ll continue to be a solid contributor down the stretch.
— Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov and Brian Boyle got the other goals. Kucherov has been fantastic this season, now with 25 goals and 56 points. Not sure many could have predicted this sort of breakout for the 21-year-old Russian.
— Jhonas Enroth (23 saves on 27 shots) didn’t come to the Stars to perform like the rest of their goalies. He was supposed to stabilized things. Instead, he’s done anything but, posting just a .873 SV% in seven games with Dallas.
PANTHERS 4, ISLANDERS 3 (shootout)
— The Islanders have had an excellent season and they will easily make the playoffs. However, every point they lose will hurt them in their quest for the East’s best record, not to even speak of the Metropolitan Division’s top team. New York out-shot Florida 28-18, but lost because Michal Neuvirth was not good. Perhaps Neuvirth wasn’t used to such little action? He faced an average over 36 shots per game in Buffalo. The Islanders cannot lose games like this.
— On the plus side, Tavares (goal, two assists) took over the Art Ross lead, now with 32 goals and 70 points. Where is this team without him? I don't think it's crazy to say they are not among the top teams in the East. That means he should be among the top contenders for the Hart Trophy, too.
— Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad and Erik Gudbranson notched goals. Huberdeau has points in four consecutive games, while Bjugstad has picked up points in four of his past five tilts. There’s a lot to like moving forward in Florida, even if it doesn't make the playoffs now, of which it is two points out.
— Couldn’t really ask for more from Dan Ellis (25 saves). The Panthers hope to get Roberto Luongo back for next Thursday’s game against the Jets. They need him if they want to keep their playoff aspirations alive.
CAPITALS 6, SABRES 1
— Did you expect anything else? The Capitals had more shots on goal in the second period (23) than the Sabres had all game (17). Washington finished with 45. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that Ovechkin only had one goal and one assist, though he did fire eight shots on net in his return after missing a game with an injury.
— Curtis Glencross tallied three points, with a goal and two helpers. He’s got goals in two consecutive games. Still not a fan of this deadline trade for Washington as it seems redundant, but Glencross is fitting in well so far.
— Jay Beagle (goal, assists), Brooks Laich, Joel Ward and Marcus Johansson notched the other goals for the Capitals. Beagle has come out of nowhere to post career highs — 10 goals and 20 points. He should easily surpass his totals from the last three seasons combined this year.
— Similar to streaming pitchers against weak offenses or when they pitch in favorable ballparks, everyone needs to be checking the schedule for the rest of the season and take advantage of when their players face off against the Sabres (and their goalies). Matthew Hackett gave up four goals on 23 shots, while Anders Lindback allowed two on 22 shots. The Sabres are instant offense for your fantasy team.
AVALANCHE 4, BLUE JACKETS 0
— Even though the Avalanche have shown life lately — with seven wins over their past ten games — I’m not totally sold. Their score-adjusted Corsi percentage since the start of February is the third-worst in the league, in front of Toronto and Buffalo.
— That being said, it’s nice to see Matt Duchene (goal) playing some pretty good hockey lately. Duchene only has 17 goals and 42 points this season, but he has 21 points in 28 games since Jan. 1. He seems to be ready to reward those who have stuck with him, despite the disappointment.
— Jarome Iginla and Gabriel Landeskog each scored power-play goals. Landeskog has three goals over his past four games, with six points during that stretch. He’s another Avs player who is unlikely to reach his totals from 2013-14.
— Semyon Varlamov (44 saves) recorded his fifth shutout of the season. The goaltender has also posted a save percentage of .906 or better in three consecutive games. If you’re OK with low wins expectations, Varlamov could be a good play moving forward as the Avalanche surrender a lot of shots and Varlamov has the talent to perform with the game’s best goalies.
— Curtis McElhinney made his first start since March 1, and promptly lasted 20 minutes after giving up three goals on 12 shots. He has not won since Feb. 19. Sergei Bobrovsky kicked aside 20 shots in the 40 minutes of relief work.
CANADIENS 2, COYOTES 0
— Carey Price (28 saves) is the top candidate for the Vezina Trophy, and it’s not that close at this point. I’m not sure I can come up with words to describe how good he’s been, so I’ll let the stats do the talking. 37 wins, leads the league. 1.89 GAA and .936 SV%, lead the league. His seven shutouts are second-most. Montreal is also not a great possession team, making this season even more impressive. Price is my Hart Trophy choice right now, too.
— Don’t think Lars Eller’s goal impacted fantasy lineups unless you’re in 20-team team league ... and even then that might be stretching it. Eller’s 10th goal of the season was his first since Feb. 7, a span of 14 games without a goal (and just one assist).
— Brendan Gallagher scored on the empty net. I don’t really like to point these out, but because Gallagher gets so many shots on net (six on Saturday, 194 on the year) and tends to score at a pedestrian rate (9.8%), this was almost like the puck-luck Gods rewarding him for yeoman’s work throughout the season. Gallagher is just one goal away from 20, which would be a career high, and he’s one point from tying his highest point total, too, which is 41.
— At this point, Shane Doan (one shot, minus-one rating) should not be owned in any leagues, unless they are extremely deep. He has 12 goals and 30 points, and hasn’t scored since Feb. 9. During that stretch, he has only one assist, too. Doan’s offensive game has dried up and he’s become a black hole for fantasy lineups. His 8.1 scoring rate, compared to 10.2 for his career is the only reason for hope going forward.
— Mike Smith gives up one goal on 34 shots and still loses. Pretty much encapsulates the reason why he’s a bottom-of-the-barrel netminder the rest of the way, not to even mention the hideous rate stats. He has stopped at least 91% of the shots against over his past three games, however.
JETS 3, PREDATORS 1
— The Predators have lost six in a row, with Pekka Rinne losing five of those games. They lead the Blues by only two points for first place in the Central Division. Rinne made 23 saves, and though this was not a bad effort by him, his erratic performance of late has pushed the door wide open for Price to win the Vezina. In fact, it’s not too wild to think Cory Schneider is the NHL’s second-best netminder. Rinne’s .926 SV% is fifth in the league, and his 2.13 GAA is third.
— Blake Wheeler and Drew Stafford each scored and assisted in the win. Despite underwhelming a bit with 18 goals and 30 points, Wheeler is doing his part to ensure the puck stays in the offensive zone. He is among the most underrated players in the NHL for that ability. Stafford’s goal was of the empty-net variety, and he now has six points in 10 games with Winnipeg.
— Ryan Ellis scored the only goal against Michael Hutchinson (20 saves). The rookie’s save percentage over his past five games: .952, .824, .900, .966. 929. Not to take anything away from what has been a sensational rookie season, but Hutchinson has been very average since the start of the new year.
CANUCKS 3, SHARKS 2
— Radim Vrbata has become a lock for 20 goals a season, hasn’t he? The Czech forward was signed to add some punch to the Canucks forward group, and he’s done just that. His two goals give him 25 on the year, along with 48 points. He has points in four in a row, too.
— Rookie Bo Horvat scored his 10th of the season, his first goal since Feb. 22. He has six goals since the start of February.
— Joe Thornton scored and assisted. He has been so good throughout his career, I don’t think he gets as much attention for what he’s still doing at 35 years old. Thornton continues to drive play at a high level (56.7% Corsi) and is among the best passers in the game. His 44 assists are fifth-most in the league.