Rather than killing you the way Kari Lehtonen did my team in my matchup league on Saturday, by writing a preamble as weak as the Eastern Conference is in head-to-head matchups with the West, let’s just get to it and briefly touch on all of the games in the NHL on Saturday. How about it? You with me?
In the matinee game, the Boston Bruins prevailed over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime. Though Carolina received a point out of this contest, the Bruins were all over them all game long. Essentially the entire game was spent in Carolina’s zone…
Also, if you haven’t caught David Krejci’s absurd patience on his overtime winning goal you should remedy that right now. Passing on an open net and instead pulling the puck to his forehand before shooting? Just awesome.
Speaking of the Bruins, I’m currently playing in a 20 team matchup league, and Bruins forward Reilly Smith is still available. I’m not sure why that is, he’s been hot lately and is getting major minutes on an above average offensive team in Boston. Smith played more than four minutes on the power-play on Saturday afternoon, scored a goal, and managed four shots and a hit.
He now has four points (2+2) in his past five games and 15 in 22 games on the season. Smith’s percentages are probably slightly inflated (he’s shooting over 12% and Boston is scoring on 8.7% of shots with Smith on at ice at 5-on-5), but he’s dominating play and seeing an increased bump in power-pay minutes. In other words, Smith is not a sexy name, I suppose, but he’s useful in a deeper matchup league.
Some crazy happenings in Minnesota’s net in advance of the other afternoon game between the Wild and the Jets. Wild starter Josh Harding tripped on a puck during warmups and was injured in the freak accident. That meant Niklas Backstrom, who had only been activated off of IR earlier in the day, was forced into action. Backstrom, you may remember last played on November 13th when he was concussed after being run by Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri.
Anyway, Backstrom was full value in his reutrn and managed to stop 37 of 39 shots in the victory. Good for him. Meanwhile Darcy Kuemper showed up at the MTS Centre after the first period, so the Wild didn’t even have to play the full 60 without a backup. Tough situation for that club though.
Wild winger and one time top-10 fantasy pick Dany Heatley nearly played 20 minutes on Saturday night! In a possibly related event, the Wild were outscored by two goals with Heatley on the ice…
Meanwhile, Minnesota Wild winger Nino Niederreiter had his minutes cut but still managed a goal and five shots. Maybe that, sort of, third line role is a sensible one for Niederreiter at the moment. Certainly he was played an efficient game against tertiary competition against Winnipeg on Saturday…
Though the Wild prevailed on Saturday, their top-line of Koivu, Parise and whomever (on Saturday a mix of Heatley, Niedereitter and Pominville) had probably their worst game of the season. A lot of credit for that goes to the most under-rated player in hockey: bonafide top-pairing defenseman/2nd line powerforward/elite swingman Dustin Byfuglien.
Byufglien shadowed Parise for more than three-quarters of his even-strength ice-time on Saturday, and the Jets controlled over 57% of shot attempts in those min