10 in a row for the Avalanche! TEN!

Jonathan Bernier has been in net for nine of those and is on an astronomical roll. I still want to see what happens to his numbers when this team’s streak finally ends, but he has been awfully useful for fantasy owners. There’s also the matter of Semyon Varlamov’s return, which isn’t expected until after the All-Star break. Even if Bernier keeps bringing the heat, Varlamov is likely to eventually take over the crease.

We’ve also seen Bernier get wildly hot only to collapse, the most recent example coming last spring. If we’re talking about goalies you’ll want come March/April, I wouldn’t count on him being a strong option, but ride this as long as it lasts.

Nathan MacKinnon had scored in every game of Colorado’s winning streak until last night. He has 19 points on the 42 goals they’ve scored in this stretch, basically accounting for half of the Avalanche’s offense.

Erik Johnson is up to 18 points in 33 games since the start of November, which coincides with when Gabriel Landeskog joined MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to form that formidable top line, but also coincides with the departure of Matt Duchene. MacKinnon seemed to indicate that Duchene’s exodus has been a catalyst:

Asked if the culture of the team had improved after Duchene was traded to the Ottawa Senators as part of a three-way trade that included the Nashville Predators on Nov. 5, MacKinnon said: "It did a lot."

"There's nothing wrong with [Duchene] wanting to leave," MacKinnon said after the Avalanche had their morning skate at Air Canada Centre. "I think it's fair. He's eight, nine years in this League and it wasn't like a crazy breakup or anything. He went about it really good this season. But obviously we knew he wanted to leave.

"Now we have everybody here that wants to be here, which is great. If [Duchene] was here I'd think we'd be in a good spot as well. He's a really good player."

That seems less an indictment of Duchene than of the situation. And it’s worth asking whether Duchene’s desire to leave came before or after the team tried to trade him. Whatever the case, this Avalanche team offers plenty of lessons when contrasting their last two seasons: the importance of giving a coach a full training camp, the importance of dressing room harmony, importance of timing and leverage in trades, necessity for patience with youth, the value of team speed, etc.


Duchene, by the way, scored a pretty goal last night, the lone goal for Ottawa:


Duchene has eight points in the last seven games.


It took some luck, but Andrei Vasilevskiy ended a five-game slide, in which he had allowed 23 goals, by shutting out the Blackhawks.

Ondrej Palat is out 6-8 weeks with a lower-body injury. I believe the plan for Tampa Bay was to give young players every opportunity to fill in the gaps before the trade deadline, but I wonder if these injuries provide some impetus for the Lightning to move ahead of the deadline.

Check out their lines from last night:






Matthew Peca was the latest prospect recalled by the Lightning. His AHL numbers are good, but not so good for a 24-year-old that I suspect he’ll have immense fantasy relevance.

Steven Stamkos has yet to score a goal in 2018, a run that has now hit nine games. I wouldn’t worry too much, his game has trended towards playmaking anyhow, but it is notable how his pace has slowed in the past month with 11 points in the last 17 games.


Auston Matthews' reaction to scoring a goal after having one previously waived off is brilliant:


Taylor Hall was out last night and is expected to miss tonight’s action as well with a hand injury. It is not expected to be a long-term issue, however. He’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow. The Devils desperately need him in the lineup as they were shutout by the Red Wings without him.

Mind you, that shutout came from Petr Mrazek who has back-to-back shutouts. Mrazek’s numbers have imploded over the past season and a half so it’s easy to forget what a promising young netminder he was.

You never know what to believe when it comes to the rumour mill, but there was word of attitude issues surrounding Mrazek, enough that he has been available on the trade market, was left unprotected in the expansion draft, and went unclaimed in said draft even (although perhaps the Golden Knights just really liked Tomas Nosek who has been a lineup regular for them.) Whatever the case, you do wonder if there couldn’t be a resurrection somewhere else. We’ve seen plenty such happenings.


Andreas Athanasiou remains hot on Dylan Larkin’s wing. He is up to 11 points in his last 10 games. They seem fairly committed to keeping Athanasiou with Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, which has been effective. I’m high on Athanasiou as a strong waiver option in the second half.


Anthony Beauvillier’s hot streak continues. The winger now has eight goals in his past seven games. He has been up over 14 minutes of action in each of those seven games. I don’t suspect that he’ll be relevant all the way until game 82, but he certainly offers value in the short term, especially with the exposure he provides alongside Mathew Barzal.


Matthew Tkachuk’s offense has taken off since grabbing the net-front gig on Calgary’s top power play unit with 12 points in his last 12 games. Half (6) of those points have come with the man-advantage highlighting how important these top PP minutes are. He has potential to be one of the best multi-category options out there with this top PP deployment.


The Professional Hockey Writers Association is doing mid-season awards, and they have opened it up to fan voting as well! You can do so here. My ballot for the awards I care about:


Hart – Nathan MacKinnon, John Tavares, Nikita Kucherov

This top three is solid, so only mild apologies to Taylor Hall, Brad Marchand, Johnny Gaudreau, Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist.


Norris – PK Subban, Victor Hedman, Seth Jones

Apology to Mark Giordano. No apology to Drew Doughty, who already has his lifetime achievement award.


Calder – Mathew Barzal, Brock Boeser, Charlie McAvoy

There are other awesome rookies, but none in the same league as these three.


Selke – Patrice Bergeron, Sean Couturier, Aleksander Barkov

Apologies to Anze Kopitar and Mikael Backlund.


Vezina – Henrik Lundqvist, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Mike Smith

Apologies to Sergei Bobrovsky, Connor Hellebuyck and Jonathan Quick.



Matt Murray is back practicing with the Penguins, which is good to hear. Safe to assume he’ll make at least one of the two starts this week. If I’m a Murray owner, I probably want to keep Tristan Jarry around all the same. For one, Jarry has been good in relief of Murray. For two, Murray has been maddeningly injury prone and inconsistent. We all fully expect the Penguins to go on a run in the second half. It could be either of those two who leads them on that run.

It also sounds as though Bryan Rust is closing in on a return. Rust only has utility in deeper leagues counting hits and SOG, but has some value. The greater impact is that his return will likely push Daniel Sprong, and perhaps Dominik Simon out of the lineup. Those two have flashed potential, but ultimately have not been solutions.

Sprong, by the way, was sent back to the minors. He’ll be a solution eventually, but not this season.

What we are all hoping is that improved winger depth with Rust returning and Carl Hagelin finally producing that they might find a way to get Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary back onto Sidney Crosby’s line. Crosby’s 5-on-5 results have still been miserable with a 4.47% on-ice shooting percentage. However, Crosby has been beasting over the past few weeks. Anecdotally, he looks ready to pop, which will benefit whichever winger is skating with him when the goals do start to come.


Jaden Schwartz has been cleared to play, but is not expected to return tonight for the Blues. There’s a decent chance he’s back on Thursday, but I’m still guessing he doesn’t return until after the All-Star break.


Disconcerting news on Charlie McAvoy as the rookie had a procedure to correct an arrhythmia in his heart. Assuming this rectifies the issue, there will be no long-term effects, but we have seen heart issues derail careers before. I’m leaning towards optimism on this. McAvoy is expected to be out for two weeks of action, and perhaps he’ll be rusty for a week or two beyond.


Carey Price was reportedly suffering from chronic fatigue, which may explain his early struggles this season:

“We realized after taking blood samples that he had deficiencies – mostly in vitamin D and B12.”

It was at the beginning of November that Price began a new nutritional regimen that included taking supplements.

Before he was hurt on Nov. 2 in a game against the Minnesota Wild, Price had a record of 3-7-1 and a save percentage of .877.

“It took me three weeks to see a major difference in my energy level,” said Price.

Since his return on Nov. 25, Price has gone 10-8-3 with a .923 save percentage.

Here I assumed that NHL teams would be on top of this stuff as part of their annual physicals, but apparently not. Whether or not this was the actual cause of Price’s early struggles, it does highlight how we will never have all the information necessary to make proper assessments.

Consider that we just found out that Kevin Shattenkirk has been playing with a torn meniscus all season, which no doubt explains his struggles over the past month. Now the defenseman may be out for the rest of the season.


This John Tortorella quote is something else:


If you haven’t stumbled upon it yet, DobberProspects released their first consensus Fantasy Rankings for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft with thoughts from nine different prospect watchers. This is must-read stuff for folks in keeper leagues. I cannot stress this enough.


Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.