If you’re expecting the now-34-year-old Alex Ovechkin to regress because of his age, then you’ll have to keep waiting. Ovechkin scored goals 32, 33, and 34 of the season to lead the Capitals to a 6-4 come-from-behind win over the Islanders on Saturday. In fact, the Capitals trailed 4-1 entering the third period.
Ovie now has hat tricks in back-to-back games and a staggering eight goals over his past three games. He’s also passed Mario Lemieux to enter the top 10 in all-time goal scoring, and he has also tied Steve Yzerman and is only two behind Mark Messier in that exclusive group. In terms of hat tricks only, this is an impressive stat:
Alex Ovechkin has more hat tricks than four TEAMS since he entered the league.
Hat Tricks Since 2005-06
Alex Ovechkin ……. 26
Avalanche …………… 24
Wild …………………….. 19
Devils ………………….. 19
Golden Knights …. 4
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 18, 2020
Devon Toews scored a goal and added two assists for the Isles. The goal was his first in 17 games and the points the first in five games. Unfortunately, his "Kuznetsov bird" goal celebration after he made the game 4-1 served as motivation for the Capitals, who stormed back in the third period to score five goals.
Semyon Varlamov has benefitted from a strong defensive system on Long Island. However, he lost each of his last three starts, with two of those starts qualifying as really bad starts. Over the third quarter he has a 4.51 GAA and .864 SV% in four games. After Varlamov and Thomas Greiss alternated starts evenly until Christmas, Varlamov has dominated the crease since then. However, we might start seeing more Greiss again, starting tomorrow against Carolina.
If the Oilers score seven goals, you’d expect Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to put up some insane numbers, since they seem to carry that team game after game. Although their numbers were by no means terrible (McDavid two goals, Draisaitl two assists), it was the secondary scoring that stood out on Saturday.
Riley Sheahan scored a goal and added three assists, while Josh Archibald scored a goal and added two helpers of his own. Sheahan and Archibald entered the game with seven and eight points, respectively, so these were efforts that helped virtually no fantasy teams.
With the win, Mike Smith has now won five consecutive games. Yes, I find that as hard to believe as you do. Over that span, Smith has a 2.41 GAA and .930 SV%. Because of Smith’s hot play, Mikko Koskinen has started just once during the new year as Dave Tippett continues to ride the hot hand.
The Coyotes took it on the chin with the 7-3 loss to the Oilers. Antti Raanta returned from injury but was pulled after allowing six goals over two periods. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Taylor Hall each scored a goal, but each were also a minus-5 in this game. Hall has basically been a point-per-game player since joining the Yotes, but this is probably one he’d like to have back against his former team.
Elvis continues to add to his legend. Elvis Merzlikins had to work for his third shutout in four games, stopping 41 New Jersey shots on Saturday. Merzlikins took over from the injured Joonas Korpisalo on December 31. Since then, Elvis has posted an 8-2-0 record with a 1.51 GAA and .955 SV%. Simply outstanding. In fact, Elvis’ play has been so impressive that we might have to rethink Korpisalo getting the net back when he returns from injury. Without suggesting that the Blue Jackets are going to win the Stanley Cup, could Merzlikins have a Jordan Binnington-like run in him? Or at least an Andrew Hammond-like run from 2015? Korpisalo should receive at least a few starts once he returns from injury, so don't expect Elvis to start every game like the others I mentioned seemed to.
On the offensive side, Cam Atkinson powered the Blue Jackets with two goals, an assist, and a plus-3. Since returning from an ankle injury, Atkinson has three goals and two assists in just two games. Atkinson has also taken four shots in each of those two games. Get him back into your lineup, as the Blue Jackets will need to lean on him heavily in order to compete for a playoff spot.
My decision to play other players instead of Atkinson and Jonathan Toews didn’t turn out well. Toews laid a beating on the Leafs, scoring two goals and adding two assists with a plus-4. I must have missed the fact that Captain Serious is red hot, as he already entered this game with a four-game point streak in which he has scored eight points. Now he has 12 points in just five games. Those early-season issues he was having (two points in 11 games in October) are now in the rear-view mirror.
The Hawks have been winning a lot since mid-December and scoring plenty. Another Hawk who has been lighting it up is rookie Dominik Kubalik, who now leads all rookies with 20 goals. With two goals and an assist on Saturday, Kubalik now has nine goals over his last seven games, including multiple goals in three of his last four games, and 18 points over his last 14 games. Kubalik has spent considerable time with Toews and Patrick Kane, clearly benefitting from the opportunity. The 24-year-old should be considered at least a darkhorse for the Calder Trophy.
In allowing six goals to the Hawks on Saturday, including three goals in the first period alone, Frederik Andersen has now posted just one quality start and three really bad starts over his past six games. Not a good way to enter the All-Star break for Andersen, who is second to Carey Price in minutes and third in games played. Andersen could probably use a rest, but he’s playing in the All-Star Game.
Frederik Andersen Save % prior to All-Star Break with #Leafs
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) January 19, 2020
With a goal on Saturday, Ilya Kovalchuk now has eight points (4g-4a) in eight games as a Hab. Because his contract is two-way, Kovalchuk needed to make an impact early to stick around, and so far he has been winning the affection of the Montreal faithful. In the coming week’s Looking Ahead, Adam answers the question of whether Kovalchuk is worth a pickup (the answer is yes). I’ll take credit for the article’s headline, which generated a few replies on Twitter.
In his return to the lineup, Sergei Bobrovsky reassured his fantasy owners that he might not be that much of a bust. Bob stopped 27 of 28 shots in earning a 4-1 win over the Red Wings. Dating back to his previous start before injury, Bob now has two wins in a row. Hey, that’s something.
James van Riemsdyk is about as up-and-down as any player that I own on my fantasy teams. On Saturday he scored a goal and added two assists, which gives him five points in his last four games. Prior to that, he had been held without a point in his previous eight games. He’s also had other stretches without a point of eight games and seven games this season. Based on that hot-and-cold production, you just have to pay close attention to when he’s producing in order to know when to have him in your lineup.
In yesterday’s Ramblings, I mentioned Jason Zucker when discussing the plight of Dougie Hamilton, as Zucker had returned after missing just a month with a broken fibula (small bone in the lower leg). With a goal and two assists on Saturday, Zucker looked like he was fully healed. Zucker had not recorded a point in the three previous games since returning to the lineup, so he appears to be back in business if you need to use him in your lineup.
In his second consecutive start, Alex Stalock made 27 saves in earning his second shutout of the season. Stalock has now posted three consecutive quality starts. Although Devan Dubnyk has had a monopoly on starts the past few years, this recent development from Stalock might be worth watching.
Want to know why Brent Burns’ shots total is down from last season? Look at the Sharks as a team. Last season they fired an average of 33 shots per game, which was sixth in the NHL. This season? Just 28.9 shots per game, which is all the way down to 30th in the league. On Saturday they took just 18 shots on the Canucks, which included a grand total of seven shots over the first two periods. After dominating the category for several years, Burns is all the way down to tied for fourth among blueliners with 147 shots. That’s obviously not a bad total, but a closer look at SAT percentages from last season to this season show that the Sharks simply aren’t carrying the play the way they were last season.
The Canucks’ leading scorer since November 12 is not Elias Pettersson… or Bo Horvat… or Brock Boeser… or even Quinn Hughes. It is Tanner Pearson, who has 31 points over his last 31 games. Pearson might not be a point-per-game player going forward, but Bo Horvat has finally found a winger that will stick on the second line.
The third guy on that line is now Loui Eriksson, who takes a ton of ridicule because of the size of his contract. Yet Eriksson has seven goals in his last 12 games. That’s not a standout number, but he had numerous healthy scratches before that and has turned his game around to be at least adequate (actually, the defensive conscience of this line). Interestingly enough, I play in a league where over the past month, Eriksson has the second-highest ranking among right wingers on the waiver wire.
And to wrap up my last Ramblings before the All-Star break, here’s a shout out to all you Canucks fans out there, as well as an illustration as to how tight things are in the Pacific Division. I guess this is the parity that Mr. Bettman wanted.
The Pacific…Crazy! pic.twitter.com/qh84vZCp2G
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) January 19, 2020
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.