On Friday many teams returned to action from their bye weeks, so let’s take a look at some of the happenings. The common theme seemed to be that the players you would expect to shine continued to deliver.

Alex Ovechkin finishes January with 13 goals in ten games, including 11 goals in his last five games (or does it count as six games because of the game he had to sit out for skipping the All-Star Game?) He has now passed Mark Messier to become 8th on the all-time goals list with 695 goals. Eighth is a perfect number for him, but don’t count on him staying at that spot for very long. Next on the list is former Capital (and former several other teams) Mike Gartner, who currently sits 13 goals ahead of Ovechkin.  

Here’s the math on the possibility of Ovechkin breaking Gretzky’s record.
 


He’s on quite a pace, but that’s still a ton of ground to make up. I’ll give Ovechkin this: He’s played in a much tougher era. Watching some game highlights from the 1980s recently, I’m amazed that the small standup goalies of that era didn’t allow ten goals every game.

In addition to his two goals in Friday, Ovie also fired 11 shots on goal in 23 minutes of icetime. He continues to be a SOG machine, leading the league again with 240 shots. He’s also pulled into a tie with David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals with 27. Age might push him down the keeper rankings, yet in single-season roto leagues the 34-year-old is playing as well as anyone right now. $9.5 million per season for 13 seasons seems like a recipe for disaster, but for Ovechkin it’s actually been a bargain.   

With the win on Friday, Ilya Samsonov improves to 16-2-0, becoming one of four goalies all time to start his first 20 games with 16 wins. What’s even more impressive is that he’s 10-0-0 with a 2.20 GAA and .919 SV% on the road. If you’re the Capitals, how do you not start Samsonov over Braden Holtby in Game 1 of the playoffs? If I had to bet money today, I’d say it’s Holtby. Yet if given the opportunity, could Samsonov be this season’s Jordan Binnington? If not Samsonov, then maybe Elvis Merzlikins? Or someone else?

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Chris Kane made some interesting observations on streaky players during his recent Frozen Tools Forensics. One particular player of interest that he listed was Mika Zibanejad, who after Friday’s three-point effort has the following points distribution over his 36 games played:
 

 Points

 Games

0

14

1

8

2+

14


He’s been a feast-or-famine player this season, yet fortunately his owners have been feasting lately. Zibanejad has five multipoint games over his last eight games, as well as three multipoint games and 22 shots over his last four games.

Artemi Panarin returned after a one-game absence to score a goal (see below) and an assist along with seven shots on goal. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll reiterate: Panarin is the league’s hottest scorer post-Christmas with 25 points in 12 games. That’s also the highest point-per-game pace.

Igor Shesterkin stopped 23 of 25 shots for the Rangers to earn his third win in four NHL starts. He’s allowed no more than three goals in each of those four starts as well. I’d suggest adding him without reservation, but with a three-headed goaltending monster in NYC you simply don’t know how often he’ll start.

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Mathieu Perreault left Friday’s game with an upper-body injury after taking a big hit from Karson Kuhlman. Perreault has already had concussion issues (while making his feelings known to the NHL for inaction on previous hits), although the injury looked more like it was to his shoulder.

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With two goals on Friday, Leon Draisaitl now has a ten-game point streak in which he has 18 points (7g-11a). As well, Draisaitl is now your league scoring leader with 79 points.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins assisted on both of Draisaitl’s goals, giving him a six-game point streak. That makes it look like he’s recently heated up, but he’s actually been going for a while. Since December 21 the Nuge has 18 points (7g-11a) over his past 13 games.

Kailer Yamamoto, who recorded an assist on one of Draisaitl’s goals, has eight points in the ten games since his recall from Bakersfield in the AHL. He looks like he’s here to stay.

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Since his return from injury six games ago, Sidney Crosby has 11 points (4g-7a) in six games, including a goal and two assists on Friday.

Evgeni Malkin hasn’t skipped a beat since Crosby’s return, matching Crosby with a goal and two assists on Friday. Injuries are always a worry, but when he’s in the lineup few players are more productive. This season, only Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Panarin have a higher points-per-game total than Malkin (1.39 PTS/GP). As well, among players who have played as many games as Malkin (38), only Panarin (3.70) has a higher 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes than Malkin (3.35). I know a few owners tell me they’d never draft Malkin again because of the injury history, yet the rewards when he’s in the lineup are nearly unmatched.  

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Tuukka Rask started his first game since suffering a concussion on January 14, making 37 saves in a win over Winnipeg. Rask continues to be a must start, as he has allowed no more than two goals in each of his last five games.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy earned another win on Friday, which means that he hasn’t lost a game in regulation since December 19 – a span of 13 games.

With a goal and an assist on Friday, Nikita Kucherov now has five consecutive games of two points and a six-game point streak. Kucherov also has the most points of any player since New Year’s Eve (20 points in 14 games). He scores a lot because he’s able to make plays like this, where he eludes what looks like a sure hit to score a backhand goal.
 

 

Over his last six games, Anthony Cirelli has nine points (4g-5a) to go with a plus-8, which included a goal and an assist on Friday. In his second full season, Cirelli has already exceeded his career high in assists (23), and he’s only three points shy of last season’s total of 39 points. Cirelli’s icetime is also up three and a half minutes per game over last season. I added Cirelli in one league because of the Lightning’s favorable schedule this week, and he hasn’t disappointed.

Not everyone on the Lightning has been scoring recently. Yanni Gourde is now nine games and counting without a point. He’s only been receiving 10-11 minutes per game over his last three games, and he’s fired only two shots over his last five games. Gourde’s point totals have slid from 64 to 48 to on pace for 31 this season. A Lightning player’s fortunes can turn around quickly with the right linemates, but Gourde isn’t doing himself any favors.

One more Lightning stat: Ondrej Palat scored his first goal in January on the final day of the month. He had previously gone 11 games without a goal, although he had also recorded seven assists.

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There’s a few confirmed Saturday goalie starts, according to Goalie Post:

Michael Hutchinson (vs. OTT)

Henrik Lundqvist (@ DET)

Alex Lyon (vs. COL)

Connor Hellebuyck (vs. STL)

Jaroslav Halak (@ MIN)

Antti Raanta (vs. CHI)

Curtis McElhinney (@ SJ)

Just to quickly recap: Hutchinson, Lundqvist, Halak, and McElhinney all look like they have solid matchups. Hutchinson and McElhinney in particular are owned in less than 5 percent of Yahoo leagues and could be used as spot starters.

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Much love for John Gibson’s tribute to Kobe Bryant and the other victims of Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash in California. It sounds like he's going to keep wearing it for a while
 


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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.