The Maple Leafs and Devils met on Tuesday evening in Jersey. Toronto came into the contest on a mini-slide, picking up just four points in their last five contests. That slipped them to third in the Atlantic and they were looking to right the ship. Meanwhile, Taylor Hall returned from injury for a floundering Devils squad who needs to get the momentum running in the right direction if they have any aspirations of a wild card spot this spring.
It was all Toronto early in this one. The Maple Leafs scored three goals on their first eight shots, with Auston Matthews getting in on two of them (1+1). The porous play of Keith Kinkaid only further exacerbates the issues in net for the Devils. Cory Schneider is now mercifully on the IR, but his days of stopping pucks at a respectable level appear over. Kinkaid has had stretches of success, but shouldn't be considered a long-term solution.
That leaves Mackenzie Blackwood.
The 22-year-old is up with the big club after posting a .911 save percentage in 15 AHL games this season. Blackwood has the pedigree of a potential NHL starter but still has more than a few warts to clear up. If you're looking for a prospect goalie with a clear path though, there aren't too many better spots than in New Jersey.
Blackwood would see some action after Kinkaid let in his fifth of the night. It wasn't overly promising for the youngster either as he stopped 8/10 and the Leafs cruised to a 7-2 victory.
Nazem Kadri produced three even-strength primary assists on the night. The line of him, Marleau and Nylander seem to be forming some chemistry. Kadri still sees strong deployment on that vaunted top power-play unit. He's likely good for a better pace than the 45-point clip he was at coming into this game.
Watch for an opportunity to buy low.
With Dave Hakstol finally and mercifully, let go. The Flyers hosted the Red Wings on Tuesday evening. Fill-in coach, Scott Gordon shook up the lines ahead of this one. It was JVR being elevated to the top line next to Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. A great spot for the two youngsters.
Jakub Voracek, who has been waking from his early-season slumber and just saw a seven-game, eight-point streak snapped in Vancouver last Saturday, was skating next to Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds. That left Nolan Patrick to skate beside Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl.
What really needs to be fixed for the fantasy folk is the power play.
The Flyers have historically been a dangerous team on the man-advantage. They clicked at 20.7 percent a season ago, but have slipped all the way the 30th overall this season with a putrid 12.7 percent conversion rate. This has been felt in no bigger a spot than to Shayne Gostisbehere owners.
Ghost led all defenders in power-play points last season with 33. He has seven in 31 contests this year to be on pace for 19. Bravo to all you who have remained patient, waiting for your All-Star blueliner to return to form.
Ghost continued to skate on the top unit with Voracek next to him on the point. Simmonds was given the first crack at the net front job on the top unit – a place that he occupied (and thrived in) for years in Philly.
Lo and behold, Gostisbehere managed to get in on the action tonight. He assisted on a van Riemsdyk first period even-strength tally and converted an even-strength goal as well. That brings the Gostisbehere up to 15 points in 33 games. We'll take this a positive indication that more good times will follow.
Allow me to bury the lede here and slip in that 20-year-old, Carter Hart started his first NHL game. He's the sixth goaltender to start a game for Philadelphia this season.
The Flyers' top prospect wasn't exactly lighting the AHL on fire as a first-year pro, with just a 0.901 save percentage in 17 games. He had been warming up though, with a 0.922 mark across his last seven starts.
And what'd ya know, the kid earned himself a victory. Hart stopped 20 of 22 shots as the Flyers took down Detroit 3-2. Not a bad opening act.
Obligatory Elias Pettersson chat. Coming into Tuesday's matchup against the Lightning, here is how the 20-year-old rookie compares to his first-year brethren over the past 25 years
Most points through their first 30 NHL games (last 25 years):— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) December 17, 2018
Alexei Yashin 36
Elias Pettersson 35
Alex Ovechkin 34
Connor McDavid 34
Evgeni Malkin 33
Sidney Crosby 31
Patrick Kane 30 pic.twitter.com/DgtIhvtQrS
The 20-year-old saw his seven-game, 13 point streak come to an end on Tuesday as the Canucks fell to the Lightning 5-2. It was a feisty and shot-filled affair. Not bad for a couple of teams on opposite ends of the continent.
The Lightning are now 26-7-2 on the season. Vasilevskiy is back and looking like the franchise netminder he is. This team is jacked up.
The Ducks took on the Rangers on the road. They've been riding hot of late and I think I know the reason.
Ducks are 12-3-2 since Ondrej Kase recovered from concussion and joined the lineup. Nine goals in his 17 games, with six in his last six.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) December 18, 2018
I've been a big proponent of Kase's for a while. Maybe not as big as our boy, Slim Cliffy, but a proponent nonetheless. His spot in the top six was facilitated by injuries, but he's held it due to his production. He looks like a perfect fit next to Ryan Getzlaf on L1. Now all that's left is to get him onto the top power-play unit and watch him produce at a consistent 60-point-pace.
Kase managed to snag a secondary assist in this one to give him eight points in his last five games. That's a heater. But it's not as good as what Kevin Hayes is up to. The Rangers' pivot scored the shorthanded game-winner on Tuesday to extend his point streak to five games and 10 points.
Hayes has been excellent in the second quarter and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. He's clicking below his career shooting percentage and has been feasting on opponents at five-on-five. Those are great signs for prolonged success.
If he's still on the wire, it's time to snatch him up.
Vladdy Namestnikov had a goal and two helpers in this one. But he's seeing virtually no power-play deployment and has been living in the bottom six.
Leave him be for now.
John Klingberg skated at Stars' practice for the second consecutive day. He's getting closer to a return and could suit up on Thursday against Chicago. Needless to say, this is a big-time Christmas present for the Stars and for fantasy owners. I know it's been a long five weeks without him on my roster.
Dallas and Calgary hooked up for a battle in the Big D. The Flames came into this one having won eight of their last nine games. Meanwhile, the Stars reunited Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alex Radulov on the top line to spark some offence. The Dallas trio hooked up on the first goal of the game as the Stars beat the Flames 2-0
It wasn't an overly exciting contest, but Ben Bishop did leave this one after taking a knock to the head. He returned to lock up the shutout, but we've seen players come back into games after potential concussions only to feel the effects a day later. Keep an eye on his status.
Chicago just announced that they will loan Henri Jokiharju to Finland for the #WJC2019. That's HUGE for the Suomi. They've got their top defender now and will hope to get Vaakanainen to complete the top pair.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) December 18, 2018
The Panthers earned a much-needed victory on Tuesday evening. They overcame two first period deficits to beat the Sabres 5-2. Evgeni Dadonov led the way with two goals and an assist. One of the tallies came via a penalty shot that narrowly squeaked in. And I do mean narrowly.
Dadonov continues his terrific season. The 29-year-old now sits with 33 points in 32 contests.
Jeff Skinner tallied his 25th goal of the season and added an assist in this one. He's all alone in second for the race for the Rocket. But at some point, his 24 percent conversion rate is going to crater. I love him next to Eichel in all-situations as captain Jack is establishing himself as a premier talent in this league. However, I smell a serious sell-high opportunity here with Skinner.
If you can pull an established 75-80 point player for Skinner, please do.
This was a big outing for Jones and his owners. He had just a 0.893 save percentage over the last six weeks coming into this game. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a sustained run of quality starts. Erik Karlsson is looking more and more like himself. That shouldn't hurt things.
Josh Morrissey kept his hot play alive despite Winnipeg losing 4-1 to LA in one of the late games. The 23-year-old grabbed a first period assist to give him 10 points in his last seven games. He's up to 21 points in 32 games all while seeing just 1:43 on the man-advantage each night. Granted, that Jets' second power-play unit boasts some big skill, but it's difficult to maintain a 50-plus point pace from the backend with top unit deployment.
I expect a cold streak is coming.
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