Monday’s schedule was chalked full and Pittsburgh and New York got things started in an early affair. The lottery-bound Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead off the sticks of Brendan Lemieux and Vinne Lettieri.
That was all the waking up the Pens needed as they rattled off five straight to take this one 5-2. Matt Murray stopped 33/35 for his third straight victory, and fifth straight quality start. The 24-year-old limped through the first 11 contests of the campaign with an 0.877 save percentage. Since that time, he’s 23-7-4 with three shutouts and a 0.931 save percentage mark.
All is well with Murray.
Jared McCann grabbed an assist on the fifth goal to give him 13 points in his last 15 contests. The 22-year-old former first-round selection is on his third organization but appears to have found a fit. McCann has great wheels, a heavy release, and loads of tenacity. He’s finally cracked the second power-play unit, but 31 of his 34 points have come at even-strength or while shorthanded.
There remains some intriguing upside with this player, especially if he maintains his space in the top six moving forward. He skated alongside Phil Kessel in this one
Freddie Andersen has been an unmitigated tire fire during much of the fantasy hockey playoffs. Monday night’s games represented either the first or second week of the Championship matchups. Freddie owners were praying to the Hockey Gods to get their number one netminder back.
The Leafs took on a flailing Panthers squad with hopes of righting the ship. They scored two goals on their first four shots and chased Samuel Montembeault. The first frame in this one has been clipped and sent to Webster’s Dictionary to be placed next to ‘firewagon hockey’. It wrapped with the Leafs up 4-2.
If either coach gave their dressing rooms an earful after 20 minutes to get back to some tight-checking affair, it didn’t work. The final result was a 7-5 victory for Toronto. Andersen stopped 31 of 36 – not exactly the result that was hoped for.
John Tavares owners weren’t mad though. The first-year Leaf scored four goals for the first time in his 10-year career. His 45 goals on the season trail only Alex Ovechkin. His 86 points are one behind a career-high.
Not a bad first act.
A trio of goals plus one for the road.
— NHL (@NHL) March 26, 2019
Jonathan Huberdeau tallied two goals in this one to give him 19 points in his previous 10 contests. He’s just three goals away from setting career-highs in goals, assists, points, shots, power-play goals, power-play points.. you get the point.
If the Leafs-Panthers game was a barnburner, the Bruins and Lightning were must-see-tv. The top two teams in the Eastern Conference met in Florida on Monday and got at it.
Steven Stamkos scored two first period goals sandwiched between a Brad Marchand tally. The Bruins then scored three second period goals to head into the final 20 minutes up 4-2. Seems like a fairly safe lead, no?
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) March 26, 2019
That tied things with seven minutes left to play. All that remained was an Anthony Cirelli tally with under a minute remaining to steal win number 59. That places them as the third-most prolific team in NHL history. One win away from the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, and three shy of the 1995-96 Red Wings.
Granted, the Bolts have had the benefit of overtime and the shootout but their 53 regulation victories would still put them as a top-15 club. They have five games left on the schedule to push for history.
Stamkos added two assists in this one as well. He’s now up to 93 points on the season, and the Lightning boasts three players with at least 90 (Stamkos, Kucherov, and Brayden Point). It's been seven long years since Stammer has been in the 90-point zone. It's good to have him back.
The Bruins top line each contributed two points in this one. Despite the loss, that trio is as deadly as they come.
Another start and another victory for Jordan Binnington as the Blues defeated the Golden Knights 3-1 on Monday. The 25-year-old stopped 24 of 25 to improve his record to 21-4-1 with a 0.930 save percentage. This is some crazy mumbo jumbo that going on in Missouri these days.
I’m up on back-to-back ramblings this week, so expect a bit of dive into Binnginton tomorrow attempting to evaluate him heading into drafts next fall.
The Kings left Ilya Kovalchuk at home to work with the skills coach but brought their game with them to Calgary. LA knocked off the Western Conference leaders 3-0 with Jack Campbell grabbing the shutout with an impressive 42 stops.
Campbell hadn’t posted a victory since February 5th, but that’s not such a damning portrayal of him as it is the Kings in general. The 27-year-old has outplayed Jonathan Quick despite receiving some of the worst run support in the league.
Campbell: 8-13-1 0.926 SV%
Quick: 15-21-6 0.891 SV%
It’s not as if the Kings are throwing softballs to Campbell. His last five starts have been against Calgary, Winnipeg, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Boston.
Who knows where the Kings go from here (they’re hoping right into welcoming Jack Hughes), but the crease situation is a clear as mud heading into 2019-20.
Rasmus Dahlin grabbed a primary assist at even-strength to improve his total to 41 points in 75 contests. That ties him with Bobby Orr for the second most points by a U19 blueliner in the history of the NHL. He trails only his coach, Phil Housley’s 66.
It’s been a remarkable season for the youngster. I’m not sure many people will be betting against him breaking the 50-point plateau next season. Maybe we should be talking about 60?
The Wild are digging themselves a hole. With five games left on the schedule, they sit two points out of the final wild-card spot. They’ve also played more games than Arizona and Colorado – the two teams they trail.
To give some positivity to the realm, I’m quite enjoying the trio of Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin and Ryan Donato. Those three have been lining up together at even-strength and on the team’s second power-play unit.
All three possess decent multi-category upsides.
Tyler Seguin and Radek Faksa each scored two goals as the Stars beat up the Jets 5-2. Dallas was the better team in this one – which unfortunately has been something of a common theme for Winnipeg’s opponents of late.
Connor Hellebuyck made 32 stops – a few bell ringers to keep this one ‘close’. Jacob Trouba continues to be leaned on heavily on a backend that sorely misses Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey. Trouba logged a game-high 26:37 while chipping in an assist, two shots, two hits, and two blocks.
Of note, Byfuglien took part in the morning skate on Monday. He was wearing a non-contact sweater, but it’s a good sign. He’s apparently closer to returning than Morrissey, but it’s difficult to imagine the coaching staff rushing either back. Perhaps a game or two before the playoffs would be ideal, but they need them at full health for the second season.
Despite controlling much of the play, the Sharks continued their recent slide by falling to the lowly Red Wings 3-2 in the late affair. That’s six straight losses for San Jose – four of which came at the hands of non-playoff teams. They're missing Joe Pavelski in a big way, and we haven't heard much on his condition.
Brent Burns was a minus-one but peppered nine shots on goal over 29 minutes.
Don't look now, but recently signed college free-agent Taro Hirose has four assists in his four NHL games while bouncing around the bottom six. He's been seeing a few seconds of second unit deployment as well. The 22-year-old tied for the NCAA lead with 50 points in 36 games this season, so he knows how to find the scoresheet.
He'll be an interesting one to watch in camp next fall to see if he can plant himself a secure job in the top nine and maybe even push for top six opportunities.
Some prospect talk:
Tis the season for university squads to say farewell to their top prospects. Most schools hope and expect to hold onto a real asset for two seasons – three if they’re lucky. But every now and again, we see the one-and-done kid.
That’s exactly what happened on Monday when Flyers’ top prospect, Joel Farabee signed his entry-level contract. The most recent 14th overall selection is expected to rehab an injury in Philadelphia before heading to the AHL for the Phantom’s playoff run. His NHL deal will kick in next fall.
Farabee had a tremendous freshman campaign, taking home Hockey East Rookie of the Year honours after producing 36 points in 37 contests. That mark was the third highest for any first-year skater. He also led all freshman in shots (131) and shorthanded tallies (3).
Making these totals even more impressive was the fact they were accomplished on a Boston University squad that struggled for most of the season.
Those in keeper leagues should have Farabee firmly on their radar. The 19-year-old is already an accomplished two-way player which should allow him to see NHL ice quickly. His upside screams productive, top-six winger.
— BU Men's Hockey (@TerrierHockey) March 3, 2019
Fabbro signing in Nashville is big. Rumours had long swirled that the 17th overall selection from 2016 may consider playing his senior season and opt for unrestricted free agency rather than attempt to climb the gauntlet that is the Predators’ backend. Nashville is sure happy he didn’t.
Oettinger, the 27th overall pick in 2017 wrapped up a junior season where he stopped 92.6 percent of the shots he faced over 36 games. He’s the clear option for the Stars long term and has definite upside.
Krys, a 2016 second-rounder is an offensive, left-shot defender who will try and navigate the Hawks’ depth chart. He needs a good amount of seasoning.
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