Giving up five goals to St. Louis in the opener wasn’t extremely concerning for the Penguins.  But ten goals to Chicago in game two?  I believe that qualifies as a mess.  Obviously I’m not going to panic in regards to the Pittsburgh season outlook; I’d actually try to trade for Matt Murray if their owner is panicking.  We’ll have to wait a few weeks to develop a bigger sample size, especially because this spot was perfect for the Blackhawks, but maybe they’re better than I gave them credit for.  Let’s take a look at the eight games from Thursday night and see what developed:

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The Boston Bruins returned to the playoffs on the back of their first line.  I would argue that Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were the best trio in the league.  Injuries hurt them immensely in their first round loss to the Senators but thankfully for them, they get a chance to run it back.  Boston’s roster is almost identical to last season’s except for some young players that are ready to make a full time leap.  They don’t have many interesting pieces from a fantasy perspective but they have a few elite options and some top end prospects.  Let’s take a look at what they’re working with:

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We’ve been talking up Jaccob Slavin over the past couple of weeks on the podcast as someone who can help your team if you’re in need of assists. The increased workload as the season has progressed has push Slavin onto the fringe but his playoff schedule was enough to justify grabbing him. Well, if you were fortunate enough to do so, he just started off the fantasy playoffs with the game of his career. Slavin scored more goals than he had in the first 65 games of the season, registering his first career hat trick and added an assist in the 8-4(!) win over the Islanders. Look, despite this game, it’s not going to be anything incredible down the stretch, but Slavin just had a five game assist streak. Add in that he’s +18 and as mentioned above, the Hurricanes have more games left than anyone else the rest of the way, and I’d grab Slavin if you need defenseman help. Here’s what else happened on a randomly busy Monday night around the NHL:

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Jeff Carter has been a top 100 fantasy player for almost ten years running. His high floor of 25 goals and 30 assists with great shots made him a staple of the early rounds. That said, I don’t think anyone saw this type of upside from him at 32 years old. Carter had one of the best games of this season with two goals, two assists, four shots and two PIM in the 6-3 win over the Panthers on Thursday. This puts him one goal off the league lead and into the top ten in points. Carter is playing like a top 20 player and I see no reason for that to drastically slow down for the rest of the season. Sure, his shooting percentage will probably drop, but his workload is conducive to top end production. Next season, I’m not sure he’ll even be in my top 50 but the stability shall remain. Here’s what else happened the last two nights:

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Brad Marchand was one of the biggest breakout players in 2015-16 scoring 37 goals drastically increasing his shot rate to 3.5 per game while adding 90 PIM. While all of those numbers are taking a slight step back this season, he’s improving the weaknesses in his game to become a well rounded player. Marchand returned to his old ways this weekend with three goals on six shots over two games to give him 12+22 on the season. He’s only six assists from a career high and we’ve just reached the halfway point. Marchand also has nine power play points which is already a career high. Instead of being a three or four category stud (depending on plus-minus), he’s become a big plus in five categories with the potential for all six if the plus-minus improves. These totals have him 15th in the player rater among forwards and that shouldn’t come as a shock coming off a top ten season. It might not be exactly what you wanted but it’s been excellent across the board. Here’s what else I saw around the league this weekend:

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Evander Kane has been a polarizing player for years. The talent is noticeable on a regular basis but inconsistency and off-ice issues have plagued him during his career. Kane started off the season slowly but right now, he’s on quite the hot streak. In Tuesday’s game against the Red Wings, Kane scored two goals on four shots and added a fight for good measure. That gives Kane 7 goals and an assist in the last 9 games with elite shots and strong PIM. Given that he’s an elite option in PIM and SOG with the potential for strong goals, I ranked Kane in my top 100 going into the season because the player raters always love him for his contributions across all categories. We’re starting to see why yet Kane is still available in 59% of leagues. He’s carrying the third line for the Sabres right now and the change in role has been a good thing for him. It allows him to have the puck on his stick more often and his linemates do a great job cycling the puck. I’d definitely own him in all 12’ers and I have been rolling him in some 10 man leagues as well. Here’s what else happened around the league on Tuesday night:

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On a Thursday night that lacked in big performances in comparison to recent weeks, Tyler Toffoli’s night was probably the best. In the dominating 4-1 win over the Red Wings, Toffoli found the back of the net twice on three shots and added an assist with two penalty minutes. That brings Toffoli’s totals to 7 goals and 12 assists in 29 games with almost three shots per game and an elite +14. It’s a significant decrease in goals for a 23 year old who buried 31 last year. Toffoli was one of the most polarizing players in preseason, at least to me because I had him ranked much lower than other experts (97th overall, highest rank was 29th, nobody else lower than 69th). It’s nice to see the assist rate and shot rate up and apparently he’ll be able to post a +20 or better every season of his career but Toffoli will need more games like this where he finds the back of the net to come anywhere near his 59th overall ADP. Can it happen? With the minutes his line is getting and with how much the Kings depend on his line for offense, definitely. I’d be a bit surprised if it happened though because the goals will probably come at the expense of assists and the penalty minutes are non-existent. Toffoli is a great example of a player who is better in real life than fantasy. That’s not to say he’s a dud in fantasy, he’s a top 100 player, but Toffoli should be mentioned among the best young snipers in the game more frequently than he is. Let’s take a look at what else happened around the NHL on Wednesday and Thursday night:

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There have been plenty of defensemen this season who have frustrated their owners due to lack of performance. A player who looked on the verge of a breakout after last season was Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres agreed with that take giving him a 5 year deal and early dividends were not there. Risto was accumulating assists but not much else. However, things are starting to change and it’s no coincidence that it has occurred when Jack Eichel returned to the lineup. On Tuesday night, Ristolainen scored his first goal of the season, an amazing slapshot in overtime, and added two assists and three shots in the 4-3 OT win against the Oilers. That gives Ristolainen 1 goal and 6 assists in the 5 games with Eichel in the lineup. He played almost 30 minutes in each of the last two games showing how important he is to the Sabres depleted blue line and with how the top power play unit moves the puck, I expect Ristolainen to be a #2 defenseman the rest of the way with the upside to be a #1. Let’s take a look at what else developed over the last two nights.

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A week ago, I said this about Steve Mason: “Michal Neuvirth is out for over a month so it’s going to be Mason’s show. Perhaps the extra starts will help him get into a flow but he’s certainly in the ‘desperate for starts’ category for now.” After Tuesday’s big game, it’s been three strong starts out of four. Mason made 38 saves in the 3-1 win against the Panthers and if not for a horrible Matt Read turnover with less than two minutes left, he would have been a good bet for a shutout. Since Neuvirth went down, Mason has saved 107 of 115 shots which is more than solid. I picked up Mason for this start in multiple leagues and for now, I’d definitely grab him in 12’ers. He’s less than 20% owned at the time of this writing so odds are he’s available in your league. It may not be all peaches and cream but the volume alone has its value and the Flyers have played much better in their last five games. Here’s what else I saw on the short Tuesday slate:

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During last season, it looked like Eric Staal’s career was on a steep decline. While he’s still not close to the player he was in his prime, the 39 point season he had in 83 games in 2015-16 looks to be a thing of the past. Staal moved to Minnesota this offseason on a three year deal to center the first line and it’s no surprise that Bruce Boudreau has helped revitalize his career. On Thursday night, Staal led the way for the Wild scoring a goal and two assists with six shots on goal being +3 in the Wild’s 4-2 road win over the Penguins. That boosts Staal’s totals to 5 goals and 6 assists in 12 games with almost 3 shots per game. He’s shown an amazing ability to stay healthy throughout his career leading me to believe he has a pretty good chance to reach 60 points again. As the frequent readers know, I’m a big fan of the Wild’s chances of success, at least from a regular season standpoint, and Staal is a big factor in that. For now, Staal should be considered a borderline top 100 player who should remain a clear hold for the entire season; I would not try to sell high on him. Let’s take a look at what happened around the league the last two nights:

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