I was all in on the Tampa Bay Lightning again this year picking them to make the Stanley Cup Finals.  Obviously they don’t crown champions 3 weeks into the season but Tampa has started off incredibly well.  They’ve had some depth players step up but at the end of the day, their studs have been incredible.  The top two players in points in the NHL by a wide margin are both Lightning players with Steven Stamkos.  Tampa Bay blitzed Pittsburgh 7-1 on Saturday and Stamkos led the way with a goal, three assists and four shots on goal.  That gives Stamkos a whopping 17 points (3+14) in 9 games.  Stamkos was a player who consistently dropped in my drafts into the third round and while it’s too early to celebrate given Stamkos’ injury, it’s been the dream start.  Fingers crossed that he stays healthy because Stammer could be a top 10, maybe even top 5 player.  Let’s take a look at what else happened over the weekend:

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Minnesota played an excellent game on Thursday booking an impressive 5-2 win over the Blackhawks.  Sadly for them, it came at a brutal cost.  Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter both left the game injured and were already ruled out for Saturday’s game.  Coyle was hit in the back of the leg with a shot while Nino looked to suffer an ankle injury that could cost him multiple weeks.  Hopefully you have an injured reserve spot for both of these guys but Nino definitely should be held through the injury.  With Mikael Granlund out as well, the Wild are getting extremely thin.  So who gets a boost?  Jason Zucker (1+1, 5 SOG) becomes must-own in 12’ers while Chris Stewart (2G, 5 SOG) moves back on to the streaming radar.  We’ll have a clearer picture tomorrow but this is a big blow to the Wild and fantasy teams in the short term.  Here’s what else happened the last two nights around the league:

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We have actual hockey to talk about!  After Reid gets me to voice my displeasure with the USMNT for a couple minutes, we get to some teams who have had hot starts, notably the Vegas Golden Knights.  After running down the list of surprises and disappointments, we zoom in and look at individual players who have stood out, positively or negatively, in the early going and how that’s impacting our fantasy decisions going forward.  We wrap things up with a preview of Thursday’s games and bring back The Three Point Challenge!  Be sure to make your picks in the comments section below.  All of that and more on the latest edition of the Razzball Hockey Podcast!

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All everyone talked about in the preseason was wondering how bad Vegas was going to be in their expansion year.  Sure, it’s only two games, but boy did they have some excitement.  On Friday, Dallas was dominating Vegas in their franchise opener but was only up 1-0 in the third.  Down goes Ben Bishop which opened up the door for James Neal to give the people of Las Vegas some relief in an awful time.  Neal scored two goals in the third period to propel the Golden Knights to victory.  To top off the weekend, Neal scored another goal, this time the game winner in overtime, to give Vegas two wins to start the season.  Neal is still available in over 40% of leagues and if you are in one of them, grab him.  The shot rate is going to be elite along with solid penalty minutes and goals.  At least for now, I’m not overly concerned about the top guys on Vegas having bad plus-minuses either.  Let’s take a look at what else happened in the first (long) weekend of the NHL season:

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While the Razzball Hockey committee of one didn’t love the Patrick Marleau contract, we did like Marleau for this season in fantasy.  Like the majority of his teammates, his season debut went extremely well.  Marleau scored twice in his first game as a Maple Leaf registering five shots on goal.  His linemates were inconsistent but whether he’s with Matthews or Kadri, it doesn’t really matter.  Marleau scored 27 goals last season and I don’t see why he can’t get back to that number.  Despite ranking him as a top 150 player, he’s still available in over 50% of ESPN leagues, so grab him now.  Here’s what else happened around the NHL on opening night:

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It’s opening night!  After looking at some recent injuries, signings, and demotions, Reid and I finish our season preview by looking at the Western Conference over/unders and prop bets.  Lines also came out for the Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Norris and Vezina Trophies so we look at all of the available options and pick some bets where we see fit.  We close by previewing opening night along with a couple games from Thursday and Friday night.  All of that and more in the latest edition of the Razzball Hockey Podcast!

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When talking about the Carolina Hurricanes schedule in my Playoff Breakdown piece, I said the following: “The Godfather of playoff schedules, the Hurricanes are going to be great on volume alone. They don’t have three games in three nights like Detroit but there’s a pile of back to backs here. There has to be with 17(!!!) games in 28 nights to close the season. That’s two more games than anyone else in the league. Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask should be monsters in the playoffs while Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm will be among the best streamers in the league.” And that’s me quoting me! All of this had held true except for Rask being mediocre. Not bad. Skinner has been the best of the bunch and that continued on Tuesday night. Skinner had two goals and an assist with five shots in the 5-3 loss to the Wild. He’s been hotter than a pistol bringing his totals to 35 goals and 26 assists on the season. With the elite shot rate, Skinner is pushing towards a top 50 player going forward. The team around him is getting much better and Skinner is nearing his prime as he turns 25 in May. I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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Jake Guentzel was on an absolute tear before he suffered a concussion after a hit from Rasmus Ristolainen. He was owned by most of Razzball Nation as we got on top of it before Guentzel broke out. Thankfully, Guentzel recovered quickly and returned on Friday night. He scored a goal on three shots in his return and then repeated that performance on Sunday. The Penguins have a decent schedule this week with four games, including a back to back on Saturday and Sunday to close the regular season. You can wait a day since the Pens don’t play tonight but I’d look to grab Guentzel again if you cut him when he went down. The minutes and role are right back to where they were pre-concussion so I’m looking for Guentzel to finish the season strong before he contributes to a potential playoff run for Pittsburgh. Here’s what else happened on the penultimate weekend of the season:

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The Philadelphia Flyers have nothing to play for besides being a spoiler. Their season is effectively over but they basically ended their division rivals on Thursday. The Flyers blitzed the Islanders on Thursday going up 5-0 in the first period and winning 6-3. With the Bruins, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Hurricanes all winning, the Islanders are toast. There were many players who stood out for the Flyers in this game but the one with the biggest fantasy impact is Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds had a Gordie Howe hat trick and then some totaling a goal, two assists, five penalty minutes and four shots. The goal was Simmonds’ 30th of the season allowing him to reach the 30 goal plateau for the second straight season. With four straight seasons of 28+ goals and massive penalty minutes, we know who Simmonds is in those departments. The shots are solid and the PPP are elite but there are some concerns. One, he’s been a minus player every season in Philly with this year being his worst ever, a -20. The other issue is that he’s never topped 31 assists. I thought this season he would set a new career high but he’s not coming close. So where does that leave us? I had Simmonds in my top 25 last season which turned out to be too high. I love Simmonds for what he is but it’s not worth taking him in the top of the third round when he’s only getting 55-60 points. He’ll certainly be in my top 50 but since he’s on the verge of turning 29, my hopes of Simmonds taking another step seem incredibly unlikely. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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The season is rapidly approaching the end so every development is increasing important! Reid joins me once again to look at a wide array of topics. We start off with an injury recap focusing on Steven Stamkos’ imminent return, whether Zach Parise or Patrick Sharp are worth drafting next season and if Reto Berra is worth streaming. From there, we hit on the developing rivalry between the Flames and Kings (thanks Matthew Tkachuk!), where Nathan MacKinnon should be ranked next season and the bevy of college signings. What do we make of Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser, Tyson Jost and Charlie McAvoy now and in the future? What can we expect from undrafted college signings? All of the above is discussed before we preview Thursday’s slate and make our Three Point Challenge picks. Be sure to make your pick in the comments section below. All of that and more on the latest edition of the Razzball Hockey Podcast brought to you by Seatgeek and Draft!

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