Throughout the season, J.T. Miller was one of my favorite streamers. The former first round pick who will play on the North American team in the World Cup of Hockey had 22 goals and 21 assists in the regular season with a solid plus-minus and penalty minutes; it was only his lack of shots that kept him from being a hold all year. Miller had his first big playoff game on Saturday dishing three assists and adding a shot and two PIM in the 4-2 win over the Penguins. There’s upside for a better year next season (he just turned 23) so I’d look to take Miller with one of my last picks in drafts in the late summer / early fall. Here’s what else I saw around the league this weekend:
Lightning 5, Red Wings 2 – This game was 2-2 in the third period before Tyler Johnson took over and scored twice. He finished the game with 2+2 with three shots showing how he scored 72 points last season and was a star in the playoffs. He’ll at least be in my top 50 next year because I’m counting on a bounceback. Jonathan Drouin tallied an assist with three shots and two PIM playing over 19 minutes; clearly Jonathna Cooper doesn’t hold any grudges for his holdout. Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov each had a goal and an assist as the Red Wings continued to have no answer for that line. Ben Bishop did what he’s been doing stopping 30 of 32 shots in the win. As of now, I’d think he’ll be my #4 goalie in the preseason rankings next year. Dylan Larkin scored a goal and added fourteen penalty minutes since he was involved in the nonsense in the last minute of the game.
Panthers 3, Islanders 1 – Roberto Luongo was in prime form stopping 41 of 42 shots. Obviously every goalie is important in the playoffs but Luongo even more so than most. The second line was great again with Reilly Smith leading the way, scoring a goal and an assist with two shots as he makes a name for himself in the playoffs. Another strong offensive talent that Boston dumped for somebody worse. Nick Bjugstad also had 1+1 with 3 shots and is another guy I suspect will bounce back next season. Dmitry Kulikov has stepped up in this series and had his best game in game two with a goal and an assist with four shots. In the three games, Kulikov is +5 which is terrific. John Tavares has showed why he’s a superstar in this series with a goal on nine shots; the Panthers have virtually no shot of stopping him.
Blackhawks 3, Blues 2 – Crazy game with the Blackhawks scoring with 4 seconds left in the second to tie the game, then get two goals in the last five minutes to seal it (St. Louis scored with 2 seconds left in the game). Duncan Keith scored a goal and an assist with four shots playing over 31 minutes; it’s a joke that this guy is playing already after that scummy high stick to Charlie Coyle. Patrick Kane had two assists with four shots to support Corey Crawford, who had a strong outing with 26 saves on 28 shots. The STL line took the lead in the second for STL as Vladimir Tarasenko scored from Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera. David Backes dished an assist with four shots to keep up his strong run while Kevin Shattenkirk scored a goal on four shots. There’s some talk he could be traded in the offseason but regardless of where he is, I expect a bounceback from Shatt Deuces.
Predators 3, Ducks 2 – This was a game of balance with nobody on either team getting more than a point. Of note, James Neal scored a goal on nine shots as he brought his A game. Pekka Rinne surprisingly played well stopping 27 of 29 shots. Ryan Getzlaf scored a goal on six shots playing over 25 minutes. Hampus Lindholm had an assist with two shots and is somebody I’m going to want as a late pick for defensive depth next year.
Rangers 4, Penguins 2 – Besides Miller, the Rangers got a big game from Derick Brassard scoring a goal and adding two assists going +4. Monster game. The strong player for the Rangers stepped up with Keith Yandle, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello scoring the other goals. Yandle’s value for next year will depend a lot on where he ends up in free agency. Dan Girardi was out due to a “whole body injury” which is code for he sucks and they need an excuse to scratch him. Henrik Lundqvist was fine to start after the high stick to the eye and was his usual self stopping 29 of 31 shots. Phil Kessel scored the goals for Pittsburgh on eight shots, both from Nick Bonino. The fairy dust shook off Jeff Zatkoff as he allowed 4 goals on 28 shots.
Capitals 4, Flyers 1 – Braden Holtby was a beast stopping 41 of 42 shots in the win. On the other end, Steve Mason is going to be on lowlight reels forever after allowing a goal from center ice. He allowed 4 goals on 23 shots and if I was a Flyers fan, I’d hope they go to Michal Neuvirth in game 3. Nicklas Backstrom tallied a goal and two assists with three shots; the Flyers have no answer for their first line with Sean Couturier out with a shoulder sprain. John Carlson looks like 2014-15 Carlson again with a goal and an assist with three shots and two PIM. Marcus Johansson dished two assists for the second straight game despite a lack of minutes. Alex Ovechkin scored a goal on five shots while T.J. Oshie got on the scoresheet with an assist. Jakub Voracek had the lone goal for the Flyers from Brayden Schenn and Shayne Gostisbehere. Schenn is going to be a very tough player to rank next year since the majority of his value comes from playing on the first line.
Stars 2, Wild 1 – The Wild finally got their first goal of the series with 7 minutes left in the third period but it wasn’t enough. This series is as lopsided as it gets right now and I don’t see an answer for the Wild. Kari Lehtonen was strong with 25 saves on 26 shots as was Devan Dubnyk, who had 26 saves on 28 shots. Jamie Benn scored a goal on five shots while Tyler Seguin returned with a shot. I honestly don’t have much to talk about in this series, it’s ugly.
Sharks 2, Kings 1 – Just when everyone forgets about the Sharks, they go into Los Angeles and win the first two on the road. It’s not a fluke either, they have been impressive doing it. That’s what happens when the Kings try to get by on two quality defensemen and four guys who belong on the bottom pair at best. Martin Jones is getting his revenge with 26 saves on 27 shots. Joe Pavelski was terrific again with a goal and an assist with three shots. Brent Burns also did Brent Burns things with an assist and four shots.
Blues 3, Blackhawks 2 – Huge win for the Blues getting a road victory after being down going into the third. Brian Elliott put together the performance of the playoffs to this point with 44 saves on 46 shots, including 22 saves on 23 shots in the second period to keep his team in it. Robby Fabbri had two assists and a shot despite playing only 9 minutes. He’s going to be one of, if not my favorite late round pick next year. Vladimir Tarasenko was strong again with an assist and seven shots while Jaden Schwartz scored the game winner with Patrick Kane (assist) in the penalty box. David Backes kept the point streak alive as well with an assist.
Red Wings 2, Lightning 0 – The Wings were all over Tampa and it looked like they would never beat Ben Bishop for the longest time. Andreas Athanasiou broke the seal with a goal on four shots. I think he needs to get more minutes because he’s been buzzing for a while now. Henrik Zetterberg scored a fluky goal, his first goal in a month, on six shots with two PIM. Petr Mrazek got the start and had an easy 16 save shutout.
Islanders 4, Panthers 3 (OT) – Thomas Hickey of all people scored the overtime winner showing how terrific and unpredictable overtime hockey is. John Tavares is hotter than a pistol with two more assists and five shots. Kyle Okposo also had two assists while Ryan Pulock became the first rookie defenseman to score for the Islanders in an eternity with 1+1 with two SOG. Aleksander Barkov was great with a goal on nine shots while Reilly Smith is also on fire with a goal and two assists with five shots.
Predators 3, Ducks 2 – Good start for my Razzball Playoff Bracket. Sigh. My Stanley Cup winner has lost the first two games of their series at home. Craig Smith was strong with a goal and an assist with three shots. Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi each tallied two assists in the victory. Andrew Cogliano was the bright spot for the Ducks with a goal and an assist with two shots.
That’s all for now guys. My next set of daily notes / playoff recaps will be on Wednesday. I’ll have an article tomorrow on something, I just haven’t decided yet on what I want to write about. As always, feel free to leave any questions and comments below. Take care everyone!