In my preseason rankings, I wrote the following about Chris Kreider: "He’s good for 20+20 with strong penalty minutes but I’m not expecting much more even though he has a ton of potential." What I meant to include was 20+20 at the halfway point! For years, Kreider has been talked about as an elite talent but somebody who hasn't been able to put it together. Like a few other players on the Rangers, Kreider has seemingly put it all together at this point and the results are outstanding. In the 6-2 win over the Avalanche on Saturday, Kreider scored a hat trick on six shots extending his point streak to 4 games (8 total points). In 33 games, Kreider now has 15+14 with 19 PIM and 91 shots. Add in Kreider being +6 and you're looking at a contributor in all categories. At this point, we're looking at a guy who should push towards the top 50 at the end of the season and going forward; he's still only 25 years old. Let's take a look at what happened to close 2016 and the opening day of 2017:
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.
When Johnny Gaudreau underwent surgery for his finger injury, the expectation was that he was going to miss six weeks. Flames fans and fantasy owners had to be thrilled when he came back on Sunday in less than three weeks. The team did surprisingly well in the 10 games Gaudreau missed, mostly due to Chad Johnson between the pipes, but they didn't score than 3 goals in any game during that stretch. That changed in a big way Sunday night against a strong Ducks team. The Flames scored a whopping 8 goals beating the Ducks 8-3 with Gaudreau scoring the opener and adding an assist later on. He was finally playing well before his injury so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. We know that he's a top end player but the impact of his return will be felt throughout the lineup. More on those guys later in the Sunday section, let's get to the games!
It certainly hasn't been consistent on a game to game basis but T.J. Oshie's overall production can't be denied. He had his best game of the season on Wednesday with two goals and two assists (one shorthanded, two power play points) with three shots in Washington's 7-1 beatdown of the Penguins. That brings Oshie's totals on the season to 8 goals, 2 assists, 10 PIM, +10, 6 STP (4 PPP, 2 SHP) and 37 shots in 16 games. The big games have been there; 10 of Oshie's points are in his 4 multi-point games while he was 2 in the other 12. If he starts to put some games together, which I expect with the Capitals power play due for a hot streak, Oshie owners will get a guy who easily settles in the top 75 with the potential to push the top 50 if the plus-minus keeps progressing. Here's what else I saw around the league the last two nights:
We’ve made it! There’s four games on the slate tonight, all of which are rivalry games. And I don’t mean fake rivalries that NBCSN uses every Wednesday! I’m going to look at a few different things in this post. Please, blog, may I have some more?
It's been quite a while since we've seen a shutout streak like the Blues are on. On Friday, Brian Elliott had one of the easiest shutouts of the season making 15 saves in the 4-0 win over the Canucks. The next day, Jake Allen recorded the fourth consecutive Blues shutout, stopping all 32 Capitals shots in the 4-0 win. Both have been outstanding this season and should be started every game the rest of the way. Get them in your lineup every time they start; the Blues will be highly motivated down the stretch to get home ice throughout the Western Conference Playoffs. Here's what else I saw around the league this weekend:
It’s that time of year again. You’re in or you’re out. You’re contending in hockey or you’re mock drafting for baseball. You’re hunkered at the computer reading advanced stats or you’re naked and running crazily among the spring daffodils. Why are you naked? Who knows, it just seems to fit the picture. You’re either getting outta my car or into my dreams. Okay, this is now getting weird. Let’s get to the point.
On Wednesday night here, I recommended Jamie McGinn as a streamer in his first game as a Duck, saying "early indications are that he’s going to play with Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry tonight. I like his chances to get a point if that’s the case." Well McGinn on both Wednesday on Thursday. On Wednesday, McGinn scored a goal on four shots against the Canadiens. He came back on Thursday scoring a goal and an assist with two shots against the Coyotes. This is the best opportunity that McGinn has had in his career so it's nice to see him produce right off the bat. This should help him keep this role putting him right on the fringe of 12'ers with how well the Ducks are playing. At the least, he's a top end streamer from this point moving forward. Here's what else I saw around the league the last two nights:
Today is the NHL trade deadline (more on that later!) but there’s a good chance that the biggest name that moves went yesterday. After being with Carolina since they drafted him in 2003, Eric Staal was traded away from his brother Jordan to join up with his brother Marc for the New York Rangers. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Marv: I wanted to start out this week’s article by not mentioning the Superbowl. We’re talking hockey here so I want to talk about chilly ice rinks, sticks, pucks, highlight reel goals and of course plenty of PIMs. The only thing I will say about football is now that it has finished, fantasy hockey participation will regain some momentum. All of a sudden there are more trade offers coming in, trades being accepted, lineups being updated and commentators (good and bad) back in full swing. Now I push trading and waiver wire activity a lot, but even if you’ve fallen off the wagon and are trying to claw your way back into playoffs, it’s never too late to update!