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PHT presents: Fantasy Festivus

Ah, the holidays: a time of lists, reckless spending, and themed posts.

It’s time to dust off that aluminum pole from the crawl space, gather friends and family, and celebrate Fantasy Festivus, created by Frank Costanza of “Seinfeld” fame. For more on the sacred event, check out the video at the bottom of this post.

Actually, let’s cut out the feats of strength (maybe check this post for something similar to that?) and go straight to the good stuff: an airing of fantasy hockey grievances.

(“I got a lot of problems with you people.”)

The Montreal Canadiens, in general

Apologies to Phillip Danault, a former Blackhawks forward who’s clearly carving out his niche in Montreal … but it’s not the GREATEST sign when he’s leading your team in scoring, and with 21 points in that.

Claude Julien is a strong tactical coach, yet you could argue that some of his preferences put scorers at a disadvantage. If that’s not enough, GM Marc Bergevin has also stacked the deck against Julien, in part by removing fleeter, puck-moving defensemen for rough-and-tumble types who tend to clog up the works.

Some of it’s bad luck, no doubt.

  • We’re getting to the point where it might be time to worry about Max Pacioretty, whose puck luck has been especially troubling. He’s only connected on 5.8 percent of his shots on goal (eight goals on a ridiculous 137 SOG) so far this season.
  • Injuries haven’t been kind, with Shea Weber sidelined indefinitely and Carey Price missing an extended period of time.

Still, there are elements of these struggles that are self-inflicted.

It’s still frustrating to see Alex Galchenyuk average just 15:03 TOI per game, being that he’s tied for third in scoring with Brendan Gallagher, another useful forward logging less than 16 minutes per night.

Julien might get angered by turnovers and other mistakes made by offensive-minded players who sometimes fail at trying to make something happen, but what about all of the chances that never happen with more modestly skilled players? This is a frustrating lesson in hockey’s version of “You need to spend money to make money.”

If you’re in an auction league, hopefully you didn’t budget too much for Montreal.

More grievances

  • Brent Burns‘ slow start – Now with six goals and 22 points, Burns has mostly worked his way out of an early-season slump, although he still might not be delivering at the level many expected if they used a third, second, or even first-round pick on the bearded one. But, oh, that start. A guy who scores like a prolific sniper took until Nov. 24, his 21st game of 2017-18, to finally score a goal.

If you traded Burns while he was really slumping, then an extra lump of coal. If you took advantage of his tough times in an advantageous trade, then you’re smart and possibly a good listener.

  • Erik Karlsson kinda sorta being human – He’s still awesome, and arguably still the best defenseman in the NHL, but Karlsson’s struggled this season. Maybe the whole “missing part of his ankle” thing limits his scoring?
  • Dustin Byfuglien is like those blueliners, only hurt and thus unable to redeem himself.
  • Misc. underachievers – Whether it be because of injuries, inconsistency, or both, Ryan Getzlaf, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson, and quite a few others have disappointed us. Shame.
  • Matt Duchene – C’mon, Duchene. He’ll start producing more regularly but (fidgets like an impatient child).
  • Especially painful plus/minus guys – Look, I agree that plus/minus is a really weak stat, yet most fantasy leagues still use it.

With that in mind, some stars are hurting. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has more minuses (-25) than points (19), sporting the NHL’s worst minus. You can summarize Jack Eichel being on an island in many ways by noting his -13 rating, despite all of his rage and efforts.

Again, you can mostly chalk this stuff up to being on bad teams and also power-play proficiency not helping that category, but it still stings in fantasy.

  • The Carolina Hurricanes falling short of the hype – Year after year, this team’s youth entices preseason hype like a puck-based siren call. So far, fantasy owners have been better off filling their ears with beeswax. Scott Darling‘s been a disappointment in particular, going 8-10-6 with an ugly .896 save percentage.

***

So, consider that an abridged list of grievances; we’d be here all day if every grievance needed to be named.

Surely there are others who’ve burned you this season, however, so shake your fist (or Festivus-themed aluminium pole?) at anyone I missed in the comments. Also feel free to celebrate feats of strength if you’re in a merrier mood.

You don’t even need to pin George’s dad to share your own thoughts. It’s a Festivus miracle!

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Spezza bounces back after healthy scratch; another injury for Predators

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Player Of The Night: Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars

On Monday night the Dallas Star made veteran forward Jason Spezza a healthy scratch as he was mired in a lengthy goal-scoring drought. The Stars wanted to see more from him, and they knew he could provide more.

When he stepped back into the lineup on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings he did exactly that by scoring a pair of goals in the Stars’ 4-2 win.

Even though Spezza had been struggling to put points on the board he was still doing an excellent job when it came to driving possession and generating shots, as well as the fact the team was outscoring its opponents when he was on the ice. His ice-time has been cut significantly this season, but he was doing enough to suggest that it was only a matter of time until he got back into the goal column.

He snapped out of it in a big way on Tuesday.

Another big injury for Nashville

The Nashville Predators are already playing without two of their top forwards with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson sidelined.

They lost another one on Tuesday night in their 1-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights when Ryan Johanson had to leave the game after taking a high hit from William Carrier.

Johanson left the game and did not return. There was no penalty called on the play.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette had no update on Johansen after the game and said they were given an explanation that it was a clean hit.

The Predators ended up winning the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Kevin Fiala and 43 saves from Jusse Saros.

Highlight Of The Night

Not much in the way of highlight reel plays tonight, but here is a big goal from Vince Dunn to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Factoid Of The Night

A big milestone for New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he picks up his 20th win of the season.

Scores

New Jersey Devils 4, New York Islanders 1

New York Rangers 5, Philadelphia Flyers 1

Dallas Stars 4, Detroit Red Wings 2

St. Louis Blues 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

Nashville Predators 1, Vegas Golden Knights 0

San Jose Sharks 3, Arizona Coyotes 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Blackhawks concerned Crawford could miss remainder of season

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Here is some less than encouraging news for the Chicago Blackhawks.

According to a report from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday night, there is some growing concern within the Blackhawks organization that starting goaltender Corey Crawford could miss the remainder of the season due to experiencing vertigo-like symptoms for the second time in his career.

Crawford has been sidelined since before Christmas due to an upper-body injury, but the team has been quiet on specifics other than to say publicly that they expect him to return this season.

Over the past few years Crawford has become one of the NHL’s top goalies and when he has been on the ice this season has been absolutely stellar for the Blackhawks. Given the current state of their defense and the rate that they give up shots he has become one of the team’s most important players and the one that seems to drive their success more than any other.

[Related: Corey Crawford has become the Blackhawks’ most important player]

In his absence the team has leaned on Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Both have played about as well as could have been expected, but they aren’t Crawford and there is a noticeable drop in play at the position when he is not in there.

In 26 games this season Crawford is 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage.

As of Tuesday night the Blackhawks are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting three points back of the Minnesota Wild. They also have the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche sitting between them.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

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The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey