James van Riemsdyk

Elvis Ovechkin three stars pht buzzer
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The Buzzer: Elvis, Ovechkin, and others who rocked

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Three Stars beyond Elvis and Ovechkin

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago blowing out Toronto will lead to some hand-wringing, no doubt. Yet, as much as that was on a tough night for Frederik Andersen, give the Blackhawks some credit. Toews topped all in that game with an outstanding four-point performance (two goals and two assists).

Saturday continued what’s been one heck of a month for Toews. The Blackhawks captained pushed his January total to 15 points (5G, 10A). Toews reached that total in just eight games, scoring at least one point in seven contests.

Scratch that. Toews has been on fire for a while now. He started off ice-cold with only two points in 11 October games. Toews took off after that, and has generated an impressive 41 points in his past 28 contests.

Underrated rookie Dominik Kubalik contributed to Chicago’s win, too, with three points (2G, 1A).

2. Riley Sheahan, Edmonton Oilers

Sheahan scoffs at Toews’ slow start. The journeyman forward failed to score a point in 12 October games, and managed one in 11 November contests. Sheahan went and matched his December points total (four in 14 GP) in one contest on Saturday.

That’s right, he generated four points, scoring an empty-netter plus three assists. Connor McDavid dominated in his own right with two goals, but Sheahan helped the Oilers rout the Coyotes. Josh Archibald generated three points (1G, 2A) as well.

This just in: the Oilers have a lot of “that guy’s still around?” forwards. It’s honestly cool to see some of them have such a strong day, and maybe take a bit of the pressure off McDavid here and there.

3. Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets

It’s as though Atkinson never missed any time. After scoring a goal and an assist in his first game in almost one month on Thursday, Atkinson generated three points (2G, 1A) on Saturday. This gives Atkinson seven points (4G, 3A) in his past four contests.

Others give Atkinson a run for his money, even beyond the next section. Jason Zucker (1G, 2A) and James van Riemsdyk (1G, 2A) both contributed to their respective teams’ blowouts. Atkinson’s extra goal gives him the edge.

OK, now let’s consider Elvis and Ovechkin

Saturday featured enough strong performances that it feels better to give these two a mention. After all, they already received their own posts. Yes, these two probably rank as the “real” third and fourth stars of Saturday, or higher, depending upon your personal taste.

Highlight of the Night

Marc-Andre Fleury is suffering through a tough season, big-picture wise. “The Flower” keeps adding to his resume of breathtaking saves, though:

Comic relief

Jamie Benn provides us with a reason to laugh. At least those of us who aren’t immediately transported to our own memories of hilarious blunders.

That video summarizes the Stars’ night succinctly, as the Wild beat them 7-0.

Factoids

  • Ovechkin nabbed consecutive hat tricks to push his career goals total to 692. He passed Mario Lemieux (11th all-time, 690) and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time (692). Mark Messier sits just two goals away at eighth with 694. Ovechkin also generated consecutive hat tricks for the third time in his career. In doing so, Ovechkin joined Joe Malone (four times) and Wayne Gretzky (three) as the only players to generate consecutive hat tricks three or more times, according to NHL PR. Again, this post delves deeper into Ovechkin’s latest accomplishments.
  • Ovechkin’s teammate John Carlson reached 60 points. Carlson managed the feat in just 49 games, getting to 60 faster than any Capitals defenseman; Mike Green held the previous mark with 60 by game 57. Opinion: Green deserved better treatment from hockey folks during his peak years.
  • Merzlikins authored the 18th instance of a rookie goalie getting a shutout of at least 41 saves, via NHL PR.
  • Cale Makar scored his 11th goal, setting a new record for goals by a rookie Avalanche defenseman.
  • Dominik Kubalik reached 20 goals in his 47th game. NHL PR points out that Kubalik ranks among sixth Blackhawks to reach 20 goals in 50 games or less.

Scores

WSH 6 – NYI 4
COL 5 – STL 3
EDM 7 – ARI 3
OTT 5 – CGY 2
CHI 6 – TOR 2
MTL 5 – VGK 4 (SO)
FLA 4 – DET 1
PHI 4 – LAK 1
CBJ 5 – NJD 0
NSH 2 – BUF 1
MIN 7 – DAL 0
VAN 4 – SJS 1

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.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Hintz, Stepan highlight this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Samuel Girard, Avalanche – D: Girard has quickly risen in importance with the Avalanche, averaging 17:43 minutes in 2017-18 after being acquired from Nashville, 19:54 minutes in 2018-19, and now 21:42 minutes this season. He set a new personal best last season with 27 points, but the 21-year-old blueliner already has 22 points in 42 contests this season. That total is somewhat misleading though because an incredible eight of those points have come in his last three games. It’s worth noting that he did have four assists in eight games prior to this outburst, so he had been heating up for a bit even before this. At any rate, he’s at least worth a short-term pickup, but the rising defenseman might also have a strong enough second half to justify holding onto him for the rest of the season. If you do pick him up, I’d recommend exercising some patience with him rather than dropping him at the first sign that his hot streak has fizzled out.

Derek Stepan, Coyotes – C: Stepan had between 53-57 points in five straight campaigns from 2013-14 through 2017-18, but he dropped to 35 points last season and has just seven goals and 16 points in 44 contests in 2019-20. So to say that he has largely disappointed over the last year-and-a-half would be accurate, but he is doing a bit better lately with a goal and four points in his last three games. It’s too early to say if this will prove to be anything more than a hot streak, but one bit of good news for him is that after the Coyotes experimented with pairing Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall, the duo has been broken up with Kessel now playing alongside Stepan instead. Stepan is a gamble, but there’s enough upside here to at least make him worth keeping a close eye on right now.

Elvis Merzlikins, Blue Jackets – G: Earlier this season Merzlikins couldn’t seem to buy a win, then Joonas Korpisalo suffered a torn meniscus and suddenly the Blue Jackets needed Merzlikins to step up. Merzlikins has largely answered the call, stopping 36 of 37 shots on Dec. 31 and 25 of 26 shots on Jan. 2 to collect his first two career NHL victories. He fell short against the Sharks on Jan. 4, but he mostly held his own, saving 25 of 28 shots. With Korpisalo likely out for at least another three weeks, Merzlikins will have value for the next little while.

Filip Hronek, Red Wings – D: Hronek is having a really good season with just one glaring exception. He started the season alright with three points in eight games before really taking off with four goals and 10 points in 14 contests from Oct. 22-Nov. 21. That led into the aforementioned exception where he had no points and a horrendous minus-11 rating in six games, but he’s bounced right back with three goals and 10 points in his last 13 contests. Given that he’s been more hit-than-miss this season and consider his recent success, he’s a pretty solid defenseman to own. He’s only taken in 27% of Yahoo leagues so the chances of you being able to claim him are rather good.

Ondrej Palat, Lightning – LW: Palat is having a hot-and-cold season with his latest drought coming from Nov. 27-Dec. 17 when he was limited to a goal and no assists in 11 games. Since then he’s scored three goals and nine points in nine games. Feel free to pick him up while he’s producing, but given how 2019-20 has gone, it wouldn’t be surprising if those who grab him end up dropping him in a couple weeks.

Dominik Kahun, Penguins – LW: The loss of Jake Guentzel for the remainder of the season was a major blow to the Penguins, but they have no choice but to move on and attempt to fill the void. Kahun is one of the players who has an opportunity with Guentzel out. The Penguins have been experimenting with using Kahun on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust, which was Guentzel’s spot prior to the injury. Kahun’s new role hasn’t resulted in any points yet, but he has been a solid contributor this season with 21 points in 41 contests despite being limited to 13:14 minutes per game. With increased responsibilities, he could be a pretty solid fantasy option in the second half of the season.

Sami Vatanen, Devils– D: Vatanen has been a silver lining in what has been a largely disappointing campaign for the Devils. With five goals and 22 points in 37 games, he’s bounced back nicely from his 17-point 2018-19 campaign. He’s hot right now with a goal and nine points in nine games, but he was doing alright even before that. I’ve said before that I see him more short-term pickup and I’d still lean more towards classifying him as that, but I don’t he’d be a bad defenseman to hold onto if you are hurting in that position.

Roope Hintz, Stars – C/LW: The Stars are on a four-game winning streak and Hintz has done his part with two goals and five points in that span. His ice time has been all over the place this season and what’s interesting that he’s averaged just 12:55 minutes over his last four games, but he’s still be used with the man advantage. That power-play ice time has been critical to his recent success. He has three power-play points and one shorthanded assist over his last four games, leaving him with just one even-strength point. The Stars next two games are against Los Angeles and Anaheim, which rank 28th and 21st respectively when it comes to killing penalties, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hintz find more success on the power play in the near future.

Patric Hornqvist, Penguins – RW: Hornqvist is a known entity at this point. He’s a not spectacular, but reliable scorer. This season injuries have gotten in the way, but he’s been solid when healthy with nine goals and 15 points in 25 contests. Now that he’s healthy, he’s worth grabbing if you have a hole in RW that needs plugging because while he’s not exciting, he’s fairly safe.

Dominik Kubalik, Blackhawks – LW/RW: Kubalik had six goals and 10 points in 27 contests to start the season, which is solid for a rookie, but nothing particularly special by fantasy standards. Lately he’s stepped up though with six goals and 12 points in his last 14 contests. His increase in production also corresponds with his growing role. He’s averaged 14:28 minutes over his most recent 14 games, up from 12:29 minutes prior to that. Kubalik has routinely played alongside Jonathan Toews lately, which helps matters. Although it’s rarer, occasionally the third player on that line is Patrick Kane. In other words, Kubalik has been handed a pretty good opportunity lately and he’s taken advantage of it.

Players You May Want To Drop

Alex Galchenyuk, Penguins – LW:  I mentioned above that Kahun is filling in for Guentzel on the Malkin line, but Galchenyuk was also tried on that line. That didn’t last long though. Galchenyuk logged just 9:22 minutes on Jan. 4 and 10:29 minutes on Jan. 5 and unsurprisingly had no points over that span. He’s been a big disappointment this season and if you grabbed him after Guentzel’s injury in the hopes that Galchenyuk would play a bigger role, you can drop him again.

James van Riemsdyk, Flyers – LW: van Riemsdyk has been hot-and-cold this season with his latest hot streak being particularly good. He had eight goals and 14 points in 13 contests from Nov. 27-Dec. 23. That the problem that he hasn’t recorded a single point in the five games that have followed. He’s worth keeping an eye on so you can scoop him up when he starts scoring again, but for now you may as well drop him.

Christian Dvorak, Coyotes – C/LW: Dvorak scored three goals and 14 points in 17 contests from Nov. 18-Dec. 22, but he’s otherwise been pretty underwhelming this season. Lately, he’s recorded just a goal and an assist in six games. He’s a pretty borderline player in standard leagues under normal circumstances, having never recorded more than 37 points in a single season. If you picked him up while he was hot, you may want to re-evaluate your options.

Calle Jarnkrok, Predators – LW/RW: Jarnkrok was a great option from Nov. 21-Dec. 17 with six goals and 13 points in 13 contests. He hasn’t done much since then though. Over his last eight games he’s registered just two assists. Given that he’s usually not a great offensive force, it’s reasonable to drop him now that he’s cooled down.

Justin Faulk, Blues – D: Faulk was typically good for at least 30 points per season when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he has just three goals and 12 points in 43 contests in his first season with St. Louis. It doesn’t help that Faulk has averaged a modest 1:21 power-play minutes this season. By contrast, he averaged 2:56 power-play minutes in 2018-19 with Carolina. As a result, Faulk has just two power-play points this season, which is part of the reason for his underwhelming production this season. He did record two goals and five points in seven games from Dec. 12-27, which likely led to an uptick in people picking him up during that span, but he’s cooled down again and probably won’t be a major contributor going forward.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

NHL on NBCSN: How are Hayes, van Riemsdyk doing for Flyers?

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Flyers’ decision to sign Kevin Hayes to a seven-year, $50 million deal drew a lot of criticism over the course of the summer. The same thing could be said for the five-year, $35 million contract they gave James van Riemsdyk on July 1st, 2018.

Both players have taken their share of criticism since joining Philadelphia, but their recent play seems to have taken a turn for the best over the last little while. With the Flyers clinging on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they’ll need to make sure these two players are contributing with consistency if they’re going to hold on to their position in the standings. Oh, and maybe they can move up a slot or two along the way.

Let’s start with Hayes: 

The 27-year-old came into this season with a career-high of 25 goals (2017-18) and 55 points (2018-19). This year, he opened with just one point in his first six games. He followed that up by picking up six points during a four-game stretch and then followed that up with a 10-game point-less streak and 11-game goalless drought. Not ideal for a guy trying to make his mark in a tough market.

But even when he wasn’t picking up points, Hayes was finding a way to contribute, which has primarily come on the penalty kill and in winning individual battles. The reason he was able to land a $50-million contract was because of his overall skill set combined with his huge frame (he’s listed at 6-foot-5, 216 pounds). Players who can score 20 goals and 50 points at that size are rare, so it wasn’t shocking to see him land a huge contract right before free agency.

Lately, he’s managed to get his point production back on track, too. Since Nov. 19, he’s managed to accumulate 13 points in his last 16 games, which is pretty good given his offensive track record throughout his career.

[COVERAGE OF FLYERS-RANGERS BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

His CF% is just over 50 percent (50.8), his SC% is at a respectable 53.15 percent and his HDCF% is at 55.56 percent. Again, add all that to his nine goals and 20 points in 33 games, and his ability to play special teams, and you quickly realize that his contract, although still high, isn’t as bad as some people made it out to be. Size matters, too.

JVR is progressing:

The Flyers brought van Riemsdyk back to Philly to be a finisher. That’s what he is. He’s there to score goals. It took him eight games to find the back of the net at the start of the year, but was finally able to do so against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 24.

The 30-year-old went through a 10-game goalless drought between Nov. 9-27. That’s less than ideal for a player bringing in that kind of dough. In fairness to him, he’s managed to get things turned around lately. JVR has back-to-back two-goal performances and he’s scored six goals in his last five games. He’s also accumulated nine points in his last seven contests.

There was a time earlier this season when van Riemsdyk was skating on the Flyers’ fourth line. It wasn’t uncommon for him to get between nine and 12 minutes of ice time in a game. Now, he’s consistently playing above 15 minutes and in the last three games he’s played at least 17:45.

Everyone enjoys getting a Christmas break, but you’d have to think van Riemsdyk would like to keep this momentum going. We’ll see how much damage he can do against the Rangers tonight.

Tonight’s studio coverage will be hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter. John Walton and AJ Mleczko will call the action from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

Immediately following tonight’s Rangers-Flyers matchup, the first episode of the three-part docuseries, “Road To The NHL Winter Classic,” will air on NBCSN. The series will chronicle the Stars and Predators as they prepare to meet outdoors in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1 at Cotton Bowl Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on NBC. Click here to view the trailer. Episode 2 will air on Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the season finale will be presented on Monday, Jan. 6, at 10:30 p.m. ET immediately following Oilers-Maple Leafs on NBCSN.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Flyers erupt; Kane has another big night

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) scores
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Three Stars

1) Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

One of the most dynamic players in the NHL had another terrific night, recording four points in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets. His goal late in the third, which extended Chicago’s lead to three goals, was another example of how lethal his release has been since entering the NHL in 2007. Chicago is stuck at the bottom of the powerful Central Division but Kane is a thrill to watch night in and night out.

2) Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens

When a forward enters the offensive zone with control of the puck, it is a rare sighting when they just wind up and let one fly. Especially in three-on-three overtime when puck possession is of the utmost importance. But on Thursday night, Domi stepped into a slap shot and hammered the puck past David Rittich to lead Montreal to a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames

3) James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have been dealing with an emotional roller coaster this past week due to the horrible news about Oskar Lindblom. But, the team took advantage of the Jack Eichel-less Buffalo Sabres and earned a 6-1 feel-good win. The power forward muscled his way to the front of the net and tipped in a loose puck late in the first period to collect his first goal of the night. Then, van Riemsdyk was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce when the puck trickled off a defender and in.

Highlights of the Night

Roman Josi should consider switching positions if he could dangle like this

Varlamov entered the save-of-the-year competition with this glove stop.

Other notable performances from Thursday

Elias Pettersson — The 21-year-old scored twice as the Canucks held off the Vegas Golden Knights and snapped a three-game losing streak. The Canucks improved to 9-2-1 when Pettersson has scored this season according to Sportsnet.

Tyler Seguin The Dallas Stars alternate captain was one of five players in the NHL to score an overtime-winning goal Thursday.

Mats Zuccarello The Norwegian winger had a goal and two assists in the Minnesota Wild 8-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Stat of the night

Scores

New York Islanders 3, Boston Bruins 2 (SO)

Dallas Stars 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 3 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 6, Buffalo Sabres 1

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Los Angeles Kings 2 (OT)

Ottawa Senators 5, Nashville Predators 4 (OT)

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Winnipeg Jets 1

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Colorado Avalanche 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Calgary Flames 3(OT)

Minnesota Wild 8, Arizona Coyotes 5

Vancouver Canucks 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4 (OT)

Flyers win first game wearing #OskarStrong shirts underneath jerseys

Philadelphia Flyers celebrate
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The Philadelphia Flyers want to make sure Oskar Lindblom is aware that he will not be alone in his fight with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

Flyers players wore black and purple T-shirts underneath their jerseys with the phrase #OskarStrong Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres and will continue to wear them for the rest of the season. The shirts are sold by Biscuit Tees, a company owned by Kim Parent, daughter of Hall of Fame goalie Bernie Parent.

All proceeds from the T-shirt sale will go toward the Hockey Fights Cancer program.

The Flyers played their first home game since the announcement earlier this week and gave the fans a chance to express their support for the 23-year-old. Prior to puck drop, the arena staff placed “I fight for Oskar” signs on every seat.

“Hockey is a real strong and good community, and Oskar is a real good person,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday. “He’s going to be around and he”s going to be back as soon as he possibly can.”

The Flyers went on to shellac the Jack Eichel-less Buffalo Sabres Thursday with a 6-1 dominating win. James van Riemsdyk had two goals, Travis Konecny added three assists and Carter Hart picked up his 12th victory of the season.

The Sabres announced they would be without their captain shortly before the opening faceoff and the Flyers recorded three first-period goals as they cruised to their second consecutive win and improved to 10-1-4 in the previous 15 games at home.