Brent Burns has had a great season. You probably know that. Heís notched 57 points in 55 games, which has him in the top five in scoring in the NHL. Thatís a lot of points for a defenseman, but you may not be aware of just how unusual Burnsí season has been. In fact, Burns is on pace to have the best offensive season by a defenseman in over 20 years.
High-scoring seasons for a defenseman are something of a relic. In a bygone era, defenseman getting 90, or even 100, points wasnít super surprising. There have been 14 seasons by a defenseman where they hit the 100-point mark. However, that hasnít happened since Brian Leetch tallied 102 points in the 1992-93 season. Only one season in the top 50 seasons by a defenseman has occurred since the 1995-96 season, and that was when Erik Karlsson registered 82 points last season.
Burns, at least as of this moment, is on pace to eclipse Karlsson. Heís on pace for 85 points, a total that hasnít been reached since Leetch did it in the aforementioned 1995-96 season. Even if he falls off that pace slightly, heíll crack the top 50 if he can at least tally 81 points. That would put Burns alongside Karlsson among the all-time great performances by modern defensemen. Truly, this has been a season to remember for Burns.
Sharks (PP: 19, PK: 19) at Flyers (PP: 10, PK: 17), 1:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Aaron Dell (6-3-0, 2.05, .928), Michal Neuvirth (8-5-1, 2.79, .893)
Key Injuries: Michael Del Zotto (lower body), Travis Konecny (lower body), Joonas Donskoi (upper body)
The Sharks have only allowed 2.37 goals and 27.4 shots on net per game, so it seems a little surprising to see their penalty kill doing so poorly. The Flyers, meanwhile, have allowed 2.96 goals per game, one of the worst averages in the league. This battle of backup goalies is clearly tilted in San Joseís favor. The amazing season Burns is having has been mentioned already, but heís not the only Shark having a fine year. Even Patrick Marleau has been having a decent season, as heís notched 19 goals on 136 shots. Heís currently nursing an eight-game point streak. Since returning from a lengthy injury, Tomas Hertl has four points in six games. After being a healthy scratch, Shayne Gostisbehere tallied an assist in his return to action. However, he still hasnít scored a goal in 28 games. Wayne Simmonds has had no issues with goal scoring this season, though, as heís tallied a team-leading 22 goals. Heís also got 80 penalty minutes.
Panthers (PP: 29, PK: 3) at Predators (PP: 17, PK: 9), 2:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Roberto Luongo (14-14-6, 2.60, .917), Pekka Rinne (21-14-6, 2.30, .923)
Key Injuries: Miikka Salomaki (lower body)
The Panthersí special teams rankings run counter to their shot-related numbers. Theyíve averaged 31.8 shots on goal per game, which ranks fourth in the NHL, but theyíve also given up 31.4 shots on net per contest. Nashville is right behind Florida with 31.6 shots on net per game, so both Luongo and Rinne should be busy. Jonathan Huberdeau is finally healthy. In his two games heís played, heís averaged 16:38 a night, and heís got a point in both of his games. Aaron Ekblad leads the Panthers with 165 shots on net, but he hasnít scored a goal in 24 games. However, in those 24 games heís tallied 69 shots on goal, so you have to think the goals will arrive soon. Ryan Johansen leads the Predators with 40 points, even though he only has nine goals. Meanwhile, James Neal leads Nashville with 17 goals, but he only has 24 points. Mike Fisher has tallied 14 power-play points, the second most on the team. That number also ties his career high.
Ducks (PP: 12, PK: 7) at Capitals (PP: 6, PK: 4), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: John Gibson (21-13-8, 2.29, .920), Braden Holtby (28-8-4, 1.97, .928)
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (head), Clayton Stoner (abdomen), Sami Vatanen (lower body), Andre Burakovsky (hand)
The Capitals have only allowed 2.05 goals per game, which tops the league. Anaheim isnít far behind, though, as itís only given up 2.48 goals per contest. On the other hand, Washington has scored 3.36 goals per game, while the Ducks have only scored 2.59. Both Gibson and Holtby have been outstanding, and both teams have excellent penalty kills. This could end up being a low-scoring game, even with Washingtonís offensive prowess. Nicklas Backstrom is having a fantasy season, and heís tallied 27 points since the beginning of January. Heís also notched 22 power-play points. T.J. Oshie isnít far behind him, as heís got 21 points in that time. The line of Oshie, Backstrom, and Ovechkin is arguably the best in the league. You donít need to be told to be excited about Backstrom and Ovie, but Oshie gets to ride that wave as well. Also, they call these guys the BOO Line, right? Cam Fowler has 11 power-play points, but none of them have come in his last 23 games. He averaged 3:08 of power-play time over those games, though, so the opportunities are still there. Corey Perry leads the Ducks with 152 shots on net, but he only has a 7.2 shooting percentage. Thatís why the normally prolific Perry only has 11 goals.
Canucks (PP: 27, PK: 24) at Bruins (PP: 14, PK: 2), 1:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Ryan Miller (15-14-3, 2.56, .918), Tuukka Rask (26-13-4, 2.32, .910)
Key Injuries: Zdeno Chara (illness), Austin Czarnik (lower body), Sven Baertschi (concussion), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Anton Rodin (knee)
Itís surprising to see Raskís save percentage dip all the way down to .910. Since the beginning of January, he has a 3.14 GAA and a .868 save percentage. Itíll be hard for Boston to hold onto that penalty-kill ranking if that continues (unless they get really lucky). Remember Loui Eriksson? The man who scored 30 goals last season has 11 on 114 shots on net this year.
Islanders (PP: 26, PK: 18) at Senators (PP: 22, PK: 10), 1:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Thomas Greiss (17-8-3, 2.39, .923), Mike Condon (16-9-5, 2.56, .912)
Key Injuries: Cal Clutterbuck (lower body), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Travis Hamonic (knee), Craig Anderson (personal)
There is an Islander down in the Recommended Pickup section. The Islanders have allowed32.5 shots on goal per game, which has kept Greiss quite busy. New York will have to watch out for Mike Hoffman, who has 18 goals on 145 shots in 47 games. Also, Derick Brassard has registered 128 shots on net, though he only has nine goals. Perhaps his 7.0 shooting percentage is destined to rise.
Hurricanes (PP: 23, PK: 1) at Stars (PP: 20, PK: 29), 2:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Ward (21-16-6, 2.57, .907), Kari Lehtonen (11-16-6, 2.87, .902)
Key Injuries: Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee), Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Jason Spezza (undisclosed)
Itís the leagueís best penalty kill against the leagueís second worst! Itís two goalies with lousy save percentages! Patrick Eaves, who has notched 15 of his 33 points with the extra man, might be in for a struggle. Teuvo Teravainen, who has tallied 10 of his 28 points on the power play, becomes more intriguing.
Red Wings (PP: 30, PK: 16) at Blue Jackets (PP: 1, PK: 14), 5:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Petr Mrazek (12-13-6, 3.14, .897), Sergei Bobrovsky (29-11-3, 2.20, .924)
Key Injuries: David Savard (back), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Jimmy Howard (knee), Niklas Kronwall (lower body), Frans Nielsen (upper body)
Talk about a power-play mismatch. Howard has been recalled from the AHL, but doesnít seem quite ready to return to action. That bodes well for the Jackets, considering the way Mrazek has played. Cam Atkinson is enjoyed a tremendous season (26 goals, 22 assists), but one wonders if his 16.4 shooting percentage is sustainable. Hey, itís been 53 games. He doesnít have to sustain it all that much longer.
Lightning (PP: 8, PK: 21) at Jets (PP: 18, PK: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Ben Bishop (13-12-3, 2.69, .907), Michael Hutchinson (4-10-3, 3.23, .894)
Key Injuries: Ryan Callahan (hip), Tyler Johnson (undisclosed), Ondrej Palat (lower body), Steven Stamkos (knee), Marko Dano (lower body), Tyler Myers (lower body), Ondrej Pavelec (concussion)
Both of these teams played Friday. Both of these teams are in the bottom 10 in goals allowed per game. Expect a lot of scoring, especially if the Lightning spend a lot of time on the power play. That would bode well for the trio of Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Jonathan Drouin.
Sabres (PP: 2, PK: 30) at Maple Leafs (PP: 3, PK: 8), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Robin Lehner (13-15-6, 2.57, .923), Frederik Andersen (22-11-10, 2.79, .915)
Key Injuries: Zach Bogosian (abdomen), Cody Franson (foot), Zemgus Girgensons (abdomen), Johan Larsson (wrist), Joffrey Lupul (abdomen), Nikita Soshnikov (upper body)
These are two top notch power plays, but Toronto has to be excited to see Buffaloís league-worst penalty kill coming to town. The Sabres have also allowed 34.0 shots on net per game, which is the most in the NHL. Auston Matthews leads the Leafs with 182 shots on net, and heís also notched the most goals with 25.
Blues (PP: 6, PK: 6) at Canadiens (PP: 5, PK: 23), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Jake Allen (20-14-3, 2.69, .903), Carey Price (24-13-5, 2.42, .918)
Key Injuries: Brendan Gallagher (hand), Kyle Brodziak (foot), Robby Fabbri (knee), Paul Stastny (lower body)
Itís strange to see Montrealís penalty kill struggling so much. Since December 22, Price has a 3.16 GAA and a .897 save percentage. Patrik Berglund had 14 goals for the Blues, but heís only added seven assists to that. Nail Yakupov has six points in 33 games. A change of scenery has not helped, and we can probably officially write him off as a bust.
Avalanche (PP: 28, PK: 25) at Rangers (PP: 11, PK: 13), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Calvin Pickard (9-15-1, 2.93, .906), Henrik Lundqvist (25-13-1, 2.70, .911)
Key Injuries: Tyson Barrie (lower body), Rene Bourque (lower body), Erik Johnson (leg), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Dan Girardi (foot)
Colorado has allowed a league-worst 3.35 goals per game, while the Rangers have scored 3.39 goals per tilt. Perhaps surprisingly, itís J.T. Miller who leads New York with 44 points. After being somewhat forgotten, Gabriel Landeskog has been more like the player we expected recently. Over his last 11 games, he has eight points, and more notably heís registered 35 shots on net. Thatís not great, but it makes him viable for fantasy owners.
Penguins (PP: 4, PK: 22) at Coyotes (PP: 25, PK: 26), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Matt Murray (20-6-2, 2.35, .923), Mike Smith (12-15-6, 2.92, .915)
Key Injuries: Martin Hanzal (illness), Brad Richardson (leg), Carl Hagelin (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (knee), Conor Sheary (upper body)
The leagueís best offense versus one of the leagueís worst defenses? Advantage: Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby leads the league with 30 goals and 60 points. Patric Hornqvist has missed some time with injury, but heís still managed to score 17 goals on 160 shots in 47 games. Thereís not much interesting to say about the Coyotes. Max Domi is back, at least. He notched a goal and assist in Arizonaís last game, his first points since returning from his injury.
Blackhawks (PP: 16, PK: 27) at Oilers (PP: 14, PK: 11), 10:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Scott Darling (12-5-2, 2.31, .925), Cam Talbot (27-15-7, 2.32, .921)
Key Injuries: Michal Rozsival (lower body), Andrew Ference (hip), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Kris Russell (undisclosed)
Darling has been better than Corey Crawford this season, so it wonít hurt the Blackhawks to have him in net. Chicago ranked 30th in penalty-kill percentage for much of the year, but slowly but surely theyíve climbed out of that hole, even if ranking 27th is not impressive. Like Crosby, Connor McDavid has 60 points, though he only has 18 goals. Patrick Maroon also has 18 goals, but he only has eight assists.
Josh Bailey, LW, NYI Ė Something has gotten into Bailey. Perhaps itís the change at head coach, perhaps the joys of playing alongside John Tavares, or maybe itís just plain luck. However you slice it, heís notched 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in his last 13 games. Bailey also tallied 39 shots on net in those contests, which averages to three shots per game. Overall, heís got 11 goals and 38 points, even though he only has a 9.3 shooting percentage. He hasnít even had much puck luck this season, as that would be his second-lowest shooting percentage for a full year. Throw in 10 power-play points, and New Yorkís top left wing seems like an exciting option for fantasy owners.