Who will lead the offensively challenged Nashville Predators in scoring?

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arnottleaves.jpgIt’s unfair to judge teams “on paper,” but sometimes those paper rosters/lists can be awfully telling.

Take, for instance, this poll at On The Forecheck that asks the simple question: “Who will be the Nashville Predators leading scorer next season?” Here are a few of the names (and descriptions) from that post.

J.P. Dumont

He led the team in scoring in 2008-9, but ended up on the 4th line last season, receiving minimal playing time. If he earns his way back into Barry Trotz’s good graces, he could re-establish himself as a team leader.

[snip]

Patric Hornqvist

He broke through as a 30-goal man last season, so the big question is whether he trends up or down from there.

Matthew Lombardi

Greater opportunity played a big part in his growth as a player in Phoenix, and he should get every chance to produce in Nashville as well.

Steve Sullivan

He’s always in the mix, gets used in key offensive situations, and has seemingly addressed durability concerns by playing all 82 games last season.

Shea Weber

If the Nashville power play ever gets rolling, he’d be a major beneficiary.

weberanderat.jpgYear after year, Barry Trotz and the Nashville Predators defy conventional logic by scrapping their way to the playoffs without much star power or cash to bargain with. That being said, while you can make a very sober and sound argument that the team improved last season, Jason Arnott’s departure exposes the fact that this team’s offensive potential fails to “jump off the page.”

Seriously, with all due respect to Shea “Butter” Weber – and believe me, I haven’t exactly done a great job of masking my admiration for that physical force of a defenseman – it’s a bit alarming when a blueliner might end up being your team’s top point producer. It brings back bad memories of when I was a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins more than the NHL and Dick Tarnstrom – Dick Tarnstrom – ended up being the team’s leading scorer. (If you guessed that the Pens missed the playoffs that season, the University of Obvious will mail you your master’s degree shortly.)

The list also includes flighty forward Martin Erat and young whippersnapper Colin Wilson.

It’s honestly very difficult for me to even wager a guess regarding who might win the Predators scoring title. It would be easier if Steve Sullivan was durable, but despite Dirk Hoag’s positive feedback, Sullivan is basically a poor man’s Marian Gaborik. For that reason, I’m going to make a not-quite-fearless prediction that Patric Hornqvist will emerge as the team’s leading scorer. I say that without the slightest hint of confidence in my guess.

Anyway, feel free to vote in Hoag’s poll and share your thoughts on the Predators offense in the comments. Do they have enough firepower to compete in the Western Conference? Can I really go through the 2010-11 season without making some kind of joke about Barry Trotz’s appearance? Is Shea “Butter” Weber a horrible nickname? Discuss amongst yourselves.

The Buzzer: Eichel beats McDavid; More Vegas gold

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Player of the Night: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

So far in their careers, Connor McDavid comparisons haven’t been kind to Jack Eichel. To be fair, just about every other NHL player pales in comparison to McDavid, but Eichel gets it the worst because he was selected right behind McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft.

McDavid’s enjoyed a deep playoff run and piled up some impressive hardware, yet Eichel got the best of number 97 for at least one night. As part of a 5-0 win for the Sabres against the Oilers, Eichel generated a goal and three assists.

If you haven’t noticed, Eichel’s been playing some of the best hockey even before Tuesday. With 10 points in his last five games, he’s enjoying the most productive stretch of his young career.

It was outrageous to place Buffalo’s blame on Eichel, so hopefully this torrid run at least turns down the volume on his critics.

Highlights of the Night:

We saw the nasty side of Brad Marchand with this questionable hit, but this goal was very, very nice:

This Shea Theodore outlet pass is so slick, it’s almost tough to keep your eye on it. William Karlsson scored yet again, and the Golden Knights won once again.

You may also enjoy Travis Konecny’s overtime game-winner, which you can check out here.

Factoids

The Boston Bruins’ run continues, while the Avalanche’s winning streak ended.

Vegas Golden Knights zero in on more records for expansion teams. Remarkable stuff.

From remarkably great to almost unspeakably bad: how can the Oilers’ penalty kill be this ineffective?

Some key bits from tonight

Panthers, Stars brawl.

Canadiens end Avalanche’s winning streak at 10.

Flyers edge Red Wings in OT.

Possible injury for Joe Thornton?

Goalie injuries also cause for concern.

Scores

Bruins 3, Devils 2
Penguins 3, Hurricanes 1
Canadiens 4, Avalanche 2
Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
Blues 3, Senators 0
Lightning 4, Predators 3 (OT)
Stars 6, Panthers 1
Sabres 5, Oilers 0
Canucks 6, Kings 2
Golden Knights 6, Blue Jackets 3
Ducks 6, Rangers 3
Jets 5, Sharks 4 (OT)

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.

Fights: Stars, Panthers pile up season-high 138 penalty minutes

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When you think of the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers, a few things might come to mind:

  • No state income taxes, if you’re an unrestricted free agent.
  • “Non-traditional franchises.”
  • Going further on that point, arguably examples of Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league’s scope.

You probably don’t think “blood rivals,” but maybe Tuesday will change that. Perhaps it was triggered in part by a misunderstanding about James Reimer‘s injury, or maybe because Antoine Roussel is Antoine Roussel, yet either way, things got pretty nasty between the Stars and Panthers on Tuesday.

The two teams piled up a whopping 138 penalty minutes in this one, which is great for lovers of chaos and/or fantasy hockey owners.

According to Sportsnet’s stats, that’s the highest combined PIM for a game so far in 2017-18. Somehow Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t even involved.

Again, it was a little senseless, which admittedly is sometimes the most entertaining form of violence.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

The Stars pummeled the Panthers 6-1, by the way.

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.

Sharks’ Hertl ejected; Joe Thornton injured?

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Brad Marchand isn’t the only player who delivered a questionable hit on Tuesday, as Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks is also likely to draw the attention of the Department of Player Safety.

Hertl received a game misconduct and major penalty for boarding Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

For whatever it’s worth, Hertl, 24, hasn’t been suspended in the NHL. It seems like Kulikov suffered at least some ill effects from the hit.

Some put at least a portion of blame on Kulikov for turning his back before the check.

Is the major penalty sufficient or should Hertl sit for that hit?

Update: The Jets ended up beating the Sharks 4-3 in overtime, but the bigger concern for San Jose is that Joe Thornton might be injured. More information may not come for a while.

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.

Should Brad Marchand be suspended for elbow on Marcus Johansson?

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Much has been made of Brad Marchand cleaning up his act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Boston Bruins forward has totally stopped blurring the line between “physical” and “illegal” play.

Marchand was everywhere in the Bruins’ 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and that was mostly in a good way, scoring a goal and an assist, easily leading all forwards with 20:06 time on ice.

Devils fans were unhappy when Marchand wasn’t penalized for a highly questionable elbow on forward Marcus Johansson. You can watch the infraction in the video above this post. You can also see it in GIF form below.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Department of Player Safety is aware of the elbow, and supplemental discipline may come:

Again, many recall other incidents with Marchand, so plenty were unhappy with the situation:

What do you think? Is a suspension appropriate in this case?

More on the Bruins:How will they cope without Charlie McAvoy?

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.