Hat tricks are piling up at a near-historic rate this season

There are a lot of great moments in hockey, but few please crowds quite like a hat trick. It’s simple to see why: most of the time, if a player scores three goals by himself, his team is likely to earn a win. Beyond that, it gives fans an opportunity to throw something toward the ice without fear of a Ron Artest-style retribution.

(Though you might recall Sidney Crosby didn’t especially appreciate Capitals fans throwing hats during the 2009 playoffs.)

If you noticed a considerable increase in hat tricks so far this season, you’re justified in doing so. Adam Kimmelman of NHL.com points out that the league hasn’t seen hat tricks being scored at such a rate since the 1994-95 season. Let’s take a look at some of Kimmelman’s findings.

(Note: these stats are valid before tonight’s games. No one scored a hat trick in the night’s first five games, although Torrey Mitchell currently has two goals in the Ducks-Sharks game as of this writing.)

Through the first 247 games this season, there have been 20 players putting together three-goal games, the most at this point in a season since 1994-95, when there were 22. At this point last season there were just 11 hat tricks.

Nineteen different players have had hat tricks this season, including a pair by Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin. He had 3 goals against the Thrashers in a 4-3 overtime victory Oct. 23, and had 3 goals — including the game-winner, as well as 2 assists — in 6-3 win against the Lightning on Nov. 11.

That same night, Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeff Carter scored 3 straight goals — a natural hat trick — in an 8-1 rout of the Hurricanes. It was the first natural hat trick in an NHL game since Marian Gaborik accomplished the feat Jan. 31, 2010.

Two hat tricks on one day hasn’t been all that unique this season — Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 each featured a hat trick of hat tricks.

(Continued note: it’s not clear if adding five or six games to that hat trick stat changes things significantly.)

As Kimmelman pointed out, there were some historic moments attached to some of those hat tricks. From the early accomplishment angle, New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan scored his first career goal(s) via a hat trick. On the other end of the fence, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson earned his 1,000th career point as part of a hat trick performance.

Believe it or not, 247 (or even 253) games is actually a fairly small sample for league-wide trends. Hat tricks are still relatively rare occurrences, so these trends could go two different ways. It could go either way, but so far, it’s been fun to watch the hats fly with such startling frequency.

Penguins lose to Flyers and lose another key player to injury

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PITTSBURGH — Even with a ridiculously long injured list that would be the foundation of a pretty good hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go 8-1-3 in their previous 12 games entering Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The injuries finally seemed to start catching up to them on Sunday in a 6-2 loss, extending their current losing streak to three games, matching their season long.

While the loss certainly impacts their pursuit of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division (they remain three points back of the Washington Capitals), and even their quest for home ice advantage in the first round, it is still not the worst thing to come out of Sunday’s game.

The worst thing for them would be the fact the Penguins lost yet another key player to an injury when forward Conor Sheary had to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Sheary is dealing with a lower body injury and that right now he is considered to be day-to-day. It was initially believed that Sheary was injured blocking a shot, but Sullivan insisted that was not the case and that it happened in the offensive zone at some point in the first period.

With Jake Guentzel still sidelined due a concussion he suffered in a recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, that means two-thirds of the team’s recently assembled top line (Sidney Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel) is now sidelined due to injury. Sheary’s injury is especially concerning given how good he has been on Crosby’s wing dating back to the 2016 playoffs. Entering play on Sunday Sheary was averaging nearly a point per game (50 points in 54 games) with almost all of that production coming at even-strength.

They had yet another scare in the third period on Sunday when defenseman Brian Dumoulin had to briefly leave the game and head to the locker room after he was elbowed in the side of the head by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

On Sunday, all of the injuries finally seemed to be too much with the Flyers pretty much dominating the game over the final two periods.

The Flyers received goals from six different players (Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Jakob Voracek, Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere) in the win and outshot the Penguins by a 24-15 margin over the final 40 minutes.

“That wasn’t a good effort and at this point of the season we can’t afford to have those,” said Penguins forward Matt Cullen after the game. “I don’t think that was a typical effort for us. I don’t think we had a lot of life, to be honest.”

Even more than winning games the rest of the way the biggest concern for the Penguins has to be getting their list of injured players healthy and finding a way to avoid adding to it, something that has proven to be difficult in recent weeks.

At this point, whether they win the Metropolitan Division or not, they know their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs is very likely going to have to go through both Washington and Columbus, and they are going to need their full complement of players to do it.

One of the biggest factors in winning a Stanley Cup is having all of your key players in the lineup come playoff time.

A year ago the Penguins did.

Right now they are not even close to having that.

Video: Dumoulin shakes off Simmonds’ elbow, but Sheary’s out for Penguins

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Barring a major comeback, the Pittsburgh Penguins look like they’re going to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Their injury losses might be just as big.

On the bright side, it seems like Brian Dumoulin was able to shake off an elbow from Wayne Simmonds. You can watch the hit, which didn’t draw a penalty, in the video above.

Meanwhile, Conor Sheary has been missing since the first period with what might be a lower-body injury.

The Penguins’ list of injuries is already pretty ridiculous, so if one or both of these players miss significant time, tonight will sting deeper than a setback on the scoreboard.

Report: U.S. men’s hockey players may join boycott with women’s team

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Octagon Hockey agent Allan Walsh announced that there’s “word circulating” that potential members of the men’s U.S. hockey team might join the women’s national team in a boycott of the world championships with USA Hockey.

HNIC’s Cassie Campbell reports that she discussed as much with men’s players during the last few weeks about this subject, backing up Walsh.

This update comes on the heels of reports that USA Hockey has been struggling to find players to replace those who are boycotting the world championships. (Puck Daddy provides deep background on that subject.)

The NHLPA has already spoken out in support of the boycott earlier this week. The U.S. women’s national hockey team also released the following statement:

Fight video: Flyers’ Manning vs. Penguins’ Gaunce

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Breaking: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don’t like each other.

The stakes might be higher for the Penguins than the Flyers – aside from those who still believe Philly has a shot at a playoff run – their rivalry rarely subsides.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Sunday featured at least one fight, with Cameron Gaunce squaring off against Brandon Manning in a pretty spirited bout.

Manning isn’t shy about fighting, by the way; this was his seventh bout of the season, according to Hockey Fights.

Higher on the radar for the Penguins is the situation for Conor Sheary, who has been absent from the ice since about midway through the first period. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on what could be yet another injury for the health-challenged Pens.