Taylor Hall’s natural hat trick leads Oilers over struggling Thrashers

There are days to debate and then there are days to just sit back and pay respect. This afternoon, Taylor Hall scored three straight in the 3rd to erase a 3-1 deficit and helped lead Edmonton to their third straight win at Rexall Place while sending the Thrashers deeper into the abyss. The talk going into the game was if Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart could help right the ship. But by the time the final horn sounded on a 5-3 Oilers’ victory at Rexall Place, the only talk was about Taylor Hall and his goal scoring explosion.

Saturday afternoon’s contest hardly looked like the kind of game that would have us singing Hall’s praises. Come to think of it, for the first 40 minutes of action, it wasn’t the kind of game that would have us praising anyone in an Edmonton jersey. The Thrashers had the lead and the look of a team that was getting a fresh start with fresh faces in the lineup. If only the game lasted two periods. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the 3rd period and Taylor Hall’s scoring spree will make just about everyone forget about what could have been.

It was only 8 months ago when the biggest debate in the hockey world was Taylor vs. Tyler. There were those who thought Taylor Hall had been born and bred to be the next great star in the NHL, and there were fans and scouts who thought Tyler Seguin was so similar to a young Steve Yzerman that it would be crazy to pass him up. It’s far too early to make a definitive statement on the careers of a pair of teenagers, but on days like this all you can do is sit back and enjoy the show. This just in: Taylor Hall isn’t going to be good one day. He’s good right now.

The three 3rd period goals give him 20 goals on the season—making him the 4th rookie to reach the 20-goal plateau this season. Mix in his 18 assists and he’s currently 2nd in the league in rookie scoring (only behind Jeff Skinner). It’s games like Saturday’s that have the “wow” factor, though. He had 3 goals, 9 shots on goal, a failed break away, and created at least two scoring chances when his teammates should have buried their opportunities. He showed flashes of being one of the strongest players on the ice when he charged to the front of the net. He showed flashes of being the fastest player on the ice when he constantly got behind the Atlanta defense on odd-man rushes. And with the three goals, he showed that his shot made him unquestionably the most dangerous player on the ice.

There’s a certain quality that superstars have that most NHLers will never experience—some people call it the “it” factor. Hall controlled the game. It wasn’t the shots, it wasn’t the odd-man rushes, and it was just the way the game flowed. When he was out there, the Oilers were a dangerous team—when he wasn’t, they weren’t. He was the player you looked for during the entire game and when he jumped over the boards, you held your breath because you had no idea what he’d do next. It was that “edge-of-your-seat” factor that only a handful of guys are capable of producing—and he did it 19-years-old.

Isn’t this what we expect from a #1 overall pick?

Andrew Hammond to start Game 5 for Avalanche

AP
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When the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Nashville on Friday night they will be facing elimination. They will also need to rely on their third-string goalie to help get them a win if they are going to extend their season.

The team announced on Thursday that Andrew Hammond will be getting the start, replacing Jonathan Bernier who had to leave Wednesday’s game after two periods with a lower body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Bernier’s injury has been a nagging one and that he could still be available off the bench on Friday if needed.

The Avalanche had been starting Bernier because their regular starter, Semyon Varlamov, is out for the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury of his own.

Obviously, this puts the Avalanche in a pretty tough spot. Not only because they have to go on the road against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators, but also because they have to turn to a goalie that, including Wednesday’s brief relief appearance, has appeared in just eight NHL games over the past two years. He has faced only 127 shots in those appearances and managed only an .874 save percentage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

 Hammond’s career has been a fascinating one to this point.

Late in the 2014-15 season he came out of nowhere as a 25-year-old rookie to lead the Ottawa Senators on an improbable late season run (where Hammond put together a 20-1-2 record) to qualify for the playoffs. Nicknamed “the Hamburglar,” his initial run in Ottawa was highlighted by fans throwing hamburgers on the ice to celebrate his wins.  That run earned him a contract extension with the Senators and a bunch of free hamburgers from McDonalds. It was a crazy year.

After that, though, injuries and a decline in his production have limited him to just a handful of appearances in the NHL.

The Avalanche acquired him from the Senators earlier this season as part of the Matt Duchene trade.

Now he has to jump into the crease in an elimination game.

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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’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

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Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

NJ Devils on Twitter
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The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call; Crosby passes Lemieux

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
• For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

• Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

• The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

• Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

• In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

• Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

• Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

• How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

• Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

• Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

• Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

• Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

• The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

• Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

• Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck