Early ride on the Zamboni – Saturday, February 19th

Edmonton 5, Atlanta 3

If the game was only 41 minutes long, the Atlanta Thrashers would have taken their 3-1 victory with a huge smile on their faces. But hockey is 60 minutes and by the time the game was over the Thrashers were left wondering what the heck happened. Four penalties in the 3rd period, a natural hat trick from #1 overall pick Taylor Hall, and the Thrashers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The win was the 3rd straight for the Oilers as they continue to play better in recent games. Hey, even on nights when they don’t win, at least they’re entertaining. On the other hand, the Thrashers’ loss sees them drop to the .500 mark at 25-25-10. Not the best stretch of play for a team trying to find a new owner.

NY Islanders 3, Los Angeles 0

Former King Matt Moulson announced his presence with authority potting 2 goals en route to the Islanders’ 3-0 win on Long Island. Al Montoya looked like he was worth more than a 6th round pick as he earned his second career shutout with 35 saves. From Moulson and Montoya to Frans Nielson and Michael Grabner, the Islanders were in control of the game from the opening faceoff. They must have learned their lesson from their disastrous first period against the Bruins on Thursday night.

The Kings are now 8-1-3 in their last 12 games—this being their first loss in regulation 9 games into their longest road-trip in franchise history. They wrap-up the road trip against the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday.

New Jersey 4, Carolina 1

This was the third time the Canes and Devils faced off against one another in the last 12 days. And for the third time, it was the Devils skating away with the victory. But before you get down on the Canes, keep in mind the Devils are now 15-1-2 in their last 18 games, including their current 7 game winning streak.

If you want a reason to hammer the Hurricanes, look no further than the 1st period. Carolina came out flat in their 2nd game of a back-to-back, completely mailed in the first 20 minutes of the game, and were behind 3-0 before they knew what happened.

Patrick Elias had 3 assists, +3 rating for the night, and his 800th career point. Danius Zubrus had 2 goals and Ilya Kovalchuk extended his scoring streak to 10 games. Not bad for a team left for dead 2 months ago.

Florida 3, Tampa Bay 2 (SO)

Mike Santorelli poked in a rebound on the power play with 3:00 left and forced the game into overtime. Oh, but he wasn’t done yet. After a scoreless OT, Santorelli scored the only goal in the shootout to deliver the 3-2 win to the Panthers. It’s Mike Santorelli’s world, we’re just living in it.

Lightning are now 5-3-2 on their current homestand. The 5 wins are good, but for a team competing with the best of the best in the East, they were hoping for more on this season-long homestand. But look at the bright side, at least Steven Stamkos made it through the game without serious injury.

Ottawa 1 , Toronto 0 (SO)

It looks like the Craig Anderson era is off to a flying start. If he can manage to make 47 save shutouts against the Maple Leafs a regular occurence, they’ll be building him a statue outside Scotiabank Place in no time. 65 minutes of play and a shootout and the Maple Leafs are still trying to see a puck enter the net. Things weren’t much better for the Sens, but a shutout game-winner from Jason Spezza has a way of easing the pain.

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    Is Brayden Schenn’s star turn for real?

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    For years, hockey nerds and/or experts were waiting for Brayden Schenn to make “the leap.” Eventually, people gave up on that, to the point that the 26-year-old’s trade to the St. Louis Blues seemed more like a curious swap than a tide-turner.

    Now, sure, Schenn found a solid niche with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it was in more of a specialist role. Many believed that he was dependent upon a plum gig on the team’s lethal power play and would possibly slip in St. Louis.

    Considering that 17 of his 25 goals came on the power play last season, it wasn’t that outrageous to wonder if he might be just “a guy” in St. Louis.

    As it turns out, he’s bordering on the guy with the Blues, and it’s been a truly wondrous thing to behold. Wondrous and baffling, to be honest.

    On Saturday, it seemed like his hot streak would come to an end … until overtime. In what was very much a solo effort, Schenn beguiled the Vancouver Canucks to secure a 4-3 OT win for his Blues.

    Nice. Now, it’s true that Schenn wasn’t the overall star of the night for St. Louis, as that probably goes to Paul Stastny, who piled up three assists. Still, Schenn’s third game-winning goal of the season extended his point streak to seven games, and it’s not like he’s just eking out production, either:

    Wow. Overall, Schenn now has 8 goals and 26 points in 21 games during his debut season with the Blues. He’s on a pace to absolutely smash the best work of his career, which came in previous seasons where he collected 55 and 59 points.

    So, naturally, the question is: with about a quarter of the season over, how much of this is real and how much of this is a lucky little mirage?

    Under normal circumstances, one would lean toward luck, especially with a guy who’s already 26. That doesn’t sound old, and it’s certainly in a scorer’s prime range, but it also strikes as a bit unexpected.

    To some extent, this is luck. Frankly, it’s not realistic to expect Schenn to average 1.25 points per game; consider that Sidney Crosby‘s career mark is 1.30, and you realize it’s wise to dial back expectations for a guy whose previous career-high was .74.

    That aside, there are some reasons to believe that Schenn could very well remain a bigger scorer with the Blues than he did with the Flyers. Allow me to break it down.

    Firing away

    Whenever you’re trying to do some hockey myth-busting, shooting percentage is a great place to start. If one-third of the pucks a guy sends toward the net beats a goalie, then ‘ol gravity might not be very kind.

    According to NHL.com, Schenn has now connected on 14 percent of his shots on goal this season (eight of 57). That might be a little high, but his career average is 12.5.

    Now, assists are a big part of his totals, and that’s where things should cool down. Schenn’s most common linemates have been Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, by quite a margin according to Natural Stat Trick.

    So, you can deduce that some of Schenn’s numbers are inflated by those two, especially with Schwartz connecting on 22.2 percent of his SOG so far in 2017-18.

    Nurtured

    And that’s where things could slide quite a bit. If the Blues get some talent back from that wave of summer injuries, perhaps Mike Yeo might move Schenn away from one or both of Tarasenko and Schwartz?

    The overall setup definitely gooses Schenn’s numbers, but it’s not just linemates.

    He’s getting way more ice time, in general. Schenn is averaging just under 20 minutes per night after logging almost 18 per evening last season, via Hockey Reference. While Schenn enjoyed fairly cushy zone starts before, it’s even more pronounced now; the 26-year-old’s began a career-high 63 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone entering tonight’s game.

    ***

    So, long story short, you can expect some of this success to subside. The Blues, as a team, are on a roll that is likely cool down.

    The more interesting queries revolve around how much the Blues and Schenn might slip from these hot streaks. It should be some, but will the slide be as extreme as some expect? It should be fun to find out.

    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.

    Chance the Rapper plays clueless hockey reporter on ‘SNL’ (Video)

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    Chance the Rapper hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night and in skit he played Lazlo Holmes, a New York Knicks reporter for Madison Square Garden network filling in for the usual New York Rangers reporter who’s on paternity leave.

    Holmes quickly discovers that the temperature for hockey is a tad different than that of a hoops game, and that some of the names in the sport are pretty tough to say for an outsider, like Brady Skjei, for example.

    It’s not quite Tim “Little Hockey” Meadows bemoaning the 1994 NHL lockout, but it was good for some chuckles.

    Hopefully next time NBC has a coach mic’d up for a pre-game speech, he lets fly with “let’s do that hockey!”

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    USHL goaltender scores goal, makes most of celebration (Video)

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    It was a pretty eventful night Saturday in Sioux Falls as the USHL’s Stampede beat the Muskegon Lumberjacks 7-4 to sweep a weekend series.

    After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Stampede scored five unanswered times en route to the win. Along the way, their first goal started the teddy bear tossing and the game’s final tally came off the stick of goaltender Mikhail Berdin. Not only did the kid make history by becoming the first goalie in franchise history to ever score, he followed it up with an impressive celebration.

    Berdin, a 19-year-old sixth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2016, went with the bench fly-by, did some fist pumps, saluted the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center crowd and ended it with a Vince McMahon strut. That kid knows how to celebrate.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    The Buzzer: Monahan the man, torrid Tavares

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    Choice PHT Cuts:

    Canadiens, Maple Leafs did NOT play nice.

    If you didn’t think Alex Ovechkin was tough …

    *Rubs eyes* A winning streak … for the Coyotes?

    Connor McDavid and Oilers are sad pandas.

    Players of the Night

    • Anthony Duclair‘s hat trick is well-covered here, so check that out. Duclair gets one edge on Sean Monahan in that Duclair scored all of his team’s goals on Saturday, but Monahan combined his first career hat trick with an assist, helping his Flames win in OT much like Duclair did for Arizona.

    Monahan slightly upstaged Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) who was pumped to play in front of a crowd in Philly.

    • Paul Stastny collected three assists to help the Blues beat the Canucks in overtime. Check PHT on Sunday morning for an in-depth look at Brayden Schenn, who kept his hot streak going with the OT-clincher.
    • John Tavares just continues to ride high with a goal and two assists. The real stars might be the Islanders as a whole, however, as they beat the Lightning and kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pointless in a 5-3 Isles win.
    • Frederik Andersen has achieved back-to-back shutouts, helping the Leafs make the Habs extra-miserable. He made 33 saves, so you could argue Montreal deserved better than a 6-0 fate.

    Heel of the Night?

    While Connor McDavid absorbed an odd portion of the Oilers’ blame in defeat despite a three-point night, Antoine Roussel really played up his villain cred. He collected three points of his own and did this:

    Highlight of the Night

    Going off script a bit here, let’s go with Alex Ovechkin bouncing back from this:

    And Corey Crawford being OK despite this bump from Evgeni Malkin.

    Both players helped their teams seal up wins as a bonus. (Feel free to share your favorite highlights from tonight, even if they don’t involve near-injuries.)

    Factoid of the Night

    Congrats, Antti Niemi. Kind of.

    Here’s a free joke regarding that situation.

    Scores

    Flames 5, Flyers 4 (OT)
    Stars 6, Oilers 3
    Coyotes 3, Senators 2 (OT)
    Jets 5, Devils 2
    Kings 4, Panthers 0
    Hurricanes 3, Sabres 1
    Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0
    Islanders 5, Lightning 3
    Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1
    Capitals 3, Wild 1
    Predators 5, Avalanche 2
    Blues 4, Canucks 3 (OT)
    Bruins 3, Sharks 2

    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.