Taylor Hall

Can Taylor Hall avoid the sophomore slump? Recent history says he can

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Taylor Hall’s rookie season in the NHL was, by most accounts, a solid one that ended prematurely. After suffering a season-ending ankle injury in early March while fighting with Derek Dorsett, Hall’s season finished with 22 goals and 20 assists in 65 games. For an 18 year-old kid to jump into the league and instantly produce like that, even on the NHL’s worst team, is outstanding.

The question that always comes up for rookies, however, is whether or not they can do it all over again or better the following season. The dreaded “sophomore slump” always lingers out there for many second-year players, and should that bug end up biting Hall it’d be a stunning blow for a team that needs all of their talented youth to continue improving and becoming elite stars in the league. Hall tells NHL.com that the stats mean only so much when focusing on the big picture of his game.

“Stats, you can only look so much into them, I think. If I start to worry about how many goals I have after ten games or how many points I have, that’s going to take away from other parts of my game,” said Hall. “There are a lot of guys on our team who are team-first and I hope I’m one of them. You just need to think about the team and how you’re helping that.”

That’s all well and good for Hall to have that kind of personal focus, but if he’s not producing well, the questions are going to come and the fretting will start in Edmonton. The one thing going for Hall is that #1 picks since 2000 have done well in their second season. Well, mostly.

  • 2000 – Rick DiPietro (NYI): 2000-2001: 3-15-1, 3.49 GAA, .878 SV%; 2001-2002: Stayed in AHL
  • 2001 – Ilya Kovalchuk (ATL): 2001-2002: 65 GP, 29g, 22a, 51 pts; 2002-2003: 81 GP, 38g, 29a, 67 pts
  • 2002 – Rick Nash (CBJ): 2002-2003: 74 GP, 17g, 22a, 39 pts; 2003-2004: 80 GP, 41g, 16a, 57 pts (tied for Richard Trophy with Iginla, Kovalchuk)
  • 2003 – Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT): 2003-2004: 4-14-2, 3.64 GAA, .896 SV%; 2005-2006: 13-27-6, 3.25 GAA, .898 SV%
  • 2004 – Alexander Ovechkin (WAS): 2005-2006: 81 GP, 52g, 54a, 106 pts; 2006-2007: 82 GP, 46g, 46a, 92 PTS (Calder Trophy winner in 2006)
  • 2005 – Sidney Crosby (PIT): 2005-2006: 81 GP, 39g, 63a, 102 pts; 2006-2007: 79 GP, 36g, 84a, 120 pts (Crosby won Art Ross and Hart Trophy in 2007)
  • 2006 – Erik Johnson (STL): 2007-2008: 69 GP, 5g, 28a, 33 pts; 2008-2009: 79 GP, 10g, 29a, 39 pts
  • 2007 – Patrick Kane (CHI): 2007-2008: 82 GP, 21g, 51a, 72 pts; 2008-2009: 80 GP, 25g, 45a, 70 pts (Won Calder Trophy in 2008)
  • 2008 – Steven Stamkos (TB): 2008-2009: 79 GP, 23g, 23a, 46 pts; 2009-2010: 82 GP, 51g, 44a, 95 pts (Tied for 2010 Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby)
  • 2009 – John Tavares (NYI): 2009-2010: 82 GP, 24g, 30a, 54 pts; 2010-2011: 79 GP, 29g, 38a, 67 pts

I know… “Ha, ha Rick DiPietro!” Settle down. After a rough rookie year he got to play a full season in Bridgeport while Chris Osgood and Garth Snow got the Islanders to the playoffs. Things haven’t gone so hot with injuries since then. Fleury struggled in his second season and didn’t find his way until his third season in the NHL. Erik Johnson’s had his struggles since breaking into the NHL but with a full year ahead of him in Colorado, we’ll see how he adjusts to the new location.

Everyone else though, and more importantly all the other forwards, all improved or stayed great in their follow up season. Crosby won the MVP, Nash won the Richard Trophy, Kovalchuk became Atlanta’s sole, dominating source for goals, and Steve Stamkos became a full-on phenomenon.

A guy like John Tavares who is in a similar position as Hall is in Edmonton improved his play all around in his second season and for Hall, despite playing a different position (wing compared to center) the Oilers will hope he’ll be able to grow the same way.

Flames’ Bennett, Tkachuk accused of slew-footing in loss to Leafs

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The Calgary Flames dropped an ugly 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, not exactly rebounding from an embarrassing 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.

Things were ugly in a different way toward the end, especially if you ask Maple Leafs fans, as Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk may or may not be guilty of “slew-footing” late in the contest. In each case, they¬†were whistled for roughing.

Bennett was guilty of the first incident on Connor Carrick:

Meanwhile, around the time of the final whistle, Tkachuk’s “roughing” of Martin Marincin drew quite a bit of ire. You can see for yourself in the video above the post’s headline.

More than a few people believe that Tkachuk will be on the Department of Player Safety’s radar thanks to this moment.

There’s no doubt that he’s been making waves as a pest – really, from his first game in the NHL – but some believe he went over the line this time. He’s second in the NHL with 92 penalty minutes, by the way.

Patrick Marleau’s magical third period secures Sharks win vs. Avalanche

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At 37 years old and nearing 500 career goals, there aren’t a ton of things Patrick Marleau has failed to accomplish.* Still, he did something he’s never done – and few players have managed to do – in the San Jose Sharks’ 5-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.

The amusing thing is that it was a mundane night for Marleau and the Sharks heading into the third period.

They carried a 2-1 lead against the Avs before Marleau’s magical period really kicked into gear. In less than eight minutes of game time, Marleau managed an out-of-left-field natural hat trick:

He didn’t stop there, either, as he also hit the four-goal mark for the first time in his career … and again, it was in the same period.

That’s his first four-goal game (and period, naturally). It’s been a long, long time since someone enjoyed a period like Marleau did:

Speaking of history, this massive night indeed places Marleau close to another impressive feat. He’s now at 497 career goals, three away from the elusive 500 mark.

To underscore how unexpected this outburst was, consider this: Marleau generated zero goals and one assist in his previous seven games.

As the Sharks enjoy an era fueled by the ascent of Brent Burns and the passing of the torch from the likes of Marleau and Joe Thornton to a group including Logan Couture and Martin Jones, it seems fitting that Marleau – a player receding from the team’s spotlight – totally stole the spotlight on Monday.

The Sharks probably won’t complain, either. He helped them seal their fifth consecutive win, putting San Jose in a strong position to regain the lead in the Pacific Division.

Pretty good stuff from a guy who rapidly faded from relevance after being stripped of the Sharks captaincy.

* – How dare you make Stanley Cup jokes on a happy occasion for Sharks fans?

Capitals assert their dominance once again, this time clobbering Hurricanes

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammates after assisting Justin Williams #14 on a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Verizon Center on January 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals lead the league in standings points … and maybe in swagger. At least, it feels that way lately.

Monday presented their latest display of power as the Carolina Hurricanes had no answer for the Capitals machine. Washington clobbered Carolina by a score of 6-1, but at least the Hurricanes can take comfort in joining a rather large group of teams who’ve been humbled by Braden Holtby & Co.

This makes the Capitals 11-0-1 during a dominant run; they’ve scored at least a point in all but one game since Dec. 21.

Honestly, you can dice up their hot streak in a variety of ways, as Washington’s been outstanding since at least early December. Margin of victory might be the most jaw-dropping way to illustrate Washington’s dominant run:

Yep, that’s something else.

Dmitry Orlov was one of the standouts of this latest win, scoring two goals. His strong night and flashes of brilliance prompted Alex Ovechkin to … maybe go a little over the top.

Hey, when you’re on fire like the Capitals have been lately, it’s probably tough to make some pretty bold comparisons.

Things might be turning around for Lundqvist (not so much for the Kings)

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings shakes hands with Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers after the Kings 3-2 double-overtime victory during Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As you likely know, the 2017 NHL All-Star Game is coming to Los Angeles this weekend. If the Kings don’t get it together, that might be the biggest hockey event for some time, as they’re currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Monday presented what felt like a story of one cold streak continuing to fade away while the other only seems to get icier.

The positive side: Henrik Lundqvist might just be working through that slump.

The New York Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for Lundqvist. He made 36 out of 38 stops, giving him a personal three-game winning streak in which he’s allowed just four total goals.

Some of those stops were pretty impressive, too:

(He also shut down a Jeff Carter breakaway, which is obviously no easy task.)

While Lundqvist is getting it together, the Kings might just be a little worried after dropping their fourth straight loss.

They’re at 48 points in 47 games, leaving them three points behind the West’s two wild card teams and two behind the Canucks.

The Kings have experience fighting through challenges like these, but they’ve also fallen short of getting into the West’s top eight, and their schedule is awfully road-heavy:

Tuesday: at Devils
Thursday: at Hurricanes
Tuesday, Jan. 31: at Coyotes
Wednesday, Feb. 1: vs. Avalanche
Saturday, Feb. 4: at Flyers
Sunday, Feb. 5: at Capitals
Tuesday, Feb. 7: at Lightning
Thursday, Feb. 9: at Panthers

Some of those opponents are struggling and the All-Star break might allow for a breather, but that could still be a problematic stretch, especially if the Kings are in a fragile state.

Then again, if they look at Lundqvist’s upward trend, they can note that fortunes can change pretty quickly in 2016-17.