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.

The Buzzer: Benn vs. Benn, poor get poorer

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Line of the Night: The St. Louis Blues’ superb top trio.

Seemingly every night, at least one of the NHL’s best scoring lines seems to make its case as the best. It’s getting to the point where any off night is surprising, which seems almost impossible in a league where it’s still (allegedly?) tough to score on a nightly basis.

In Tuesday’s case, the Blues’ red-hot trio of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Oilers’ profound miseries by triggering an 8-3 stomping.

Schwartz scored one goal and three assists, while both Schenn and Tarasenko enjoyed ridiculous two-goal, two-assists nights. Schwartz and Schenn both are at 30 points in 2017-18, while “The Tank” is rolling with 26. Tarasenko almost had a hat trick today, but settled for the Gordie Howe:

Highlight of the Night: Jamie Benn vs. Jordie Benn, just in time for American Thanksgiving.

(They’re Canadians, but still.)

Shared sadness: The Canadiens lost a hard-fought game to the Stars as the 3-1 margin of defeat was inflated by an empty-netter, while the Oilers were just humiliated, yet both teams really needed wins and neither even got a standings point for their efforts. Times are getting tense for two Canadian franchises that came into 2017-18 with high hopes.

Brendan Gallagher‘s reaction to the empty-netter says it all:

Factoid of the Night: Clearly, it’s totally Connor McDavid‘s fault.

Scores

Canucks 5, Flyers 2

Blues 8, Oilers 3

Stars 3, Canadiens 1

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.

On fire vs. fireable: Blues humiliate Oilers

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If you judge a person or sports team by how they react to their backs being up against the wall, then the Edmonton Oilers were complete failures on Tuesday.

Whether you place most of the blame on Connor McDavid (bad) or management (fair), the bottom line is that a response was needed, as people are already doing the math to wonder if the Oilers can dig themselves out of an early hole with a huge rally.

Instead, we saw the same story tonight, only it was sadder and more dramatic. The St. Louis Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers by a score of 8-3, and that deficit wasn’t an unfair depiction of what happened on the ice. The red-hot Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers, seemingly scoring at will.

Just check Paul Stastny‘s body language after this beautiful goal; it almost seemed like the veteran forward felt squeamish about the carnage going on in Edmonton’s zone.

Again, it was the same story with McDavid straining to create quite a few chances, even while dealing with an unspecified sickness (note: sickness not a joke about the poor team around him, this time).

It seems fitting that the same few Oilers contributed at least something to the cause, as McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were involved in Edmonton’s three scores.

This loss encapsulated a lot of the themes of this season for Edmonton: not enough support, a cratering structure, and goaltending Cam Talbot having a miserable night.

Morale in Edmonton is, uh, low.

Now, none of this should take away from the West-leading Blues’ side, as they flexed their muscles once again. Really, the main debates surrounded if the Blues were the best in the West by a large or merely a slim margin.

It was a banner night for one of the best lines in the league in Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Tarasenko almost had a hat trick, but will settle for the Gordie Howe variety, as he dropped the gloves with Matt Benning.

Fittingly, the Oilers didn’t even win that battle, either.

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.

Fight video: Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Matthew Benning

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Vladimir Tarasenko earns the nickname “Tank” because he’s a big, hoss-like scorer and because it matches up well with his name.

He showed a different kind of firepower on Tuesday, though, as he took exception to a Matthew Benning hit and decided to fight the Edmonton Oilers defenseman. The bout happened even as the Oilers seemed like they were getting a precious scoring chance, but the crowd in St. Louis was riled up mainly to see the superstar drop the gloves.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first battle for “The Tank.” According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Tarasenko fought once in 2015-16 and another time in 2014-15, while also dropping the gloves once in the KHL.

(This is his first fight against someone not named Ryan, as he exchanged fisticuffs with Ryan Kesler and Ryan Ellis in his other NHL fights. I mean, unless Matthew Benning’s middle name is Ryan?)

So far, the Oilers haven’t been showing as much fight as Tarasenko, as the Blues currently hold a 3-0 lead and chased Cam Talbot. Read more about what’s been a tough night for goalies so far here.

Tuesday has not been kind to goalies

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There are three games on Tuesday, yet we’ve already seen two goalies benched for poor play.

If variety is important to you … hey, at least the two situations were different, albeit with some regrettable moments of pucks going into nets.

The most depressing probably came during Tuesday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, which you can watch on NBCSN right now.

Now, you can justifiably hang a lot of the Oilers’ struggles on poor management from GM Peter Chiarelli, yet it’s also true that teams/coaches/general managers often see their reputations rise and fall with the play of their goalies. Cam Talbot has already been struggling in 2017-18 after playing outstanding hockey – and a ton of games – last season, but tonight serves as one of his shortest and most troubling efforts.

(And Talbot gets whatever is the opposite of bonus points for languishing while angst is nearing a fever pitch in Edmonton.)

Talbot made it through just 7:35 of ice time on Tuesday, allowing two goals on just three shots before Todd McLellan understandably pulled the plug. This Dmitrij Jaskin goal was a real soul-crusher for the reeling Oilers:

Credit Laurent Brossoit for playing very well in relief of Talbot, at least as of this writing. But this isn’t what the Oilers wanted to see. (Brossoit just allowed a goal, but he has been sturdy overall with a lot of time left in this game).

Negative night for Neuvirth

Compared to Talbot, Michal Neuvirth had a long night for the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, it was a long night in more ways than one, as Neuvirth struggled against the unexpectedly potent Vancouver Canucks.

Neuvirth got the hook after giving up four goals on 22 shots over 34:26 of game time. Some of that’s on the defense in front of him, as Philly can’t be happy to give up so many chances against a Vancouver team that still has something to prove.

So, this leaves one burning question: will any other goalies get benched tonight? As it is, two out of three is quite bad. Sorry Meatloaf.