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.

Sheary’s in for Penguins in Game 2; Kunitz is a game-time decision

Pittsburgh Penguins' Conor Sheary (43) is greeted by teammates Brian Dumoulin (8) and Chris Kunitz (14) after scoring his first NHL goal, in the first period of the Penguins' hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Pittsburgh. Bruins' Brad Marchand is at lower right. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might look a little different in Game 2 on Saturday after that blistering Game 1.

As the team down 1-0, it’s not too surprising that the Penguins boast the more significant lineup questions, although they lean toward health concerns rather than performance tweaks.

Conor Sheary was able to return during Game 1 after Tom Wilson‘s controversial knee-to-knee hit, and he appears to be in for tonight’s contest as well. Chris Kunitz isn’t quite a guarantee, as he’s currently labeled a game-time decision.

For what it’s worth, Kunitz himself believes he’ll be in. Whether he plays on Saturday or not, it sounds like Kunitz is taking extra safety measures going forward.

The Penguins stayed vague with Marc-Andre Fleury, merely claiming that he’s making “progress.”

Generally speaking, Matt Murray has been playing well for the Penguins. Of course, the scrutiny will rise if Pittsburgh loses Game 2 on Saturday.

The Capitals are also considering a tweak. CSN Mid-Atlantic reports that Barry Trotz is pondering replacing Dmitry Orlov with Taylor Chorney.

“They told me to be prepared as if I’m going to be playing,” Chorney said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

As you may notice, Chorney isn’t the only one in wait-and-see mode heading into Game 2, which you can watch on NBC.

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

The puck shot by Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel crosses the goal line as St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) attempt the stop during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

“We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

“They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

File that under “easier said than done.”

Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.