New York Rangers v New York Islanders

Video: First overall picks score a pair of hat tricks

There’s a reason that players are picked with the #1 overall pick: they’re good. Unless the player’s name is Patrik Stefan, #1 overall picks have a tendency to break into the league and set the league on fire. Recently, Patrick Kane won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season and Steven Stamkos scored 119 goals in his first three seasons in the league. If Saturday is any indication, there are a couple more first overall picks that are going to make noise this season.

It started when John Tavares dropped a hat trick on the cross-town rival New York Rangers. The first overall pick in the 2009 draft had a hand in all four Islanders’ goals en route to a 4-2 win at Nassau Coliseum. It was his second straight four-point night and his third career hat trick in his young NHL career. Tavares is now tied for the league lead with 5 goals and 8 points on the young season; not bad for a guy who is rapidly becoming the undisputed face of the franchise.

Katie Strang from ESPN New York talked to Tavares after his four-point night:

“It’s nice to produce. It’s what I do best, obviously,” said Tavares, who signed a six-year $33 million contract extension last month. “I take a lot of pride in it and it’s nice to come through.”

Good thing he enjoys scoring—because it looks like he’s going to do it a lot this season. It’s exactly what they Islanders expected when they chose him above guys like Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane.

Here are all three goals from Tavares on Saturday night:

On the other side of the continent, the first overall pick in the 2011 provided the encore performance. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a breakout performance on Hockey Night in Canada; he scored three goals in the Oilers’ 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The third goal is up for dispute (it looked like Taylor Hall knocked it across the goal line), but he still showed the talent that made him the best player in this June’s draft. For those keeping track at home, he’s now scored four goals in three career games for the Oilers.

Playing on the line with yet another #1 overall draft pick, Taylor Hall, should help Nugent-Hopkins make the transition to the NHL. Combined with Jordan Eberle, the Oilers’ “kid line” features the only three players on the team that have scored more than a point this year. Before the season started, it was assumed that Nugent-Hopkins would be the playmaker while his linemates were the goal scorers. So far, Nugent-Hopkins has flipped the script.

The line’s performance should silence the debate whether the 18-year-old rookie would be good enough to stick with the big club this season or if he should be sent back to Red Deer after nine games. Games like this certainly make him look like an NHLer.

‘It looks like a disaster’ — Senators could be facing more injury problems

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27:  Head coach Guy Boucher of the Tampa Bay Lightning speaks to the media after their 0 to 1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 27, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Not only did the Ottawa Senators lose on Sunday, but three different forwards left the game because of injury.

And that was after they had already lost forward Bobby Ryan indefinitely because of a hand injury. In a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Senators had Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Tommy Wingels leave with injuries.

Hoffman suffered a lower-body injury in the first period, while Stone was caught with a hit to the head from defenseman Jacob Trouba. That infraction might result in Trouba getting further supplementary discipline from the NHL.

“Tough day with the loss of Bobby and then we lost another bunch of guys. At some point I felt, there was nobody on the bench,” said Senators coach Guy Boucher, who appeared furious with the officials’ decision to give Trouba only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

“I can give you an update – it doesn’t look good. We have to wait until tomorrow to be clear and precise about all these guys.

“Right now, we could be losing quite a few guys … It looks like a disaster. We’ll see tomorrow and maybe the disaster is not as bad as we think but you’ve got to be ready for anything.”

What especially hurts for the Senators is that Hoffman, Stone and Ryan are three very capable offensive players, and if all three are out long-term, that’s a good chunk of scoring suddenly gone from their lineup. Stone leads the team with 22 goals, while Hoffman is tied for second in that category with Kyle Turris at 19 goals.

The Senators had a chance to take over top spot in the Atlantic Division. With a win, Ottawa would’ve tied Montreal with 70 points, but taken first in the division because of fewer games played.

Blackhawks snap Sabres winning streak

1 Comment

The Eastern Conference playoff race is tightening up, especially when it comes to the wild card.

The Buffalo Sabres, thanks to a three-game winning streak and six wins in their last 10 games prior to Sunday, have suddenly jumped right into the thick of that race. But with a chance to win four in a row and tie, at least temporarily, the Bruins at 64 points, the Sabres ran into the Chicago Blackhawks.

And that proved problematic.

After Evander Kane scored the equalizer with 5.6 seconds left in the first period, Chicago took over through the second half of the game, scoring four unanswered goals for a 5-1 victory to move within seven points of the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division.

Patrick Kane put a stamp on this one. Given an absurd amount of time in front, Kane was able to put on a stickhandling clinic before beating Robin Lehner on the backhand.

It further hurt Buffalo’s cause that it was unable to capitalize on a lengthy five-on-three in the first period.

“I thought our opportunity was that 5-on-3, to get not just one goal, maybe two. We gave them too much,” said coach Dan Bylsma, per the Sabres.

The Sabres now enter their bye week. They play the last-place Colorado Avalanche next Saturday. The time off might provide a rest in the middle of a grinding season, but teams have struggled immediately out of the break and the Sabres can ill afford a set back in the playoff race.

Video: On Hockey Day in America, Auston Matthews did this . . .

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11:  Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.

Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.

On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.

As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.

Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages

Video: After a slow start, Evander Kane is on a roll for the Sabres

Leave a comment

For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.

Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.

He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.

(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)

Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.