When Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins joined forces on Edmonton’s top line to start the season, people sensed something special might happen.
And it has.
Tonight, Nugent-Hopkins got his first NHL assist on Hall’s first goal of the year — a PP marker early in the third period of a 3-1 win over Nashville — and with it, the pair got in on a bit of history as well. See, earlier this season T-Hall and RNH became the first back-to-back No. 1 overall picks to play on the same team in over 20 years. Quebec’s Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan were the last.
But with nine combined points in their first four games, the Edmonton youngsters have surpassed the former Nordiques — it took Sundin and Nolan double the amount of games played together (eight) to reach the same total in 1990-91. Yes, the tried and true “nine combined point” plateau. The benchmark by which all greats are measured.
Joking aside, hopefully you get the gist — Nugent-Hopkins and Hall are off to an unprecedented start. Their next big statistical benchmark? Trying to match the overall point totals put up by Sundin and Nolan in 90-91. (NB: The key difference is that Sundin/Nolan broke in at the same time — Sundin spent a year in Sweden before coming to the NHL — whereas Hall and Nugent-Hopkins jumped right to the league after being drafted.)
That season, Sundin had 23G-36A-59PTS while Nolan struggled to 3G-10A-13PTS in just 59 games. Considering Nugent-Hopkins (who is Nolan in this projection) already has five points and Hall (the Sundin) had 42 a year ago, those totals definitely seem within reach.
* — liberal use of the word “history”
The Minnesota Wild hope to turn things around, yet facing the Dallas Stars certainly ratchets up the degree of difficulty.
On the other hand, sometimes that’s the best way to regain confidence: overcome an especially formidable obstacle.
Whether the Wild flounder or rebound, you can watch the action on NBCSN and stream it via the link below.
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Not surprisingly, Edmonton’s 8-1 loss to the Islanders on Sunday didn’t pass without consequences.
The Oilers announced this morning that defenseman Griffin Reinhart had been sent down to the AHL. Additionally, defenseman Justin Schultz is expected to be a healthy scratch tonight in New Jersey.
Reinhart was a team-worst minus-4 versus the Isles.
Schultz, whose name has been coming up in trade rumors…
…was a minus-2.
“He needs to watch a game and reflect on his play and what his impact is offensively and defensively,” coach Todd McLellan told reporters of the decision to sit Schultz against the Devils.
Darnell Nurse and Adam Clendening, scratches in Brooklyn, will replace Reinhart and Schultz in the lineup.
Kyle Turris was far from an accomplished NHLer when he requested a trade out of the Coyotes organization. In fact, when he was dealt to the Senators in 2011, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft had just 46 points in 137 NHL games.
Since then, Turris has emerged as Ottawa’s top center, with the promise of a big payday in the summer of 2018 when his current $17.5 million deal expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
It’s for that very reason that he can understand Jonathan Drouin‘s position with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s tough,” Turris told the Tampa Bay Times. “Everyone has mixed feelings, and especially not being an established player. Then people are doubting that you’re doing the right thing, you really have to have confidence in yourself and your ability to do it.”
Though Turris, now 26, took a “lot of heat from the media…and people within the organization” and recalls the time after his trade request was made public as a “tough, tough go,” he believes the opportunity he received with the Sens “saved” him.
As we’ve written in the past, you don’t have to agree with how Drouin is handling things — maybe it ends up hurting him; he still has a lot to prove — but there have been young players who have chosen similar paths, and it’s worked out well for them.
Drouin, by the way, has 40 points in 89 NHL games.
Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds has taken exception to criticisms from Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, in the wake of Simmonds concussing Blueshirts captain Ryan McDonagh with a punch over the weekend.
“Vigneault can say whatever he wants. He’s the coach, that’s his opinion,” Simmonds said, per CSN Philly. “I don’t really care. I’m protecting myself; guy comes to cross check you in the head. I didn’t know what he expected. I had no intention of hurting him and I feel bad about that. That’s not what I want.
“I may play physical and I like to take the body. I fight occasionally. But by no means am I a dirty player, trying to run around and injure guys.”
Simmonds was tossed from Saturday’s game after punching McDonagh, but wasn’t suspended by the league. McDonagh missed New York’s next game — Monday’s 2-1 win over the Devils — and the lack of supplemental discipline incident irked Vigneault, who had words for both the officials and Simmonds.
“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said following the Flyers game, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences?”
At this point, it’s probably worth noting the Flyers and Rangers play each other on Sunday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Worth circling that one on the ol’ calendar, methinks.