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NHL On NBCSN: Penguins, Oilers need to start turning things around now

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Tuesday night as the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers (7pm ET), followed by the Edmonton Oilers hosting the Los Angeles Kings (9:30pm ET). Click here to watch live on our NBCSN Live Stream.

At the start of the season the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers were the top-two favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

The Penguins were entering the season as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

The Oilers took a huge step forward in 2016-17 as part of their seemingly never-ending rebuild and not only returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06, but were just one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals.

The Penguins have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on their roster and got back their best defenseman (Kris Letang). The Oilers have the NHL’s reigning scoring champion, MVP and arguably the current best player in the world in Connor McDavid who is accompanied by Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Today, as the 2018 portion of the season kicks off and we prepare to head into the second half of the season both teams are on the outside of the playoff picture in their respective conferences and have a lot of work to do before they can punch a ticket for postseason.

They are both in action on Tuesday night as part of an NBCSN doubleheader and need to start turning their seasons around right now.

In the first game, the Penguins visit their cross-state rivals in Philadelphia for a huge game in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Penguins enter the game just one point ahead of the Flyers while the Flyers still have two games in hand. They enter the night three points out of a playoff spot, and while they may not seem like a huge deficit with still half of the season remaining there are a few things worth remembering.

First is that the Penguins have played more games than most of the teams they are competing with and currently have the worst points percentage in the Metropolitan Division. Their 5-on-5 offense has been non-existent this season and they have no scoring depth to speak of beyond their top-two lines.

If we assume it takes 95 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference — which it has in each of the past three seasons — the Penguins will need to collect 54 points over the next 42 games. That would be a .642 points percentage. Below we see the Penguins’ points percentage broken down into rolling 42-game segments to show how often they have played at that sort of pace (the red line is a .642 points percentage).

In other words, they need to play the next 42 games the same way they played most of the 2016-17 season. With a roster — particularly at forward — that does not really resemble the 2016-17 one. Without a couple of roster moves to help replenish that depth that is going to be a challenge, unless they see a pretty significant regression to the mean in regards to their team shooting percentage. With half of the forward roster being what it is, that does not seem like it is terribly likely to happen.

In somewhat of a surprise move, the Penguins are going with Tristain Jarry as their starting goaltender tonight and not Matt Murray. Murray has struggled this season and is getting a rest for the first time this season when he is not injured or as part of a back-to-back situation.

The Flyers, meanwhile, are trying to find some consistency. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier have been outstanding offensively but the team has experienced extended lows (a 10-game losing streak), extended highs (a six-game winning streak), and extended mediocrity (their current 2-2-1 run over the past five games).

The Penguins and Flyers face off at 7 p.m. ET.

[WATCH LIVE: PITTSBURGH PENGUINS VS. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS]

In the late game the NHL’s other disappointment, the Edmonton Oilers, will be hosting the Los Angeles Kings.

If the Penguins’ situation in the playoff race seems like it is going to be a struggle, the Oilers’ situation looks completely dire.

The Oilers not only have to make up more points (seven) to get into a playoff spot, they also have to jump over more teams (five for a wild card spot; three for one of the Pacific Division spots).

The preseason hype around the Oilers was probably a bit too much, even with their success a year ago. It is still a team that is largely dependent on McDavid being able to single handedly carry the offense. A lot of their winning a year ago was based on the fact that McDavid had one of the best offensive seasons the league has seen in a decade and Cam Talbot played nearly every game at a reasonably high level helping to mask a lot of flaws on defense. Talbot has missed time this season due to injury and has not repeated his performance when he has been on the ice. That has created a lot of problems and the Oilers are back to being one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to preventing goals.

The second wild card team in the West right now is on pace for 91 points, meaning the Oilers would need to hit the 92-point mark to get in. That would require 55 points over the next 43 games, a points percentage of .639. Are the Oilers, as currently constructed, capable of such a run? Based on what they have shown this season, it seems really unlikely.

On Tuesday they are hosting a Kings team that is going through a bit of a resurgence after missing the playoffs in two of the past three seasons.

The driving force behind their success this year has been bounceback seasons from Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Kopitar is playing at an MVP level this season and is back to being one of the best two-way players in the game, matching his shutdown defensive play with a point-per-game offensive performance. Brown is having his best offensive season since 2011-12.

Puck drop for their game is at 9:30 p.m. ET.

[WATCH LIVE: LOS ANGELES KINGS VS. EDMONTON OILERS]

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

The Buzzer: Tavares gets back to scoring ways

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Players of the Night: 

Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche: Bernier made quite the save on Ryan Kesler, using his paddle to stop a backhand shot after sprawling across his crease in an attempt of desperation. He also stopped 33 pucks and won his sixth straight game in the process.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Jones made 29 out of 30 saves in the second and third periods in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. His 35-save effort was a nice rebound after allowing three goals on six shots and getting yanked on Saturday.

John Tavares, New York Islanders: Tavares scored a shorty in regulation on an unassisted breakaway and then the game-winner in overtime to lead the Isles past the Habs in Montreal.

Highlights of the Night:

Tyler Seguin provided some matinee magic with this overtime winner in Boston. What a goal:

Bernier made this incredible paddle save on a poor Ryan Kesler:

MISC:

Scores:

Stars 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

Avalanche 3, Ducks 1

Sharks 4, Kings 1

Islanders 5, Canadiens 4 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Barzal, Tavares shine as Islanders edge Canadiens 5-4 in overtime

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The scary thing about Mathew Barzal is that he may just be gaining steam.

Any time the New York Islanders play these days, it turns into Barzal Watch (in the Twitter world: #BarzalWatch). Even if the Islanders had plummeted as of late with five losses in their past six games heading into Monday, many are just tuning in to see what the dynamic rookie is going to do.

Indeed, Barzal has been lights this season, with 44 points in 44 games prior to Monday and coming off the buzz of a five-point game on Saturday — the second time he’s done that this season.

But John Tavares, who had just one goal in nine games coming into Monday, stole some of that spotlight back with a shorthanded goal in regulation and then the game-winner in overtime in a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

Tavares second of the game came 1:51 into over time and after Carey Price made quite the save to stop a redirected attempt by Tavares just before the latter scored the winner.

Barzal was at it again early in the first period as the Islanders jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead.

Barzal fed Anthony Beauvillier with a nice lead pass and the latter ripped home his eighth of the season just down the road from where he grew up in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, beating Carey Price with New York’s first shot of the game.

It was Barzal’s 30th assist of the season and he followed that up with his 16th goal of the year on the Islanders just over five minutes later for the two-goal advantage. Barzal finished with three points and now has 10 in his past three games.

The Canadiens entered the game 2-0-1 in their past three games but were without Phillip Danault due to a puck to the head on Saturday and Andrew Shaw, who was injured in the same game.

Despite their recent success, things looked grim early on, with Price allowing two goals on four shots.

The Hab battled back, first by forcing a turnover in New York’s zone, allowing Jakub Jerabek to quickly find a wide open Nicolas Deslauriers out front to make it 2-1.

Another defensive breakdown by the Isles led to the tying goal as Paul Byron snatched his 12th of the year on a rebound.

Barzal grabbed his third point of the night early in the second period as the Isles restored the lead with Adam Pelech‘s first of the season at 2:37. And the Islanders led by two for the second time as John Tavares scored shorthanded 1:59 later on New York’s 10th shot.

The Canadiens, down two again, needed a second comeback and they put it together beginning with Jonathan Drouin‘s marker with 34 seconds left in the second period.

Montreal completed the comeback on the power play in the third, with Max Pacioretty scoring his 14th at 13:01.

Andrew Cogliano chokes up talking about the end of his iron-man streak

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An emotional Andrew Cogliano said having his iron-man streak ended by suspension was a “tough pill to swallow.”

Speaking to Fox Sports’ Kent French prior to the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, Cogliano choked up when asked about how tough the past 24 hours had been like for him.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow, I’m not going to lie,” Cogliano said, fighting back tears. “I’ve played hard and I’ve battled. I’m a professional in that I’ve played a long time and I’ve now missed a game.”

Cogliano was suspended Sunday for two games following an illegal check to the head of Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe in a 4-2 Ducks win on Saturday.

The ban ended the NHL’s fourth-longest games played streak at 830 games for Cogliano, who had never missed action in his 11-year NHL career before Monday.

Cogliano was a 134 games shy of Doug Jarvis’ record of 964 consecutive games played, which the Ducks forward would have reached at the start of the 2019-2020 if he remained healthy.

“First and foremost I think, I probably initiated contact too late,” Cogliano said. “I’ve been very open about that with this process, and I made a mistake at that time.

“As I think about the hit though, I watch it and I still see that my body doesn’t change through the process of it. I think my shoulders are low, my elbows are low, my knees are bent and I’m in a pretty set position. As it evolves, he tries to make a play back across my body, which ends up maybe initiating some head contact near my upper back area. That’s what I see. I think there’s no injury, he came back and played. At the end of the day from what I’ve seen, it is a situation where we closed the gap on each other a little bit.”

Despite the hit, which clearly showed Cogliano nail Kempe in the head well after the puck had left the vicinity, Cogliano was surprised about hearing he was going to have a chat with the league.

“I was told after the game from Bob [Murray] that I was going to have a hearing or have a call,” Cogliano said. “I was surprised because no one said anything after the game to me otherwise. There was no media talking about it or nothing was brought up, so I was more surprised about that. Initially, I was thinking back on it, wondering what happened and wondering if I did anything bad.

“Obviously, you never want to injure anyone on the ice. That’s a fact. I’ve played 11 years and that’s one thing that I have stood behind and I’m glad he played the rest the game. From my end, there’s zero intent to do any sort of head contact or hit a person to injure them. I think it was a situation where I admitted to initiating contact too late and I think it was something that happened that ended up being very unfortunate for me.”

Cogliano said his teammates, and at least one Ducks legend, have offered their support.

“I’m probably being too dramatic about it. I’m sorry my emotions came out for whatever reason. I have had a lot of support.” Cogliano said. “I think there has been a lot of people that have reached out and initiated that I have done something special. The more I look back on it, it’s pretty cool. I think that playing 830 games in a row, not a lot of guys can say that and I think that’s something that I will hold to my heart.

“I appreciate all the texts. [Teemu] Selanne has been a big advocate in terms of reaching out. I may be making too big a deal of it, but I think when you go through the process and think back about coming to work and playing every single game for 11 straight years, it holds some value and holds some value to a lot of the guys in the league. Like I said, this is the last way I wanted it to go out. I’m glad he wasn’t injured and I’ll take the suspension, move on and come back and help my team.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: New York Islanders at Montreal Canadiens

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PROJECTED LINES

NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Anders LeeJohn Tavares – Alain Quine
Anthony BeauvillierMathew BarzalJordan Eberle
Michael Dal Colle – Brock NelsonShane Prince
Jason Chimera – Tanner Fritz – Cal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyScott Mayfield
Adam PelechSebastian Aho
Thomas HickeyRyan Pulock

Starting goalie: Thomas Greiss

PREVIEW FOR ISLANDERS-CANADIENS

MONTREAL CANADIENS
Alex GalchenyukJonathan DrouinDaniel Carr
Max PaciorettyPaul ByronCharles Hudon
Artturi LehkonenTomas PlekanecBrendan Gallagher
Nicolas DeslauriersByron Froese – Jacob De La Rose

Karl AlznerJeff Petry
Jordie BennJakub Jerabek
Victor Mete – David Schlemko

Starting goalie: Cary Price