Daniel Sedin

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For better or worse, Canucks extend Benning, want to bring back Sedins

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

If you’re the type of person who expects life to be a “meritocracy,” the NHL has probably upset you quite a bit in the last week.

Not long after the hockey train wreck known as the Ottawa Senators rewarded one of the architects of their mess, GM Pierre Dorion, with a contract extension while embracing a rebuild, the Canucks basically did the same thing with GM Jim Benning.

The team announced a multi-year extension on Wednesday, leaving fans in dismay and onlookers flustered. They also put out a “Yep, we’re rebuilding” press release this week, following the lead of the Rangers and Senators.

The thing is, this is probably the toughest of the moves to defend. While the Senators dealt with budgetary limitations and leftover mistakes from before Dorion’s days, Ottawa enjoyed some recent successes. After all, they were within a goal of advancing to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and Dorion was nominated for GM of the Year, with the hiring of coach Guy Boucher proving instrumental in that run.

Under Benning’s watch, the biggest wins have … basically been when the Canucks play against type and actually rebuild a bit or draft well (on paper). There have been serious gaffes in trying to avoid the reality that this team was past its prime, with Loui Eriksson‘s contract (that $6 million cap hit still runs through 2021-22, somehow) being the most glaring example.

By no means is Benning solely responsible for the Canucks’ downfall, but it sends a strange message that he’s getting an extension.

On the bright side, Benning’s performed reasonably well, at least when everyone’s on the same page about rebuilding.

The not-so-bright side is that there still seems to be a tone of denial in Vancouver. From reports of management wanting to bring back polarizing defenseman Erik Gudbranson – who could bring back a nice return – to not moving on from Henrik and Daniel Sedin, there are some signs that the Canucks might parallel the Detroit Red Wings in trying to have their cake and eat it too.

(That approach has really just clogged their arteries, honestly.)

Ultimately, it’s tough to ignore that the NHL is a tight-knit community, and sometimes that means that people who are part of the “inner circle” tend to get more chances than those with fresher voices.

Maybe the Canucks will turn things around, maybe they won’t. More progressive teams might be licking their chops at moves like these, though.

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.

The Buzzer: Monahan is money, Zajac(!?), Command and Conacher

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Player of the Night: Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils.

What has gotten into Travis Zajac? Did he step out of a time machine this week, and if so, was it the type that makes you a bit more monstrous, like the one from “The Fly?”

Zajac factored into all three of the Devils’ goals in a 3-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, collecting two goals and one assist. The Devils have been slipping quite a bit lately, but they’ve now won three in a row, with these last two wins being considerable.

And Zajac’s been a notable factor in each of the past two wins, fighting Radko Gudas and shockingly holding his own:

Highlights of the Night:

Are we certain that Mike Hoffman isn’t Swedish? Feels like a relevant question, considering his expert use of the Peter Forsberg Postage Stamp move:

Unusual scene for the Lightning on Saturday: Cory Conacher drew a penalty shot while taking a high-sticking infraction to his face. He got repairs, scored on that penalty shot, and then the Bolts received a two-minute power play. Weird. (Also: Conacher has been pretty hot for Tampa Bay recently.)

Sweeet save by Tuukka Rask, who continued his personal point streak of 20 games.

Tough to top the bottle-bashing goal:

Factoids:

The Stars’ scoring is about as imbalanced as the score of their 6-1 win against the Wild.

In his young career, Sean Monahan has 131 regular-season goals. He’s scored 10 of them in overtime.

Henrik Sedin is a few ahead of his twin Daniel Sedin (who’s currently at 1,276 regular season games). Daniel could hit 1,300 if he plays most of the Canucks’ remaining games.

Scores:

Canadiens 5, Ducks 2
Senators 4, Flyers 3 (SO)
Jets 3, Avalanche 0
Bruins 4, Maple Leafs 1
Blues 1, Sabres 0
Panthers 3, Red Wings 2
Devils 3, Penguins 1
Islanders 4, Blue Jackets 3
Predators 5, Rangers 2
Stars 6, Wild 1
Lightning 4, Canucks 2
Flames 4, Blackhawks 3 (OT)
Kings 6, Coyotes 0

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.

The 100-point scorer is trying to make a comeback this season

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Even though the overall numbers have started to decline a little bit from where they were earlier in the season, the NHL has still seen an increase in goal-scoring this season. Whether it’s because of the crackdown on slashing, better power plays, or any other combination of factors it has been a pleasant change from what we have seen over the past decade.

That rise in scoring also means individual scoring numbers are improving as well, and it could lead to the return of something that has been rapidly disappearing in recent years: The 100-point scorer.

Since the start of the 2010-11 season the 100-point mark has been eclipsed just five times in a season.

Daniel Sedin did it in 2010-11, Evgeni Malkin did it in 2011-12, Sidney Crosby in 2013-14, Patrick Kane in 2015-16 and Connor McDavid this past season. The highest point total during that stretch was Malkin’s 109 points in 2011-12. It is not just the century mark that seemed unreachable because even hitting 90 points seemed impossible. Only 11 players were able to hit that mark over the aforementioned stretch.

Once during those years (not counting the lockout shortened 2012-13 season) the Art Ross Trophy was won by a player that came in under the 90-point mark, something that had not happened (in a non-lockout season) since 1967-68.

That brings us to this season where things have changed dramatically for the top scorers in the league.

Heading into the holiday weekend there are currently five players in the NHL this season on pace for at least 100 points.

Nikita Kucherov is leading the way with a 120-point pace, a number that would be the highest point total in the league since Crosby hit it during the 2006-07 season. His teammate, Steven Stamkos, is on pace for 108, New York Islanders teammates John Tavares and Josh Bailey are both on pace for 105, while Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek is on pace for 101.

There are also 12 players in the NHL on pace to hit the 90-point mark this season. That would be more than the previous six seasons … combined.

Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid are both on pace for more than 95, and it would not be a stretch to think that McDavid could get white hot again at some point and get back on to a 100-point pace.

At this point all of these are just projections at nearly the NHL’s halfway point, and it is possible that a few of these players will cool off and not maintain their current pace.

But at this same point in time last season there were currently zero players on a 100-point pace and only four that were on a 90-point pace. Only McDavid topped 90 points for the season (he finished with 100 exactly) while Crosby and Kane finished with 89. Nicklas Backstrom, Brad Marchand, and Kucherov all finished with 85.

In the end they’re just arbitrary numbers, but the decline in overall offense over the past two decades has really limited what the best players in the league can do. There is a ton of high-level skill in the NHL right now and some truly generational talents (both the old guard of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, as well as the next wave represented by Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews) and it was not a great look for the league when those players were no longer able to hit even the 90-point mark every year. We want to see the best players dominate and put up numbers that clearly separate them from the pack. This season, for the first time in a while, that seems to be happening.

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.

Let’s go deep on Flyers’ 10-game losing streak

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When fans are booing you out of the building and management is straining to defend you, things can start to get out of hand.

The Philadelphia Flyers will either end their current 10-game losing streak or see it go to 11 games on Monday as they take on the Flames in Calgary. PHT will monitor that contest, but in the meantime, it might be entertaining, informative, and yes, a bit frustrating to see how the wheels came off.

Will there be some themes to this 10-game skid? Yes, it seems there will be.

Games 1 and 2: Shutout losses to the Wild (1-0 at home on Nov. 11; 3-0 in Minnesota on Nov. 14)

For Wild fans, Devan Dubnyk‘s shutout streak probably feels pretty distant right now. Still, his hot run really cooled off the Flyers, as Dubnyk stopped 32 and 30 shots for those goose eggs.

[More on Dubnyk’s hot streak here.]

Game 3: 3-2 shootout loss to the Jets.

One theme, at least early on, of this losing streak is blown leads. In the case of this contest against Winnipeg, the trio of Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, and Claude Giroux helped the Flyers build a 2-0 lead through the first period, with that second tally coming about five minutes into the opening frame.

The Jets’ second goal really had to sting, as Mark Scheifele sent the contest into overtime with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

Game 4: Flames 5, Flyers 4 (OT).

Another game where a substantial first-period lead eventually dissolved into a defeat.

In this case, Philly went up 1-0 and then 3-1 in the opening frame. Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and the Flames turned the game on its head in the second period, which included Monahan’s first NHL hat trick:

Game 5: Canucks win 5-2.

The Flyers scored first in this one, but that lead only lasted for 1:12 before things quickly went off the rails. Brock Boeser scored twice and Daniel Sedin had a rare strong night during a fading season with two points.

Game 6 and 7: Two OT losses against the Islanders.

On Nov. 22, the Flyers saw leads go away, and then John Tavares ended the game with this outstanding combination of will and skill:

The second contest probably generated more unrest, as the Flyers squandered a 4-2 lead heading into the third period, ultimately seeing Nick Leddy‘s OT goal extend the misery.

Game 8: The temperature rises another level with another squandered lead, and an OT loss to the hated Penguins.

While Pittsburgh generated a 1-0 lead through the first 20 minutes, the Flyers exploded for three goals to make it 3-1 entering the final frame. Even with things crumbling, they shook off the game being tied 3-3 to take one more advantage at 4-3, only to see Jake Guentzel send it to overtime with a late tally.

Then, to turn the knife in deeper, it was Sidney Crosby who scored the game-clincher:

And tweets like these started to surface.

Game 9: Boos and votes of confidence.

With a 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks for their ninth in a row, things were getting pretty ugly in Philly.

[Ron Hextall gives Dave Hakstol the vote of confidence]

Game 10: After losing 3-1 to the Sharks, the Flyers dropped a 3-0 defeat to the Boston Bruins.

***

Basically, the Flyers have either been shut out/blown out of games or given up significant leads during this 10-game skid, generating five standings points in the process. Really, this slump could probably be traced back longer; Philly began 2017-18 with a 5-3-0 record, yet now they find themselves at 8-11-7. Yes, that means 15 losses in their last 18 contests.

Maybe Hextall is correct in believing that this team hasn’t played poorly as of late, but they also haven’t played particularly well. It might just be that this squad, as constructed – or with its current coach, or both – simply stands in hockey purgatory.

Monday presents another opportunity for the Flyers to end this streak, as they take on the Flames in Calgary to begin a three-game road trip. If they don’t get it together, we’ll once again learn that votes of confidence only mean so much.

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.

The Buzzer: Boeser shines again, Sedin joins 1,000 point club

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Player Of The Night: Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

No matter what happens with the Vancouver Canucks in the standings this season one of the biggest developments for the organization will be the fact that it actually seems to have a couple of young players it can build around for the future in Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser.

Boeser was the star in the Canucks’ 5-3 win in Nashville on Thursday night with three points, including two goals, allowing him to reclaim the NHL’s rookie scoring lead with 25 points. His 13 goals are also tops among all NHL rookies, moving him ahead of Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller and Chicago Blackhawks rookie Alex DeBrincat.

Bonus player of the night: Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings

Big night for the Los Angeles Kings to go into Washington, pick up a 5-2 win, and reclaim sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Leading the way was Marian Gaborik with a pair of goals, his first two of the season.

Injuries have really limited Gaborik’s availability and production the past few years, but if he can stay healthy and give the Kings a little more offense it would be a huge boost to their offense. He can still be a game-breaker.

Highlight Of The Night.

The Minnesota Wild were 4-2 winners over the Vegas Golden Knights and a lot of the credit has to go to goalie Devan Dubnyk. This save late in the third period on Jonathan Marchessault to help protect what was at the time a one-goal lead (Minnesota later added an empty net goal) was probably his best of the night. Given the situation, it is good enough to be our highlight of the night.

Factoid(s) Of The Night.

Daniel Sedin hit the 1,000 point mark on Thursday night making him the 87th player in NHL history to accomplish that feat.

He is only the 19th player to reach it with one team.

Patrick Marleau was credited with the game-winning goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs (with a huge assist from Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell). That brings him closer to the 1,100 point mark.

The Chicago Blackhawks have another one.

Scores

Los Angeles Kings 5, Washington Capitals 2

Montreal Canadiens 6, Detroit Red Wings 3

Minnesota Wild 4, Vegas Golden Knights 2

Vancouver Canucks 5, Nashville Predators 3

Dallas Stars 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3

Calgary Flames 3, Arizona Coyotes 0

Toronto Maple Leafs 6, Edmonton Oilers 4

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.