Jeff Skinner

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The Buzzer: Rinne shuts down Blackhawks; Williams dazzles with incredible assist

Player Of The Night: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators. 

The Nashville Predators were able to steal a win in Chicago on Friday night thanks to a sensational goaltending performance from Pekka Rinne.

Rinne stopped 43 out of 44 shots in the win and continued his recent dominance over the Blackhawks

Dating back to the start of last year’s playoffs, where the Predators swept the Blackhawks in the first round, Rinne is 5-0-1 against the Blackhawks and has only allowed six goals. He has allowed more than one goal in a game just twice and never more than two.

His save percentage in those games: .970.

You could say that for the time being he has their number.

Highlight Of The Night.

Jeff Skinner is one of the NHL’s best (and most underappreciated and overlooked) goal scorers and has been for quite some time. He scored his sixth goal of the season on Friday night. But it was not necessarily the goal that makes the highlight. It is the impossible assist by his teammate, Justin Williams.

My goodness that is an amazing play.

It still was not enough to give the Hurricanes a win as they dropped a 2-1 decision to the St. Louis Blues.

Factoid Of The Night.

The Vegas Golden Knights just keep winning in ways that almost no other expansion team has. What an incredible run they are on to start the season.

Misc.

— With his 32-save effort in the Vegas Golden Knights’ dismantling of the Colorado Avalanche Oscar Dansk recorded his first career shutout as well as the first shutout in the history of the Golden Knights franchise. He is only in the lineup due to injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban. In the past seven days Dansk has picked up his first NHL win (in relief of Subban), received his first NHL start (which he also won), and then recorded his first NHL shutout. Quite a week for the former second-round pick.

— The New Jersey Devils let a two-goal lead slip away in the final two minutes of regulation but were still able to beat the Ottawa Senators in a shootout. They are now 7-2-0 on the season.

Craig Smith scored the game-winning goal for the Nashville Predators. It was his 100th goal in the NHL.

Alexander Radulov is starting to heat up for the Dallas Stars. He scored his third goal of the season to lift the Stars to a 2-1 win in Calgary. He now has five points in his past four games.

Josh Anderson‘s third goal of the season gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2-1 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets.

Scores and recaps

Vegas Golden Knights 7, Colorado Avalanche 0

Columbus Blue Jackets 2, Winnipeg Jets 1

New Jersey Devils 5, Ottawa Senators 4

St. Louis Blues 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1

Nashville Predators 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Dallas Stars 2, Calgary Flames 1

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.

Hurricanes split captain duty between Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk

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Some people believe that captains are crucial leaders in NHL locker rooms. Others counter that the captaincy is an overrated honor that mainly drives up a player’s media duties.

Apparently the Carolina Hurricanes believe that captain can be a two-man job.

The team made the strange announcement that Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk will serve as co-captains, while Jeff Skinner gets the “A.” They explained it this way:

Staal will primarily serve as captain at home and Faulk will primarily serve as captain on the road.

/shrug emoticon

This explanation will make eyebrows furrow a little deeper:

Weird, right? At least this opened the door for former Hurricanes defenseman (who may or may not still have a clown-like, wonderful crop of red hair) Mike Commodore to swoop in with this fun one.

Yeah, maybe it would have been easier to just use Justin Williams as something of a stopgap captain, but oh well.

Hey, the hockey world is still struggling to decide if the Hurricanes will finally be good in 2017-18. The team might as well embrace the uncertainty by being wishy-washy about naming a captain.

(At least they didn’t make their goalie the unofficial captain, right Roberto Luongo?)

Sebastian Aho one of the reasons for optimism in Carolina this season

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Even though the organization hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2009 there is a lot of excitement around the Carolina Hurricanes heading into the 2017-18 season. A lot of the attention is directed toward their young defense that is the backbone of their current rebuild, but they also have a ton of talent up front and leading the way is 20-year-old forward Sebastian Aho.

Aho was one of the standout rookies that shined in the NHL during the 2017-18 season, and while he didn’t get as much attention as Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine, his performance was still one worth paying attention. His 24 goals were third among all rookies, and he did that while not scoring a goal until his 15th game of the season.

That goal total put him in some pretty strong company in recent NHL history.

Since the start of the 2005-06 season only 11 players under the age of 20 have scored at least 24 goals in their debut season. That list, other than Aho, includes Sidney Crosby, Matthews, Laine, Jeff Skinner, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Jack Eichel, John Tavares, Jordan Staal, and Jonathan Toews. Pretty good list to be a part of, and everything about Aho’s rookie season would seem to indicate it was not a fluke performance. He was a possession-driving forward (53 percent Corsi) and averaged more than two-and-a-half shots on goal per game, finishing as one of the league’s top rookies in terms of shot on goals.

That is the early career resume of a potential All-Star level player for a long, long time.

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said this week, via Chip Alexander of the News & Observer, that he is going to give Aho one more season on the wing to help his development before moving him back to his natural position of center.

With Aho becoming one of the focal points of the roster the Hurricanes definitely have a lot of reasons for optimism heading into the season.

Their defense has helped them become one of the best shot suppression teams in the league in recent years, while they are hoping that Scott Darling can help solve the long-standing problem in net. Jeff Skinner is one of the league’s best goal-scorers and they now have an intriguing collection of younger forwards just ready to hit the prime of their careers with Aho and Teuvo Teravainen leading the way.

We’ve been hearing about the Hurricanes’ young talent for a couple of years now, and they have entered previous seasons as a popular sleeper pick to make some noise in the Eastern Conference, and this year’s version might be the team to finally fulfill some of that promise.

Report: Skinner among leading candidates for Hurricanes captaincy

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The Carolina Hurricanes went last season without a captain. That will change once training camp is over, and, according to a recent report, Jeff Skinner is one of the prime candidates to possibly wear the ‘C’ for this season.

The Hurricanes selected Skinner seventh overall in 2010. He made an instant impact on the NHL club, scoring 31 goals and 63 points in his rookie season as a teenager. He’s been a valuable offensive weapon for Carolina ever since.

This past season, he scored 37 goals — a career best. Although the consideration to potentially make him the next captain goes beyond his skills around the opposing net.

From NHL.com:

“He’s a passionate guy and he’s a passionate player,” Peters said. “He’s a real good pro in the fact that he looks after himself, he trains properly and the guys have unreal respect for the way he looks after his body. The maturity shows. I know guys bring it up quite a bit.”

To that end, Peters said he was at a staff golf outing prior to the start of training camp with about 16 people, including members of the Hurricanes’ medical and strength training staffs, and he polled as many people about the captaincy candidates as he could.

“[Skinner’s] name came up in the conversation quite a bit, and they bring up that type of stuff, the way he looks after himself and the way he prepares,” Peters said. “He’s passionate about it and he’s hungry to win.”

The Hurricanes have, over the past few years, done a nice job of building a talented young roster that has shown signs of being able to compete in the Eastern Conference. They do, however, play in a difficult Metropolitan Division, which features the Blue Jackets, Penguins, Capitals and Rangers.

The biggest change in Carolina this offseason was in net, with the addition of Scott Darling, who was the capable back-up in Chicago but is now taking over the No. 1 role with the Hurricanes.

Another change is still upcoming. Eric Staal was the captain in Carolina for six years, but the team is expected to soon name a replacement. There are other candidates for the Hurricanes captaincy, as well, like Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal.

“Someone is going to wear one, for sure,” said Peters earlier this month, per TSN. “Our leadership group is fine and we’ve got real good candidates. They’ll all provide leadership whether they wear a letter or not.”

David Pastrnak is a star and the Bruins should be willing to pay him like one

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As training camps draw closer all eyes in the NHL are starting to turn to the situation in Boston where restricted free agent David Pastrnak remains unsigned.

According to general manager Don Sweeney, there is no timetable on when a deal is going to be reached and there seems to be a bit of a gap between the two sides when it comes to the type of contract Pastrnak is going to get.

The Bruins have reportedly offered a seven-year deal worth around $6 million per year, while Pastrnak would reportedly prefer a deal closer to the eight-year pact Leon Draisaitl received from the Edmonton Oilers. Given their ages and overall production to this point, as well as the market for RFA’s of that skill level, it is not a completely unreasonable ask.

There are a couple of problems for the Bruins here, and a big one is simply the optics of the situation.

The Bruins have a 21-year-old player that appears to be on the verge of stardom in the NHL. He not only can be a young, cornerstone offensive player, he already is one. They also have more than enough salary cap room to fit him in.

What keeps the Bruins from getting the benefit of the doubt in this situation (at least from this perspective) is the track record they have in dealing with young, cornerstone offensive players. They tend to toss them aside, having traded Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin and standout defenseman Dougie Hamilton all within the past 12 years (and with three different general managers completing those trades). It creates the perception that the organization as a whole doesn’t properly value high end talent and would rather trade it away — often times for pennies on the dollar — than pay market value to keep it.

The argument against paying Pastrnak a deal similar to the one Draisaitl received, for example, is that the team is paying for potential. He might not pan out. It might not be a great value.

Pastrnak at this point in his career has one monster season and a couple of half seasons where he flashed star potential.

But his production puts him in some pretty rare and special company when it comes to impact players.

Over the past 20 years there have only been 10 players that have appeared in at least 170 games and scored at least 59 goals by the end of their age 20 season: Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Steven Stamkos, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Skinner, Evander Kane, Jordan Staal, Vincent Lecavalier, Nathan MacKinnon and … David Pastrnak. The only player on that list that really didn’t continue on the same path that they showed early on has been Kane, and a lot of that has been due to injury and health.

What stands out about Pastrnak on that list is how little ice time it has taken him to reach that level compared to some of the others. Via Hockey-Reference.

On a per-minute basis his production is off the charts for someone his age.

Players that produce at this level at this age tend to be good enough to sustain it.

It’s not paying for potential. It’s paying for what a player will do for you instead of what a player has done for you.

The Bruins have been fortunate to get some tremendous bargains with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron over the years, and giving Pastrnak $7-8 million per season right now might look like a little bit of an overpay. But not every contract has to be below market value. Plus, if Pastrnak continues on his current path — and there is every reason to believe that he will given what he has done so far, his ability to generate shots and his possession numbers — that contract, too, could look like a bargain in the near future.