Mathew Barzal

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Penguins (seemingly?) dodge bullet with Crosby, edge Islanders

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When it comes to possible concussions and/or head injuries, it’s wise to use caveats.

Sidney Crosby* stands as one of the prime examples for why we say “Player X seems OK … for now.” Many of us hold sad memories of his early concussion issues, as Crosby suffered from a David Steckel hit, only to see things worsen after a collision with Victor Hedman.

So, in cases like Thursday, you have to be careful not to assume too much about Crosby being OK. But at this moment, it seems like this accidental-looking collision with Jordan Eberle won’t have longer-reaching ramifications:

The GIF Sportsnet shared really captured the moment, and might serve as food for thought for the Penguins to at least take another look at their crucial captain.

Either way, Crosby kept playing for the Penguins on Thursday, managing an assist on a laser of a Phil Kessel goal. Pittsburgh couldn’t contain Mathew Barzal and the Islanders in every instance, however, as the Isles forced overtime despite being down 3-1 in the third.

Matt Hunwick ended up scoring the overtime-clincher for his third goal of the season, however, and now the Penguins and Islanders seem to be on different streaks.

The Penguins have won three of four in December and five of their last six stretching back to Nov. 25. The Islanders closed out November with five straight wins, but December hasn’t been as kind so far, as they’ve dropped three of four.

It’s nothing for Islanders fans to be alarmed about, really, as they near a home-heavy stretch once they close out this four-game road trip in Boston on Saturday.

Penguins fans have to hope there’s nothing to be alarmed about with Crosby, either, as otherwise this team is really starting to gather steam.

* – Actually, the Penguins can relate to this beyond number 87. There was a memorable game in which Kris Letang was injured against the Canadiens, came back to score the OT-GWG, then missed time for what looked like a concussion. These things are tricky, in other words.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Vegas’ expansion draft report card at quarter mark of season

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Devils forward Taylor Hall still appreciates everything Bob Boughner did for him at the junior level. (Sun-Sentinel)

• Canucks rookie Brock Boeser has been the talk of the NHL of late. He’s good enough to use a 90 flex stick. What does that mean? The Vancouver Province explains. (Vancouver Province)

• The Panthers scored 32 goals in the first 11 games of the season, but just 17 in the next 11. Production from the top line has dried up significantly. (Pantherparkway.com)

Jakub Vrana‘s rookie season stacks up pretty well against what other Capitals players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson (now with New Jersey) and Andrei Burakovsky did during their first year in the NHL. (Novacapsfans.com)

• The Sports Daily has changes to improve the NHL product on its 100th birthday. For example, they’d like to see the full two minutes served during a penalty and more three-on-three hockey during games. (Thesportsdaily.com)

• The Ducks are heading out on a crucial road trip, and they’ll have to do it with a roster that’s pretty banged up. (OC Register)

Jonathan Toews is still “Captain Serious,” but he’s also been willing to show a different side of himself over the last little while. (The Hockey News)

• A lot of Islanders fans wanted Matt Duchene to fill the hole they had at center on the second line. The team didn’t make the move, and that was clearly the right call now that they have Mathew Barzal playing there. (Nyislesblog.com)

• Now that we’re more than a quarter into Vegas’ first season, Sinbin.Vegas hands out their grades for each move the team made during the expansion draft. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• The Flames have been having a “could’ve been better, could’ve been worse” kind of season. That was also the theme of their recent road trip. (Flamesfrom80feet.ca)

• Jets Nation looks at the three different ways a 1A, 1B goaltending tandem can work for a team. With Connor Hellebuyck and Steve Mason, Winnipeg seems to be using a mentorship program. (JetsNation.ca)

• Paul Bissonnette’s transition from player to broadcaster has gone pretty well. (Sports Illustrated)

• The Rangers may be winning with some regularity, but it’s still not time to get excited about their winning ways. (Blueseatblogs.com)

• Charlie Lindgren was fantastic for the Canadiens while Carey Price was out with an injury, but they shouldn’t get used to having him around because free agency is approaching quickly. (Habseyesontheprize.com)

• Hockey fights cancer has a special meaning for Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Jamie Kompon and his wife, Tina. (NHL.com)

• Allaboutthejersey.com looks at where Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Adam Henrique, Miles Wood, Blake Coleman, Damon Severson, Jesper Bratt and Brian Gibbons are shooting the puck from at even strength. (Allaboutthejersey.com)

• How much longer will Wayne Simmonds be a member of the Philadelphia Flyers? Their next stretch of games might provide us with the answer. (Philly.com)

Brayden Schenn has been “a perfect fit” with the St. Louis Blues this season. (Post-Dispatch)

• Jason Shaya, who is a broadcaster for Charlotte Checkers games, got the opportunity to serve as the team’s backup goalie recently. (Charlotte Observer)

• Team USA added two more players to their Olympic roster, as Haley Skarupa and Sidney Morin are now part of the team. (NBC Olympics)

• A hockey stick autographed by JFK and his brothers is now on display in a Cape Cod museum. (Associated Press)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fantasy adds & drops: Dustin Brown is slowing down

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Every week, PHT will provide its readers with some fantasy hockey advice. This weekly column will aim to help you navigate through your league’s waiver wire by recommending players that are owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

We’ll also look at players owned in most leagues that can safely be dropped.

Adds:

• Here’s your weekly reminder that Mathew Barzal (41 percent) and Mikko Rantanen (42 percent) need to be added off the waiver wire. After last week’s article, Brock Boeser‘s fantasy ownership jumped to 68 percent. It’s now time for these two players to be picked up.

• Blues forward Alex Steen (46 percent) has missed time due to injury, but he’s been relatively productive of late. He has six points in his last six games, and he’s eligible to play all three forward positions in Yahoo! leagues. Steen is a solid add in deeper leagues.

• It’s not often that you’ll find an Arizona Coyote on this list, but here we are. Even though he hasn’t scored in five games, Derek Stepan (28 percent) is riding a six-game point streak. He’s a decent short-term add in most leagues. Don’t expect him to produce at a high clip all season though.

[More Fantasy: Check out RotoWorld’s PP Report]

• With Marc-Andre Fleury still sidelined by a concussion, the Golden Knights will clearly be rolling with Malcolm Subban (34 percent) now that he’s healthy. Solid fantasy goaltenders aren’t easy to come by, and if Vegas keeps winning that’s exactly what Subban will be.

• Don’t look now, but Artemi Anisimov (28 percent) is on pace to score close to 40 goals this season (I’m not suggesting that’s going to happen though). Still, the fact that he’s playing with Patrick Kane should help boost his fantasy value.

• After missing most of last season because of a hip issue, Tyler Myers (19 percent) has bounced back nicely for the Winnipeg. He had just one point in his first nine games, but he’s now on pace to score over 10 goals and 40 points.

[Fantasy Podcast: RotoWorld hands out quarter mark awards]

Drops:

• Kings forward Dustin Brown was one of the pleasant surprises early on. It would’ve been nice to see him continue producing as much as he did early on, but it just wasn’t realistic. It might still be a little too early to drop him, but just start thinking about it. He has one goal in his last seven games and two points in his last six.

• Scoring defensemen are hard to come by, but you can definitely find someone more productive than Brent Seabrook (65 percent), who has two assists in his last 13 games. It’s time to drop Seabrook for Myers.

• Another weekly reminder: If you’re still carrying Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic in non-penalty leagues, you’re doing it all wrong (yes, I know Lucic has four points in five games).

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Latest Oilers mess: Eberle on ‘brutal’ Edmonton media

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You don’t need to look very far to find gloom and doom surrounding the Edmonton Oilers these days.

Things are bad enough when you look at the standings, with the Oilers second-to-last in the West with 18 points in 23 games played. It’s not like the NHL’s goofy points system really does them any favors, either; the Anaheim Ducks are far ahead of the Oilers with 23 points in 22 games as the next team up the ladder.

Naturally, a letdown of this magnitude opens the door for criticism. PHT has gone in-depth on how this Oilers team went wrong, and how it’s as much about a faulty vision for successful hockey as it is about a run of bad luck. You could kill a chunk of today just reading about GM Peter Chiarelli’s many perceived trade failures.

Honestly, you almost get a little queasy just noticing the Oilers grasping at straws after losing to the struggling – but not quite as dire? – Buffalo Sabres last night. The Mike Cammalleri trade seemed like an opportunity to diversify the Oilers’ lines, but it still seems … less than optimal to use him with Connor McDavid in this fashion:

Still, a lot of these issues come down to mistakes made in assessing value and talent. They’re troubling, but things only get worse when it seems like there’s a toxic environment involved, on top of all of that.

Now, some of this is inevitable; when a team loses, the knives come out. And while there are cases in which a player requests a trade and thus feels refreshed, most of the time there will be hard feelings. Some of this fallout feels as natural as a columnist insulting a player on his way out with hot dog shaming.

In Taylor Hall‘s case, his time with the Oilers clearly stung, and it took him some time to recover. Jordan Eberle is going through a similar confidence rehab with the New York Islanders one season after Hall began his with the New Jersey Devils, and Eberle provided some remarkably candid insight to Sportsnet’s Tim Panaccio about his experiences.

To be more specific, Eberle admitted that he lost confidence in no small part to criticisms he’d read from the Edmonton media.

That full piece is absolutely worth your time, as Eberle shows that he understands part of the reason he was traded: a rough 2016-17 season, including some playoff struggles.

If it really did come down to the Oilers essentially panicking with Eberle, then they’ve been burned by a remarkably obvious case of a mere off year. At 27, Eberle remains in his prime range, and last season was the only time his shooting percentage has been an issue (9.6 percent last season vs. his 13.5 career average).

So far with the Islanders, Eberle’s finding splendid chemistry with emerging talent Mathew Barzal, and he’s scored eight goals (and 16 points) on 51 shots on goal. That’s (wait for it) a shooting percentage of 15.7 percent.

The comparisons only get more uncomfortable when you consider Ryan Strome‘s ups and mostly downs in Edmonton:

About the only real solace is if you try/strain to make the money argument, as Strome certainly is dramatically cheaper this season.

It seems strange to advance such a stance when the Oilers are clearly going for a Stanley Cup and might not have planned to have an estimated $8.67 million in cap space just lying around. (Hey, at least TSN’s Dustin Nielson is sticking up for a player, if nothing else.)

Things become more uncomfortable if you ponder a lousy combination for this franchise: inept management and, in Eberle’s words, media that can be “pretty brutal.” Moments like these explain why people rushed to Connor McDavid’s defense even as he legitimately struggled, as the worry was that blame was being passed from the front office to the superstar often carrying his team:

Really, it’s a chicken-and-the-egg argument; if you made a living assessing a team, wouldn’t you be critical of the Oilers? Of course, the debate gets more complicated if you believe that blame is being placed on the wrong shoulders.

It’s not a new phenomenon for the Oil. Hall was often a scapegoat in Edmonton, especially in times when there really was little talent beyond him. Sometimes it got a little weird when stories seemingly trumpeted Adam Larsson‘s superiority.

Tyler Dellow, formerly of the Oilers organization, wondered if the media in Edmonton is actually tougher than in Toronto in an interesting podcast with The Athletic’s Craig Custance. Dellow’s logic is reasonable: with the Oilers being an even bigger focal point of daily life in a smaller city, perhaps the spotlight burns even brighter than in Toronto, where the media apparatus is larger but there are more distractions?

That’s a debate for another day, really, but it’s worth noting that the Maple Leafs eventually turned things around by learning from their mistakes.

Part of that process comes down to realizing that change is needed. In the case of the Edmonton Oilers, it’s possible that there’s still a long way to go. Even with Connor McDavid around.

Update: At least one member of the Edmonton media provided his take, as Sportsnet’s Mark Spector responded on Twitter:

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.

Boeser channels Bure, leads NHL rookie scoring

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Brock Boeser has no intentions of letting Clayton Keller or Mathew Barzal walk away with the Calder Trophy.

Boeser, 20, has been lights out over the past four games for the Vancouver Canucks, scoring six times during his current four-game goal-scoring streak (he also has points in five straight) as Keller’s stock has cooled.

The Arizona Coyotes 19-year-old rookie has failed to score in each of his past eight games after a blistering start that saw him score 11 times in 16 contests.

Keller’s slump has allowed Boeser to grab hold of the rookie scoring lead, which he did on Wednesday, scoring twice — the second time he’s done so in as many games — in a 5-2 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He’s now one point ahead of Keller and Barzal, the latter of which is heating up as well with points in his past four games.

As you can see by the above video, Boeser’s release puts his name on a pedestal with few others in the NHL. The Athletic’s Justin Bourne wrote glowingly of Boeser’s shot ability on Wednesday.

Don’t see the Alex Ovechkin or Patrik Laine in that shot? Here’s more proof:

Boeser’s scoring prowess has him in the conversation with another talented Russian in Pavel Bure.

Bure, who won the Calder Trophy in 1992, scored 34 times for the Canucks that season. Boeser is on pace to hit the 40-goal mark, which would smash that record.

Boeser is the first rookie to score in four consecutive games this season. According to the NHL, only one rookie in Canucks franchise history has scored in more than four consecutive team games – Dennis Ververgaert had a six-game goal streak in 1973-74.

Boeser is scoring on nearly 21 percent of his shots, and while TSN’s Scott Cullen points out that that number isn’t likely to hold, his 2.8 shots per game are still very much conducive to goal scoring.

And winning. Boeser has three game-winning goals for the Canucks, who are 11-8-3 this season, two points out of first place in the Pacific Division in the Western Conference.


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