Pekka Rinne

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The Buzzer: McDavid leads Oilers; Rinne celebrates birthday with win

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Player of the Night: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers captain registered an assist in all three periods helping Edmonton to a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. After starting the night tied for 30th in NHL scoring, he now sits tied for fifth. According to the NHL, McDavid has now recorded at least three points in a game 17 times since the 2015-16 season.

Highlight of the Night:

Taylor Hall came this close to scoring an own goal in his return to Edmonton:

MISC:

• During their Hockey Fights Cancer night, the Oilers invited Brian Boyle to take part in the ceremonial puck drop before their game:

• The Oilers won 44 of 66 face-offs.

Adam Larsson‘s stat line: 1 assist, 3 SOG, 13 hits, 6 blocked shots, 23:07 TOI.

• Before he almost scored in his own net, Hall tallied his first goal against his old team:

• Five different Nashville Predators scored as they held off the Anaheim Ducks during a 5-3 victory. Pekka Rinne made 35 stops and assisted on P.K. Subban‘s empty netter to help celebrate his 35th birthday.

Scott Hartnell, who scored Nashville’s opening goal, suited up for the 1,200th game of his NHL career.

John Gibson had no chance on this Roman Josi laser:

• Nifty primary assist here by Derek Grant:

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Edmonton 6, New Jersey 3
Nashville 5, Anaheim 3

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

EA Sports unveils NHL 16’s top 10 goaltenders

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Carey Price dominated the NHL last season, winning the Hart and Ted Lindsay Trophies in addition to the Vezina, so it seems only fitting that his virtual counterpart would be exactly effective.

Price will be the top goaltender in the upcoming video game NHL 16 with a 94 overall rating, per EA Sports’ release. That’s allowed him to leapfrog Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, who led all netminders in last year’s ratings. Price’s rise didn’t push either of them down though as he went from a 92 to 94 while Lundqvist and Quick have once again been listed as a 93 going into the season.

Rounding out this year’s top five is Boston’s Tuukka Rask (92) and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (92). Rask received the same rating last summer, but Rinne is up from his previous mark of 91.

Braden Holtby (91), Sergei Bobrovsky (90), and Cory Schneider (90) are the remaining goaltenders with a rating above 90. That’s a new position for both Holtby and Schneider, although Bobrovsky simply maintained his rating from the year prior.

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov remained level too with an 89 rating that was good enough for ninth place this season. After a strong showing in his first full campaign as the Anaheim Ducks’ starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen (89) was selected to round out the top 10.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe.

Capitals’ biggest question: Is this finally the year?

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Of the 12 NHL teams that have never won the Stanley Cup, there may not be a more optimistic one heading into 2015-16 than the Washington Capitals. 

Here’s why:

— Alex Ovechkin just won his third straight Rocket Richard Trophy. At 29, he remains the NHL’s most dangerous goal-scorer. On top of that, the Caps appear to have found the right coach for the Russian superstar in Barry Trotz.

— The Caps also appear to have found a second-line center in young Evgeny Kuznetsov. If the 23-year-old continues to progress — and there’s no good reason he shouldn’t — Washington could have quite the 1-2 combo at center in Nicklas Backstrom and Kuznetsov.

— Defenseman John Carlson is emerging as one of the top blue-liners in the NHL. And at 25, he may get even better.

— Goalie Braden Holtby continues to post strong numbers. His .923 save percentage last season was tied with Pekka Rinne and one point better than Tuukka Rask.

Now throw in the additions of veterans T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams to go with youngsters Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson, and what emerges is a roster where a glaring weakness is pretty tough to find.

OK, sure, there are concerns. Like maybe the Caps will miss Mike Green more than they think. Ditto for Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and/or Eric Fehr. If Washington’s young players don’t step up next season, it’s hard to picture this team hoisting the Cup.

But that’s true of any team, really.

“I’d say the next three or four years is the window,” GM Brian MacLellan said in May.

Given how quickly the landscape of a young man’s league can change, it may turn out to be a shorter window than that.

The Caps have a real opportunity in 2015-16. Can they finally get it done?

Related: Green calls this year’s Caps ‘the best team we’ve had overall’

Nashville Predators ’15-16 Outlook

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If you truly subscribe to the belief that defense wins championships, then you’d have to rank the Nashville Predators high on any list of Stanley Cup contenders.

As detailed in this post, they’re maybe the only team that could afford to even ponder trading a defenseman of Shea Weber’s caliber while not being in rebuild mode. Roman Josi and Seth Jones both boast futures that seem even brighter than their quite-brilliant presents.

Pekka Rinne stands as a sturdy last line of defense, too. The 32-year-old bounced back after a couple of rough seasons by winning 41 games and generating a .923 save percentage.

It’s not just about defense in Nashville any longer – Filip Forsberg and James Neal rank among the weapons Peter Laviolette can unleash – but it’s still the reason to get most excited about this team.

That brings up an intriguing question: what should we expect of Nashville? More specifically, should they be the Central Division favorites?

The Chicago Blackhawks are suffering from a rough off-season in nearly every way imaginable. The St. Louis Blues maintain an impressive core group, yet there’s a funk in the air after another postseason letdown. The Winnipeg Jets haven’t won a playoff game during their time in Winnipeg or Atlanta. The Dallas Stars loaded up this summer, although they still have questions on defense, while the Colorado Avalanche almost seem like a hockey lab experiment at the moment.

Nashville resides in what is likely still the best division in the NHL, but pondering the paragraph above, is it out of line to wonder if the Preds might jump from a second-place Central finish in 2014-15 to the division title next season?

You can’t really fault fans for clamoring to see a first division title banner up in the rafters … and maybe something even more prestigious.

Preds’ biggest question: Are they strong enough at center?

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When you think about the key components of recent championship teams, the Nashville Predators check a lot of the boxes.

  • Whether you prefer Shea Weber or Roman Josi, they boast at least one elite defenseman, and the rest of their group is impressive (heck, Seth Jones may have the highest ceiling of them all).
  • Pekka Rinne sure looked like a $7 million goalie last season. In fact, he wasn’t far off of Carey Price’s pace before getting injured.
  • Young forwards abound, especially at the wing, as Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are all in the meat of their primes.

All things considered, the Predators’ mammoth jump in 2014-15 actually made a lot of sense.

That said, the West is rugged, and there’s a glaring question: are they strong enough down the middle?

Look, Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro bring plenty to the table; the Predators brought both pivots back for a reason.

Do they really stack up to the best of the best, though?

Ribero exceeded most, if not all, expectations by scoring 62 points, which is very nice but not quite “elite” production. Fisher is trumpeted as a strong two-way player, yet his possession stats argue that he may be a little more limited than some think.

Many would argue that, ideally, both would either be second-line centers or perhaps one should be on the second line (Ribeiro) with the other on the third (Fisher).

Look back at this list of championship-winners from the last decade or so and ponder their situations down the middle:

2015: Chicago Blackhawks
2014: Los Angeles Kings
2013: Blackhawks
2012: Kings
2011: Boston Bruins
2010: Blackhawks
2009: Pittsburgh Penguins
2008: Detroit Red Wings
2007: Anaheim Ducks
2006: Carolina Hurricanes
2004: Tampa Bay Lightning

Most, if not all, of those teams boasted at least one serious difference-maker at center. The Ducks might be the best team for Nashville to emulate, right down to their stacked defense corps and solid group of centers (Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t yet Ryan Getzlaf in 2007).

Does this guarantee that the Predators cannot top last season’s work? Not necessarily, but the center position’s questions stick out like a sore thumb.