Plenty of material covered in the latest PHT Extra. Watch:
Plenty of material covered in the latest PHT Extra. Watch:
The Tampa Bay Lightning have not only been the NHL’s most dominant team during the 2018-19 season, but they have a shot to be remembered as one of the all-time greatest single season teams the league has ever seen.
The enter Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues with 58 wins on the season, needing only four wins to match the record that was set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings.
They are 12 points back of the 132 mark that was set by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens (in what was at the time an 80-game season).
Topping the point record would take at least a 6-0-1 record in their remaining seven games on top of what is currently a seven-game winning streak, so that would be asking quite a bit, especially given how difficult their remaining schedule is. But the wins mark is certainly well within their reach. Even if they do not get to either mark, there is no denying this has been one of the best regular season performances by any team in the history of the league.
With that in mind, here are some incredible numbers highlighting their dominance this season.
There is no one close to them in the standings
The Lightning have been so much better than every other team in the NHL this season that they wrapped up the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record on March 18, when they still had nine games remaining on their schedule.
Entering play on Saturday they already have 120 points in the standings with still seven games to play.
For context on that, consider the following…
They do not just win, they win big
Along with what is, by far, the best record in the NHL, the Lightning also have what is the league’s best goal-differential having already outscored their opponents by exactly 100 goals for the season.
Only one other team has a goal-differential better than plus-43 (the Calgary Flames at plus-56), and only three others (Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Winnipeg Jets) enter Saturday as better than plus-30.
In the history of the league only 31 teams have had a goal-differential of plus-100 or better through their first 75 games of the season, and only two teams (the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2005-06 Ottawa Senators) have done it since 1989.
They have an offense from a different era
Their ability to score is like something out of the 1980s on both an individual and team level.
Let’s start with the latter, and take a look at their 3.89 goals per game average. That is 0.31 goals per game better than the next highest scoring team in the NHL.
That 3.89 per game average is the highest mark since the start of the 2005-06 season, and makes them only the third team during this era (the 2005-06 Ottawa Senators and 2009-10 Washington Capitals being the other two) that have averaged more than 3.80 goals per game.
Going as far back as 1990, only 19 teams have averaged more goals per game in a single season. Of the 18 teams ahead of them, 17 of them played between 1990 and 1994, and none of them played after 1996. They are one of only four teams in the top-40 in goals per game since then that played after 1994.
Keep in mind how different that era of offense was from today.
Average total goals per game in the NHL between 1990 and 1994: 7.04
Average total goals per game in the NHL in 2018-19: 5.98
Then we have their leading scorer, Nikita Kucherov, who has just absolutely lapped the field this season in the points race.
He has already topped the 80-assist and 120-point mark this season, something that only 20 other players in NHL history have accomplished, and none since 2006-07. It is only the sixth time it has been done since 1994. He still has seven games remaining this season.
Assuming he maintains his current pace, he is on track for 91 assists and 131 points this season. No one has topped 90 assists and 130 points in a season since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96, and it has only been done by eight different players in NHL history (Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Pat Lafontaine, Peter Stastny, Bobby Orr, Adam Oates, and Steve Yzerman). It is truly a season for the ages and should make him a slam-dunk MVP winner this season.
They also have a chance to be the first team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins (Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Petr Nedved) to finish a season with three different 40-goal scorers.
Point: 42 goals
Stamkos: 41 goals
Kucherov: 40 goals
Success is not anything new to this Lightning team.
They have been one of the NHL’s best teams since the 2014-15 season, reaching the Eastern Conference Final three times in four years, and once reaching the Stanley Cup Final (the two years they lost in the Final, they lost in Game 7). The one thing they have not been able to do is finish, allowing a series lead to slip away in each of those postseasons runs. That, combined with their regular season dominance, is almost certainly going to put Stanley Cup expectations on this team when the playoffs begin. Whether or not they are able to finish the job this season remains to be seen, but they have certainly put themselves in a position to be remembered as one of the greatest teams ever if they can pull it off.
Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.
The top spot in the NHL’s Central Division has been a back-and-forth race between the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators, and on Saturday evening the two teams will be meeting head-to-head for the final time this season in what could be a pivotal game in who ends up taking the top spot.
Winnipeg enters the day holding a two-point lead over the Predators in the standings, while also still owning a game in hand the rest of the way and the first tiebreaker (42 regulation wins for the Jets, to 38 for the Predators). All of that together makes this an absolutely massive game for both teams, but especially for the Predators if they have any hope of winning the division.
Failing to gain a point on Saturday would put them in a four-point hole, and because they don’t own the tiebreaker, would need to gain five points on the Jets to pass them over their remaining six games. That would not be an easy thing to do and would not only require a lot of help in the form of the Jets losing a handful of games down the stretch, but also leave Nashville without almost no margin for error in its remaining games.
So while it remains a huge game for both teams, it takes on even more importance for the Predators because of how much ground they would have to make up with a loss.
Even if the Predators win in regulation on Saturday, the Jets would still technically own the top spot in the Division by having played in one fewer game and also having more regulation and overtime wins.
The Jets have won two of the previous head-to-head games this season.
Elsewhere in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames can take control of the Pacific Division with a win over the Vancouver Canucks.
Thanks to San Jose’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, the Flames enter Saturday with a four-point lead in the Pacific Division race and can open that up to a six-point lead with a win.
That would not yet clinch the division, but it would be a massive cushion to have this late in the season.
The Flames have only won their division one time (the 2005-06 season) since 1994-95 and can take a big step toward claiming the Pacific on Saturday night.
IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
Lightning vs. Canadiens
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Flames vs. Wild
Jets vs. Stars
Sharks vs. Golden Knights
Predators vs. Blues
TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Coyotes vs. Devils (1 p.m. ET)
Islanders vs. Flyers (1 p.m. ET)
Blackhawks vs. Avalanche (3 p.m. ET)
Predators vs. Jets (7 p.m. ET)
Rangers vs. Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET)
Sabres vs. Canadiens (7 p.m. ET)
Bruins vs. Panthers (7 p.m. ET)
Wild vs. Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET)
Lightning vs. Blues (8 p.m. ET)
Penguins vs. Stars (8 p.m. ET)
Red Wings vs. Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET)
Flames vs. Canucks (10 p.m. ET)
PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Bruins — 100 percent
Capitals — 100 percent
Maple Leafs — 99.9 percent
Penguins — 99.6 percent
Islanders — 99 percent
Hurricanes — 92.1 percent
Canadiens — 56.1 percent
Blue Jackets — 50.2 percent
Flyers — 3 percent
Panthers — 0.1 percent
Sabres — Out
Rangers — Out
Devils — Eliminated
Red Wings — Eliminated
Senators — Eliminated
PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Flames — Clinched
Sharks — Clinched
Jets — 100 percent
Predators — 100 percent
Golden Knights — 100 percent
Blues — 100 percent
Stars — 91.2 percent
Avalanche — 40.1 percent
Coyotes — 35 percent
Wild — 25 percent
Blackhawks — 6.6 percent
Canucks — 1.1 percent
Oilers — 1 percent
Ducks — Out
Kings — Eliminated
JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators — 18.5 percent*
Kings — 13.5 percent
Red Wings — 11.5 percent
Devils — 9.5 percent
Rangers — 8.5 percent
Ducks — 7.5 percent
Sabres — 6.5 percent
Oilers — 6 percent
Canucks — 5 percent
Blackhawks — 3.5 percent
Panthers — 3 percent
Coyotes — 2.5 percent
Avalanche — 2 percent
Flyers — 1.5 percent
Blue Jackets — 1 percent**
(*COL owns OTT’s 2019 first-round pick)
(**OTT owns CBJ’s 2019 first-round pick)
ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 120 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 107 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 101 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 94 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 93 points
ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 48 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 43 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning — 39 goals
Zdeno Chara will be back for a 22nd season in the NHL in 2019-20.
The Boston Bruins announced on Saturday morning that they have signed the 42-year-old defender to a one-year contract extension that will pay him $2 million in base salary, and another $1.75 million in performance-based bonuses.
Chara has appeared in 55 games this season, recording four goals and seven assists for a Bruins team that has been one of the NHL’s best.
When he returns next season he is going to join a small list of defenders to skate in the NHL beyond their age 42 season. It is a list that includes only Chris Chelios (who played until he was 48), Doug Harvey, Tim Horton, Lester Patrick, and Allan Stanley.
He has spent the past 13 seasons of his career with the Bruins where he has been a consistent rock on their blue line. Obviously at this point in his career he is not the same dominant player that he once was, but he has still been a solid performer that has played more than 20 minutes per night on the team’s top-pairing next to Charlie McAvoy. When that duo has been together this season the Bruins have controlled more than 54 percent of the total shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances, via Natural Stat Trick. They have been together for most of the past two seasons when both are healthy and have been an outstanding pairing for the Bruins.
Chara won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defender during the 2008-09 season with the Bruins and has been a finalist five other times, including during the Bruins’ Stanley Cup winning season in 2010-11. He finished fifth in 2012-13 when the Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup Final.
1. Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks
Silfverberg was involved in three of Anaheim’s four goals during their 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks. After helping set up the Ducks’ first two goals, Silfverberg put the game to bed 38 seconds into overtime to clinch the victory for Anaheim.
2. Ryan Donato, Minnesota Wild
One-third of Minnesota’s “Kid Line” set up both Wild goals during a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals. The two points earned helped move Minnesota back into Western Conference wild card spot with seven games to go. Donato now has 13 points in 14 games since being dealt to the Wild.
3. Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
Rakell tallied twice and assisted on the OT winner, helping the Ducks to go two-for-three on the power play. The goals were Rakell’s first in seven games. He now has 13 on the season.
Highlights of the Night
• Silfverberg has five multi-point games this season and four in his last 18 games:
• Jordan Greenway powered his way to the net for his 12th of the season and finished off with some nice stick handling:
Factoids of the Night
• Donato’s assist on Greenway’s goal was the 10,000th point in Wild franchise history.
Wild 2, Capitals 1
Ducks 4, Sharks 3 (OT)