On Sunday, however, Laine was back to his usual, confident self. He recorded three points, including his 18th goal of the season, as the Winnipeg Jets rolled over the floundering Colorado Avalanche by a final score of 4-1.
That win pushes the Jets to within a point of the final Wild Card spot in the West.
It’s the middle of December, the holiday break is approaching.
The Jets are in a spot where they can challenge for a post-season berth. Perhaps the prospect of finishing in the top three in the Central Division is too daunting. Chicago and St. Louis occupy two of the top three spots in that division, and Minnesota — with seven straight wins — could certainly challenge for the Central by the time this season is over.
But a Wild Card spot? The Jets are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring, and in the bottom third of the league in goals against, but the notion at least seems possible, especially since teams ahead of them like Calgary and L.A. aren’t exactly lighting up the league right now.
“I think we’ve shown we can beat teams like Chicago, St. Louis in their home building. That tells something about our team,” said Laine.
“I think we have a really good team and we just have to play our own game every night, and I think we can and we will be a playoff team.”
There are other teams, like the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators, that might have something to say about it.
NHL on NBCSN: Predators, Sharks aim to extend winning streaks
NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and the Nashville Predators at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.
No team has gotten off to a better start than the Nashville Predators.
Eight games, seven wins, 14 points (tied with Colorado, who has played an extra game) and a five-game winning streak have the Preds sitting pretty atop of the NHL standings early on.
It’s one of those, ‘Nothing to see here’ type of deals. The Predators paced the NHL with 117 points last season and are well on their way to doing so again, led by Filip Forsberg who has five goals and eight points thus far. It’s not really all the surprising.
What’s impressive is the Preds have been chugging along without Pekka Rinne in goal. He’s on the injured reserve at the moment, giving Nashville’s secret (but not so secret anymore) weapon a chance to shine.
Juuse Saros might have the most team-friendly contract given how good he is. Saros took over for Rinne on Saturday after the latter suffered a lower-body injury and hasn’t conceded a goal since, posting a 31-save shutout against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
Despite their dominance so far, Nashville isn’t taking the 4-3-1 Sharks lightly.
“For me, right now, they’re one of the top teams in the League,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette told the team’s website. “Their record is probably not where it should be based on how they’ve played. They’re just a really high-powered team, they have the puck a lot, they’re in your end a lot and they’re capable of exploding… Looking at the opponent coming in here, it’s going to be tough.”
San Jose, like Nashville, has found its winning touch recently with two straight wins, including a 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres and their most recent ‘W’ in a 4-1 triumph over the New York Islanders.
The Sharks have outscored their opponents 9-2 during that time, led by Logan Couture, who has four goals and five points in his past two games and is riding a three-game point streak.
San Jose feels things are starting to click after some changes over the summer.
“We’re comfortable,” forward Joe Pavelski told NHL.com. “Training camp was quick, felt quick. We were getting up to speed for sure. Things are falling into place. Guys are getting used to the League. We have a couple of young guys filling in some important roles. Every year is a little different.”
Scheifele helped Winnipeg stay in Monday’s game when it seemed like St. Louis might be pulling away (scoring the Jets’ first goal to shrink a deficit to 2-1, tying the game at 3-3) and then generated an assist on Jacob Trouba‘s overtime game-winner.
Overall, Scheifele generated two goals and two assists, with the tiebreaker being that none of his points came via an empty-netter.
Scheifele logged defenseman-like minutes (25:55), fired five shot on goal, and even was slightly above-.500 at draws with a 14-13 mark. He helped remind the Blues (and the hockey world) that few leads are safe against the high-octane Jets.
Ovechkin probably could have had a hat trick if he really wanted it, but instead he set up T.J. Oshie‘s empty-netter, which elicited some laughter from Oshie.
That empty-netter slightly downgrades Ovechkin’s night in comparison to Scheifele’s Monday, but you could make an argument for the superstar winger’s all-around night. He ended up with two goals and two assists, firing an Ovechkin-like seven SOG. With a +2 rating and a hit credited to him against Vancouver, The Great 8 filled up the peripheral categories, as he’s wont to do.
Ovechkin now has eight goals in eight games in 2018-19. Don’t count him out for yet another Maurice Richard Trophy.
The Capitals have some other worthy mentions, with John Carlson standing out as one of the better choices. (He’s having quite the start to his first season with that fat new contract that looks pretty justified at the moment.)
You could make a strong argument for other players – again, Carlson stands out – and you might ding “ROR” for being on the losing team.
O’Reilly was pretty excellent in defeat, however. The two-way center scored one goal and two assists, showing that he can produce plenty of chances on the second line with David Perron (when he’s not running shotgun on the top trio with Vladimir Tarasenko).
As you’d expect from a guy who could be a dark horse candidate for the Selke, ROR was strong from an all-around standpoint. O’Reilly had a +2 night (not bad in a defeat), went 13-12 on faceoffs, fired four SOG, and managed three takeaways. O’Reilly also shook off a Brandon Tanev boarding hit that bloodied him early in the contest.
This has been a frustrating start to the season for St. Louis, but don’t blame O’Reilly.
Highlight of the Night
Justin Faulk scored a goal as the Hurricanes dominated the Red Wings, yet his best moment came when he auditioned for Carolina’s goalie position:
Ovechkin moves up the all-time power-play goals ranks. How high will he finish by the end of this season? Could he end up being the all-time leader when he clears out his “office?”
Monday was a pretty big night for a few Capitals, it seemed.
Nicklas Backstrom became the first player from the 2006 #NHLDraft to reach the 600-assist milestone. Since entering the League in 2007-08, Backstrom leads all active players in that category. #NHLStatshttps://t.co/ddSe9Q5RFh
MacKinnon was the subject of this fawning piece on Saturday, and he did his part by extending his season-opening point streak to nine games (now 15 points), as he collected a primary assist. His wingers were the bigger stars on this night, however. For one thing Rantanen extended his own point streak with two goals, which actually places him one ahead of MacKinnon for the team lead. MacKinnon and Rantanen continue to make history for the Avalanche franchise:
Avs captain Landeskog is a few strides behind those two as far as season totals go (“just” 10 points in eight games), yet he’s been red-hot lately. The hearty Swede now has a four-game goal streak (seven tallies) and five-game point streak (10 points) going after collecting a breakaway tally and an assist in this one.
The Avalanche didn’t need much more from their non-stars to win against the Flyers, with a nice Matt Nieto goal being the only tally that wasn’t generated by one of Landeskog, MacKinnon, or Rantanen.
Colorado is now on a three-game winning streak, bumping its record to 6-1-2.
One of the impressive things about this outstanding start is that the Avalanche haven’t even really had many opportunities to leverage what can potentially be the best home-ice advantage in the NHL: that mile-high elevation.
Only three of the Avalanche’s first nine games have come at home, and this victory against Philly concludes a highly successful (3-0-1) four-game road trip against East teams.
The Avalanche’s early road challenges aren’t over yet, as you can see from their next month of work:
Wed, Oct 24 – vs Tampa Bay
Fri, Oct 26 – vs Ottawa
Sat, Oct 27 – @Minnesota
Thu, Nov 1 – @Calgary
Fri, Nov 2 – @Vancouver
Wed, Nov 7 – vs Nashville
Fri, Nov 9 – @Winnipeg
Sun, Nov 11 – @Edmonton
Wed, Nov 14 – vs Boston
Fri, Nov 16 – vs Washington
Sun, Nov 18 – @Anaheim
Wed, Nov 21 – @Los Angeles
Fri, Nov 23 – @Arizona
As you can see, eight of the Avalanche’s next 13 games are on the road. That’s not the sort of stretch that is so heavily weighted against Colorado as to throw things out of balance by itself, but it’s still another test for a team some expected to hit the wall after last season’s breakthrough.
If the Avalanche enter December with a strong record, then look out, particularly if that top line’s maintaining even a portion of this red-hot chemistry.