PHT Face-Off: Pastrnak feeling dangerous; Will Fleury ever get a break?

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Every Monday during the regular season, the PHT Face-Off breaks down five of the top trends/storylines in the NHL. Last week, we looked at John Carlson’s incredible offensive start and the number of tight games across the league to start the year. This week, we’ll break down David Pastrnak‘s incredible run, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s workload, and much, much more.

• David Pastrnak is en fuego:

The Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes managed to keep Pastrnak off the scoresheet in the first two games of the 2019-20 regular season. What has the Bruins forward done since then? Well, let’s a look.

He’s picked up at least one point in nine consecutive games and he’s had a multi-point effort in seven of those outings. After posting five assists against the Rangers on Sunday, Pastrnak now leads the NHL in scoring, with 23 points. Oh by the way, he’s also first in goals scored, with 11.

In fact, the Bruins’ top line, which is made up of Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, has picked up 23 goals and 54 points combined in 11 games.

“He does it all right now, and he’s so confident,” Marchand said of Pastrnak, per the Boston Globe. “You never know what he’s going to do with the puck. Even we don’t know.

“He feels like he can do anything. When he feels like that, he’s dangerous. He’s fun to watch . . . He has so many different ways he can beat you.”

• Devils need goals:

Speaking of Pastrnak, he’s scored half as many goals as the entire New Jersey Devils roster this season. Fine, he’s played two more games than the Devils, but that’s still pretty impressive if you’re a Bruins fan and not so much if you’re cheering for the Devils.

New Jersey has had 13 different goal scorers this year, but here’s the issue: If you combine the goals by Taylor Hall (one), Kyle Palmieri (three), Jack Hughes (two), Nico Hischier (zero), P.K. Subban (one), and Nikita Gusev (three) you still only get to 10 (one less than Pastrnak).

The Devils were supposed to be one of the bounce-back teams in the NHL this year and that simply hasn’t been the case. It’s no coincidence that they’ve picked up just six points in nine games. They’re currently in the basement of the NHL standings.

If you look at the way their scoring is distributed, you may be a little surprised. The Devils scored four goals in a shootout loss to Winnipeg, three goals in a shootout loss to Edmonton, four goals in a loss to Florida, five goals in a win over the Rangers, and three goals in a loss to Arizona. Those are pretty good offensive outputs. So what’s the issue? You can only imagine what the rest of their games look like.

Heading into this week’s action, they had already been shut out twice in nine games and they won a 1-0 decision over the Vancouver Canucks last weekend.

Offense seems to be up across the board except in New Jersey.

As you’d imagine, the Devils fell into the “dull/bad” parts of Sean Tierney’s latest charts:

Tyson Barrie struggling with Maple Leafs:

The Toronto Maple Leafs sacrificed Nazem Kadri to get themselves some added depth on defense. At the start of the season, it looked like Tyson Barrie would be a terrific fit with his new team. He picked up two assists in his first game and two more helpers in his third game. Good, right? Well, since then he hasn’t picked up a single point.

Barrie’s possession numbers are actually pretty good, as he has a CF% 54.26 percent and a FF% of 51.39 percent, but when he’s on the ice, the Leafs are giving up 60 percent of the high-danger chances. That’s less than ideal (all stats via Natural Stat Trick)

This is a big year for the 28-year-old defender. Not only is it the first time he plays for a team other than the one that drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche, he’s also in the middle of a contract season. Quality right-handed defensemen don’t usually hit the open market, so Barrie will get paid either way, but having a big statistical year under his belt could bump his salary up by a few more million.

• Is there blood in the water in San Jose?

If it had to be done all over again, do you think Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks would work harder to get a deal done before free agency on July 1st? Well, Pavelski is in Dallas and he has three points in 12 games and the Sharks look like a hot mess.

They’ve accumulated just nine points in 12 games and this East-Coast road trip hasn’t been kind to them, as they’re 1-2-1 in four games. They still have to face the Bruins in Boston before they return home for a six-game home stand. Are the Sharks done? No way. It’s still too early to say that, but are they in trouble? Oh, yeah. If this home stand doesn’t go much better than the road trip, they’ll be in a lot of trouble.

“We’re 12 games in and there’s a handful of key guys for us that haven’t played well yet,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said after last night’s loss to Ottawa, per NHL.com. “So that’s on me to get them back to the level they need to be at.

“We’re playing from behind in a lot of these games, and instead of sticking with it and trusting the group and the system, everyone wants to step out and fix it themselves, but it doesn’t work that way. So eventually you have to learn that lesson.”

Learning the lesson and being good enough to apply it on the ice are two different things.

Is the Sharks’ championship window officially closed?

• Will Marc-Andre Fleury ever get another break?

Marc-Andre Fleury can’t start every game for the Vegas Golden Knights, but they might need him to do so given their clear lack of trust in their backup goalies. Last Monday, Fleury was given his first night off of the season when the Golden Knights took on the Philadelphia Flyers. Oscar Dansk ended up allowing six goals on 37 shots in the loss.

Since then, Dansk has been sent to the minors and Fleury has had to suit up in every game. A good chunk of Fleury’s breaks may come in games where he struggles. For example, he was pulled midway through Friday’s game against Colorado after he allowed four goals on 26 shots. After getting half that game off, he was right back between the pipes on Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks. The good news, is that he really wasn’t busy on Sunday, as he only faced 15 shots from the Ducks. Those are the type of nights he’ll need every once in a while if he’s going to play at a high level all season.

As of right now, no goalie has more wins that Fleury this season and there’s a chance that no one will because he’s likely going to play a lot of games.

What’s coming up this week?
• The Battle of Pennsylvania goes on Tuesday when the Flyers visit the Penguins, Tue. Oct. 29, 7 p.m. ET.

• The best in the Atlantic (Buffalo Sabres) take on the best in the Metro (Washington Capitals), Fri. Nov. 1, 7 p.m. ET.

• McDavid vs. Crosby, Sat. Nov. 2, 1 p.m. ET

NHL on NBCSN
• Lightning vs. Rangers, Tue. Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday Night Hockey on NBCSN
• Wild vs. Blues, Wed. Oct. 30, 8 p.m. ET

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.

Hurricanes remain ‘hopeful’ for a Justin Williams comeback

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When Justin Williams announced in September he would be “taking a break” from hockey, he didn’t shut the door entirely on a possible comeback at some point this season.

“Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game,” wrote the 38-year-old Williams.

With the Hurricanes sitting in an Eastern Conference wild card and only two points away from a top three spot in the Metropolitan Division, adding a veteran goal scorer like Williams would only help. What he brings on and off the ice is immeasurable, and it was clear last season just how valuable he was to a budding young team. The team is hopeful he’ll return to play and are keeping the lines of communication open.

“We continue to talk with him. I think he’s working out a little bit more on his own right now,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell told the team website this week. “I think he’s going to start coming to the gym a little more. That’s a positive sign. What that end result is yet is still a mystery to all of us, but we’re hopeful that maybe there is an opportunity there to have him come back.”

Waddell isn’t the only one who’s unsure of a Williams return. Williams himself sounds like he’s been back and forth on what his future holds, according to head coach Rod Brind’Amour.

“I don’t know. I think we’re getting closer to a time where if he doesn’t, then he’s not,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s got to get in game shape and do all that, so there’s a time frame for that. There’s still time for that. … We talk quite a bit. We mostly talk about kids and how’s coaching going. I’ll ask if he’s staying in shape or getting in shape, and he’ll some days say, ‘Yeah,’ and then say, ‘Ah, maybe.’ So, we’ll see.”

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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.

Kessel returns to Pittsburgh trying to find his game for Coyotes

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When the Arizona Coyotes acquired Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins back in August (for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph) it gave them the type of player the organization had been lacking for years: a bonafide star forward, and one that was capable of scoring at a level that no Coyotes player had reached in close to a decade.

For a team that was just a couple of games away from the playoffs a season ago — despite an absurd season-long run of injuries that consistently decimated the roster — it was the type of move that could not only generate excitement within the fan base (it did, and they have the season ticket sales to prove it), but also give the team the last extra push it needed to get over the hump and end what is currently a seven-year playoff drought.

With Kessel set to make his first visit to Pittsburgh since the trade on Friday night, the Coyotes have put themselves in a great position to end that drought, sitting on top of the Pacific Division after 30 games thanks to their 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

What is perhaps most surprising about their current spot in the standings is they have done it while getting minimal offensive impact from Kessel, even with his two-goal effort in Thursday’s win.

The early numbers are kind of staggering given the high bar Kessel has set for himself over the years offensively.

  • His six goals are his fewest through 30 games since his rookie year in 2006-07 (five goals).
  • He has been held without a goal in 26 of the team’s first 30 games.
  • He has just one even-strength goal on the season, with the other five coming on the power play (including both goals on Thursday — one of which was also an empty-net goal).
  • He is on pace for just 16 goals over 82 games. If he does not improve on that it would be his lowest total since his rookie year (11) and the first time since 2007-08 (his second year in the league when he missed 10 games) he did not top 20 goals in a season.

Some decline in his overall production should have been expected.

Not only because he is another year older (32) and another year away from his prime, but because he went from playing on a veteran, star-laden roster in Pittsburgh that plays one of the most up-tempo styles in the league, to a young Arizona team that, while talented, does not have Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in the middle of its lineup.

Even with all of that in mind this is still a pretty significant drop across the board, but it does not mean all hope is lost for him this season. Like any elite goal scorer Kessel can be notoriously streaky and score goals in bunches (this is not a knock on Kessel; it’s a reality for all players across the league), and it’s also not the first time he’s started a year slow. In his first year with the Penguins back in 2015-16 he had just nine goals through 30 games before getting hot in the second half, then catching fire in the playoffs on the way to the first of back-to-back Stanley Cups.

While Kessel has not exactly lit the world on fire for the Coyotes, the trade has not exactly been a rousing success for the Penguins.

For all of Kessel’s flaws as a player, the Penguins absolutely miss his presence on a power play unit that been mostly dysfunctional this season. A lot of their power play the past few years ran through him, from his ability to gain entry into the zone (a problem for the Penguins this year), to his playmaking, to his ability to finish. Even with all of his struggles in Arizona offensively his five power play goals are more than any player on the Penguins.

They also have not received anything close to what they hoped they would from Alex Galchenyuk, which is starting to become a pretty big issue. He has just two goals through his first 20 games and has mostly been relegated to fourth-line duty. Even with the Penguins missing several regulars in their lineup he has not topped the 10-minute mark in three of the team’s past four games, while general manager Jim Rutherford on Thursday (via The Athletic’s Josh Yohe) that Galchenyuk is not a lock to remain in the lineup when everyone is back. Galchenyuk always seemed like a one-and-done player in Pittsburgh from the very beginning — Joseph is the key long-term piece — but they probably expected more than this.

The funny thing about all of this is the trade has not really done much for either team through the first quarter of the season, but both teams have still managed to put themselves on solid ground.

The Coyotes are healthy and in first place and still have the hope that a Kessel goal-binge is lurking somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

The Penguins are overcoming their injury issues, playing the way they want to play, and finding ways to collect points while they wait for their regulars to return.

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.

Laila Anderson meets bone marrow donor

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Laila Anderson has made us shed a tear or two (or several) over the last year, and she was involved in another touching moment on Thursday night.

It was special to witness the 11-year-old’s journey. We got to see her ups with the St. Louis Blues and we also got to see the emotion behind her battle with a rare auto-immune disease, HLH. Last night, Anderson got to meet the person who helped her get better, as she got to interact with Kenton Felmlee, who ended up being her bone marrow donor.

“I felt a bond with her before we ever met. I think the second I look at her on the stage and saw her face,” Felmlee, who is a sophomore at the University of Kansas, said, per Fox 2 Now St. Louis. “Every emotion that I was feeling all exploded into so much more.”

As you can tell from the above video, their first interaction was incredibly emotional.

“I don’t care if we go to dinner or if we go to Disney World. I don’t care what we do, I just want to spend time with you,” Laila told her new friend on Thursday night.

And, of course, Anderson and Felmlee will be attending Saturday’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center.

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.

Calgary Flames sign deal for new downtown arena

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — The Calgary Flames have a deal for a new downtown arena, a 35-year agreement that keeps the NHL club in the city for that time.

The team, the city and the Calgary Stampede rodeo signed an agreement Thursday to replace the 36-year-old Scotiabank Saddledome.

The 19,000-seat arena is to cost more than $417 million. Construction is expected to begin in 2021, just north of the Saddledome. The arena will be demolished between 2024 and 2025.

The project is part of a downtown revitalization. The building will become the home of the Flames and part of a planned entertainment district bordering the Stampede grounds.

The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp., which owns the Flames, and the city will split the costs. The Stampede is a not-for-profit community group.