It’s the start of a new week, which means it’s time for the PHT Face-off. We’ll look at numbers and trends around the NHL ahead of all the action coming your way over the next seven days.
• Who will hit 1,000 points next?
On Sunday, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane hit the 1,000-point mark for his career. The 31-year-old did it pretty quickly, as it only took him 953 games to reach the milestone. But which active players are scheduled to hit that number next?
Assuming good health, Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf should be the next one to 1,000. He currently has 956 points, which means he should reach 1,000 sometime next season. Again, it depends how healthy he is, but it should come sooner than later.
Leafs forward Jason Spezza has 933 points, but he appears to be running out of steam. Will he play long enough to accumulate 67 more points? He’s on pace for 34 this year. That means he’ll get 16 more than he already has, which would leave him 51 points away. Is he going to play two more seasons?
Kings center Anze Kopitar is right behind Spezza with 931 points. The 32-year-old has 43 points in 50 games in 2019-20. That would put him on pace for 71 points this year. Like Getzlaf, if Kopitar stays healthy, he should find a way to reach this milestone sometime next season.
And considering Nicklas Backstrom just signed a new extension with the Washington Capitals, he should have plenty of time to hit 1,000. Backstrom has 911 points in his career and he’s currently at 38 points in 41 games this season. The 32-year-old has been pretty healthy during his career, so he should be able to get to that number in short order.
• Merzlikins on quite a roll
Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins has turned his season around since Joonas Korpisalo was injured on Dec. 29. The 25-year-old is 8-2-0 in 10 games since Korpisalo went down, and he’s given up two goals or fewer in seven of those outings. The Jackets have one more home game (Wednesday against Winnipeg) before they get to enjoy their lengthy break.
What has this recent run meant for the Blue Jackets?
Well, as of right now, they’ve found a way to put themselves in the first Wild Card spot. There’s several reasons they’ve been able to overcome the losses of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, but the recent play of their goaltenders is near the top of the list.
Whether or not Merzlikins can keep this up remains to be seen.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had their goalie walk for $70 million this summer, are paying their three goalies less than $3 million combined this season, and now have the 2nd best 5v5 save % and 3rd best save % overall
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 20, 2020
Are the days of the $9-million (or more) goalie done? The Blue Jackets sure seem to be poking holes in the “pay big money for a goalie” theory.
• What’s Kovalchuk worth on trade market?
Earlier this month, not many teams were willing to roll the dice on Ilya Kovalchuk. The Montreal Canadiens did, and the move has paid off in a pretty significant way so far. The 36-year-old has looked nothing like the player that suited up for the Los Angeles Kings over the last two years. He’s been quicker than advertised and he’s found ways to put up points.
In eight games with the Habs, he’s scored four goals and four assists. He also added a goal in the shootout against the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night.
Now, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has to decide whether or not to keep Kovalchuk or trade him before the Feb. 24 deadline. With the Habs seven points out of a playoff spot, you’d think that they may look to get an asset or two in return for the veteran winger. Maybe there’s a trade and a side deal reached for next year, but it’ll be interesting to see what the market him is at this point.
Three weeks ago, nobody was willing to touch him. Now, could there be a bidding war for Kovalchuk? If he can keep rolling at this pace (that’s a big “if”), teams will be interested. What makes him even more of an intriguing addition, is that his cap hit is for $700,000. He’s only going to play half a season, so in reality he’ll make just $350,000 this year.
Teams looking for secondary scoring could do worse than Kovalchuk. Bergevin has the opportunity to turn this into a home run move.
• What will Penguins do in goal?
What are the Pittsburgh Penguins going to do with their goaltending situation in the second half of the season? It’s an interesting question. Tristan Jarry has carried the load for the last little while, but Matt Murray appears to be played himself back in the picture recently.
Murray has started and won back-to-back games. Now, those games haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been encouraging. After he stopped 28 of 29 shots in a win over Detroit on Friday night, head coach Mike Sullivan went to him again on Sunday afternoon against Boston.
The 25-year-old and his team got off to a rocky start in the first period. They went down 3-0 and the Pittsburgh faithful even gave their starting netminder the Bronx cheer. But Murray settled down and the Pens eventually came back to win the game.
So, who gets the start against Philadelphia on Tuesday night? Do they go back to Jarry or do they give Murray a third straight opportunity right before the break?
Here’s an interesting stat:
Matt Murray’s last five third periods:
Stopped 20 of 21 vs. NSH
Stopped 9 of 9 at MTL
Stopped 14 of 15 at COL
Stopped 10 of 10 at DET
Stopped 14 of 14 vs. BOS
Two goals against on 69 shots and five wins.
— Steve Mears (@MearsyNHL) January 19, 2020
What’s coming up this week?
• Afternoon Hockey: Red Wings vs. Avs, Mon. Jan. 20, 3 p.m. ET.
• Islanders vs. Rangers for the third time in eight days, Tue. Jan. 21, 7 p.m. ET.
• Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville is back in Chicago for the first time since his firing, Tues. Jan. 21, 8:30 p.m. ET.
NHL on NBCSN
• Penguins vs. Flyers, Tue. Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET.
• NHL Skills Competition, Fri. Jan. 24, 8 p.m. ET. (NBCSN)
NHL on NBCSN
• NHL All-Star Game, Sat. Jan. 25, 8 p.m. ET. (NBC)
Wednesday Night Hockey
• Red Wings vs. Wild, Wed. Jan. 22, 8 p.m. ET. (NBCSN)