The Buzzer: McDavid nets hat trick; Laine delivers; Kaprizov captivates for Wild

The Buzzer: McDavid net hat trick; Laine delivers; Kaprizov captivates for Wild
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Three Stars from second night of the 2020-21 NHL season

1. Connor McDavid / Leon Draisaitl

Could we see McDavid and Draisaitl finish first and second in NHL scoring for another season? That’s a tall task, but after Wednesday, it feels dangerous to doubt them.

As this post notes, calling anyone but Connor McDavid the best player in the NHL might be dangerous. It kinda felt like McDavid scoring the first hat trick of the season (and adding an assist) was a bit of statement, wasn’t it? That McDavid pulled off that hat trick with such style only made it better.

Of course, Draisaitl wasn’t a slouch, either. The reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner collected four assists as the Oilers avenged their season-opening loss to the Canucks. Considering all of the action on the second night of the 2020-21 NHL season, it feels fair to bottle up McDavid and Draisaitl as 1A/1B and include some other highlights from the night. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins deserves a mention, too, with a three-point game. RNH could really drive up his earning potential if he sticks with at least one of McDavid or Draisaitl for most of this 56-game season.

(Check out more on Connor McDavid’s hat trick + assist here.)

2. Patrik Laine

Narrowing things down after McDavid – Draisaitl isn’t easy. With the steak being comparable at the top of the heap, let’s let the sizzle stand as the tiebreakers.

Heading into the 2020-21 NHL season, there was no shortage of drama between Patrik Laine and the Jets. He got pretty snippy when asked about his future. If it weren’t for even more public drama between the Blue Jackets and Pierre-Luc Dubois,* we’d probably be inundated with even more Laine – Jets talk.

Laine hasn’t always been able to walk the walk, but he soared on Thursday. Starting with a nice first goal of the season, and ending with nifty overtime game-winner, Laine generated three points (2G, 1A). Maybe the 22-year-old can prove that his ceiling is higher than it looked in recent, slower years?

* – Was there something in the water in that 2016 NHL Draft? Auston Matthews‘ contract caused indirect drama. Second and third picks Laine and PLD could one day get traded. And Jesse Puljujarvi went through years of rumors and struggles. Sixth pick Matthew Tkachukwell, he inspires a different kind of drama.

3. Kirill Kaprizov

In Laine’s case, we received a reminder why those trade rumors have been so abundant. Kirill Kaprizov entered Thursday with a different kind of hype. Wild fans — and fans of the sport — have been dying to see what Kaprizov can pull off in the NHL after all that tantalizing time in the KHL.

Well, Kaprizov didn’t need much time to make a great first impression.

In overtime, Kaprizov capped a great night with a “totally meant to do that” clincher.

Beyond that OTGWG, Kaprizov collected two assists as the Wild squeaked out a win against the Kings. While it’s a bummer that Marco Rossi is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury, Kaprizov gave the Wild a big injection of fun and skill. And hope.

Some honorable mentions

  • Tomas Hertl could easily bump Kaprizov or Laine off of that list. He scored two goals and one assist for the Sharks. If the Sharks can shake off 2019-20, it will be thanks to rebounds from talented players like Hertl. Stranger things have happened, especially during these strange times.
  • T.J. Oshie and other Capitals had big nights. Oshie collected three points in Washington’s win.

Highlights of the Night: Star performances from McDavid, Kaprizov, Laine

Sometimes the three stars nods just meld well with the best highlights of the evening. This seems appropriate for the second night of the 2020-21 NHL season.

Truly, all three of Connor McDavid’s goals are worth watching. It’s old hat to describe a star player as “making it look easy,” yet sometimes that’s absolutely true of McDavid. You’re just not supposed to be able to do this, at least not so regularly, in the clamped-down modern NHL.

Here’s that “totally planned that, but not enough to get it called back” OTGWG from Kaprizov:

The Flames and Jets really put on a sloppy-fun show (granted, Noah Hanifin‘s hit on Kyle Connor wasn’t fun, even with some Laine violence). Open-ended play like that could really suit a scorer like Patrik Laine. Things get even looser in 3-on-3 OT, and Laine made the ultimate difference for Winnipeg:

COVID-related absences

The league released this list of COVID protocol related absences for Jan. 14 (teams without absences were omitted):

Boston – Karson Kuhlman

Colorado – Erik Johnson

Columbus – Mikko Koivu

Dallas – will be released prior to its first game

Detroit – Christian Djoos; Darren Helm

Edmonton – Gaetan Haas; James Neal

Los Angeles – Kurtis MacDermid; Cal Petersen; Sean Walker

Minnesota – Alex Stalock

Nashville – Mikael Granlund; Luca Sbisa

NY Rangers – Justin Richards

Philadelphia – Shayne Gostisbehere

Pittsburgh – Kasperi Kapanen

San Jose – Max Letunov

Vancouver – Jordie Benn; J.T. Miller

Scores from second night of NHL season

Capitals 6, Sabres 4
Bruins 3, Devils 2 (SO)
Islanders 4, Rangers 0
Hurricanes 3, Red Wings 0
Predators 3, Blue Jackets 1
Sharks 4, Coyotes 3 (SO)
Golden Knights 5, Ducks 2
Jets 4, Flames 3 (OT)
Oilers 5, Canucks 2
Wild 4, Kings 3 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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    FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

    The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    “Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

    A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    “Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

    Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

    Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

    “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Robertson will finally be there now.

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.