The Buzzer: Maple Leafs clinch playoff spot, McDavid stars (Wednesday in NHL)

The Buzzer: Maple Leafs clinch playoff spot, McDavid stars (Wednesday in NHL)
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3 Stars for Wednesday in the NHL

1. Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

At this point, you might not have a choice but to list Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty among the NHL’s most dynamic duos.

The heady two-way winger (Stone) and prolific sniper (Pacioretty) each collected three points to rank among the NHL’s most explosive players on Wednesday. In Pacioretty’s case, he scored two goals and one assist, extending his point streak to eight games (5G, 9A for 14 points). This scorching streak leaves Pacioretty with 24 goals and 50 points in just 46 games.

At 32, Pacioretty’s enjoying the first point-per-game season of his impressive career. It’s probably not a coincidence that his first season with Mark Stone also represented the closest he finished to that mark, as Pacioretty also scored 66 points in 71 games (32G, 34A) in 2019-20.

It’s funny, for years, the question was: how much could Pacioretty score with a quality center? While Chandler Stephenson is proving to be the latest diamond-in-the-rough for Vegas, it’s instead a cerebral winger who’s clicking with Pacioretty. Maybe the better question was simply: what if Pacioretty lined up with a player even more gifted that he is?

Thanks to Pacioretty, Stone, and Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights might have built an insurmountable lead over the Avalanche for the West Division title.

2. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Speaking of gifted players, Connor McDavid continues to make his chase for 100 points look actually kind of attainable. In Wednesday’s case, McDavid created even more distance between himself and anyone else in the NHL points race with three assists. That pushes McDavid to a ludicrous 84 points in just 47 games.

No need to count things out on your fingers: this means that McDavid needs to score 16 points in the Oilers’ last nine games to somehow score 100 points in just 56 contests.

With McDavid, it’s fitting that we’re not just talking about a point streak. Instead, McDavid extended his streak of 3+ point games to four contests. Absurd.

Looking at the Oilers’ schedule, McDavid is slated to face the Vancouver Canucks most often, as they represent five of Edmonton’s remaining nine games. McDavid’s scored eight points (5G, 3A) in five games vs. Vancouver so far this season. That’s both impressive and yet … would not quite be the pace he wants?

(Again, the typical scales of modern NHL measurement don’t seem to apply to McDavid, as he showed Wednesday, and general in his chase for 100.)

3. Mike Hoffman, St. Louis Blues

Sure, Mike Hoffman might turn into the sort of player who the Blues decided to healthy-scratch once the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around. But maybe he’s found his niche in an obvious spot: the power play?

Either way, his recent burst of offense is helping the Blues land potentially crushing blows to the Coyotes’ fleeting playoff hopes. (Mind you, the Coyotes are also landing crushing blows to their playoff hopes by losing two straight to the Sharks, and losing nine of their last 11 games.)

The Blues found themselves down 3-1 in the third period to what was looking like a ravenous Wild team. Then Hoffman scored his second power-play goal of the game, and the Blues mounted a bewildering comeback.

Overall, Hoffman finished Wednesday with two goals and one assist, giving him eight goals and 12 points in 10 April games. All eight of Hoffman’s April goals happened on the power play, by the way.

Stats of the night: Maple Leafs clinch playoff spot, hot Golden Knights, and more

  • After beating the Canadiens, the Maple Leafs became the first Canadian (/North Division) team to clinch a spot in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s their fifth trip in a row. The Canadiens look almost certainly like the Maple Leafs’ likely Round 1 opponent, though Toronto’s regulation win leaves the door open a crack for someone else.
  • More on the Maple Leafs: Joe Thornton collected the 1,100th assist of his career on Wednesday, becoming the seventh player in NHL history to accomplish that feat.
  • Nathan MacKinnon‘s Avalanche lost to the Golden Knights, but his 15-game point streak is the longest in the league this season. MacKinnon broke a tie with Dougie Hamilton.
  • Again, the Golden Knights got the last laugh. They also extended their winning streak to 10 games; that leads the NHL this season, and is a franchise record. Naturally, it’s impressive stuff for a still-new franchise.

Top highlights for Wednesday in the NHL

If you need a highlight to key on from the Blues’ rally against the Wild, Robert Thomas‘ late game-winner is the ticket. Why not watch them all, though? (If your answer is “because I’m a Wild fan,” then … fair enough.)

Auston Matthews scored his 35th goal of the season in a way few players other than Auston Matthews could to help the Maple Leafs clinch that playoff spot:

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Senators 6, Canucks 3
Blues 4, Wild 3
Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 1
Oilers 3, Jets 1
Golden Knights 5, Avalanche 2
Ducks 3, Kings 2
Sharks 4, Coyotes 2

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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