NHL Rink Wrap: Islanders’ streak reaches 10; Ovechkin at 750 goals

NHL Rink Wrap: Islanders' streak reaches 10; Ovechkin at 750 goals
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Top players from Saturday in the NHL

Jake Guentzel, Penguins

It’s not accurate to say that it’s a double-edged sword to become a mainstay on Sidney Crosby‘s wing. Just about anyone who stuck with number 87 for any meaningful stretch of time would likely argue that it’s a pretty sweet deal.

But Jake Guentzel does grapple with a certain level of dismissiveness. Chances are, some will brush off at least a portion of Guentzel’s credentials as the NHL player of the night for Saturday, too (hat trick, assist).

Since 2018-19, Guentzel’s scored 200 points in his last 200 games. Only 31 players have reached 200+ points during that frame, 27 of whom match Guentzel in averaging a point per contest.

He owns the NHL’s longest active point streak at 12 games, too.

That’s pretty much bonkers, because you’re not ever really hearing Guentzel named among the NHL’s top 50 skaters. Maybe even top 50 forwards? That might hinge upon whom you ask.

No doubt, some will dismiss a portion of Jake Guentzel’s success based on Sidney Crosby’s brilliance. Truly, we can only guess how potent Guentzel would’ve been if he didn’t come up in the Penguins’ system. Yet, with metrics that aim to isolate a player’s success from others, Guentzel shines with and without Crosby.

Look at how comparable their RAPM charts look, via Evolving Hockey:

NHL Rink Wrap: Islanders' streak reaches 10; Ovechkin at 750 goals Guentzel Crosby
via Evolving Hockey

Naturally, few players can match Sidney Crosby’s two-way brilliance, but Jake Guentzel’s clearly a gem. (Especially on offense.) Pretty impressive, right?

Highlights from NHL games on Saturday

Canucks fan angst check: jersey thrown on the ice.

Here’s that Jake Guentzel hat trick (he also assisted on a Sidney Crosby goal).

Brady Tkachuk scored the OT game-winner as the Senators upset the Avalanche after upsetting the Hurricanes.

Filip Forsberg keeps climbing the Predators’ franchise OT scoring ranks.

Moritz Seider extended the Islanders’ losing streak to 10 games with this OT-winner for Detroit.

Yup, a lot of OT around the NHL on Saturday. Steven Stamkos scored an OTGWG, too.

Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Breaking down the Islanders’ tormenting 10-game losing streak

Hey, at least the Islanders now have a two-game point (emphasis on point without the s) streak going.

After dropping the first eight games of their losing streak in regulation, the Islanders lost to the Sharks and then the Red Wings in overtime. Those overtime goals were scored by a long-time explosive right-handed defenseman (Erik Karlsson) and then a young upstart RHD (Moritz Seider). It’s like passing a torch where the Islanders get burned during both parts of the exchange.

Here’s a recap of the Islanders’ losing streak.

Nov. 7: 5-2 to loss to the Wild in Minnesota. Closed off a back-to-back set (they beat the Jets on the road in the previous game).

Nov. 11: 4-0 loss at the Devils.

Nov. 15: A brutal Florida back-to-back set begins with a 4-1 loss in Tampa Bay.

Nov. 16: The Panthers are even less gracious as hosts, beating the Isles 6-1.

Nov. 20: Yay, the Islanders end their 13-game road trip. Less yay: the Islanders continue their losing streak, and don’t exactly open their new home arena very smoothly. First, they lost 5-2 to the Flames.

Nov. 21: A day later, the Maple Leafs beat them 3-0. Many John Tavares jokes were made; none were very nice.

Nov. 24: The hated Rangers did much like the hated Devils, beating the Isles 4-1.

Nov. 26: A 1-0 loss to the Penguins, continuing a fruitless homestand.

[The misery of the losing streak includes some COVID postponements.]

Dec. 2 (Thursday): Another home loss, but the Islanders gain their first point of this losing streak (plus their first point in their new home arena). That Karlsson OT goal pushed the Islanders’ streak to nine games.

Dec. 4 (Saturday): Finally, the Islanders factored into Saturday’s OT/shootout barrage of NHL games. So, they got a point again, but they lost. At least the Islanders scored some goals.

Brutal, huh?

For better or worse, the Islanders get a chance to end this losing streak at 10 right away, as they host the Blackhawks on Sunday.

Not the worst losing streak in Islanders (or NHL) history

While this might not be much of a silver lining, at least the Islanders’ 10-game losing streak isn’t the worst in NHL history. The 1974-75 Capitals and 1992-93 Sharks own the NHL’s longest losing streaks, dropping 17 in a row.

Actually, the Islanders’ 10-gamer isn’t even the worst losing streak in franchise history. That would be 12 straight by the Islanders in 1972-73 and 1988-89. As a franchise, the Islanders also lost 11 in a row in 1995-96, and endured two additional 10-game losing streaks (1973-74 and 1997-98).

Heading into Saturday’s NHL action, the Islanders’ playoff hopes already looked dim. While this isn’t a team anyone should count out, they’ll need to be even more defiant of conventional wisdom than they have in their previous seasons under Barry Trotz.

Speaking of NHL history, Ovechkin scores his 750th goal

In the 1,222nd game of his already-incredible NHL career, Alex Ovechkin became the second-fastest player to 750 goals on Saturday. This post goes into great detail on Ovechkin’s chase of Wayne Gretzky’s goals record of 894.

If you followed Ovechkin’s age-defying season, though, you know that he’s not just chasing history. Saturday was another reminder that Ovechkin is also in range of key 2022 NHL Awards — not just the Maurice Richard, but even the Hart Trophy.

Stats like these remind us just how great he’s been, no “for a 36-year-old” caveats needed.

A night of ‘free hockey’

Look, it’s understandable when fans look pleadingly at the standings and say “my team is only six/eight/x points out!” Every now and then, that optimism ends up justified.

More often than not, though, those objects aren’t as close as they appear.

In a parity-packed NHL, plenty of games go to overtime and/or shootouts, creating plenty of “three-point games.” It splashes some ice water on some of those dreams. Saturday’s NHL action kind of went to an extreme.

Four NHL games ended in overtime on Saturday. Two other contests required shootouts. Merely four games ended “on time.”

Sunday’s big story

Islanders have to end their losing streak against the Blackhawks … right?

By the end of this weekend, the Islanders’ losing streak could go all the way to 11. Yes, it’s true that the Blackhawks are looking more competent lately (8-13-2 after starting 1-9-2). But the Blackhawks still aren’t a flawless team, so you’d think a Barry Trotz operation could pick them apart.

If not, will the boo birds really chirp in that shiny new building?

Logically, this doesn’t really feel like a situation where anything major can change. That said, the Isles are built to win now, so a lost year would really sting. Losing to the Blackhawks would really cement those cement-shoes vibes.

Saturday’s NHL scores

Panthers 4, Blues 3 (SO)
Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (OT)
Senators 6, Avalanche (OT)
Red Wings 4, Islanders 3 (OT)
Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 1
Predators 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)
Wild 4, Maple Leafs 3 (SO)
Hurricanes 6, Sabres 2
Rangers 3, Blackhawks 2
Penguins 4, Canucks 1

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.

NHL top prospect Connor Bedard draws comparisons to Connor McDavid as draft approaches

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Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The NHL is going to have another Connor to contend with very shortly.

For everything two-time NHL MVP Connor McDavid has accomplished in Edmonton since being selected No. 1 in the 2015 draft, Connor Bedard is on the same trajectory in being pegged as this year’s top eligible draft prospect, Central Scouting director Dan Marr said Friday.

“He’s right up there with Connor McDavid, it’s just the next generation,” Marr said in touting Bedard’s quickness, shot and ability to read and adapt. “So Connor McDavid started that trend, and Connor Bedard is going to lead it into the next trend.”

The annual NHL pre-draft combine in Buffalo, New York, is resembling more of a coronation for the 17-year-old Bedard, who has spent the past two years putting up generational numbers with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League while also shining against his peers on the international stage.

“I think you can use a lot of adjectives to describe it,” Regina coach John Paddock told The Associated Press recently in comparing Bedard’s production at the same age level to McDavid and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

“That’s quite a high ceiling,” said Paddock, a former NHL coach and player. “But there’s no indication he’s not going to do that based on what he’s done to date.”

The Chicago Blackhawks own the No. 1 pick, and are highly anticipated to use it on Bedard when the draft opens in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 28.

Bedard held his latest meeting with the Blackhawks at the combine in a relationship that began at a top-prospects camp in Toronto last summer.

Bedard’s arrival would coincide with the franchise in transition, with Chicago moving on from its aging core after trading 2007 No. 1 pick, Patrick Kane, and with captain Jonathan Toews’ future uncertain.

“Yeah, it’d be awesome,” Bedard said of the possibility of being selected by the Blackhawks. “The history of that organization, that city with sports would be unbelievable. We’ll see what happens, but to be selected, that would be a huge honor.”

Bedard said he’s following McDavid’s advice to stay in the moment and not peak too far ahead. He added, his dream to play in the NHL began no different than those of his colleagues: the moment he picked up a hockey stick growing up in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

What separates Bedard, however, is his exceptional skating ability and a hard shot, which is even more lethal given his quick release.

With Bedard the likely top pick, the intrigue at the draft is likely to revolve around who rounds out the remainder of the top five selections.

University of Michigan’s Adam Fantilli is second among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s final list, followed by top American prospect, William Smith, who played for USA Hockey’s developmental program. The top two European skaters are also considered in the mix with Sweden’s Leo Carlsson and Russia’s Matvei Michkov.

Anaheim is scheduled to pick second followed by Columbus, San Jose and Montreal.

Marr gives the edge to Bedard while also being impressed with Fantilli – just the third freshman to win the Hobey Baker Trophy awarded to college hockey’s top players – in a draft class considered very deep with offensive-minded forwards.

“You’re going to win with both,” Marr said. “And whoever gets these two players they’re going to help define a franchise.”

What distinguishes Bedard, who doesn’t turn 18 until next month, has been his consistency.

Last season, his 71 goals in just 57 games were the most in the WHL since Pavel Brendl scored 73 in 1998-99. Bedard’s 143 points were the most in the CHL since three players topped that mark in 1995-96. And it was a season in which he enjoyed 10 games with five or more points, and just five games in which he failed to register a point.

In 2020-21, Bedard became just the third WHL 16-year-old to reach 100 points, and was the youngest to score 50 goals in finishing with 51.

He’s also made a splash on the international stage. Bedard led Canada with nine goals and 23 points at the world juniors last winter, and his combined production of 17 goals and 36 points in just 16 games ranks fourth on the career tournament list.

Bedard has honed his talent by spending countless hours practicing shots in his backyard, which he referred to as his “Happy Place.” He was so dedicated to work on his shot that he preferred practicing than joining his family for a vacation to Disneyland, and eventually vacationed in Hawaii but only after he was allowed to bring his inline skates and sticks to practice.

Noted for being soft-spoken, Bedard said he’s not yet allowed himself to envision being drafted or making his NHL debut yet.

“It’s hard kind of think of that. But of course, I’ll work as hard as I can to try to achieve that goal,” he said. “And hopefully I do.”

Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

blue jackets
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The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

“Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

“I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

“You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

“He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

“It was fine,” he quipped.

Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

Game 4 is Saturday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.