NHL Rink Wrap: Explosive night from Marchment and the Panthers

NHL Rink Wrap: Explosive night from Marchment and the Panthers
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Top players from Monday in the NHL

Panthers line of Mason Marchment, Anton Lundell, Sam Reinhart

Like a cat after it finally stops toying with its prey, there’s a lot to digest from the Panthers dropping an 8-4 blowout on the Blue Jackets. Scroll for broader thoughts, but let’s focus on the trio of Marchment, Lundell, and Reinhart.

Mason Marchment

Coming into the NHL action on Monday, Mason Marchment was quietly offering an impressive breakthrough season (17 points in 20 games). Marchment extended point and goal streaks to four games, so he’s on a longer tear.

Well, if people didn’t notice already, they can’t look away now. Marchment dropped a ridiculous six points (2G, 4A) as the Panthers pummelled the Blue Jackets.

Many of the tweets surrounding this stunner focus on how unexpected a six-point game was for Marchment. There’s some truth to that.

But he played merely his 58th NHL game on Monday. Marchment now has 23 points in 21 games this season, with 12 coming during this four-game streak. After the game, Marchment said he’s just “riding the wave.”

Yet, for Panthers opponents, the fear is: what if the Panthers found another weapon in this line?

Reinhart and Lundell

Some nuggets about Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell, too:

  • With a hat trick and an assist, some might tab Reinhart as the Panthers (and NHL) player of Monday night, instead. Either way, this surge pushes Reinhart to exactly a point per game (43 in 43). Maintaining that pace may be unlikely, but Reinhart’s in a strong position to top his Sabres career-high of 65 points from 2018-19. If the Panthers found something special here, the Panthers could theoretically throw three dangerous lines (each line headed by Reinhart, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aleksander Barkov) at opponents. Yikes.
  • After this explosive game where Anton Lundell loaded up with five assists, he might jump from stealth Calder candidate to a more serious threat. If nothing else, Lundell is now tied with Trevor Zegras (32 points, both in 42 games) for second in rookie scoring.

NHL highlights from Monday

Six points for Marchment, hat trick + assist for Reinhart, five helpers for Lundell — maybe we should just soak in the full highlights from that 8-4 Panthers win?

Auston Matthews nabbed his fifth career hat trick, and the Maple Leafs stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Devils 6-4. Here’s that hatty:

Quite a night for Tim Stützle, who got into a fight and scored his first career overtime goal:

Monday NHL Takeaways

NHL revises COVID protocol

Read up for the full details here. The biggest change is that the NHL will no longer require daily COVID testing for “fully vaccinated individuals.”

This Panthers team could make some nights ugly (especially for bad teams)

You don’t have to be a bad team for the Florida Panthers to light up the scoreboard against you.

Just to name a few games: the Panthers beat the Lightning 9-3, the Flames 6-2, and the Stars 7-1.

Even so, teams that are tanking (or just bad) could be especially vulnerable to the relentless Panthers as this season winds down. That certainly seems to be the case for the bad (but at times not as bad as expected?) Columbus Blue Jackets.

Earlier this season, the Panthers clobbered the Blue Jackets 9-2. (That actually closed out a back-to-back set where the Panthers first blew out the Stars 7-1. Yes, that’s two wins by a combined score of 16-3 in back-to-back games.)

In this latest blowout, the Panthers scored seven goals against the Blue Jackets during the first two periods alone before ultimately winning 8-4.

Heading into the NHL action on Monday, the Panthers already joined the Avalanche as the two teams in the league averaging more than four goals per game.

While the West playoff picture has room to change, it’s tough to imagine any of the East’s non-playoff teams changing their fates. So that could really open the door for more Panthers blowouts.

The goofier the 2022 NHL All-Star Skills idea, the better?

When I first heard about hockey blackjack and an elaborate Bellagio Fountains mini-game at the 2022 NHL All-Star Skills competition, I thought “that sounds dumb.” But after seeing what it may look like, and searching my memories, I recalled something important: the best All-Star moments are almost universally dopey.

So sign me up, at least for one round of “hockey blackjack” and, uh, the NHL Fountain Faceoff.

Actually, while we’re at it, let me dust off an old and obvious take. Just get rid of the actual NHL All-Star Game itself, and double down on dopey and great skills competitions.

Over the last decade-plus, the skills stuff comprises almost all of our favorite NHL All-Star memories, aside from the occasional outlier like John Scott laughing at Patrick Kane being booed, checking Patrick Kane, and winning the MVP.

Wild sign Jordan Greenway to three-year extension

Let’s play another game of first thought, then upon further reflection.

At first glance, the Wild can’t really afford to pay a role player (even a big fellow of a role player) like Jordan Greeway $3M per year right in the thick of their looming salary cap crunch, can they? My instinct is that they should try to be as flexible as possible, which means aiming to find value at depth positions.

Otherwise, they risk being inefficient in ways not unlike the Edmonton Oilers. If things fall the wrong way, Greenway could be a younger version of Zack Kassian, at least from a value perspective.

Fascinatingly, the deeper you dive with Greenway, the murkier his value to the Wild gets. Even beyond Greenway being a “character.”

Some models view Greenway as a beneficiary of time with Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno

… While by other metrics, the Wild might be getting a bargain in Greenway.

It should be really interesting to see how the Wild and others view that Greenway extension down the road. Being that he’s merely 24, at least there’s not much reason to worry about the “aging curve.”

Tuesday’s big story

Dust off the Sidney CrosbyAlex Ovechkin rivalry

Look, it would be silly to act like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are just hanging on. Instead, they remain among the best at their positions, and thus figure to put on a great show on Tuesday. It’s not “victory lap” or “last dance” time.

But we may not see many other times when all of these things are clicking at once:

  • Ovechkin is absolutely, incredibly, in the Hart Trophy conversation.

  • Both the Penguins and Capitals look like clear playoff teams.

Look, Crosby, Ovechkin, the Penguins, and Capitals have all stayed relevant longer than some expected. It’s possible that both players could age like Hockey Tom Brady, and their teams could keep finding ways to win.

Yet, I’d recommend that you cherish every prominent Crosby + Penguins vs. Ovechkin + Capitals showdown we have left. Even if it’s easy to take those two for granted because they just keep delivering.

NHL scores from Monday

Panthers 8, Blue Jackets 4
Senators 3, Oilers 2 (OT)
Red Wings 2, Ducks 1 (OT)
Canucks 3, Blackhawks 1
Maple Leafs 6, Devils 4

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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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.