NHL Rink Wrap: Marner and Kreider on fire; Latest round of Crosby – Ovechkin

NHL Rink Wrap: Marner and Kreider on fire; Latest round of Crosby - Ovechkin
Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Tuesday in the NHL

Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs

On Monday, the Maple Leafs fought back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Devils 6-4. Maybe that resonated a day later, because this time it wasn’t even close between the Maple Leafs and Devils.

Thanks in part to a four-point game from Mitch Marner (2G, 2A), the Maple Leafs thumped the Devils 7-1 during the NHL action on Tuesday.

Over these last two Devils – Maple Leafs games alone, Marner’s generated seven points (3G, 4A). That extended Marner’s point and goal streak to seven games (8G, 8A for 16 points). Marner generated multiple points in all but one of the games during this seven-game streak. Yow.

After this hot streak, Marner’s comfortably over a point-per-game this season (14G, 37 points in 33 GP).

Some critics won’t relent about Marner, Matthews, and the Maple Leafs until they make a big playoff run. Considering how likely the Maple Leafs are to draw a Stanley Cup contender in the Lightning or Panthers to open the playoffs, that doesn’t feel totally fair. But it’s the nature of the beast in sports.

For now, though, let’s at least appreciate what Marner and especially Matthews have pulled off this season. One might even argue that they’re probably worth (gasp) more than they’re paid.

NHL highlights from Tuesday

Victor Hedman scored the overtime game-winner for the Lightning against the Sharks:

Nice save from James Reimer to at least help the Sharks earn a “charity point.”

With blistering speed, the Flames shrunk a 3-1 Stars lead to a 3-3 tie. Yet, Oliver Kylington took what could have been a deadly penalty. Instead, the Flames killed it, and then he won the game by finishing this beautiful passing play:

Also, Kylington is really good, so note that his last name is pronounced: CHIH-lihng-tuhn.

Hey, Nazem Kadri keeps pumping that contract year up.

Tuesday NHL Takeaways

Kreider-powered Rangers power play too much for the Panthers

Truly, the Rangers – Panthers game from Tuesday might have been a more useful barometer for two teams aiming to solidify themselves as true NHL contenders if there wasn’t a difference in rest. In this case, the Panthers were closing off a back-to-back set after crushing Columbus. The Rangers, meanwhile, had a typical day off between games.

Nonetheless, the Rangers beat the Panthers, in part because of a dangerous power play that went 3-for-5.

Impressively, Chris Kreider collected two of those power-play goals, while also generating an assist.

With that, Kreider reached a whopping 33 goals for the season, the first of his career at 30+ tallies. Of those 33 goals, Kreider’s generated an impressive 17 on the power play. Overall, 23 of Kreider’s 47 points have come on the Rangers’ power play.

In 2020-21, Kreider set now-expired career-highs for PPG (11) and power-play points (14). Obviously, he’s already shattered those marks, largely dominating in a easy-to-say, hard-to-execute way: Kreider is just a menace in those high-danger areas around the net.

While his first power-play goal of the night was more about a beautiful rush opportunity, the second Kreider PPG feels like a clearer example of what he’s been doing:

Just look at his heat map at Hockey Viz, and you’ll see that in another form:

Could the Rangers mix Igor Shesterkin‘s stellar goaltending, a scary power play, and significant top-end talent to make up for their sagging 5-on-5 play? Well, the longer they pull this off, the more plausible it all seems.

As someone who’s monitored Kreider as a good-but-often-snakebitten player, it’s wild to see him on such on a power play bender.

Coyotes at ASU sounds like a ‘nightmare all around’

In case you missed it, Craig Morgan recently reported that the Coyotes were in “advanced” talks to play at Arizona State University’s in-construction arena. Depending upon a number of factors, that building could translate to a hockey capacity anywhere between 3,200 to 5,000.

That’s pretty wild stuff — even by the dismal standards of the Coyotes. Following up on Morgan’s report, the Athletic’s Sean Shapiro caught up with a variety of NHL executives for their reactions to that possibility (sub required).

“Just a nightmare all around,” one executive said of the proposal, according to Shapiro.

Everything about this is embarrassing. Consider Shapiro’s point about how Coyotes sellouts if they play at ASU may compare more to AHL games:

Assuming sellouts, attendance on Arizona State’s campus would be more similar to what’s seen in the AHL. The AHL is averaging 4,214 fans per game this season, ranging from the Hershey Bears (7,389) to the Stockton Heat (1,345).

Such a setup could translate to a massive drain on Hockey Related Revenue, posing potential salary cap problems, escrow challenges, and more.

If your response is “OK, is it finally the time for the NHL to cut their losses with the Coyotes?” then you’ll need to tolerate the rest of us laugh-crying. You see, this situation may never end, and could perpetually challenge the concept of “rock bottom.”

Gotta keep that market going in Arizona, though.

Wednesday’s big story

After facing Crosby’s Penguins, Ovechkin and the Capitals take on McDavid’s Oilers

During the NHL games on Tuesday, Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals won in overtime against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

While Crosby played well (two assists), Ovechkin saw a small cold streak (four pointless games despite 20 shots on goal) continue. In that one, Ilya Samsonov made the bigger difference. Samsonov made 43 saves after Vitek Vanecek exited the Penguins – Capitals game with an injury.

When it comes to Ovechkin and Connor McDavid, struggles are relative. Ovechkin firing plenty of shots on goal hints at an explosion down the line. These things just tend to happen for snipers.

By his lofty standards, McDavid has been slightly cooler lately. After generating 20 points in 13 November games and 16 in 11 December contests, McDavid “only” produced seven points in nine January contests.

Could McDavid and Ovechkin really break free in the same Capitals – Oilers game? Just about any reasonable fan certainly wouldn’t mind witnessing that.

NHL scores from Tuesday

Bruins 3, Kraken 2
Lightning 3, Sharks 2 (OT)
Maple Leafs 7, Devils 1
Rangers 5, Panthers 2
Flyers 3, Jets 1
Capitals 4, Penguins 3 (OT)
Islanders 4, Senators 1
Predators 4, Canucks 2
Flames 4, Stars 3
Coyotes 3, Avalanche 2 (SO)
Golden Knights 5, Sabres 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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    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.