NHL Rink Wrap: Scheifele vs. Gourde; Oilers stay hot; Laine hat trick

NHL Rink Wrap: Scheifele vs. Gourde; Oilers stay hot; Laine hat trick
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Top players from Thursday in the NHL

Patrik Laine, Blue Jackets

When Patrik Laine managed to suit up earlier this season, he was quietly piling up points. He’s racking up numbers in ways that won’t just slip under the radar lately, though.

With a hat trick during the NHL action on Thursday, Laine improved to 16 goals and 31 points in 29 games this season. That Laine hat trick also pushed his point streak to eight games (10G, 6A). During that eight-game point streak, Laine generated multiple goals on four different occasions.

Did someone tell Laine he’s in a contract year?

[Another recent look at Laine getting in a groove]

While Laine generated two-goal games even when things were awkward with John Tortorella, this marks his first hat trick with the Blue Jackets.

This brings up a point that’s been mentioned before. Is Laine heating up so much that maybe a trade could make sense? The Blue Jackets are probably best off losing a ton, and even with this surge, it’s unclear if Laine should stick with the CBJ or go elsewhere.

Wherever he stays, it’s easier and easier to imagine Laine grabbing the big bucks. For a while there, it wasn’t so clear.

Thursday NHL highlights

Do coast-to-coast goals ever get old? Maybe if you’re allowing them. Anyway, Morgan Rielly pulled offered one up during the Maple Leafs’ win against the Penguins:

Can a goalie ever relax when Trevor Zegras is at what should be an impossible angle? Almost cruel at this point.

Check out Patrik Laine collecting his first Blue Jackets hat trick:

The Canucks ended up winning in OT anyway, but buzzer beaters are fun, and Alexander Barabanov just barely slipped this paper under the deadline.

Cole Caufield‘s OT-winner ended the Canadiens’ losing streak at 10 games (Montreal’s last win before this happened on Jan. 18).

Thursday NHL Takeaways

Brown, Fitzhugh make history with

Everett Fitzhugh and JT Brown made NHL history by becoming the first all-Black broadcast team when they covered the Jets – Kraken game on Thursday. Although there’s an instinct to wonder what took so long, this is also very cool stuff.

Kevin Weekes shared some great insight on what Brown and Fitzhugh achieved.

“Everett, I’m happy to see his progression, somebody who had to ride the buses and overcome a ton to be here and to stay here,” Weekes said, via NHL.com’s William Douglas. “I’m really proud of him. For JT, as a fellow former player that’s working really hard to continue to grow and improve his craft, which I think is excellent … It’s amazing for the sport, it’s amazing for the game.

Oilers hot under Woodcroft; Ducks keep sinking

Despite building an early 2-0 lead, the Ducks lost badly (7-3) to the Oilers in a game that was significant for both teams. With that, the Oilers are on a four-game winning streak, while the Ducks have dropped four in a row.

The diverging paths continue when you zoom out a bit.

Oilers enjoy four-game winning streak under new coach Jay Woodcroft

Take a look at the Oilers’ undefeated four-game run under Jay Woodcroft so far.

Feb. 11: 3-1 win vs. Islanders
Feb. 14: 3-0 win at Sharks
Feb. 15: 5-2 win at Kings
Fan. 17: 7-3 win vs. Ducks

At this point, Edmonton won’t be too picky with any wins. Yet, notice that the Oilers beat two Pacific Division rivals (and potential wild-card threats) during this streak: the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks. Maybe an empty-netter or two inflated scores, but each of those wins took place in regulation. Important stuff.

Promising stuff for Woodcroft and the Oilers. That said, the new coach faces a big challenge ahead. Seven of their next nine games take place away from home, including a five-game road trip.

If the Oilers are still hot after a March 7 test against the Flames, then watch out. Even if the Oilers cool off, winning games like Thursday’s vs. the Ducks could make a big difference.

Ducks increasingly swimming against the stream with losing streak

On the other end, the Ducks dropped their fourth in a row, including a back-to-back set against the Flames and than the Oilers. On Thursday, the Oilers beat a Ducks team wrapping up a back-to-back. Understandable, if disappointing for Anaheim. It’s extra-irritating for the Ducks that they couldn’t beat a Flames team that faced a rest disadvantage on Wednesday.

To sprinkle a little optimism in, the Ducks face a chance to turn things around. After Saturday’s game vs. the Canucks in Vancouver, the Ducks enjoy a six-game homestand.

Yet, with all of that optimism, it’s startling that the Oilers (57 points in 48 games played) are closer to the Golden Knights (59 in 49 GP) than they are to the Ducks (55 in 51 GP).

Red-hot Mark Scheifele made boiling-mad by Gourde hit

It’s been quite the couple weeks for Jets center Mark Scheifele.

For the most part, he’s been making waves with red-hot play. On Wednesday, that culminated with Scheifele generating a natural hat trick and an assist. On Thursday, the heat meant something different: righteous anger.

Kraken forward Yanni Gourde delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Scheifele. Wasting no time, Scheifele got up right after that hit, and went after Gourde. It created quite the fracas:

Unfortunately for Scheifele, his blistering five-game point streak (7G, 4A) ended during the NHL games on Thursday. His partner-in-crime Blake Wheeler stayed hot with a goal and an assist, however, and the Jets got the last laugh by beating the Kraken.

At the moment, it looks like Scheifele avoided an injury from that Gourde board. That can’t be said for every Jets player, however, as Cole Perfetti ranked among those banged up.

Friday’s big story

East powerhouse Panthers meets rising West threat the Wild

Sometimes, we hype up potential Stanley Cup Final previews featuring teams just about everyone expected to be in the mix. It might be even more fun to watch two teams rising up the ranks, though.

Yes, it’s true that it feels hasty to call Panthers – Wild a potential Stanley Cup Final preview. The Wild haven’t won a playoff series 2014-15, while the Panthers last made a deep playoff run when barely anyone had regular Internet access. Along with lacking track records, the Wild and Panthers would likely need to clear serious hurdles, including divisional rivals such as the Avalanche and Lightning.

So, fine. Call it a way off-the-board SCF choice.

But just about anyone paying attention can notice two teams on the rise. And, even ignoring their considerable success, the Wild and Panthers rank as the highest-scoring teams in the NHL this season.

While the Panthers have been scary since last season, the Wild ramped things up in 2021-22, especially once Matt Boldy hit the scene. This should be a fun one, and maybe a check on where the Wild and Panthers are at in their hopeful ascents.

NHL scores from Thursday

Canadiens 3, Blues 2 (OT)
Senators 3, Sabres 1
Red Wings 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
Maple Leafs 4, Penguins 1
Capitals 5, Flyers 3
Islanders 4, Bruins 1
Jets 5, Kraken 3
Blue Jackets 7, Blackhawks 4
Oilers 7, Ducks 3
Canucks 5, Sharks 4 (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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