NHL Rink Wrap: 40 for Matthews, 20 for Makar

NHL Rink Wrap: 40 for Matthews, 20 for Makar
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Monday’s top NHL players

Cale Makar, Avalanche

It’s a testament to Roman Josi (59 points), Victor Hedman (56), and Adam Fox (55) that there’s at least some chance Cale Makar won’t score the most points of any defenseman this season. But that possibility looks slimmer and slimmer with each outstanding Cale Makar performance.

During the Avalanche’s narrow win over the Islanders, Cale Makar scored two goals and one assist. In the process, Makar reached a rare level for defensemen: 20 goals in a season. Makar’s at 20 goals and a whopping 63 points, and he’s played just 53 games. (Makar missed some time with an injury, so the Avalanche as a team are at 57 games played.)

Few defensemen would scoff at a 63-point season, period.

In the salary cap era (since 2005-06), we’ve only seen defensemen reach 63+ points on 38 occasions. Point-per-game seasons are especially rare, so Makar’s 1.19 point-per-game pace is really something to behold. The most points since 2005-06: Brent Burns‘ 83 from 2018-19. There’ve only been three 80+ point seasons during that frame, with Erik Karlsson (82 in 2015-16) and Nicklas Lidstrom (80 in 2005-06) making the cut.

Mike Green (31 goals in 2008-09 despite being limited to 68 games) was the only defenseman to reach 30+ goals since 2005-06, although Burns reached 29 and 27. Could Makar reach 30+ goals? Either way, there’s only been 22 instances of 20+ goals for defensemen since a full season lockout, so this is already a remarkable run.

Speaking of remarkable runs, Cale Makar’s also on a 12-game point streak. Wow.

As far as Monday’s NHL action goes, Nathan MacKinnon (1G, 2A) and Aleksander Barkov (1G, 2A) also posed strong player of the night arguments.

Monday NHL highlights

Andreas Athanasiou scored the overtime game-winner as the Kings got the best of the Bruins:

This Linus Ullmark save helped the Bruins get to overtime, at least.

Watch Cale Makar reach 20 goals:

Semyon Varlamov‘s paddle save may have prevented a Cale Makar hat trick, however:

Auston Matthews is building a compelling argument for a Hart Trophy win. He became the first player to 40 goals this season, reaching 40+ in three straight seasons.

A snow angel from Elvis Merzlikins. Kinda makes you wish there was an Elvis song by the same title.

(There wasn’t, was there?)

Monday NHL Takeaways

NHL suspends agreements with KHL, unveils new Stanley Cup logo

Late on Monday, word surfaced that the NHL suspended agreements with Russia-based KHL.

The league also shared its new logo for the Stanley Cup Final and playoffs.

Auston Matthews: first NHL player to 40 goals this season, leads Richard race

Auston Matthews keeps piling up goals, and (as mentioned before) adding to his Hart Trophy resume.

If nothing else, by reaching 40 goals first this season, Auston Matthews leads the Maurice Richard Trophy race. Currently, Chris Kreider and Leon Draisaitl are tied for second place with 38 goals. Alex Ovechkin (34), Kyle Connor (33), Alex DeBrincat (32), David Pastrnak (31), and Gabriel Landeskog (30) round out the players also above 30 goals.

Switching from the present to pondering the past, Matthews joined Darryl Sitter as the only Maple Leafs players to record four 40+ goal seasons. Sure seems like Auston Matthews could end up leading a lot of all-time Maple Leafs categories? (Though Mitch Marner will probably own the assist records if both players stick with Toronto long-term.)

Flames stay hot, Oilers continue to cool off under Woodcroft

For a team like the Calgary Flames, schedule specifics don’t always matter. Pay attention to those details when it comes to an up-and-down squad like the Oilers, though.

As you may remember, the Oilers won their first five games under still-new head coach Jay Woodcroft. Dismissing those wins altogether is unfair, especially with it being a road-heavy stretch.

But following those wins, there were more roadblocks, with a travel-heavy schedule and much tougher opponents. And so it went: the Oilers started to stumble, including falling to the Flames. They’re now a middle-of-the-road 7-5-1 under Jay Woodcroft.

Looking at the teams ahead of the Oilers makes this regulation loss to the Flames hurt a bit more. This three-game losing streak leaves the Oilers with 64 points in 57 games played. The Stars (67 in 55 GP) and Predators (66 in 55 GP) hold decisive advantages in the wild-card races, while the Golden Knights have four more points in the same number of games played.

Perhaps the key is to stay positive? The Oilers begin a five-game homestand on Wednesday, and a generally home-heavy stretch. They have serious work to do, but they’re not out of this yet.

Tuesday’s big story

Stars vs. Predators could impact wild card, Central races

Speaking of the West’s two (current) wild card teams, the Stars face the Predators in Nashville on Tuesday. Both teams are close enough to the slipping Minnesota Wild that Stars – Predators could have some Central Division implications, too.

With the Predators, the story lately has been about hanging in there. They absolutely clobbered the Sharks 8-0 in their last game, but even so, the Predators have only won three of their last nine games.

Meanwhile, the often-bewildering Stars have been heating up. They’re on a four-game winning streak after beating the Wild, and have won nine of their last 12 games. Interestingly, a seemingly home-ice-dependent Stars game is heating up despite playing a lot away from Dallas. They have to hope that continues, as the Stars only play three of their next 13 games at home.

You’d think that adds up to a recipe for the Stars to go cold again. Maybe so. This team has a tendency to surprise, though, so who knows?

Monday NHL scores

Kings 3, Bruins 2 (OT)
Panthers 6, Sabres 1
Maple Leafs 5, Blue Jackets 4
Avalanche 5, Islanders 4
Flames 3, Oilers 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.

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