NHL Rink Wrap: 40 for Matthews, 20 for Makar

NHL Rink Wrap: 40 for Matthews, 20 for Makar
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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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    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”


    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    “I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

    “It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”


    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.


    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.


    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

    mark stone surgery
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.