The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to make one last push for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They ended a two-game skid with a 6-2 win against the San Jose Sharks Wednesday. Patrick Kane scored twice, and Alex DeBrincat dished out three assists and the Blackhawks moved to within six points of the Western Conference wild card. Rookie forward Dominik Kubalik notched his 30th of the season in addition.
Chicago’s power play ranks near the bottom of the NHL in terms of efficiency. However, they snapped an 0-14 streak against the Sharks’ No. 1 penalty-killing unit and scored twice in the victory.
Kane opened the scoring for the Sharks with a power-play goal of his own, but the Blackhawks answered in the second period with back to back goals on the man advantage.
Duncan Keith scored his third of the season at 4:33 of the second period to even the score at 1-1. The Blackhawks alternate captain slung a wrist shot from the blueline that sailed past the glove of Aaron Dell. Kirby Dach provided a screen to distract the Sharks goaltender.
DeBrincat recorded the second of his three assists with a pretty cross-ice pass to Kane at 16:33 of the middle frame. Kane split the defenders and darted toward the back post before finishing the beautiful feed.
— Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.
The Edmonton Oilers have an opportunity to secure home-ice advantage for part of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, they need help from anyone not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
McDavid scored his 30th of the season to give the Oilers a two-goal first-period advantage. But the San Jose Sharks rallied with five straight goals and collected a 6-3 victory Thursday at Rogers Place.
The Oilers captain showed why he is the most dangerous player in the NHL early in the first period. He sped past Mario Ferraro after catching the Sharks defenseman slightly out of position in the neutral zone. McDavid’s ability not only to fly on the rink, but skate at lightning speed with possession of the puck is his best attribute.
While possessing blazing speed is an important characteristic for McDavid, he also has the hands to finish the play and convert a deke at a similar pace.
However, McDavid and Draisaitl’s success also calls out the need for more contributions from up and down the lineup.
General manager Ken Holland has limited salary cap space available at the trade deadline and cannot afford to add a player that does not have an expiring contract. Nevertheless, an opportunity has presented itself and the Oilers have the chance to play playoff hockey if the right reinforcements are brought in.
Holland’s hands are tied due to cap limitations, but great executives always find a way to add the right piece.
Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.
Sharks stick with GM Doug Wilson — for better or worse
The San Jose Sharks are sticking with GM Doug Wilson despite a huge letdown of a season.
Majority owner Hasso Plattner gave Wilson a vote of confidence on Thursday. While it makes sense to comment on a disappointing season, it’s interesting to see it in an official release.
“While we are all very disappointed in the team’s performance thus far this season, Doug has a long history of leading our team to success,” Plattner said as part of the statement. “The last time we failed to meet our winning standards in the 2014-15 season, we were able to quickly rebound and re-establish a winning culture for the next several years. I am supportive of Doug’s plan to get our team back on track.”
Wilson has overseen a long run of Sharks success
Wilson deserves credit for a remarkably strong and consistent run since being named GM in May 2003. The oft-tanned executive must make other GMs feel like he’s a shark smelling blood at times. While the Joe Thornton trade is Wilson’s masterstroke, he often wins other trades — sometimes by a lot.
The Sharks have also won a lot since he took the reins.
The Sharks won four Pacific Division titles in a row from 2007-08 to 2010-11, grabbing the 2009 Presidents’ Trophy along the way. Those peak years ended with heartbreak, yet a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final silenced a lot of the “choker” claims.
Each time the window appeared ready to close on the Sharks, Wilson would pull a rabbit out of a hat, drafting gems like Logan Couture or trading for key players such as Brent Burns.
Sharks seem stuck
Unfortunately, the 2019-20 season might represent Wilson running out of magic.
Strangely, the Sharks are so stuck that they might just be better off sticking with Wilson, though.
An incoming GM would only be able to do so much about an aging, expensive defense and other concerns. So, again, hoping Wilson has some tricks up his sleeves ranks as an understandable gamble.
Maybe Wilson could pull off a sequel to getting a bucket of picks for marginal players, like he did with Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray in 2013? If anyone can pull that off again, it’s Wilson.
The Sharks see little incentive to tank since Ottawa owns their 2020 first-rounder anyway. Taking baby steps seems like the only reasonable option, really.
How Wilson must succeed where he once failed
For all of the smart (and/or “smart at the time”) moves Wilson made, goaltending continues to doom the Sharks. Navigating that problem with better results should be Wilson’s top priority, even if it’s a tricky challenge.
• U.S. goalie Arthur Smith will be one of the few black athletes among the 1,800 competitors from 70 countries at 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games which opens Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland. [NHL.com]
• “As [Jets defenseman Sami] Niku was preparing for his NHL return, a report was making the rounds on Monday morning from Finnish media outlet Yle Urheilu, one that suggested Niku was unhappy with how he was being handled in the organization — going as far to say that he was readying a trade request.” [Winnipeg Free Press]
• What the 2020 Winter Classic meant to the NHL, Dallas and the southern hockey fan. [Sporting News]
1. William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs. Following a restricted free agent contract dispute and a down 2018-19 performance, Nylander became a popular target for criticism in Toronto. Not anymore. He continued what is turning out to be a massive breakout season on Thursday night by scoring two more goals and adding an assist in the Maple Leafs’ 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. The Maple Leafs are now 14-4-1 under new coach Sheldon Keefe and 8-0-1 in their past nine games. Nylander has 19 goals and 38 total points in 41 games this season. That puts him on a pace for 38 goals and 76 points over 82 games. That level of production makes his $6 million cap hit a bargain.
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. MacKinnon got the Avalanche rolling with a late first period goal and never slowed down as the cruised to a huge 7-3 win over the St. Louis Blues. He recorded his fourth four-point game of the season, most in the NHL. It is his ninth since the start of the 2017-18 season, tied for second-most in the league (behind only Nikita Kucherov) during that stretch. Read more about the Avalanche’s big win here.
3. J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks. Miller continues to be a massive addition to the Canucks’ lineup and helped them win their sixth game in a row with his second four-point game of the season. He opened the scoring with an early first period goal, then added three assists, including the lone assist on Adam Gaudette‘s game winning goal in a wild 7-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. He has at least one point in five of the Canucks’ six games during this streak and continues to help push them toward a playoff spot. They paid a steep price to get him, but he has been worth it so far.
Other notable performances from Thursday
Pierre-Luc Dubois‘ overtime goal against the Boston Bruins helped the Columbus Blue Jackets improved to 8-0-4 in their past 12 games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 38 shots to help the Tampa Bay Lightning pick up a huge 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Jonathan Huberdeau remained hot and Evgeni Dadonov had three points as the Florida Panthers used a four-goal second period to storm by the Ottawa Senators.
Brent Burns scored an overtime goal and Aaron Dell made 36 saves to help the San Jose Sharks get a much-needed 3-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
All 12 Arizona Coyotes forwards recorded a point in their 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Max Pacioretty continued to be a dominant force for the Vegas Golden Knights as he scored two more goals in their 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Johnny Gadreau had a goal and an assist for the Calgary Flames as they beat the New York Rangers.
Highlights of the Night
It did not result in a win, but Patrik Laine finished with 13 shots on goal for the Winnipeg Jets and scored this beauty of a goal after turning Morgan Rielly inside out.
This is only a blooper in the sense that it should NEVER HAPPEN if you are the New York Rangers. They allowed Calgary’s Mikael Backlund to score a shorthanded goal in a 3-on-5 situation. That was the difference in a 4-3 Flames win.
David Pastrnak is the first Bruins player since Cam Neely during the 1993-94 season to score his 30th goal in 42 or fewer games. [NHL PR]
With his assist on Brent Burns’ overtime goal, Joe Thornton collected the 1,080th assist of his career to move him into sole possession of seventh place on the NHL’s all-time list. [NHL PR]
Columbus Blue Jackets 2, Boston Bruins 1 (OT)
Buffalo Sabres 3, Edmonton Oilers 2 (OT)
Tampa Bay Lightning 2, Montreal Canadiens 1
New Jersey Devils 2, New York Islanders 1
San Jose Sharks 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2 (OT)
Florida Panthers 6, Ottawa Senators 3
Toronto Maple Leafs 6, Winnipeg Jets 3
Calgary Flames 4, New York Rangers 3
Arizona Coyotes 4, Anaheim Ducks 2
Colorado Avalanche 7, St. Louis Blues 3
Vancouver Canucks 7, Chicago Blackhawks 5
Vegas Golden Knights 5, Philadelphia Flyers 4