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The Buzzer: Talbot stops all the shots

Three Stars

1. Cam Talbot

After getting glowed up for a 4-0 loss on Saturday, the Oilers turned around and won 4-0 on Sunday.

Talbot enjoyed a similarly dramatic leap. He surrendered seven goals to San Jose on Dec. 29, but has started 2019 off right, giving up only one goal in relief on Saturday before pitching a 39-save shutout against the Ducks.

This marks just his first shutout of the season, and despite this sterling performance, Talbot’s save percentage remains just under .900 at .899 through 23 games. Talbot’s in a contract year, so as unlikely as a big run feels, there’s at least added motivation, as he’s just as desperate as the team he’s playing for (at least for now).

2. Alex Galchenyuk

Galchenyuk joins Patrick Kane as the only two players to hit three points on Sunday. Remarkably, Galchenyuk did so in six fewer minutes (14:42) than Kane (20:43) in their respective games.

The Coyotes forward got there with one goal and two assists, enjoying a +2 rating and firing three shots on goal. He’s heating up a bit lately, with six points in his last five games, and 11 points in 15 contests since December began.

3. Patrick Kane

Kane generated three assists as Chicago rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Penguins 5-3.

This gives Kane 54 points in 43 games so far this season, with 31 of those points being helpers. Kane finishes Sunday tied for seventh in NHL points scoring with Tampa Bay Lightning wunderkind Brayden Point, although Point’s do so in one fewer game played.

Kane’s pass on Alex DeBrincat‘s goal was especially crisp and impressive:

Highlights

Fantastic work from Dylan Larkin, setting up this goal by Filip Hronek:

Yet the pass of Sunday might go to Evgeny Kuznetsov feeding Tom Wilson. Alex Ovechkin had a nice apple of his own, by the way.

Kuznetsov crossed the 300-point barrier on Sunday.

Factoids

Yes, this was an unusual rebound for Edmonton. You could even call it unique, at least to the Oilers franchise:

Kane’s making some history as a prolific passer.

The Blackhawks have dominated the Penguins lately, while the Red Wings have had even more trouble beating the Capitals.

The wins stay in Vegas for the Golden Knights. (More on them here.)

Scores

CAR 5 – OTT 4
ARI 5 – NYR 0
VGK 3 – NJD 2
WSH 3 – DET 2
WPG 5 – DAL 1
CHI 5 – PIT 3
EDM 4 – ANA 0

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Things could get even worse for Oilers

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If you’ve spent some time around Hockey Twitter lately, you’ve likely noticed that Edmonton Oilers fans are especially dour these days.

Can you really blame them? As splendid as it must be to watch Connor McDavid be some next-level hockey superhuman, someone with his alien-like talents can only overcome so much. The Oilers ended 2018 with a deafening thud, and the hits could keep coming in this new year.

Even the Oilers’ six-game losing streak is uglier than most.

In an NHL where “three-point games” run rampant, the Oilers remarkably failed to generate a single “charity point” from their current skid, losing all six contests in regulation. To rub a shaker full of salt in their wounds, only one of those losses came on the road, as they flubbed a five-game homestand to end 2018.

Now they begin the year with a four-game road trip, so a team that currently sits five points out of a playoff spot might only dig that hole deeper. Woof.

Chiarelli’s blunders continue

In all honesty, it’s still surprising that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli kept his job through the disappointing 2017-18 season, when one of his few successful trades ended up looking less successful (Cam Talbot), while one of his most embarrassing moves was highlighted by Taylor Hall winning the Hart Trophy. It’s truly difficult to imagine a team flushing a winning lottery ticket down the toilet like Edmonton has mostly done with McDavid.

It’s painful to ponder the notion that, while Chiarelli’s big trades are lampooned to the point of becoming memes, his smaller moves also draw plenty of criticism.

On paper, it’s not that big of a deal that the Oilers acquired two marginal defensemen in Brandon Manning and Alex Petrovic, even if giving up assets like Drake Caggiula still makes the end result seem like a disquieting loss. But when you dig deeper, it’s almost comical how head-scratching it is.

McDavid said all the right things about Manning, but there’s no getting around their past:

At best, McDavid and Manning can keep things professional. Then you remember that Caggiula isn’t just a rare depth Oilers scorer who can help; he’s also close with McDavid.

“I’m going to miss him a lot. I’ve known Drake a long time … he’s a good player, a guy I really like,” McDavid said, via the Edmonton Sun. “We trained together in the summers but it’s part of the business and it’s happened enough to know that these things happen.”

As a reminder, The Athletic’s Scott Powers reported on Dec. 30 (sub required) that Manning was considered “untradeable” by many in the league.

So, the Oilers traded McDavid’s valuable, cheap friend for a (former?) foe, with the end result most likely making Edmonton worse. It’s all very on-brand for Chiarelli, who’s developed a reputation as the opposite of a trading maestro.

And the scary part is that Chiarelli might not be done yet.

Ominous music plays

Even a soggy, inertia-laden franchise like the Oilers must acknowledge that another failed season is unacceptable, and this team is in very tough spot to make a playoff push.

Money Puck gives the Oilers a 23.65-percent chance of making the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Corsica and other sites don’t get a whole lot rosier.

It’s foolish to count out any team with McDavid, but the point is that Chiarelli likely knows that they need to beat the odds. Even a GM with a history of genius trades would be vulnerable to foolish maneuvers in a situation like this, so there are very real worries that Chiarelli’s last stand will be a Quixotic disaster.

If you’re an Oilers fan, a simple line from the latest edition of Elliotte Friedman’s “31 Thoughts” is downright chilling:

Jesse Puljujarvi’s future is uncertain.

Look, it’s quite reasonable to wonder if Puljujarvi needs a change of scenery, yet would anyone wager that Chiarelli’s the person to get the most out of such a trade?

Botching a Puljujarvi trade could tie a fitting bow on the Chiarelli era of errors, but such a neat narrative would likely only deepen the suffering for Edmonton’s fans. And it’s far from the only scary scenario for the Oilers. Would Chiarelli throw away prospects or picks in the hopes of chasing a short-term fix? Would he misidentify the wrong type of player as an upgrade, only to lose another move? After dying down in recent years, would a terrible Nugent-Hopkins trade dig the knife deeper?

(Hey, is it me or is the “Jaws” theme playing?)

***

With the Ken Hitchcock honeymoon phase over, and the threat of more mistakes looming, the situation seems pretty grim for Edmonton. You can make a very real argument that, in the big picture, it would be better if the Oilers did very little during the trade deadline, missed the playoffs, and then moved on to a totally new outlook in the front office.

Of all the scenarios that could play out, it’s uncomfortable to admit that Chiarelli might once again repeat his history of lousy trades. The NHL’s other 30 teams might be licking their chops, but it’s a scary situation for the Oilers and their fans.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Koskinen has Oilers thinking playoffs again

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A lack of quality goaltending was one of the reasons the Edmonton Oilers missed the playoffs last season. Cam Talbot, who was an integral part of Edmonton’s run to the playoffs in 2017, saw his numbers slip in a big way in 2017-18. Now, it’s another goalie that has the Oilers back in the playoff hunt.

Many hockey fans were left scratching their heads when Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli signed Mikko Koskinen to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. The move was a little random considering Koskinen hadn’t suited up in the NHL since the 2010-11 season. The 30-year-old had spent the previous five seasons in the KHL.

Talbot opened the year as the starter and Koskinen didn’t make his first appearance of the season until the nine-game mark, but things have changed. Not only is Koskinen coming off 24-save shutout over the rival Flames on Sunday, but he’s also been victorious in four of his last five and he has just one regulation loss since Nov. 20 (seven games).

Not only did Koskinen put an end to Calgary’s five-game winning streak on Sunday, he also helped extend his team’s streak to three games. So all this means is that the Oilers are just a single point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and they’re also one point away from the San Jose Sharks, who are in third in the Pacific Division. The Oilers have played two fewer games than Vegas and one less than San Jose.

He now owns a 9-3-1 record with a 2.06 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. He’s been totally unbeatable at home, as he’s a perfect 6-0 with an 0.91 goals-against-average and a .970 save percentage. That’s unreal. His numbers on the road are a little less flattering, but he’s done enough to go 3-3 away from Rogers Arena.

If we take a deeper look at his numbers, only Pekka Rinne and Jaroslav Halak have better save percentages and only Rinne has a better goals-against-average. Of course, the small sample size is important to keep in mind, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Finn has played really, really, really well.

As good as Koskinen’s been, the Oilers will probably need Talbot at some point in the near future. Over the last five seasons, Koskinen has played more than 41 games just once. He’s currently on pace to play in 38 games, but you’d have to imagine that he’ll keep getting starts if he stays hot. Anyway, a wall will be probably be hit at some point.

But right now, Oilers fans aren’t worried about walls, they’re just glad to be back in the playoff hunt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Devan Dubnyk mired in worst slump since joining Wild

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When he joined the Minnesota Wild during the 2014-15 season Devan Dubnyk helped turn around what was quickly becoming a lost season. At the time of his acquisition the Wild were going through a brutal six-game losing streak, were under .500 for the season, and pretty much everyone around the NHL was waiting for then-coach Mike Yeo to take the fall for the struggles.

Instead of firing the coach, the Wild attempted to address what was at the time their single biggest issue — goaltending.

So they sent a draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dubnyk, and in his first start with the team stopped all 18 shots he faced in a shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres.

From that point on the Wild were fine for the remainder of the season.

Dubnyk more than solidified the goaltending position, recorded a .936 save percentage in his 39 starts after the trade, finished in the top-five in Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy voting, and even won the Masterton Trophy.

In the three full seasons that followed he has been one of the most consistent and durable goalies in the league. He played at least 60 games each season, he never had a save percentage lower than .918, while his overall mark of .920 was sixth best in the league. His even-strength number of .929 was fourth best in the league.

He has been, by pretty much every objective measurement, one of the best goalies in the league.

That is what makes his current struggles for a suddenly-slumping Wild team so surprising.

After getting benched early in Minnesota’s blowout loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night (he gave up three goals on the first six shots he faced) his season save percentage is down to .907, while he is currently mired in the worst extended slump of his Minnesota tenure.

Following that game Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said it would be sitting there and lying to say he isn’t concerned about Dubnyk. He also added he was concerned about a lot of players on the team, but that his goalie is definitely one of them.

Just how bad has it been for Dubnyk lately?

In his past nine appearances he has managed only an .857 save percentage, a level of play that has been unheard of for Dubnyk in Minnesota. It is not only his worst nine-game stretch since joining the Wild, it is rare for him to have a stretch of play where his save percentage dips under .900.

If you break the past four seasons down to nine-game stretches he has only been under .900 over nine games just 10 percent of the time.

He has been under .910 just 20 percent of the time.

That performance has played a big role in the team’s recent struggles.

The question is how much of a concern this should really be for the Wild?

On one hand, his recent track record is what it is. He’s been outstanding for more than three full years with the Wild, and he was probably a lot better than he got credit for when he was getting crushed behind some abysmal Edmonton teams.

But he’s also 32 years old, and there are a lot of miles on those tires, especially since becoming the starter in Minnesota.

Since Jan. 14, 2015 (when he was acquired) Dubnyk’s 253 games played are 14 more than any other goalie in the league, while only four others have appeared in more than 230. He has played more than 800 more minutes than any other goalie in the league and is one of only three goalies to face more than 6,800 shots (Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist are the other two).

He’s faced 7,137.

That is a huge workload.

Given how good he’s been for so long it’s probably more than a little premature to suggest he is starting to break down. Especially when goalies are just like any other position in the league where players are prone to hot streaks and cold streaks. The NHL season isn’t about consistency for anyone; it’s about peaks and valleys where even the best players go through extended slumps. This is just one of the first times we have seen this extended level of play from Dubnyk in a few years.

But he is also not getting any younger and the Wild are still leaning on him pretty heavily.

If nothing else it is something to watch for the Wild as the season progresses because when he is at his best he is going to give them a chance every night. Lately, though, he hasn’t been at that level and it’s been one of the problems plaguing the Wild.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Blues host Oilers on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

The Edmonton Oilers experienced something they never want to endure again (at least for … 20 years?) on Monday: life without Connor McDavid. As you likely expected, it didn’t go well, as they lost 4-1 to the Dallas Stars.

McDavid is expected to play against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, however, so do you really need any other reason to tune in? You have seen the guy play, right?

Luckily, there are some other storylines to follow.

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Ken Hitchcock is still getting his bearings with his new team, the Oilers. He likely feels some sympathy for Craig Berube, who’s an in-season replacement in St. Louis, much like Hitchcock was — and then how Hitchcock left.

Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl against Ryan O'Reilly, and Chief vs. Hitch. The Blues are in a very tough spot, while the Oilers’ playoff hopes are very much alive (yet by no means guaranteed), so this will be one to watch.

[EXTENDED PREVIEW]

What: Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues
Where: Enterprise Center
When: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Oilers – Blues stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

OILERS

Alex Chiasson / Connor McDavid / Leon Draisaitl
Jujhar Khaira / Ryan Nugent-Hopkins / Jesse Puljujarvi
Milan Lucic / Kyle Brodziak / Zack Kassian
Ryan Spooner / Patrick Russell / Ty Rattie

Oscar Klefbom / Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse / Kris Russell
Kevin Gravel / Matt Benning

Starting goalie: Cam Talbot

BLUES

Zach Sanford / Ryan O’Reilly / Robert Thomas
David Perron / Brayden Schenn / Jordan Kyrou
Patrick Maroon / Tyler Bozak / Vladimir Tarasenko
Jordan Nolan / Ivan Barbashev / Oskar Sundqvist

Joel Edmundson / Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn / Robert Bortuzzo
Jay Bouwmeester / Chris Butler

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.