Derek Stepan

The Buzzer: Crosby’s return, Matthews’ hat trick, Kubalik’s hot streak

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Three Stars

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins. He made his return to the lineup on Tuesday night and dominated the Minnesota Wild with four points (one goal, three assists) in a 7-3 win. Along with his sixth goal of the season, he also made one of the plays of the night (see it below) to set up Dominik Simon for a highlight reel goal. Read more about his return to the lineup here.

2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs. This seems like the type of game the Maple Leafs are going to be winning a lot of, especially given the current state of their defense. They score seven goals, had one of their stars (Matthews) record a hat trick, they gave up a hat trick (to Blake Coleman) and held on for a 7-4 win. Matthews’ three goal performance on Tuesday gives him 34 goals for the season and puts him on pace for 59 goals over 82 games. He is just six goals away from matching his career high (40). He is also just two goals behind David Pastrnak (36 goals) for the league lead.

3. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks appeared to be on their way to an ugly loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night after giving up two early goals. The trio of Kubalik, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane was not going to let that happen. Kubalik extended his current goal-scoring streak to five consecutive games by netting a pair of goals to send the game to overtime, setting the stage for Toews’ game-winning goal early in the extra period. Kubalik is having an outstanding rookie season for the Blackhawks and has now scored 18 goals on the season. That is second best on the team, trailing only Kane. The Blackhawks still sit six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference but they really needed this win given how difficult their upcoming schedule is.

Other notable performances from Tuesday

  • Elvis Merzlikins recorded his second straight shutout for the Columbus Blue Jackets as they beat the Boston Bruins 3-0 to move back into a tie for the second Wild Card spot with the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was injured in this game after being hit in the head. Read more about that here.
  • Brock Nelson scored two goals and was one of seven Islanders to record at least two points in an 8-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
  • Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 41 shots he faced on Tuesday night (and tried to score a goal!) to help lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a 2-0 deficit to rally for a 4-3 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings.
  • Big night for the Coyotes as Phil Kessel, Taylor Hall, Conor Garland, and Derek Stepan all had three points in a 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks to move them into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.
  • Leon Draisaitl scored a pair of goals to help lead the Edmonton Oilers to a big 4-2 win to help them keep pace with the rest of the teams in the Pacific Division race.
  • Esa Lindell‘s overtime goal completed the Dallas Stars’ against the Colorado Avalanche, giving them a 3-2 win.

Highlights of the Night

Filip Forsberg scores with the Lacrosse-style goal for the Nashville Predators. Read all about it here.

Sidney Crosby passes to himself off the back of the net then sets up Dominik Simon for the goal.

Jack Eichel scored the game-winning goal for the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights with this incredible display of speed and skill.

Blooper of the Night

No video to share, but it has to be Wild coach Bruce Boudreau making a pre-game mistake on his lineup card and forcing his team to play with a shorthanded defense for the entire game. Read all about it here.

Honorable mention goes to this crazy sequence at the start of the Jets-Canucks game where the Jets put the puck in the net three times within only 37 seconds, only to have just one of the goals actually count on the score board.

Factoids

  • Hellebuyk’s shutout is the 18th of his career and puts him in first place in Jets franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • Kris Letang became the first Penguins defenseman to record 400 career assists with the team. [Penguins PR]
  • Eichel reached the 60-point mark in the Sabres’ 46th game of the season. He is the first Sabres player to record 60 points in 46 games or fewer since Alexander Mogilny and Pat Lafontaine. They both did it during the 1992-93 season. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 4, Vegas Golden Knights 2
Toronto Maple Leafs 7, New Jersey Devils 4
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Los Angeles Kings 3 (SO)
New York Islanders 8, Detroit Red Wings 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Minnesota Wild 3
Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Boston Bruins 0
Chicago Blackhawks 3, Ottawa Senators 2 (OT)
Winnipeg Jets 4, Vancouver Canucks 0
Arizona Coyotes 6, San Jose Sharks 3
Edmonton Oilers 4, Nashville Predators 2
Dallas Stars 3, Colorado Avalanche 2 (OT)

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.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Hintz, Stepan highlight this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Samuel Girard, Avalanche – D: Girard has quickly risen in importance with the Avalanche, averaging 17:43 minutes in 2017-18 after being acquired from Nashville, 19:54 minutes in 2018-19, and now 21:42 minutes this season. He set a new personal best last season with 27 points, but the 21-year-old blueliner already has 22 points in 42 contests this season. That total is somewhat misleading though because an incredible eight of those points have come in his last three games. It’s worth noting that he did have four assists in eight games prior to this outburst, so he had been heating up for a bit even before this. At any rate, he’s at least worth a short-term pickup, but the rising defenseman might also have a strong enough second half to justify holding onto him for the rest of the season. If you do pick him up, I’d recommend exercising some patience with him rather than dropping him at the first sign that his hot streak has fizzled out.

Derek Stepan, Coyotes – C: Stepan had between 53-57 points in five straight campaigns from 2013-14 through 2017-18, but he dropped to 35 points last season and has just seven goals and 16 points in 44 contests in 2019-20. So to say that he has largely disappointed over the last year-and-a-half would be accurate, but he is doing a bit better lately with a goal and four points in his last three games. It’s too early to say if this will prove to be anything more than a hot streak, but one bit of good news for him is that after the Coyotes experimented with pairing Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall, the duo has been broken up with Kessel now playing alongside Stepan instead. Stepan is a gamble, but there’s enough upside here to at least make him worth keeping a close eye on right now.

Elvis Merzlikins, Blue Jackets – G: Earlier this season Merzlikins couldn’t seem to buy a win, then Joonas Korpisalo suffered a torn meniscus and suddenly the Blue Jackets needed Merzlikins to step up. Merzlikins has largely answered the call, stopping 36 of 37 shots on Dec. 31 and 25 of 26 shots on Jan. 2 to collect his first two career NHL victories. He fell short against the Sharks on Jan. 4, but he mostly held his own, saving 25 of 28 shots. With Korpisalo likely out for at least another three weeks, Merzlikins will have value for the next little while.

Filip Hronek, Red Wings – D: Hronek is having a really good season with just one glaring exception. He started the season alright with three points in eight games before really taking off with four goals and 10 points in 14 contests from Oct. 22-Nov. 21. That led into the aforementioned exception where he had no points and a horrendous minus-11 rating in six games, but he’s bounced right back with three goals and 10 points in his last 13 contests. Given that he’s been more hit-than-miss this season and consider his recent success, he’s a pretty solid defenseman to own. He’s only taken in 27% of Yahoo leagues so the chances of you being able to claim him are rather good.

Ondrej Palat, Lightning – LW: Palat is having a hot-and-cold season with his latest drought coming from Nov. 27-Dec. 17 when he was limited to a goal and no assists in 11 games. Since then he’s scored three goals and nine points in nine games. Feel free to pick him up while he’s producing, but given how 2019-20 has gone, it wouldn’t be surprising if those who grab him end up dropping him in a couple weeks.

Dominik Kahun, Penguins – LW: The loss of Jake Guentzel for the remainder of the season was a major blow to the Penguins, but they have no choice but to move on and attempt to fill the void. Kahun is one of the players who has an opportunity with Guentzel out. The Penguins have been experimenting with using Kahun on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust, which was Guentzel’s spot prior to the injury. Kahun’s new role hasn’t resulted in any points yet, but he has been a solid contributor this season with 21 points in 41 contests despite being limited to 13:14 minutes per game. With increased responsibilities, he could be a pretty solid fantasy option in the second half of the season.

Sami Vatanen, Devils– D: Vatanen has been a silver lining in what has been a largely disappointing campaign for the Devils. With five goals and 22 points in 37 games, he’s bounced back nicely from his 17-point 2018-19 campaign. He’s hot right now with a goal and nine points in nine games, but he was doing alright even before that. I’ve said before that I see him more short-term pickup and I’d still lean more towards classifying him as that, but I don’t he’d be a bad defenseman to hold onto if you are hurting in that position.

Roope Hintz, Stars – C/LW: The Stars are on a four-game winning streak and Hintz has done his part with two goals and five points in that span. His ice time has been all over the place this season and what’s interesting that he’s averaged just 12:55 minutes over his last four games, but he’s still be used with the man advantage. That power-play ice time has been critical to his recent success. He has three power-play points and one shorthanded assist over his last four games, leaving him with just one even-strength point. The Stars next two games are against Los Angeles and Anaheim, which rank 28th and 21st respectively when it comes to killing penalties, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hintz find more success on the power play in the near future.

Patric Hornqvist, Penguins – RW: Hornqvist is a known entity at this point. He’s a not spectacular, but reliable scorer. This season injuries have gotten in the way, but he’s been solid when healthy with nine goals and 15 points in 25 contests. Now that he’s healthy, he’s worth grabbing if you have a hole in RW that needs plugging because while he’s not exciting, he’s fairly safe.

Dominik Kubalik, Blackhawks – LW/RW: Kubalik had six goals and 10 points in 27 contests to start the season, which is solid for a rookie, but nothing particularly special by fantasy standards. Lately he’s stepped up though with six goals and 12 points in his last 14 contests. His increase in production also corresponds with his growing role. He’s averaged 14:28 minutes over his most recent 14 games, up from 12:29 minutes prior to that. Kubalik has routinely played alongside Jonathan Toews lately, which helps matters. Although it’s rarer, occasionally the third player on that line is Patrick Kane. In other words, Kubalik has been handed a pretty good opportunity lately and he’s taken advantage of it.

Players You May Want To Drop

Alex Galchenyuk, Penguins – LW:  I mentioned above that Kahun is filling in for Guentzel on the Malkin line, but Galchenyuk was also tried on that line. That didn’t last long though. Galchenyuk logged just 9:22 minutes on Jan. 4 and 10:29 minutes on Jan. 5 and unsurprisingly had no points over that span. He’s been a big disappointment this season and if you grabbed him after Guentzel’s injury in the hopes that Galchenyuk would play a bigger role, you can drop him again.

James van Riemsdyk, Flyers – LW: van Riemsdyk has been hot-and-cold this season with his latest hot streak being particularly good. He had eight goals and 14 points in 13 contests from Nov. 27-Dec. 23. That the problem that he hasn’t recorded a single point in the five games that have followed. He’s worth keeping an eye on so you can scoop him up when he starts scoring again, but for now you may as well drop him.

Christian Dvorak, Coyotes – C/LW: Dvorak scored three goals and 14 points in 17 contests from Nov. 18-Dec. 22, but he’s otherwise been pretty underwhelming this season. Lately, he’s recorded just a goal and an assist in six games. He’s a pretty borderline player in standard leagues under normal circumstances, having never recorded more than 37 points in a single season. If you picked him up while he was hot, you may want to re-evaluate your options.

Calle Jarnkrok, Predators – LW/RW: Jarnkrok was a great option from Nov. 21-Dec. 17 with six goals and 13 points in 13 contests. He hasn’t done much since then though. Over his last eight games he’s registered just two assists. Given that he’s usually not a great offensive force, it’s reasonable to drop him now that he’s cooled down.

Justin Faulk, Blues – D: Faulk was typically good for at least 30 points per season when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he has just three goals and 12 points in 43 contests in his first season with St. Louis. It doesn’t help that Faulk has averaged a modest 1:21 power-play minutes this season. By contrast, he averaged 2:56 power-play minutes in 2018-19 with Carolina. As a result, Faulk has just two power-play points this season, which is part of the reason for his underwhelming production this season. He did record two goals and five points in seven games from Dec. 12-27, which likely led to an uptick in people picking him up during that span, but he’s cooled down again and probably won’t be a major contributor going forward.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

Stars vs. Predators: 2020 Winter Classic by the numbers

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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the 2020 Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET from Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas on New Year’s Day. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

0 – Number of hat tricks in NHL outdoor game history. There have been zero shutouts in Winter Classic history.

1 – Total number of goals in a 1-0 Stars win over the Predators in their first ever matchup on Dec. 28, 1998 at Reunion Arena in Dallas. Shawn Chambers scored the goal and Ed Belfour recorded the shutout with 14 saves. 

1 – Successful penalty shot in NHL outdoor game history scored by Derek Stepan (2014 Stadium Series). Two others, Danny Briere (2012 Winter Classic) and Anze Kopitar (2014 Stadium Series) were saved.

2 – Number of losses by Peter Laviolette teams in Winter Classics (2010 and 2012 Flyers). 

3 – This will be the third Winter Classic to take place in a college football stadium. The previous two were held in 2014 at Michigan Stadium (Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs) and last January at Notre Dame Stadium (Blackhawks vs. Bruins). 

3 – Goals scored by Eric Fehr (three games played) in outdoor games, the most in NHL history.

4 – Wins by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in outdoor games, the most in NHL history.

5 – Decades that Rick Bowness will have been an NHL head coach for when puck drops at the 2020 Winter Classic. He’ll join Pat Quinn (1970s-2010s) and Scott Bowman (1960s-2000s) as the only coaches to ever do so.

5 – Teams that have played in the Winter Classic and Stanley Cup Final in the same season (Pittsburgh in 2007-08, Detroit in 2008-09, Philadelphia in 2009-10, Chicago in 2014-15 and Boston in 2018-19.)

6 – Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Columbus, Arizona and Vegas are the only NHL teams that have not participated in an outdoor game.

6 – Number of Winter Classics that have been decided by one goal.

8 – Victories by Winter Classic road teams. Home teams have only won three times in the event’s history (Bruins 2010, Capitals 2015, Blues 2017).

11 – Number of players born in Texas to have played at least one NHL game (current and former). No goaltenders born in Texas have ever played an NHL regular season or playoff game.

11 – Number of Winter Classics to date. The first edition was held in 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo between the Sabres and Penguins.

11 – Number of NHL teams, including the Predators, that have not won the Stanley Cup.

14 – Number of players in this year’s matchup (Stars – 6, Predators – 8) who have outdoor game experience.

29 – The 2020 Winter Classic will be the 29th outdoor game in NHL history. The Avalanche and Kings will be the 30th when they play at U.S. Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. in February.

1930 – Opening year of the Cotton Bowl, then known as Fair Park Stadium, which featured a capacity of 46,000. The Cotton Bowl now seats over 90,000.

10,000 – Number of gallons of water needed for each inch of thickness on an NHL outdoor rink. An NHL outdoor rink can be up to two inches thick to deal with various elements.

105,491 – Biggest crowd in NHL history sett during the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. The 90,000-plus that will fill the Cotton Bowl is expected to rank as the second-biggest crowd for an NHL game in the League;’s 102-year history.

Watch the 2020 NHL Winter Classic between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars at the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday, January 1 at 1 p.m. ET only on NBC, NBC Sports and the NBC Sports app.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire and Brian Boucher will have the call from the Cotton Bowl. Mike Tirico will host the network’s on-site Winter Classic pre-game coverage alongside the NHL Live studio team of host Kathryn Tappen, and analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp. Tirico will interview members of 1999 Stanley Cup Champion Stars team on-site during intermission of coverage on NBC.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Taylor Hall’s early impact on Arizona Coyotes

Hall Coyotes
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In mere hours, Taylor Hall will suit up for his fifth game as a member of the Arizona Coyotes. Hall’s new team has a chance to fatten its Pacific Division lead against the (mostly) rising Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

Don’t blame Hall if he’s still trying to find his rhythm, and footing.

Consider that the New Jersey Devils sat Hall as they ramped up their efforts to trade him, ultimately finding a deal with Arizona. Hall waited a week between games, needing to catch a “red eye” flight to debut for the Coyotes in a win against the Sharks on Dec. 17.

Other factors likely messed with Hall’s equilibrium.

So far, the Coyotes only played one home game (against the Wild on Dec. 19), not that “home” is home yet for Hall, anyway.

While the holiday break provided a crucial opportunity for rest, Hall probably feels like he’s still trying to dance to a strange, unfamiliar beat. Really, these factors only strengthen the logic behind trading for a player sooner rather than later. Ideally, the Coyotes will get Hall fully up to speed long before most other teams make their late “rentals.”

Factoring in all of those caveats underscores how impressive Hall’s first four games have been. Let’s break down his start, going deeper than one goal and two primary assists.

Dec. 17: Coyotes beat Sharks 3-2 (Hall gets first assist)

Using Natural Stat Trick’s handy game logs, you can see that this was the only game so far where Hall was really under water from a shot-share perspective.

Even then, Hall showed why the Coyotes acquired him by combining power and skill to set up Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s game-winning goal:

“He had maybe four hours of sleep, travels cross country, and he hasn’t played in about a week. Not bad for that situation,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet after that game, via NHL.com. “If he plays like that for not having much sleep, imagine what he can do with some real rest.”

Dec. 19: Wild beat Coyotes 8-5 (Another assist)

Hall has avoided the line blender so far, spending the majority of his even-strength time with Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel. If that alignment boosts Kessel and opens up easier matchups for the likes of Clayton Keller, it could be quite the boon for Arizona.

While this marked Hall’s first loss with the Coyotes, he made an impact, firing five SOG and finishing this nice takeaway by Dvorak by setting up Kessel:

 

The Coyotes lost Darcy Kuemper to injury, so it was clearly not a great overall night for Arizona.

Dec. 22: Coyotes beat Red Wings 5-2 (First Hall goal with Arizona)

Despite limited ice time (14:16 TOI), Hall made an impact. He fired four SOG, with his first Coyotes goal coming on a booming shot:

Goodness.

Dec. 23: Predators win against Coyotes 3-2 (First time Hall hasn’t scored a point for Arizona)

Looking at only the simplest stats, this seems like a rough night for Hall specifically. He failed to score a point, and finished with a -2 rating.

Delve deeper and Hall comes across as a positive influence. The Predators dominated possession, but Hall broke even. Hall also showed signs that he could click with Derek Stepan and Vinnie Hinostroza if need be.

***

After Hall’s debut, Tocchet told NHL Now that he didn’t want Hall to get “system’d to death” upon arriving with the Coyotes. If Arizona leans toward a slow trickle instead of a deluge, maybe we’ll see more of the benefits of that osmosis starting with Saturday’s game against the Golden Knights?

Ultimately, it’s already been a pretty strong start for Hall in Arizona.

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.

Lias Andersson reportedly asks Rangers for trade

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New York Rangers prospect Lias Andersson, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has reportedly asked the team for a trade.

That is according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, who also adds that Andersson is no longer with the team and that general manager Jeff Gorton will use the holiday trade freeze to assess the market for the 21-year-old forward.

It will be interesting to see what that market looks like.

Andersson’s development has been a pretty big point of discussion among the Rangers’ fan base. The Rangers drafted Andersson with the pick acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes. The Rangers also received defenseman Tony DeAngelo in that deal.

Both players figured to be key parts of the Rangers’ rebuild, but Andersson has not developed as anyone had hoped. How that happened is where the issue comes in for the Rangers. On one hand, he has not been given a consistent look in the NHL or significant ice time. As true as that is, he has also struggled stand out and force his way in the lineup.

In 66 NHL games with the Rangers he has three goals and nine total points over parts of three seasons. That includes zero goals and one assist in 17 games this season. His AHL numbers are slightly better during his career, scoring 15 goals and 34 points in 74 games.

Given the way his development has played out the Rangers should not expect a significant return should they choose to honor the request and trade him. It would, however, be a pretty good opportunity for another team to take a low-risk gamble and hope they can catch lightning in a bottle. Maybe a fresh start in a new organization helps. He is still only 21 years old, and even though he was considered a bit of an overdraft at the time he is still only a couple of years removed from being a top-10 pick. Someone is going to see some potential there and think they can make it work. You have to think the usual suspects — talent starved or rebuilding teams — would have at least some interest. Teams like Ottawa, Edmonton, Los Angeles, or Detroit would all immediately come to mind.

UPDATE:

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.