Filip Forsberg

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.

Predators’ Forsberg latest NHL player to score lacrosse-style goal (Video)

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It’s not just for Andrei Svechnikov anymore. Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg became the latest NHL player to score a lacrosse-style goal when he did it against Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith on Tuesday night.

Forsberg has attempted the move on more than one occasion over the past two years (most recently during a game in Pittsburgh) but had never been able to score with it until Tuesday.

You can see it in the video above.

What’s amazing about Forsberg’s goal is that it not only came immediately after a face-off win in the offensive zone, but that he was also able to pull it off at full speed without ever breaking his stride. It is Forsberg’s 16th goal of the season.

While this move has been used in lower levels for quite some time (University of Michigan player Mike Legg was the first to make it a thing during the 1996 NCAA tournament) it had never been done in the NHL until this season when Svechnikov, a second-year star with the Carolina Hurricanes, successfully pulled it off. Then he did it again a couple months later.

Forsberg’s effort was not enough for the Predators as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Oilers.

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.

 

Can Hynes succeed with Predators where Laviolette failed?

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The Nashville Predators actually did it. They fired Peter Laviolette, and then hired John Hynes in a dizzying span.

The dream is that Hynes can sculpt this lump of underachieving clay back into contending shape. How well do such imaginings line up with reality, though? Let’s consider the way things might or might not change for the Predators.

Good Cop/Bad Cop?

In sports, teams sometimes opt to rotate approaches. First, you hire a “yeller” to scream out the procrastinators. Then you soothe various wounds with a “player-friendly” coach … or vice versa.

The Predators might be aiming for such a dynamic.

While plenty (including Babcock-blasting Mike Commodore) showed fondness for Laviolette over the years, the word “intense” comes up over and over in describing the coach. The Tennessean’s Joe Rexrode summed up some of that intensity in a May 2017 column:

This is a man whose default setting is “cold glare” when he enters a room. A seemingly humorless man, a professional sourpuss, a coach who can detect bad intentions in the most harmless of questions.

When Hynes was fired, it was striking to see just how many people went out of their ways to support him. The praise ranged from players including Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier to former front office members.

Affixing Hynes with a white hat and Laviolette with a twirly villain’s mustache would, again, be a bit extreme. Laviolette showed a sense of humor in being the butt of a joke, after all, while some wonder if Hynes favored veterans over younger players in New Jersey.

Still, in a broad, “macro” sense, you could argue that the Predators shifted from a stern to a gentler touch.

Hynes upgrading offense after it wilted under Laviolette?

After hiring Laviolette, Predators GM David Poile (understandably) hyped Laviolette’s “aggressive offensive philosophy.”

Laviolette justified such claims — for a time. After all, a franchise that once spent first-round picks to land Paul Gaustad was now emphasizing offensive acquisitions from Filip Forsberg to Ryan Johansen to Matt Duchene.

Whatever happened along the way — maybe the message faded, perhaps the league passed Laviolette by — the Predators’ offense plummeted. This thread from Micah Blake McCurdy argues that Hynes may improve Nashville’s system, even just by default.

Hynes provides a clean slate for those who fell in Laviolette’s doghouse

Following Sunday’s uglier-than-it-seemed shootout loss to the Ducks (which may have been the final straw for Lavy, depending upon whom you ask), Preds winger Craig Smith implied that Nashville’s system became bogged down by details.

“Sometimes maybe we overthink our system and play a little (lax) and sit back on our heels,” Smith said, via The Tennessean’s Paul Skrbina. “In the third (period Sunday) I think we just said eff it; let’s get after it a little bit. Read and react. Just play hockey, making hockey plays. That’s what we did.”

Could Hynes help them just play hockey? Maybe, maybe not.

In a fascinating discussion of Hynes’ Devils days, CJ Turtoro told On the Forecheck that Hynes’ system could also get too complicated.

Turtoro: One weakness for this particular team seemed to be complexity. As I mentioned, his system aims to create space, but that can create chaos that makes it difficult for players to support one another if they’re not on the same page, or not where they’re supposed to be …

The dream would be for Hynes to boost the Predators’ offense without taking away too much defense. Basically, the fantasy would parallel Craig Berube finding the right mix for the Blues after Mike Yeo leaned too defense-heavy. File that under easier said than done, of course.

Either way, the Predators may simply get a boost from Kyle Turris and others getting a clean slate.

Personally, I get the impression that Turris has paid for past sins. He struggled last season, injuries or not, but there’s compelling evidence that he shouldn’t have been a healthy scratch. Certainly not a frequent one.

Don’t underestimate the power of getting out of the doghouse.

Plenty of work to do

It’s kind of cruel that Hynes is going from one of the worst goalie duos to one of the league’s other terrible tandems.

If nothing else, it’s far more surprising to see Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros struggle that it was to see the Devils’ motley crue produce dismal results. So maybe Hynes can help them achieve more, particularly behind a far, far superior defense than the one he deployed in New Jersey?

Hynes and the Predators don’t have much of a margin for error, so this should be interesting to watch.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Predators visit Ducks on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Anaheim has lost three straight games and six of their last eight (2-5-1). They currently sit in last place in the Western Conference, 10 points outside the 2nd Wild Card. They saw their run of six-straight playoff appearances snapped last season, and are in jeopardy of missing out on the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999-00 to 2001-02 (three straight seasons). In their last game at Arizona, the Ducks dropped a 2-1 lead, allowing three goals in the third period to lose 4-2.

For a second straight season, the Ducks are at the bottom of the scoring charts in the NHL. After finishing last in the league last season (2.39 goals/game), they are currently 30th in the league in scoring (2.49 goals/game – only DET is averaging fewer).

Speaking on Thursday, GM David Poile said that while he is not planning on firing head coach Peter Laviolette, there may be changes ahead if the Predators do not improve as the trade deadline approaches in February.

“I met with [Laviolette] this morning,” he said. “We had a long talk about lots of different situations going forward. I’m not contemplating making any coaching change at this time… We’ve really got some soul searching to do right now. I have to do some real thinking about where we’re going for the rest of this year… Right now, we’re not in the playoffs and I’m open for business, if you will… I guess the point I’m saying today is, sitting here outside of the playoffs, we have for the last several years been buyers at the trading deadline. If we don’t improve here shortly, we might be a seller for the first time in a number of years. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but as I said, I am open for business and I’m certainly going to be willing to listen to different teams’ thought processes on any of our players at this point.”

Ryan Ellis was placed on Injured Reserve on Friday after the defenseman took an elbow to the head from Dallas’ Corey Perry less than three minutes into the Winter Classic. Ellis needed help leaving the ice and did not return to the game, while Perry was handed a five-game suspension for elbowing. Ellis is tied for second on Nashville with 28 points and has averaged 23:24 TOI per game this season. Alexandre Carrier was called up from the AHL on Friday, with Jarred Tinordi, who was recalled from Milwaukee on Dec 26, expected to see some time in the lineup.

With his defensive partner Ryan Ellis sidelined, even more pressure will be on captain Roman Josi to produce. Josi, who signed an 8-year, $72.472M contract in October, leads the Predators in points (14G-27A, 41 points) and is averaging 25:36 TOI per game this season (fourth in NHL). Josi enters Saturday’s game against Los Angeles riding a career-long eight-game point streak (7G-8A, 15 points), which includes five multi-point games. Only one defenseman in franchise history has ever had a 9-game point streak (Shea Weber in 2010-11). Josi was selected to the All-Star Game this season, the 3rd selection of his career (second straight).

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks
WHERE: Honda Center
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 5, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Predators-Ducks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PREDATORS
Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisMikael Granlund
Rocco GrimaldiNick BoninoCraig Smith
Yakov TreninColin BlackwellAustin Watson

Roman Josi – Yannick Weber
Jarred Tinordi – Mattias Ekholm
Dan HamhuisMatt Irwin

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

DUCKS
Adam HenriqueRyan GetzlafSam Carrick
Max Jones – Sam SteelOndrej Kase
Max Comtois – Isac Lundestrom – Jakob Silfverberg
Nicolas DeslauriersDevin ShoreCarter Rowney

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Cam FowlerErik Gudbranson
Jacob LarssonKorbinian Holzer

Starting goalie: John Gibson

Alex Faust and analyst Brian Hayward will call the action from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

PHT Face-Off: Perron’s impressive season; Huberdeau scores in fours

Every Monday morning, the PHT Face-Off breaks down different trends and topics around the NHL.

Here’s this week’s stories:

• Predators defense leading the way

The Predators will travel to Dallas to play in this year’s Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl. When that game starts, Nashville’s top two leading scorers will be defensemen, which is pretty unique. Roman Josi has an incredible 39 points in 38 games this season, while Ryan Ellis is second with 28 points in 38 contests.

As impressive as that production is from the back end, it’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for the work the forwards have put in offensively in 2019-20. In fairness to Filip Forsberg, who is one point behind Ellis, was forced to miss six games with an injury. Had he been in the lineup for those contests, he probably would be second on the team in scoring.

But others like Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Mikael Granlund and Kyle Turris don’t get the benefit of the doubt. If the Preds are going to get back into the playoff picture, they’ll need their top forwards to start scoring at a higher clip.

This Winter Classic matchup isn’t just a fun little regular season game. It’s massive. The Predators are chasing the Stars, who are in the third spot in the Central Division. Dallas is currently six points up on Nashville, so Wednesday’s game will be a four-pointer.

• Stars’ stars not producing as much offense

When you think of the Stars, you think of a team with high-end offensive players like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov. They also have the next wave of stars coming, as Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz have made an impact on the roster, too. But the Stars haven’t found the back of the net as much as you’d think.

Heading into this week, the Stars rank 26th in goals scored, with 107 in 40 games. None of the teams below them in that category are in the playoffs (Los Angeles, Columbus, Anaheim, New Jersey and Detroit). Credit to Dallas, they’ve found a way to keep the puck out of their net, but their best players haven’t put up hose heavy offensive numbers.

Seguin, who leads the team in scoring, has 32 points in 40 games. That puts him on pace to hit the 66-point mark this season. Even though Dallas plays more of a conservative game now, that still seems rather low, especially considering that offense has been up across the board in the NHL over the last two seasons.

In fairness to Seguin, he seems to be picking up the offensive slack lately, as he’s scored five goals in his last six games. He also has nine points in his last eight contests.

• What a year for David Perron

Nobody really expected Perron to put up more points than Seguin in the first half of the season, but that’s exactly what’s happened. Between 2014 and 2018, the Blues forward played for five different organizations. He’s always been a relatively productive offensive player, but he just didn’t last long at any of his stops during that time. Now, he owns a Stanley Cup ring and he’s a point-per-game player in the first half of the season.

Perron has picked up 40 points in 40 games and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The 31-year-old is riding a six-game point streak and he’s racked up 10 points during that stretch. He was nearly a point-per-game player during his one season in Vegas in 2017-18, but he was more of a set up guy that year (he had 16 goals and 50 points in 70 games). This year, he’s already found the back of the net 16 times, so he’s finding different ways to contribute.

His third stint with the Blues may not last as long as his first one did (six years), but it looks like he’s here to stay for now. It’s been an impressive year for this veteran.

Jonathan Huberdeau likes the number four

The Panthers forward probably put together the quietest 90-point season in NHL history last year, when he scored 92 points in 82 games. Somehow, he’s on pace to eclipse that number by a mile this season. The 26-year-old is flying high right now. He’s up to 16 goals and 53 points in 38 games, which puts him on pace to score 35 goals and 115 points.

He’s also been lighting it up over the last two weeks. Last night’s four-point effort against the Montreal Canadiens was his third four-point outing since Dec. 16! As of right now, Huberdeau is sixth in league scoring behind Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Nathan MacKinnon. That’s some elite company.

Because he plays in a non-traditional hockey market, he’s probably the most underrated superstar in the NHL. The Panthers also haven’t had much playoff success during his time in Florida, but you’d have to think that better days are ahead with him, Aleksander Barkov and company leading the charge.

What’s coming up this week?
Sergei Bobrovsky goes back to Columbus for the first time since signing with Florida this summer. Tue. Dec. 31, 7 p.m. ET
— McDavid vs. Eichel, Thu. Jan. 2, 7 p.m. ET
— Eastern Conference Final rematch between Washington and Carolina. Fri. Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET

NHL on NBC
— Winter Classic: Predators vs. Stars, Wed. Jan. 1, 2 p.m. ET

NHL on NBCSN
— Devils vs. Islanders, Thu. Jan. 2, 7 p.m. ET
— Blues vs. Avalanche, Thu. Jan. 2, 9:30 p.m. ET
— Red Wings vs. Blackhawks, Sun. Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m. ET
— Predators vs. Ducks, Sun. Jan. 5, 10 p.m. ET

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.