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The Buzzer: Horvat erupts; Luongo spectacular

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Three Stars

1. Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks

Horvat was one of 11 Canucks to record a point on Thursday, and he topped the heap with two goals and two assists as the Canucks doubled up the Boston Bruins 8-4. The game featured no goaltending. Horvat took three minor penalties in the game, too, so he could have likely done even more damage against unenthused Boston club.

2. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers

He stopped 26-of-27 saves. It’s not a 50-save performance by any means, but when you watch the highlights, Luongo will be sprinkled all over them. ‘Lu’ made two incredible glove-hand saves in the game, one of which you will see below. Luongo has now won both starts since returning from an injury sustained in the first game of the regular season. Florida struggled mightily with Luongo out of the lineup but have now beaten the Winnipeg Jets and the Oilers since his return as he tries to turn around Florida’s terrible start.

3. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres

He might have been the acquisition of the summer. Skinner scored two more goals on Thursday as the Sabres edged the Montreal Canadiens 6-5 in overtime. Skinner has 11 goals on the season, including six in his past six games. His career high is 37 and he’s on pace to flirt with 40 this season.

Other notable performances

  • Jake DeBrusk did his best to help the Bruins win with two goals and an assist. He didn’t get much help from his goaltenders in a walloping to the Canucks though.
  • Skinner wasn’t the only one scoring in multiples on Thursday. Vladimir Sobotka notched two of his own in the Sabres win.
  • Like DeBrusk above, New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey was a victim of lackluster goaltending after putting up a brace of his own.
  • Mikko Koivu assisted on all three Wild goals in a 3-1 win against the Kings.

Highlights of the Night

Not so fast, Rattie:

This kind of thing should be banned:

A powerful message from Los Angeles and Minnesota:

Factoids

Scores

Canucks 8, Bruins 5

Panthers 4, Oilers 1

Flyers 5, Coyotes 4 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Senators 3

Lightning 4, Islanders 2

Sabres 6, Canadiens 5 (OT)

Hurricanes 4, Blackhawks 3

Starts 4, Sharks 3

Wild 3, Kings 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins lack secondary scoring, won’t get it from Donato for now

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You can’t ask for a much bigger difference between Ryan Donato last season versus this one, so far. It says a lot about small sample sizes – both ways – and also how dangerous it can be to just assume that a 22-year-old will just develop on an upward trajectory.

  • In 2017-18, Donato impressed, scoring five goals and four assists for nine points in 12 games despite fairly modest ice time (14:42 TOI average).
  • So far in 2018-19, Donato managed a single point (one goal) in 11 games, receiving just 12:06 TOI per game. His possession stats have been ghastly, and his puck went from stellar last season (20.8 shooting percentage) to below average lately (8.3 percent this season).

Considering his offensive and defensive struggles, it’s not all that shocking that the Bruins sent Donato to the AHL on Thursday.

In hindsight, it makes sense that Donato would receive some extra seasoning in the AHL, actually.

Last season, the 56th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft went from strong work at Harvard straight to the NHL, taking off during his first reps with the Bruins.

Being such a quick study was a heartening sign for the B’s and their fans, yet Donato might have set the bar a little too high for himself. Going to the AHL could allow the talented scorer to gain some swagger back, as he’s almost certain to be a big fish in a small pond at that level.

This does bring a few questions to mind, though:

How long will this demotion last?

Again, there are positive elements to playing against less robust competition, but are the Bruins aiming for an extended stay? Is this instead something of a wake-up call?

As a 22-year-old, Donato has time … but not as much as, say, an 18-year-old or 19-year-old being sent down as to avoid burning a year off of a rookie contract.

Are the Bruins too top-heavy?

One could imagine a scenario where the Bruins would “spread the wealth” rather than consolidating power with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak on the same, monstrously dominant line.

That’s not to say such a strategy would be better than the status quo, but this could be a smart time to tinker. During stretches of last season, one or more of those forwards was out of commission, yet the Bruins kept humming along for the most part.

Theoretically, a player like Donato or Jake DeBrusk might be able to get by as a Bergeron or Marchand does their heavy lifting. It’s not outrageous to picture Donato fitting in with Bergeron like Conor Sheary did with Sidney Crosby (and seems to be with Jack Eichel). In a salary cap league, it can sometimes behoove a team to spread talent out.

The simple numbers argue that it’s a question the Bruins shouldn’t outright dismiss.

While that top line is as electric as ever – really, if you’re looking at play in all three zones, they still might be the best – the Bruins are getting much production from other trios. David Krejci is the only other Boston forward in the neighborhood of a point-per-game with nine in 12 contests; you have to reach down to DeBrusk at three points to find the fifth most-prolific forward.

***

Again, the above considerations don’t necessarily paint a dire picture. After all, the Bruins are off to a solid 7-3-2 start, placing them predictably in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Still, we see time and time again that depth can make the difference during a deep playoff run.

Donato doesn’t have to be that guy who moves the needle for the Bruins, but Boston should at least keep the door open for him to give it another shot, ideally sometime soon.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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: Bruins visit Flames on NBCSN

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The NBCSN Wednesday night doubleheader continues with the Calgary Flames hosting the Boston Bruins at 9:30 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here. 

Two hot teams face off to wrap up tonight’s NBCSN games, as the Bruins carry a four-game winning streak into Calgary (facing a Flames squad that’s won three of four).

This contest shouldn’t be short on star power, as these squads pit two of the best top lines in the NHL against each other, while each team also has some nice complimentary pieces. If that wasn’t enough, Brad Marchand and Matthew Tkachuk are almost certain to ruffle feathers with their obnoxious, antagonistic ways.

The Flames and Bruins don’t meet all that often, so it should be a treat to watch these two interesting teams on Wednesday.

What: Boston Bruins at Calgary Flames
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome
When: Wednesday, October 17th, 9:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Bruins-Flames stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Projected Lineups

Boston Bruins

Brad Marchand — Patrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak

Joakim NordstromDavid KrejciJake DeBrusk

Ryan DonatoDavid BackesAnders Bjork

Chris WagnerSean KuralyNoel Acciari

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy

John MooreBrandon Carlo

Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask

[WATCH LIVE – 9:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Calgary Flames

Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanElias Lindholm

Matthew Tkachuk — Mikael BacklundMichael Frolik

Sam BennettMark JankowskiJames Neal

Garnet HathawayDerek RyanAustin Czarnik

Mark GiordanoTJ Brodie

Noah Hanifin — Rasmus Andersson

Juuso ValimakiMichael Stone

Starting goalie: Mike Smith

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.

Bruins top line picking up where it left off

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The Boston Bruins have had one of the NHL’s most dominant lines over the past two years in the trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, a group that has put some video game type numbers on the board. Over the past two years alone the Bruins outscored teams by a 54-35 margin and attempted more than 60 percent of the total shot attempts when they were on the ice during 5-on-5 play. Individually, all three were among the league’s top-25 scorers in points-per-game this past season.

They not only carried the Bruins offense, they carried the entire team with their relentless two-way play.

Three games into the 2018-19 season and they are still dominating, and it continued on Monday in their 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. That game featured a hat trick from Bergeron, a three-assist game from Marchand (which follows a four assist game on Saturday), and a four-point day (two goals, two assists) from Pastrnak.

So far this season their stat lines are just as dominant as you might expect:

  • Patrice Bergeron: four goals, two assists, six total points
  • Brad Marchand: zero goals, seven assists, seven total points
  • David Pastrnak: three goals, two assists, five total points

This through the first three games of the season this trio of players has accounted for seven of the team’s first 10 goals, after accounting for more than 36 percent of the team’s total goals a year ago. What makes that percentage even more astonishing is the fact that Bergeron and Marchand each missed more than 15 games due to injury (or in the case of Marchand, injury and/or suspension). So that percentage could have easily been even higher.

The good news for the Bruins is that line can pretty clearly carry the team in every phase of the game as they are just as dominant without the puck (which doesn’t happen often) as they are with it.

The key question for the Bruins is going to be whether they get enough consistent offense and production from the rest of the team to help take them to the next level, because as good as these three are nobody is winning a championship with just one line. I happen to think the Bruins can find enough around them because they have some really intriguing young players filling out the rest of the roster in Danton Heinen, Ryan Donato, and Jake DeBrusk, while they are also still playing without their top offensive option on the blue line in Torey Krug.

No matter what happens with the rest of the team, the line at the top is going to ensure they at least have a chance to win every single night.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: DeBrusk’s importance to Bruins; How Flyers can replace JVR

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• When you think of the Bruins, you think of players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and a few others. But what you don’t realize, is that Jake DeBrusk is a pretty important part of that team. (ESPN)

• Johan Larsson is close to making a return to the Sabres lineup, but the roster is crowded. Can they find a spot for him? (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Looking for some fantasy hockey advice? Check out Rotoworld’s Waiver Wired column which includes information about the top players that might be on waivers in your league. (Rotoworld)

• Since today is Canadian Thanksgiving, CBC looks at seven players you’ll be thankful to follow on social media this season. (CBC.ca)

• Today is going to be a special day for a pair of Ottawa Senators. Brady Tkachuk is likely to make his NHL debut and Mike Condon will get to start a game at TD Garden for the first time in his career (he’s from the Boston area). (Ottawa Sun)

• James van Riemsdyk came out of Saturday’s game with a knee injury. If he’s forced to miss an extended period of time, the Flyers have a few different players they can plug into his spot. (Courier Post)

• City council believes it’s time to start discussing the possibility of the Calgary Flames getting a new area. To some, a new area is inevitable, but the timing remains a mystery. (CBC.ca)

• There’s a number of things to look forward to in the NHL this week, including a Stanley Cup rematch between the Golden Knights and Capitals. (NHL.com)

• The Chicago Blackhawks honored the legendary Stan Mikita before Sunday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. (NHL.com/Blackhawks)

• The Pittsburgh Penguins have picked up where they left off last season. Yeah, that’s not exactly a good thing. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)

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.