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The Buzzer: McDavid, Draisaitl shine again as Oilers rout Wild

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Three Stars

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers. All of a sudden the Edmonton Oilers can not be stopped. They improved to 6-2-1 under Ken Hitchcock with a dominating 7-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night, inching their way closer to a playoff position in the Western Conference. As has been the case all season when they win, Connor McDavid was at the center of everything. He finished Friday’s game with four points (one goal, three assists) and a plus-four rating. He is now up to 40 points on the season in only 28 games. He was not the only Oiler that shined on Friday.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. Yes, two of the three stars come from the same team tonight because when you are as good as these two were, you earned it. Draisaitl also had four points of his own (including two goals) as he and McDavid continued to lead the Oilers offense. Four of the Oilers’ seven goals on Friday came with this duo on the ice. They surrendered zero while they were out there.

3. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues. Goaltending has been one of the primary issues for the St. Louis Blues this season, but they got a huge performance on Friday night against one of the best offensive teams in the league. Jake Allen stopped all 26 shots he faced to help lift the Blues to a 1-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets. It is just their fourth win over their past 13 games, while it was also Allen’s first shutout of the season. He entered the game with an .899 save percentage in his first 20 appearances, so to say it was a much-needed performance for both him and the team is an understatement.

Highlights of the Night

Carolina Hurricanes forward Clark Bishop scored his first NHL goal in their 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. It was not a very conventional goal.

McDavid doing what he does best. Freezing NHL defenders and goalies to score goals.

The pass of the night belongs to, of all people, Roman Polak in the Dallas Stars’ 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks. This is also his first assist (and only second point) of the entire season.

Factoids

It is usually really difficult for defenders to get much attention in the rookie of the year voting, but Dallas Stars blueliner Miro Heiskanen is doing a lot to make a name for himself so far.

More McDavid dominance.

More on Jake Allen’s shutout for the St. Louis Blues.

 

Scores

Dallas Stars 3, San Jose Sharks 2

St. Louis Blues 1, Winnipeg Jets 0

Edmonton Oilers 7, Minnesota Wild 2

Carolina Hurricanes 4, Anaheim Ducks 1

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.

Seven stunning NHL numbers through first two months

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Every month we will take a look around the NHL at some stunning (or even bizarre) numbers that jump out at us.

This month we look at the crazy stat lines for Patrik Laine, Mitch Marner, and Blake Wheeler, take another look at the ridiculous Arizona Coyotes penalty kill unit, and marvel at Alex Ovechkin‘s ability to get pucks on the net. 

Patrik Laine scores all the goals — He has not even played three full seasons in the NHL but the Winnipeg Jets forward is already one of the top-three (probably top-two) goal-scorers in the league.

He has already topped the 100-goal mark for his career, is on track to be one of the league-leaders again this season, and is as dangerous as any other player in the league when the puck is on his stick.

Entering play on Friday he has 21 goals on the season, an incredible number through 27 games.

Also incredible? He only has three assists this season, producing one of the funniest stat lines in the league. He is on pace to score more than 60 goals this season while recording only nine assists!

The fewest assists any player has had in a 50 goal season was the 21 Ovechkin had during the 2015-16 season.

Since the start of the 1987-88 season (via the hockey-reference database) Laine’s three assists are the fewest assists a player has had through the first 27 games of the season while scoring at least 20 goals.

During the 2008-09 season Thomas Vanek had 20 goals and only five assists for the Buffalo Sabres through his first 27 games. He finished that season with 40 goals and 24 assists.

At some point things will start to balance out a bit for Laine (his goal-scoring pace will almost certainly slow down, at least a little bit; he will get more assists) but it is still amazing to look at that stat line in the first week of December.

Wheeler and Marner are the Anti-Laines — At the complete opposite end of the offensive spectrum we have Laine’s Winnipeg teammate Blake Wheeler and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner.

Let’s start with Marner who has already recorded 34 assists through the Maple Leafs’ first 29 games, putting him in some elite company. It is only the 24th time since the start of the 1987 season a player has recorded that many helpers this far into the season, and 10 of those instances belong to either Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky (five times each).

What stands out about Marner’s performance is that he only has six goals to go with those assists.

Craig Janney (seven goals) during the 1992-93 season is the only player on that list to have fewer than 10 goals at this point.

It is certainly possible that Wheeler could join him on that list. Through the Jets’ first 27 games he has already recorded 32 assists, while scoring only four goals.

The Arizona Coyotes’ penalty kill still has a positive goal differential — We touched on this a month ago but it is still true today and it is still absurd so we need to look at it again.

We are more than a quarter of the way through the NHL season and the Coyotes have already scored 11 shorthanded goals this season, more than double any other team in the league.

During the entire 2017-18 season only one team scored more than 11 shorthanded goals all year, and none scored more than 12. Arizona is on pace to shatter that number.

Even more incredible than the number of shorthanded goals is the fact they have still only allowed eight power play goals and are still successful on more than 90 percent of their penalty kills. No other team in the league has allowed fewer than 13 power play goals at this point, while the Coyotes’ plus-three goal differential on the penalty kill is still by far the best in the league.

The Vegas Golden Knights, currently at minus-8, are the only other team in the NHL that are currently better than minus-10 while shorthanded.

The worst Chicago Blackhawks start in 15 years — The window is officially closed.

After missing the playoffs a year ago the Blackhawks have won just nine of their first 30 games to start to the 2018-19 season, making it their worst start since the 2003-04 season when they won just seven of their first 30 games.

It is only the second time since 2000 they have won fewer than 10 games at this point in the season.

That is a lot of shots on goal — Ovechkin recorded his 5,000th shot on goal during the Washington Capitals’ win over the Coyotes on Thursday night, becoming the fastest player in league history to reach that mark.

Only seven other players have ever recorded that many shots on goal (at least since shots on goal have been an official NHL stat).

The player immediately behind Ovechkin on the list is Brett Hull, who finished his career with 4,876. The next player on the list that Ovechkin will pass, probably in a couple weeks, is Brendan Shanahan with 5,086.

Hull played 1,269 games in his career. Shanahan played 1,525.

Ovechkin has currently played in only 1,031.

Connor McDavid is being asked to do even more — For the first three years of McDavid’s career he has been asked to be a one-man team in Edmonton, so why should year four be any different?

If anything, he is being asked to do even more this season.

Through the Oilers’ first 28 games he has already contributed to 49 percent of the team’s goals (scoring or assist on 36 out of 76). After the same number of games a year ago he had “only” contributed to 42 percent of the team’s goals (scoring or assisting on 34 out of 80).

Keep in mind he actually missed one of the team’s first 28 games this season.

In terms of the raw numbers it’s not that big of a difference, but it is still stunning that four years into the career of the most dominant offensive player in the league the organization that was lucky enough to get him has not given him any kind of help. When you combine this with Ken Hitchcock’s approach to playing him and Leon Draisaitl seemingly every other shift the Oilers are counting on him to single handedly carry the team even more than before.

Somebody help Craig Anderson — If you like games with a lot of offense and no defense you really need to start checking out the Ottawa Senators.

For as bad as things seem with the organization overall, they do at least have some promising young players that are putting up big numbers. They also have a completely invisible defense. That combination of young, skilled players results in a lot of high-scoring, action-packed games that may not be the best hockey, but are at least very exciting.

One player that is probably not loving it is starting goalie Craig Anderson, who has already had to face 936 shots this season!

Since the start of the 1987 season no goalie has had to face more shots through their team’s first 30 games, while only two (Ken Wreggett in 1995 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marc Denis with the 2003 Columbus Blue Jackets) topped the 900-shot mark (both faced 906 shots).

He is currently facing 36 shots per game! If he maintains that pace and plays in the same number of games he did a year ago (58) he would face more than 2,000 shots on goal this season.

That is a lot of shots, but it’s not totally unheard of as it’s been done 108 teams in league history. But almost every goalie that has been a part of the 2,000 shot club in a season did so by playing more than 60 games.

The overwhelming majority played 65 or more.

The only ones that faced more than 2,000 shots while playing in fewer than 60 games were Gump Worsley (59 games in 1960-61),  Bernie Parent (58 games) 1968-69, and Al Rollins (58 games) 1955-56. Somebody help Craig Anderson before he joins that list.

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.

Oilers rally to beat Blues in shootout, win another one-goal game

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It’s kind of fitting that a game between Ken Hitchcock’s current team and one of his former teams ended up being a close, low-scoring contest that was mostly dominated by defense and goaltending.

Just the way he no doubt wanted it to be.

In the end, it was his current team, the Edmonton Oilers, earning a 3-2 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues to pick up a huge two points in the standings to inch closer to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Oilers were able to rebound from a miserable first period that saw them give up two early goals and get badly outshot to pick up yet another one-goal win.

Things looked bleak for the Oilers for most of the night as they seemed unable to really mount any sort of a sustained attack against the Blues’ defense. That was until defender Oscar Klefbom scored the game-tying goal with just 56 seconds to play.

After neither team scored in overtime the Oilers were able to gain the extra point in the shootout thanks to goals from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (who also scored during regulation) and Connor McDavid.

McDavid also picked up the primary assist on Klefbom’s game-tying goal at the end of regulation.

The Oilers are now 5-2-1 under Hitchcock while this game continued a lot of recent trends for them.

First, this win improved the Oilers’ record in one-goal games this season to an incredible 10-1-2. It is remarkable that a team can have that much luck in so many one-goal games and still have the overall record they do for the season. Usually when a team has that much success in close games it helps push them toward the top of the standings. But the Oilers have been so bad in every other game that they are still on the playoff bubble, and for now, on the outside looking in.

It was also another night where Hitchcock absolutely ran McDavid and Leon Draisaitl into the ground. They each played more than 28 minutes and are still seeing their ice-time spike since Hitchcock took over behind the bench. He said early on he wanted to take advantage of McDavid’s ability to quickly recover on the bench, and he has absolutely done that so far.

The Blues, meanwhile, continued what has been an absolutely dreadful stretch of hockey during an absolutely dreadful season. This loss comes after they were crushed by the Arizona Coyotes in their most recent game, and gives them their ninth loss in their past 12 games.

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

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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.

Blues slight favorites vs. Oilers for Wednesday Night Hockey

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The St. Louis Blues will be trying to prove a point to their former coach when they face the Edmonton Oilers, who have struggled on the road even when superstar center Connor McDavid is healthy.

The Blues are the slim -120 betting favorite with the Oilers coming back at -105 with a 5.5-goal total for Wednesday night’s matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The tight moneyline is a commentary on both teams’ travails this season, as the Blues, now under the command of interim coach Craig Berube, are 2-6 in their last eight games. In the longer run, St. Louis is 11-7 in its last 18 home games as a favorite of -115 to -135 on the moneyline. The Oilers, with Ken Hitchcock, who coached St. Louis from 2011 to 2017, are 1-7 in their last eight road games.

McDavid, who missed Edmonton’s most recent game due to flu-like symptoms, is expected to play. The Blues’ best defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo (hand), is on injured reserve.

The Oilers are 13-12-2 on the season, including a 6-8-1 away mark, thanks in large part to McDavid, who is sixth in NHL scoring with 35 points despite being part of the league’s 27th-ranked offense. The change in focus under Hitchcock could help the Oilers improve their trend of being 5-8 in their last 13 road games against Central Division teams.

Watch at 7 pm tonight on NBCSN, at NBCSports.com or on the NBC Sports app

Backing Edmonton does mean hoping their two major liabilities, lack of scoring depth beyond McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and a 26th-ranked penalty kill (75.6 per cent) can be overcome on a given night.

In goal, Edmonton is expected to start Cam Talbot, who has a 5-9-1 record, 3.29 goals-against average and .889 save percentage. Mikko Koskinen has been the more reliable goalie in Edmonton.

The Blues are 9-13-3 this season, including just 6-7-1 at the Enterprise Center, and the coaching change has yet to inspire results as they are just 2-4 with Berube behind the bench. If there are any positive signs with the Blues, right wing Vladimir Tarasenko is on a three-game goal streak and his move to a line centered by Tyler Bozak could make for a more balanced attack to go with the forward trios led by Ryan O'Reilly and Brayden Schenn.

St. Louis’ overall struggles have more to do with their 5-on-5 play, as they are 10th on both the power play (23.8 per cent, with Edmonton 14th at 21.2) and penalty kill (81.7 per cent).

Jake Allen, who is 7-7-3 with a 3.24 goals-against average and .896 save percentage, has had the bulk of the work in goal for the Blues.

The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Oilers’ last 10 games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Blues’ last 10 games. The total has gone UNDER in 13 of the Blues’ last 20 home games against Pacific Division teams.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.