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Can Sharks build off impressive win?

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When the San Jose Sharks acquired Erik Karlsson from Ottawa, many expected them to be the team to beat in the Western Conference. They’ve been far from terrible for the most part, but prior to Sunday’s 3-1 win in Montreal they had been struggling pretty badly.

The win over the Canadiens came at an opportune time because it allowed them to salvage two more points during a road trip that wasn’t so fruitful. The Sharks came into the game having gone 0-3-1 on a trip that took them to Vegas, Buffalo, Toronto and Ottawa. Thankfully for head coach Peter DeBoer, his team saved their most complete performance for the last game, as they dominated the Habs for most of Sunday’s clash.

“The tone was, ‘We can figure this out, we have the team to win games in this League,'” San Jose forward Logan Couture said, per NHL.com. “It takes a full buy-in from everyone to do things right and I think tonight is a step in that direction. I thought we did a lot of the little things well (on Sunday).

“We got in shooting lanes, we played hard, you know, we were hard on the walls. I think we can still do a better job at getting pucks out in the third when they pinched down a bunch of times, but we’ll take the win.”

San Jose is now sitting in third place in the Pacific Division behind Calgary (three points) and Anaheim (two points). So as inconsistent as they’ve been, they only find themselves three points away from the top. On the down side, Dallas and Minnesota, who are in Wild Card positions right now, are breathing down the Sharks’ neck. Vegas, who is on the outside looking in, is only two points back of San Jose.

The Sharks have found a way to be effective on special teams, but they need some work at even strength. Their power play currently ranks 11th in the NHL at 22.8 percent and their penalty kill is second at 88.5 percent. Both units have done their part. At even strength though, the Sharks are 16th in goals for, with 60, and they’re 29th in goals against, with 72. That last number will have to change if they’re going to be serious contenders in the West.

Sure, the goaltending from Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has to be better, but teams have found a way to pounce on their high-danger scoring chances against the Sharks. San Jose gets their share of high-danger scoring opportunities, but they’ve also allowed to score a league-high 43 goals from high-danger areas, per Natural Stat Trick. That’s an issue. The Sharks typically get more opportunities from dangerous areas, but they’re being outscored 43-28 on those chances this season. They need to find a way to limit the degree of quality looks that teams are getting against them.

On a positive note, Jones came up with a solid 40-save performance against Montreal, but the team in front of him limited the obvious scoring chances. That’s not to say that he wasn’t forced to make big saves because he did. They need to find a way to keep this going.

If they can tighten up and build off the win in Montreal, they should be able to emerge as a serious threat in the second half of the year. That’s a big “if” though.

The Sharks will return home for one game against Carolina on Tuesday night before heading back on the road for back-to-back games in Arizona and Dallas on Friday and Saturday. They’ll then play six of their following eight games at the Shark tank, where they’re 8-3-2.

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.

What will Rantanen’s next contract look like?

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Despite the fact that he’s leading the NHL in scoring, it still feels like Mikko Rantanen is an underrated superstar. Maybe that’s because he plays in Colorado, maybe that’s because he’s on the same team as Nathan MacKinnon, but it just feels like he doesn’t get the love he deserves.

He’ll probably get more attention if he wins the Art Ross Trophy, or if the Avs pay him huge money on his next contract. Rantanen is in the final year of his entry-level deal, which means the two sides will be taking care of business in the near future.

The line of Rantanen, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog has arguably become the best in the NHL. Rantanen and MacKinnon are first and second in the league in scoring, while Landeskog is also running at a point-per-game pace this year. The Avs may be top-heavy, but it’s totally fine if you have three players that can produce at this rate.

When it comes to contracts, Colorado has already taken care of MacKinnon (four years remaining at $6.3 million) and Landeskog (two years remaining at $5.571 million).

So what should the Avs expect to pay Rantanen starting next season?

First, no matter what the number is, expect him to become the highest paid player on the team by a wide margin.

In 2017-18, the 22-year-old had 29 goals and 84 points in 81 games, which means he was tied for 16th in scoring last season. This year, he’s already up to 42 points in just 25 contests. That puts him on pace for 138 points. There’s no way he comes close to 140 points, is there? Regardless, he’ll be getting a significant raise before the start of the 2019-20 campaign.

To figure out how much he’ll make, let’s take a look at some of the recent major extensions that have been signed by elite wingers.

Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who was one of three players to hit the 100-point mark last season, inked an eight-year, $76 million deal ($9.5 million AAV) with Tampa last summer. That’s a decent comparable. Last year was really Kucherov’s second big year. He also had a pair of 60-point seasons before that, but he’s three years older than Rantanen, which means he’s had more time to prove himself. This feels like a strong comparable.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who is 10 years older than Rantanen, just signed a five-year, $41.25 million deal ($8.25 million AAV) with Winnipeg. The 32-year-old is coming off a 91-point season in 2017-18, and he’s on pace to surpass that number this year, as he has 32 points in 24 contests. He out-produced the Avs forward by a few points last year, but there’s a huge difference in age here. Given the difference in age, you’d have to think that Rantanen’s AAV will be higher than Wheeler’s.

Sharks forward Logan Couture and Stars forward Tyler Seguin are both part-time wingers, who also play down the middle at times. Couture signed an eight-year, $64 million deal last summer, while Seguin inked an eight-year, $78.8 million extension in September. Both players are older than Rantanen and neither of them had more points than him last year.

Keeping all of the above numbers in mind, it sure looks like Rantanen is heading for an eight-year deal worth north of $80 million total. Kucherov out-performed him last year, but the fact that the Avs forward is only 22 years old makes him that much more valuable. That’s not to say that Kucherov is old or anything, but wasn’t as productive as Rantanen is when he was 22.

If the Finn keeps producing at a similar clip, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could earn somewhere around $11 million per season on a long-term deal.

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.

Patrik Laine’s five-goal night wins fan $1 million prize

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Patrik Laine‘s virtuoso five-goal performance inspired a wide array of reactions, at least once people got beyond the general awe.

Some used this as an opportunity to criticize those who doubted Laine, particularly his ability to score at even-strength. Pondering the historical relevance was only natural, and it ended up being logical considering how often Laine matched or approached the work of Wayne Gretzky. Others wonder if this was a true sign that Laine would take the Maurice Richard torch from Alex Ovechkin.

There was likely one person even happier about Laine scoring five goals than Laine himself during Winnipeg’s 8-4 win against the St. Louis Blues.

No, this isn’t about sheer, naive fandom.

Instead, it’s about Laine making money not just for himself, but for a lucky person in Winnipeg. Canadian supermarket chain Safeway runs a “Score & Win” promotion, and a lucky fan, Christopher Haley, hit a $1 million prize thanks to a Jets player scoring five goals.

The fine print details that the winner is slated to receive $50K every year for 20 years.

“Hopefully I made someone pretty happy,” said Laine, who was aware of what his five-goal night did for one lucky fan.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that the promotion yielded that big win for a lucky shopper/fan/shopper-fan. In October 2017, a fan won $100K when Logan Couture generated a hat trick, becoming the first person to land a big cash prize.

As you can see from this winners list, most people seem to win $25 gift cards, which are nothing to sneeze at, but certainly aren’t life-changing.

All things considered, this Winnipeg resident has little excuse but to become Laine’s biggest fan beyond blood relatives … and probably a bigger fan that at least some in the Laine clan.

At minimum, some of that winning money should probably go toward a Laine jersey, right?

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.

The Buzzer: Oilers give Hitchcock winning start behind the bench

Three Stars

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: It was the captain’s second assist of the night that helped set up the overtime winner during a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. It was his goal that started the scoring for Edmonton that was the 100th of his NHL career. With three points, McDavid now has 31 on the season.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers: Along with a pair of helpers, Draisaitl scored his sixth career overtime winner 51 seconds into the extra period. He now has 13 tallies on the year.

3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: His goal early in the second period knotted the score at two and gave him three points in his last four games and 20 on the season.

Highlights of the Night

• In his 230th NHL game, McDavid hit the 100-goal mark in his career. Per the NHL, he’s the second-youngest (21 years, 311 days) player to achieve the feat, behind only Wayne Gretzky (20 years, 40 days).

 

Joe Thornton’s assist on Marcus Sorensen’s goal tied him with Mario Lemieux (1,033) for 11th on the all-time NHL list.

Logan Couture notched his seventh on the season, thanks to a sweet dangle around Adam Larsson. He now has 19 goals against the Oilers in his career, the most versus any team.

Factoid of the Night

Per the NHL, “McDavid became the fifth different player in franchise history to reach the 30-point mark in a season in 21 or fewer team games and first since Mark Messier in 1989-90 (19 GP). The franchise record for fewest team games to record 30 points in a season is 10, a mark set by Gretzky in 1984-85.”

Tuesday’s result
Oilers 4, Sharks 3 (OT)

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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.

Draisaitl, McDavid lead Oilers past Sharks in OT

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Ken Hitchcock’s debut behind the bench with the Edmonton Oilers was a winning one as they edged the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in overtime.

The win gave Hitchcock his 824th career victory, putting him 66 behind Joel Quenneville for second all-time in NHL history.

It was an impressive win for the Oilers who were playing for a coach who was hired 12 hours earlier. They went into SAP Center and didn’t allow the game to get away from them, overcoming three deficits en route to the two points.

Connor McDavid, who finished with three points, recorded his 100th career goal to open the scoring for the Oilers in the first period.

The score was even at two and was looking to stay that way heading into the final period, but Logan Couture took Adam Larsson to Dangleville with 56 seconds left to give the Sharks their third lead of the game.

But again the Oilers responded as Drake Caggiula’s seventh of the year would force overtime. It was there that McDavid, who played 23:57 and was double shifted at times, continued to be a force and helped set up Leon Draisaitl’s winner.

Edmonton now has two full days off before their next game at the Anaheim Ducks. That’s plenty of time to get familiar with what Hitchcock will demand out of them as they look to salvage their season. It’s a long road to where they want to get to, but Wednesday’s win was a good start.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.