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The Buzzer: Seguin again; Karlsson keeps cooking

Three Stars

1. Blake Wheeler

By my most recent count, there were 12 skaters who generated at least three points on Tuesday, so sussing out three stars is especially difficult. (At least the goalies mostly cooperated, as Tuukka Rask‘s shutout was of the modest, 24-save variety.)

Wheeler is the one player whose night stood out the most, as he topped everyone with four points: one goal and three assists. His goal was a) shorthanded and b) one of the best highlights of the night, throwing two cherries on top.

Two of Wheeler’s Jets teammates hit three points in Winnipeg’s win, as well, as both Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba enjoyed one-goal, two-assist performances.

2. Tyler Seguin

In determining the other two stars, let’s go with the most exciting stories. This is highly subjective, so feel free to close your eyes and picture your choices taking up these spots, instead.

(Going to stand my ground about Wheeler, though. That’s math for you.)

Seguin remains red-hot, with the only drawback being that a ton of people are probably going to give profanity-laced CEO directives the credit, rather than a prodigiously talented player who’s finally getting the bounces we’ve been wah-wah-ing about.

The Stars star extended his point streak to six games with two goals and an assist. Seguin’s generated six goals and four assists during that span, with half of those games including multi-point efforts.

3. Erik Karlsson

Seguin gets the edge because two of his three points were goals, while all three of Karlsson’s points were assists. But Karlsson is going to ratchet up his Norris Trophy hype considering just how scorching his streak really is.

Karlsson now has a 14-game assist streak, joining a ridiculous group of scoring defensemen that only includes Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Phil Housley, and Brian Leetch. Expanding out, he’s only the 13th defenseman to generate a point streak of at least 14 games, and just the sixth since 1990-91.

Karlsson’s plus/minus ended up being +3 in this one, he generated five shots on goal, and logged 23:45 of ice time, so this was quite the all-around effort. The Sharks are really heating up, and it’s no coincidence that Karlsson and Brent Burns are leading the charge.

Again, Tuesday was brimming with other worthy runners-up. Sharks forward Evander Kane was one of the other players who generated three points, by the way.

Highlights

Again, that Blake Wheeler SHG was sweet. Scheifele deserves serious kudos here, too, naturally.

What do you get when you combine a figure skater with a high-end sniper? You get Jeff Skinner, who’s going to get paid.

Andreas Athanasiou provided some sweet sniping, particularly on the first of his two goals (jump in around the 1:10 mark to see it develop):

More Factoids

Scores

BOS 4 – MIN 0
BUF 5 – NJD 1
CAR 4 – NYI 3
PIT 5 – FLA 1
WSH 5 – PHI 3
MTL 3 – DET 2
TBL 4 – CBJ 0
DAL 3 – STL 1
WPG 7 – COL 4
VGK 4 – NYR 2
SJS 7 – EDM 2

(Seems like quite a busy night to have no overtime, eh?)

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.

Capitals cruise by flailing Flyers

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At this rate, the Philadelphia Flyers might need to go through more than seven starting goalies. By the end of this week.

Mike McKenna presents a great story, but he’s still just one (journey)man, and the Capitals made it a tough first night for the 35-year-old. Actually, at times, you could just as easily say that the Flyers made things difficult for their new goalie.

Ultimately, Washington ended up winning 5-3, strengthening their Metropolitan Division lead while handing the Flyers their eighth consecutive loss.

While Tom Wilson stayed hot, Jakub Vrana was the standout Capital on Tuesday. He set the table for Wilson’s goal with a great assist, then added two goals of his own for a three-point night, showing fantastic speed. This shorthanded goal joined that nice pass as the standout moments of Vrana’s strong output.

Things started well enough for the Flyers, as Jakub Voracek responded to Wilson’s opening goal to send the game into the first intermission tied 1-1. The Capitals really only needed a hot second period on the strength of their Jakub, along with T.J. Oshie‘s goal, as Washington scored three times in the middle frame.

The Capitals remained up 4-1 for much of the third, until some late goals warped the score a bit. Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux scored to save some face for Philly, while Oshie’s second goal of the game (and 200th of his career) came on an empty-netter. (Tom Wilson appeared to get an ENG of his own, but it was ruled offside.)

Pheonix Copley‘s hot streak is no typo, as he looked strong in making 37 saves. He’s now 10-2-2 on the season and hasn’t been dinged for a loss since Nov. 14. Copley’s quickly alleviating any concerns about Washington having a dependable backup behind Braden Holtby after Philipp Grubauer left for Colorado heading into 2018-19.

McKenna ended his Flyers debut making 20 out of 24 stops.

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.

Flyers tie NHL record as McKenna becomes 7th starting goalie

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The Philadelphia Flyers tied an NHL record by starting their seventh different goalie in the same season, and the netminder and coach involved make it an even better story.

(Granted, McKenna would have preferred avoiding a 5-3 loss while allowing four goals on 24 shots, but oh well.)

Journeyman goalie Mike McKenna has been tabbed for the start. The 35-year-old is suiting up for his third NHL team so far in 2018-19; he didn’t play a game for the Vancouver Canucks, while he appeared in 10 for the Ottawa Senators and is about to play for Philly. McKenna also played six games in the AHL this season. McKenna’s played for seven NHL teams overall, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.

[This post is worth it just for the gallery of Flyers goalies alone.]

As Sam Carchidi reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the goalie is well-traveled (just look at his hockeydb page), and McKenna has a good sense of humor about it.

“There’s probably a lot of punch lines associated with what I’ve done,” McKenna said. “You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I take my profession really serious, but there is some inherent dark comedy in this, too.”

From dark comedy to irony (or at least Alanis Morissette irony?), consider the coach involved. NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman notes that interim Flyers coach Scott Gordon was the sixth of seven goalies used by the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, the team the Flyers will share this record with.

That’s an almost spooky coincidence, right? Here’s a shot of Gordon as a Nordiques goalie, via Getty:

via Getty

Of course, the Flyers would probably argue that this is less funny and more sad/employment-threatening. It shouldn’t be lost on you that the Flyers have already tied this league record with almost half of the season remaining, as this is just their 43rd of 82 games.

Here’s a breakdown of how the other six goalies have fared over the first 42 games of the Flyers’ season:

Brian Elliott: 6-7-0, 2.59 GAA, .911 save percentage (14 games, 13 starts)
Calvin Pickard: 4-2-2, 4.01 GAA, .863% (11 GP, 8 GS)
Anthony Stolarz: 2-3-2, 3.90 GAA, .880% (9 GP, 7 GS)
Michal Neuvirth: 1-4-1, 4.27 GAA, .859% (7 GP, 6 GS)
Carter Hart: 2-4-1, 2.68 GAA, .909% (7 GP, 7 GS), giving some hope.
Alex Lyon: 0-1-0, 5.08 GAA, .806% (2 GP, 1 GS)

Well, at least the bar is low for this being a quality start.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Capitals on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are off to another great start to their season – with 54 points through the first half of the regular season, the Capitals sit first in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers, meanwhile, are the bottom-dwellers of the division and the in-season coaching change has not helped as Philadelphia has dropped seven straight after losing to St. Louis last night, 3-0. Blues’ goalie Jordan Binnington pitched a shutout in his first NHL start as the Flyers were booed off the ice after the game.

Washington is coming off a 3-2 win at Detroit on Sunday in which Michal Kempny scored the game-winning goal with 3:52 remaining in regulation. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak, which was the Capitals’ longest winless stretch of the season. Dating back to Dec. 6, Washington has won 10 of its last 14 games (10-3-1). The Caps will now return to D.C. after a three-game road trip and boast a 12-6-2 home record this season.

Since firing head coach Dave Hakstol last month, Philadelphia is 3-6-2 under interim coach Scott Gordon. The Flyers won their first two games under Gordon but are now in the midst of their worst slump this season, having not won a game since before Christmas (last win: Dec. 23 at New York Rangers). Scoring has especially been a struggle of late, with Philadelphia putting up no more than two goals in five of their last six games (seven goals total in span).

The Flyers have used an NHL-high sx goalies this season, and that does not include recently claimed Mike McKenna. Philly claimed the 35-year-old off waivers from Vancouver last week as he backed up 20-year-old Carter Hart last night, who stopped 34 of 36 shots against the Blues. McKenna could lucky No. 7 on Tuesday night.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Center
When: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Flyers-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek
James van RiemsdykJordan WealWayne Simmonds
Michael RafflScott LaughtonDale Weise

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereRadko Gudas
Robert HaggChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Mike McKenna

CAPITALS
Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Jakub VranaLars EllerT.J. Oshie
Andre BurakovskyTravis BoydBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonNic DowdDevante Smith-Pelly
(*Nicklas Backstrom is a game-time decision)

Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Pheonix Copley

Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Flyers-Capitals from Capital One Arena. Paul Burmeister, Keith Jones and Anson Carter will handle studio coverage.

MORE: Should Chuck Fletcher blow up or retool Flyers?

Eight stunning numbers from first half of season

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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 take a look at the return of the 100-point scorer,the Flyers’ revolving door of goalies, and some impressive individual performances around the NHL, including from a pair of standout rookies.

The 100-point scorer might be back

Did not think this was ever going to happen. Not with the way the game was trending for so long.

Entering play on Friday there are currently 13 players in the NHL that are on pace for more than 100 points this season (and that does not include players like Patrice Bergeron and Auston Matthews who are on a 100-point pace over 82 games but have missed too much time due to injury to actually threaten the 100-point mark) and a few others on pace for 98 or 99 points and could make a run at it.

Let’s think about those numbers for a second.

  • During the 2017-18 season there were only three 100-point scorers in the NHL (Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, and Claude Giroux), and at the halfway point there were only four player on a pace to reach it.
  • In the seven years prior to last season there were only five 100-point scorers in the NHL, and never more than one in a single season.
  • The last time the NHL had more than 10 100-point scorers in a single season was 1995-96. The last time there were 13 was the 1992-93 season when more than 20 players topped it.

There was an eight or nine year stretch where even reaching 90 points seemed to be impossible, given the way the games were being officiated, the quality of the goaltending, and the way the league had become such a structured defensive game. Just like it wasn’t one specific thing that resulted in the decline in scoring, it hasn’t been just one specific thing that’s resulted in the reversal. Goalie equipment has gotten smaller, power plays are up a little bit, three-on-three overtime has added some goals, and, quite frankly, there has been a pretty good influx of young superstar talent to enter the league that has been given a bit more freedom to create.

The Flyers’ revolving door of goalies

After claiming Mike McKenna on waivers the Philadelphia Flyers could be in a position to use a seventh goalie this season. The season is just now half over. Only two teams in the league this season have had to use more than three different goalies, while none have had to use more than four. The Flyers are already at six and have a very real chance of using seven.

What is most amazing about this number is that all six goalies have appeared in at least two games, and five of them have appeared in at least five.

[Related: Flyers welcome Mike McKenna to the goalie carousel

An historically great offense in Tampa Bay

At the halfway point the Tampa Bay Lightning are averaging 4.17 goals per game, an incredible number in any era.

In the history of the league only 70 teams have scored more goals than Tampa Bay’s 171 through the first 41 games of a season, and the overwhelming majority of those teams played in the firewagon days of the 1980s when goalies were awful and power plays were plentiful.

Since 1990, only nine teams have topped that mark through 41 games, and all but one of those teams played between 1990 and 1993 (the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins are the lone exception) just before the start of the dead puck era.

The Lightning are truly scoring goals like a team from a different era.

The second-highest scoring team in the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs, is at 3.67, an incredible 0.50 goals per game behind the Lightning. The gap between Tampa Bay and Toronto (which is also an obscenely good and deep offensive team), is the same as the gap between Toronto and the 11th highest scoring team in the league, the Ottawa Senators.

They are also scoring on 30.5 percent of their power plays. Only three teams in league history have ever finished a full season higher than 30 percent — the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens, the 1977-78 New York Islanders, and the 1978-79 New York Islanders.

Elias Lindholm has already exceeded anything he has ever done in the NHL 

I admit, I hated the Dougie Hamilton trade for the Calgary Flames because they were dealing an elite defender for a package of players that … did not seem elite.

It has gone better for the Flames than I — or really anyone — could have expected because one of the key players in that deal, Elias Lindholm, is having an absolutely magnificent season.

Entering play on Friday he has already scored 20 goals, recorded 28 assists, and totaled 48 points in 42 games.

Before this season his previous career highs in those respective categories were 17, 34 (he will almost certainly pass that one soon), and 45.

Granted, a lot of this production (especially as it relates to the goals) is tied to a 19.8 shooting percentage that will only regress, but it has still been a huge surprise season for the Flames.

Morgan Rielly chasing history

With 44 points in his first 40 games, the Toronto Maple Leafs defender is on pace for 90 points this season. Only 10 different defenders in league history have topped that mark, and none have done it Ray Bourque during the 1993-94 season.

The list of defenders to do it: Paul Coffey (seven times), Bobby Orr (six times), Ray Bourque (four times), Denis Potvin (three times), Al MacInnis (two times), Phil Housley (one time), Brian Leetch (one time), Gary Suter (one time).

Elias Pettersson‘s elite company

The Vancouver Canucks rookie was injured again on Thursday night, and that is terrible news for his team and the league. He has been one of the the most explosive rookies to enter the league in quite some time.

Since the start of the 1987-88 season only three rookies have ever scored more than Pettersson’s 22 goals in the first 38 games of their career.

Teemu Selanne with 30 goals in 1992-93, Eric Lindros with 27 goals in 1992-93, and Alex Ovechkin with 24 goals in 2005-06.

[Related: Canucks’ Pettersson leaves game with ugly looking leg injury]

Speaking of great rookie performances

Rasmus Dahlin, the No. 1 overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres, has been having a noteworthy rookie season of his own.

The 18-year-old has already tallied 20 points in his first 41 games. Going as far back as 1987 only one other rookie defenseman at the age of 18 had more points than that (Aaron Ekblad with 24 points for the Florida Panthers during the 2014-15 season). Nobody else has recorded more than 15 during that stretch.

Playmaker Blake Wheeler

We touched on Blake Wheeler’s stat line a month ago and it hasn’t really changed.

In 39 games this season he has recorded 44 assists for the Jets.

He has only scored six goals.

Over the past 35 years no player has recorded at least 44 assists through the first half of the season and scored fewer goals.

(Data in this post via the Hockey-Reference database)

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.