Braden Holtby

Capitals sign Nicklas Backstrom to five-year, $46M extension

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The Washington Capitals face big questions about their future, but Nicklas Backstrom will remain a part of it. The Capitals were able to sign Backstrom to a five-year, $46 million contract extension on Tuesday.

Backstrom, 32, will see that $9.2M AAV kick in starting in 2020-21, and then expire after 2024-25. Interestingly, Evgeny Kuznetsov ($7.8M cap hit) and T.J. Oshie ($5.75M) also see their deals expire after that 2024-25 campaign.

Apparently Backstrom negotiated his own contract, focusing on getting top dollar, while the Caps wanted to account for his age:

Backstrom has ranked as one of the NHL’s more underappreciated stars for years. The Capitals note that he leads the franchise in assists (668) and is also the only active player to generate 50+ assists in six consecutive seasons. Backstrom ranks second in franchise history in points (908), second only to Alex Ovechkin (1,255).

A quick cap outlook after Capitals sign Backstrom

Going truly deep on the Capitals’ future decisions is probably the job for a full post, but we can take a quick peek.

Cap Friendly places Washington’s cap spending at about $71.1M on 16 roster spots heading into 2020-21. If the ceiling remains around $81.5M, that would leave the Caps with about $10.4M in space.

Such comments serve as a reminder that the Capitals face other tough decisions, both soon and off in the distance.

Most pressingly, Braden Holtby (30, current cap hit: $6.1M) needs a new contract after this season. Ilya Samsonov may or may not be the future. If the Capitals find some way to sign Holtby, it would probably require making painful omissions elsewhere.

The Capitals also must determine what Alex Ovechkin’s next contract will look like. The 34-year-old’s $9.538M cap hit runs out after 2020-21.

It will be fascinating to see how Backstrom ages. His smart, borderline Selke-worthy style may grow old quite gracefully. Still, it’s kind of startling to realize that he’s 32 already. Some old folks might take that as a reminder of our (er, their!) mortality.

Did the Capitals make the right call with this hefty extension? Did Backstrom make a mistake by haggling on his own? What should the Caps do with Holtby and others?

With the Capitals running rampant over the league and not that far removed from that glorious Stanley Cup, extending Backstrom certainly feels like a crowd-pleaser right now, at least. Frankly, the slick Swede was so underpaid before, it also seems fair.

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.

How much is Jacob Markstrom going to cost the Canucks?

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Jacob Markstrom stole two points for the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night by stopping 49 shots in a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

With the Canucks floating on the playoff bubble every point is massive, and it’s not the first time this season Markstrom has delivered a game-changing performance.

Since arriving in Vancouver five years ago, he has gone from underwhelming prospect that was bordering on being a bust, to a strong backup, to a very good and reliable NHL starter.

He is also playing in the final year of his contract and set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season without a new deal. Back in November Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Markstrom is definitely in the Canucks’ long-term plans, and that talks on a new contract could soon start to intensify.

But what does a potential new contract look like for the two sides?

1. Who does he compare to?

Markstrom isn’t one of the league’s elites at the position, but he is definitely a quality starter. He is going to give his team a chance on most nights, and will occasionally steal one (as he did on Saturday).

If you go back to the start of the 2005-06 season there are a handful of goalies that compare similarly to where Markstrom is at this point in his career.

What we looked for: Goalies that appeared in at least 100 games between the ages of 28 and 30 (Markstrom became the Canucks’ full-time starter in his age 28 season) and posted a save percentage between .910 and .915. In other words: a league-average to maybe slightly above league average starter.

Here are the names that show up: Jonas Hiller, Craig Anderson, Carey Price, Cam Talbot, Jimmy Howard, James Reimer, Semyon Varlamov, Jonathan Bernier, Chad Johnson, and Martin Biron.

Price is the biggest name there, but he is a bit of an outlier. His age 28-30 seasons were a bit of a mess. One was lost almost entirely to injury, while another was just … bad. But the rest? Those are probably pretty strong comparisons. Goalies that aren’t great, but aren’t going to hurt you.

2. Why the comparisons matter

It’s not only to get a sense of what Markstrom might cost, but also to try and get an idea for what his future seasons could look like. Anytime a team signs a player to a long-term deal their past performance isn’t as important as their future performance.

In this case, you want to know how likely it is that the player you’re signing is going to keep playing at that level.

When you look at the names above, the best-case scenarios might be Craig Anderson or Jimmy Howard. Both were able to maintain that same level of production into their mid-30s (and in Anderson’s case, even into his late 30s). They also both signed long-term contracts around the same age that Markstrom is now that accounted for 6 percent of the salary cap (Anderson) and 8 percent (Howard) at the time of their deals. And that seems about fair for a mid-level starting goalie. A similar contract today would pay Markstrom somewhere between $5 and $6 million per season. That would place him in the 10-20 range among the NHL’s highest salary cap hits for goalies.

And for the goalie that he is right now, that is probably where he belongs.

3. The Canucks almost have to pay him

Mostly because he is the best and most realistic option.

Thatcher Demko was once thought to be the future of the Canucks’ net, but he remains a question mark and rolling into next season with him as the No. 1 seems like a bad idea.

Braden Holtby will most likely be the biggest name on the free agent market, but he is probably out of the Canucks’ price range due to the salary cap. The same should be true of Robin Lehner who has undoubtedly earned a significant contract from somebody.

After that, there isn’t a better option set to be available. The trade market is also a bit of a minefield for goalies. If the Canucks can get Markstrom on a three-or four-year deal at around $5-6 million per season that should be a worthwhile investment.

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 Decade in Review: Top NHL players in fantasy hockey

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As 2019 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, fantasy highlights, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.

Welcome to our weekly fantasy hockey column where we usually recommend players you should consider adding and dropping. This time we’re going to do something a little different though. With the decade almost over, we’re going to take this opportunity to highlight the best fantasy players of the 2010s.

To make things interesting, we’ll look at this from two different angles. First we’ll highlight the best fantasy player from each season from 2010-11 through 2018-19 and then we’ll highlight the best overall fantasy players of the 2010s.

2010-11: Only one player reached the 100-point milestone and that was the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin, who scored 41 goals and 104 points. He won the Art Ross Trophy just a year after his twin brother, Henrik claimed it. However, unlike Henrik Sedin, Daniel didn’t collect the Hart Trophy along with the Art Ross. Instead the Hart went to the Ducks’ Corey Perry, who had 50 goals and 98 points. Tim Thomas claimed the Vezina Trophy with a 35-11-9 record, 2.00 GAA, and .938 save percentage in 57 contests in 57 games while Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy for the seventh and final time. Lidstrom had 16 goals and 62 points in 75 contests. However, none of them would be my pick for the best fantasy player of the year.

Carey Price, Canadiens – In terms of GAA and save percentage, Price lagged behind Thomas with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, but the advantage of Price was how much the Canadiens leaned on him. Price played in 72 games and being able to use your top goaltender that often is incredibly helpful in fantasy leagues. Those extra starts also led to Price topping Thomas in wins and shutouts with 38 and eight respectively. This is one of those cases where I’d argue Thomas was the better goaltender that season, but Price is the one I would have rather owned in fantasy leagues.

2011-12: Just like last season, there was only one player who reached the century mark. This time it was the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, who had 50 goals and 109 points in 75 games. He cleanly won the Art Ross by 12 points, but Tampa’s Steven Stamkos decisively won the Richard Trophy with an incredible 60 goals while Malkin finished second in that regard. Stamkos finished second in the overall scoring race. Between those two offensive stars, Malkin was picked as the Hart winner. The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist won the Vezina with a 39-18-5 record, 1.97 GAA, and .930 save percentage in 62 starts. The Norris was claimed by the Senators’ Erik Karlsson, who had 19 goals and 78 points in 81 contests. Those are plenty of amazing players to choose from, but I think Malkin has the edge here.

Evgeni Malkin, Penguins – I was honestly initially leaning towards Stamkos given how rare it is to have a player score 60 goals in this era, but Malkin had the edge in every other major category that fantasy leagues care about at the time. Obviously, Malkin had more points, but he also had a solid edge in plus/minus (plus-18 to plus-7), power-play points (34 to 25), and SOG (339 to 303). Malkin also had few more penalty minutes (70 to 66), which was a pretty standard fantasy category at the time. None of those category leads alone made Malkin the better fantasy option that season, but put together Malkin is the clear choice.

2012-13: This was the lockout shortened season that was limited to 48 games. Tampa’s Martin St. Louis won the Art Ross with 17 goals and 60 points, but the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin won the Hart with 32 goals and 56 points. The Vezina was claimed by Sergei Bobrovsky, who posted a 21-11-6 record, 2.00 GAA, and .932 save percentage in 38 games. Montreal’s P.K. Subban was the Norris winner with 11 goals and 38 points in 42 contests. This time around, there is a decisive winner in my mind and that’s Ovechkin.

Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – As noted above, Ovechkin had nearly double St. Louis’ goal total while only falling four points shy, so in that regard, Ovechkin is clearly the better fantasy option. Ovechkin also bested him in other big fantasy categories too including plus/minus (plus-two to neutral), penalty minutes (36 to 14), power-play points (27 to 20), and shots (220 to 112). So there really isn’t much wiggle room to say that you would have been better off having St. Louis that season. In fact, I’d argue that Stamkos was also better than St. Louis that season from a fantasy perspective. Stamkos had 29 goals, 57 points, 157 shots, and 32 penalty minutes, but did lag behind both St. Louis and Ovechkin in plus/minus (minus-four) and power-play points (18).

2013-14: The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby claimed both the Art Ross and the Hart with 36 goals and 104 points in 80 games. No other player even came close to him in the scoring race. The Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf taking second place with 31 goals and 87 points in 77 contests. Chicago’s Duncan Keith was the Norris winner with six goals and 61 points in 79 games and the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask won the Vezina with a 36-15-6 record, 2.04 GAA, and .930 save percentage in 58 starts. A season I chose Ovechkin as the best fantasy player, I’d give the edge to his main rival of the era, Crosby.

Sidney Crosby, Penguins – All-in-all, this was a pretty meh season when it came to fantasy standouts. Just one player with even 90 points, one player with at least 50 goals (Ovechkin), and not a single goaltender started in at least 65 games. Under these conditions, Crosby won almost by default. It’s worth adding that in addition to his decisive win in the scoring race, Crosby also contributed a plus-18 rating, 46 penalty minutes, 38 power-play points and 259 shots to fantasy owners. He was the leader in any of those categories, but the fact that he was able to help in all of them certainly helped his case. That contrasted Ovechkin, who did lead the league in goals (51) and edged out Crosby in power-play points (39), but was a major burden in terms of plus/minus (minus-35) and fell well behind in points (79).

2014-15: We’ve reached the campaign where Price pulled off the rare feat of winning both the Hart and Vezina. That’s quite the accomplishment, but it was due in part to the lack of competition from forwards. Dallas’ Jamie Benn won the scoring race with 35 goals and 87 points in 82 games and he was one of just five players to even record 80 points. Ovechkin did score 53 goals, but he managed an underwhelming 28 assists. So there wasn’t really a forward who seemed terribly deserving of the Hart. Defenseman Erik Karlsson did have a strong campaign with 21 goals and 66 points in 82 contests en route to winning the Norris, but he wasn’t a serious contender for the Hart either. That’s not to say Price didn’t have a fantastic season though. He certainly stood out from the crowd with a 44-16-6 record, 1.96 GAA, and .933 save percentage in 66 starts, which is why I’m also comfortable saying he was that season’s top fantasy option.

Carey Price, Canadiens – This is the second time in the span of five seasons I’m listing Price as my top fantasy choice. With the relatively weak state of forwards in 2014-15, Price’s main competition was other goaltenders. The Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby would have been my second choice. He had a 41-20-10 record, 2.22 GAA, and .923 save percentage in 72 starts. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne had as many wins and a slightly better GAA (2.18) compared to Holtby, but Holtby appeared in nine more games and also clearly led Rinne in terms of shutouts (nine to four), which is a big help from a fantasy perspective.

2015-16: Only one player managed to breach the 90-point milestone this season and that was the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, who finished with 46 goals and 106 points. His efforts led to him winning both the Art Ross and Hart. The Vezina was claimed by Braden Holtby who posted a 48-9-7 record, 2.20 GAA, and .922 save percentage in 66 starts. In terms of blueliners, Drew Doughty won the Norris with 14 goals and 51 points in 82 contests, but he arguably wasn’t even in the top-five in terms of best fantasy defensemen. For me the top blueliner from a fantasy perspective was the Sharks’ Brent Burns, who had 27 goals and 75 points in 82 contests. Karlsson did have the edge in points with 82, but it’s not often you can find a defenseman who will provide you with even close to 30 goals. At the end of the day though, I feel Holtby was the best fantasy option.

Braden Holtby, Capitals – It’s rare for a defenseman to get 27 goals and certainly Kane was a clear winner in the scoring race, but Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s NHL record with his 48 wins. No other goaltender gave you even close to that win total in 2015-16 with LA’s Jonathan Quick being the next best option at 40 victories. Holtby was also a strong contributor in GAA and save percentage too while finishing in a tie for second in starts, so he was far more than a goaltender who contributed in one category.

2016-17: And now, we enter the era of Connor McDavid. The Oilers forward actually made his debut in 2015-16, but he was limited to 45 games due to injury. This time around he played the full 82 games, contributing 30 goals and a league-best 100 points. With no other player reaching even the 90-point milestone and the Oilers making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, McDavid won the Hart. Bobrovsky won the Vezina for the second time with a 41-17-5 record, 2.06 GAA, and .931 save percentage in 63 starts. Burns was picked for the Norris with 29 goals and 76 points in 82 contests and it’s Burns I’ll ultimately select as my top fantasy choice for this season.

Brent Burns, Sharks – As I mentioned above, Burns was close to being my top choice in 2015-16, but Holtby’s record-tying wins total edged him out. This time around, no player had a similarly historic season and Burns was just as good. He finished just a single goal behind McDavid and 23 points, which is amazing numbers to get out a defenseman. Burns also led the league with 320 shots, had a strong plus-19 rating, and his 25 power-play points put him just three shy of McDavid. I also want to give an honorable mention to Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot, who posted a 42-22-8 record, 2.39 GAA, and .919 save percentage over a staggering 73 starts. McDavid got the Hart, but I’d argue that Talbot was the single biggest factor in the Oilers’ making the playoffs. He gave them the stability in goal they desperately needed and when he faltered in 2017-18 and beyond, the Oilers fell with him.

2017-18: The Devils’ Taylor Hall won the Hart with 39 goals and 93 points in 76 games, but he wasn’t the league’s best fantasy forward. In fact there were several forwards I would have rather had over him, including the man I’ll pick as the 2017-18 campaign’s top fantasy option. Before I get to that though, I want to highlight Rinne, who won the Vezina with a 42-13-4 record, 2.31 GAA, and .927 save percentage and defenseman Victor Hedman, who won the Norris with 17 goals and 63 points in 77 contests.

Connor McDavid, Oilers – The primary reason why McDavid missed out on the Hart is because the Oilers missed the playoffs, but that’s not a factor in fantasy leagues. Instead, the factors are McDavid’s 41 goals, 108 points, plus-20 rating, 20 power-play points, and 274 shots in 82 games. Of those categories, the only one Hall was clearly the better player was power-play points, where he had 37. Hall also enjoyed the slightest of edges in shots (278 to 274). Neither of those makes up for McDavid’s lead in the other categories though, especially McDavid’s clear edge in points. In fact, I’d argue that McDavid’s closer competition was Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, who had 39 goals, 100 points, a plus-15 rating, 36 power-play points, and 279 shots. Between Kucherov and McDavid, the gap is actually razor thin.

2018-19: I mentioned a few times above that just one player reached the 90-point milestone that season. In the case of 2018-19, 14 different players got at least that many points. The leader among them was Kucherov, who finished with 41 goals and 128 points in 82 games en route to winning the Hart. His Lightning teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina with a 39-10-4 record, 2.40 GAA, and .925 save percentage in 53 starts. The Norris went to the Flames’ Mark Giordano, who scored 17 goals and 74 points in 78 games.

Nikita Kucherov, Lightning – With scoring on the rise in 2018-19, Kucherov had arguably the best fantasy season of any player over the decade. His 128 points gave him the clear edge over the second place McDavid (116 points). Kucherov also bested McDavid in plus/minus (plus-24 to plus-three), power-play points (48 to 33), and shots (246 to 240). Obviously the SOG totals were pretty close and they both finished with 41 goals, but Kucherov’s clear lead in the other major fantasy categories makes him the easy pick. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl deserves an honorable mention though, for finishing with 50 goals, 105 points, a plus-two rating, 29 power-play points, and 231 shots.

So with all that done, how do we pick the best player of the decade? The first question is if we’re looking for quantity or quality? From the start of 2010-11 to present (including this season), Patrick Kane leads the league with 754 points in 696 games, but I didn’t tap Kane as the fantasy leader in any single season. What Kane brought to the table was relative health and consistency. With the obvious exceptions of the lockout shortened 2013 campaign and the still in progress 2019-20 season, he recorded at least 64 points in every campaign. Meanwhile, Crosby averaged more points per game, but injuries resulted in him appearing in 107 fewer contests.

Kane also had the benefit of being in his prime entering the decade. What about those who entered the league during it? They’re at an obvious disadvantage if what we’re looking at are the totals. For example, there’s McDavid, who has only appeared in 326 games in the 2010s for obvious reasons, but he’s the clear decade leader in terms of points-per-game (min. 200 games played). In that category, the top-five are McDavid (1.33 PTS/G), Crosby (1.23), Malkin (1.15), Kane (1.08), and Stamkos (1.06).

This is just looking at skaters. There’s even more of a headache when evaluating goaltenders. When a forward declines for example, that just means that they’ll produce fewer points, but a goaltender has a GAA and save percentage that will be dragged down. Take Price, who is the only person I selected as the best fantasy option in two separate seasons. However, he also had a disastrous 2017-18 campaign where he posted a 3.11 GAA and .900 save percentage in 49 games and he’s been a mixed bag this season as well. That gives him a somewhat less impressive 2.42 GAA and .919 save percentage over the decade, though even then he’s still one of the best goaltenders over this 10-year period.

There’s no ideal way to pick a player, but ultimately the point of this is to make a choice and so I will:

Sidney Crosby, Penguins – If you participated in a fantasy draft over the last decade, there was one thing that was almost always true: Crosby was a clear top-five pick and sometimes the clear top pick overall. You can’t really say that for any other player over the last decade. The closest comparable to that over the same time frame is Ovechkin, but even Ovechkin had a brief period of time where it looked like his shine had worn off back in 2016-17 when he scored 33 goals and 69 points in 82 games and that came after a series of campaigns where he was still scoring goals, but posting underwhelming numbers in other categories. Crosby had disappointing seasons too, but when he disappointed, it was always due to injury and consequently, you knew that if he was healthy, he would be one of the league’s top players if not the very best. Even with the rise of McDavid and Kucherov, Crosby has managed to stay near the top of the pack, scoring 35 goals and 100 points in 79 contests last season. 

There are plenty of others that deserve honorable mentions though. Beyond Kane, Ovechkin, McDavid, and Price, who were all already mentioned, Phil Kessel deserves to be highlighted for being consistently near the top of the league even if he never was quite at the heights of those others. He has 269 goals and 663 points in 742 contests this decade. Stamkos and Malkin were other major standouts who were slowed somewhat by injuries. Stamkos has 332 goals and 655 points in 616 games while Malkin has 257 goals and 652 point in 566 contests. Meanwhile, there is one player you might not expect to find in the top-10 of this decade’s scoring leaders and that’s Blake Wheeler. Health and consistency have led to him scoring 213 goals and 643 points in 733 games, which is good for ninth place on the points list.

When it comes to defensemen, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns were the top two scorers with 564 and 537 points respectively. Keith Yandle might surprise you a bit in third place with 77 goals and 473 points in 741 contests.

In goal it’s hard to pick a standout for the entire decade, but I think Rask is the closest to it. Though he started the decade as Tim Thomas’ understudy, which means he has less overall games played than the likes of Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, and Price, but Rask has averaged out to be the best of them. He has a 253-151-57 record, 2.31 GAA, and .920 save percentage in 467 contests over that span. Bobrovsky isn’t quite the best goaltender of the decade, but he is the most interesting. He won the Vezina twice, but he also had some pretty underwhelming campaigns sprinkled in there. Taken as a whole, he has a 268-162-41 record, 2.50 GAA, and .918 save percentage in 485 games.

Next week we’ll be back to looking forward, but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed this look down memory lane.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey. 

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

MORE PHT DECADE IN REVIEW FUN:
• Most significant goals
• Best players of the decade
• Favorite goals, best/worst jerseys
Best NHL teams of the decade
Biggest NHL trades

Oshie, Carlson lift Capitals over Bruins in mid-season test

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The 82-game regular season is a marathon for NHL teams, but at various points of the season you want to measure yourself up against a top team in your conference.

On Wednesday Night Hockey, the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals defeated the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins 3-2 at Capital One Arena.

John Carlson scored the go-ahead goal 4:42 into the third period to help propel the Capitals. T.J. Oshie scored twice and Braden Holtby made 30 saves as the Capitals collected their seventh win in the previous eight games.

David Pastrnak scored his NHL-leading 26th goal for Boston but the Bruins have dropped four consecutive games (0-3-1).

Oshie often overlooked

Whether it’s Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Carlson or Holtby, Oshie is often neglected when listing the Capitals’ star power.

Since being acquired in July of 2015, Oshie has been a consistent offensive threat for the Capitals in the previous four-plus seasons. He has averaged 25.5 goals and added his 12th and 13th of this season in stellar fashion on Wednesday.

Oshie made a quick deke to his forehand before ringing a shot off the crossbar, but then finished his own rebound to even the score early in the second period.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead with a highlight-reel goal. The American forward danced around Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton before converting a nifty deke 3:30 after his first of the game.

While other players in Washington’s lineup receive credit for the Capitals’ strong play in recent years, Oshie should not be forgotten about as he has proven to be a key piece to the puzzle in Washington.

Pastrnak remains red-hot

The Czech winger has solidified himself as one the best pure goal scorers in the NHL today and recorded his 26th goal of the season on Wednesday. No. 88 is on pace for 67 goals this season and has helped the Boston Bruins secure a 10-point lead in the Atlantic Division.

Pastrnak tallied a short-side snipe to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead against the Capitals Wednesday. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy was able to complete a cross-ice pass because centerman Patrice Bergeron skated hard to the net in order to create an open passing lane.

If Pastrnak is able to continue this torrid pace, he could be in line to collect a lot of hardware at the NHL Awards show and help the Bruins collect a trophy they fell just short of last season.

Ovechkin’s office

The sign of dominance in any competitive sport is if you can continue to repeat an action while your opponent is aware of what is coming.

For Alex Ovechkin, his presence from the left circle throughout the course of his career has been spectacular. The captain of the Washington Capitals has recorded 299 of his 679 goals (44%) from the left circle or above. And since the 2012-13 season, 54% of his goals have come from that spot on the ice.

NHL teams will continue to game plan and know exactly where No. 8 will be on the ice, especially when Washington is on a power play, but his excellence from that area should be viewed in the same breath as Wayne Gretzky’s operation from behind the net.

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

The Buzzer: Another shutout for Jarry; Draisaitl puts Oilers back in first

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Three Stars

1. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins. Another big win for the Penguins on Friday night, and they owe this one to Jarry as he recorded his second consecutive shutout and stole the show in Phil Kessel‘s first visit back to Pittsburgh as a visiting player since the offseason trade. Jarry has been getting the bulk of the starts over the past couple of weeks and is making a pretty convincing case to keep getting them as he improved his season save percentage to .942 with Friday’s win. He has stopped all 61 shots he has faced over the past two games and has won six of his past seven appearances.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. Thanks to the Arizona Coyotes’ 2-0 loss in Pittsburgh, the Oilers were able to jump back ahead of them for first place in the Pacific Division with their 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Draisaitl was again one of the big impact players for the Oilers by factoring into both of the team’s goals. He opened the scoring in the first period by banking a shot in off of Kings defender Drew Doughty, then set up Alex Chiasson‘s game-winning goal just a few minutes later. With his two points he takes over sole possession of the league lead in the scoring race with 53 points, moving one point ahead of his teammate — and linemate — Connor McDavid, who now has 52 points. No other player in the league has more than 44 points right now.

3. Jakub Vrana, Washington Capitals. Vrana continued his hot streak — and great season — on Friday with a pair of points, including the game-winning goal, in the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. He now has at least one point in seven of his past nine games, including three multi-point games. His goal on Friday was already his 15th of the season and has him on pace for close to 40 goals this season.

Other notable performances from Friday

  • Shea Weber was great for the Montreal Canadiens in their 2-1 win over the New York Rangers, but he also had a painful night by taking a puck right to the face. Read all about it here.
  • Alex DeBrincat scored for the second game in a row (his seventh goal of the season) as the Blackhawks were able to get a 2-1 shootout win in New Jersey. Corey Crawford was also great in net for the Blackhawks, stopping 29 out of 30 shots throughout regulation and overtime three out of five shots in a five-round shootout.
  • Mikko Koskinen stopped 35 out of 36 shots for the Oilers in their win over the Kings.

Highlights of the Night

Nate Thompson gives the Canadiens the lead with his game-winning goal against the Rangers.

When you record consecutive shutouts you probably have a lot of big saves on your individual highlight reel, and this was probably Jarry’s best of the night on Friday against the Coyotes. This helped protect what was at the time a one-goal lead.

The Blackhawks were 2-1 shootout winners in New Jersey and it was rookie Kirby Dach scoring the winning goal in the fifth round on this slick move.

Blooper of the Night

This could have been a problem for Capitals goalie Braden Holtby as he nearly put the puck in his own net.

Factoids

  • The past two days have seen almost every game across the NHL be decided by just a single goal. The only two that have been decided by more than one goal were only decided by more because of late empty net goals. [NHL PR]
  • Claude Julien moved into a tie for sixth place on the Canadiens’ all-time coaching wins list on Friday night. [NHL PR]
  • The Oilers’ power play is one of the big reasons they are in first place in the Pacific Division so far this season. [NHL PR]

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Arizona Coyotes 0
Montreal Canadiens 2, New York Rangers 1
Chicago Blackhawks 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (SO)
Edmonton Oilers 2, Los Angeles Kings 1
Washington Capitals 3, Anaheim Ducks 2

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.