Evander Kane

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The Buzzer: McDavid filets Flyers; Kane raises Sharks

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Three Stars

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Look, this is Connor McDavid. He’s at the point where it’s tough to surprise us.

… Yet, I have to admit, he’s begun 2019-20 on an even hotter streak than I imagined, and for all that Edmonton might improve under Dave Tippett, it’s difficult not to chalk most of it up to McDavid, alongside Leon Draisaitl.

McDavid was outrageous on Wednesday, generating a very pretty goal and four assists for five points. Those four assists represent a career-high for McDavid.

Despite that great night, I was leaning toward giving the top star to Evander Kane until I saw this stat, which admittedly steps on the factoids section a bit:

Unless you get really obscure with a stat, it’s usually a great sign when you do something that hasn’t been done since Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky were still lacing up their skates …

2. Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks

After sitting out the first three games of the 2019-20 season thanks to a suspension, Kane generated one goal and one assist in three contests. Wednesday represented an eruption for his fourth game, then, as Kane generated a hat trick during the first period of the Sharks’ 5-2 win against the Hurricanes.

Kane also assisted on a Tomas Hertl goal, giving him a hat trick plus a helper for a four-point night.

If you think Kane deserves the nod over McDavid, I understand.

That said, three stars aren’t just a great opportunity to spotlight one wonderful performance, but also a time where it’s that much more pressing to point out a hot streak and great season. Which is why we pivot to someone whose great start might slip under the radar.

3. John Carlson, Washington Capitals

When the Caps signed Carlson to an eight-year, $64 million contract, it felt like a necessary evil. We’ve seen plenty of players age poorly, and Carlson blew away his previous career totals when he generated 15 goals and 68 points in 2017-18, helping Washington win that coveted Stanley Cup.

And then Carlson put together an even better 2018-19, scoring a resounding 70 points in 80 games.

At some point he has to slow down, right?

Maybe, but so far, it doesn’t feel like that time will be at age 29. Carlson produced three points (one goal, two assists) in Washington’s win against Toronto on Thursday, giving him an eyebrow-raising 14 points in eight games.

Those 14 points leave Carlson in third place behind McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — not just among defensemen. Suddenly, that $8M AAV starts to look like a bargain for the Capitals.

The runner-up to the runner-up for Highlight of the Night

Wednesdays aren’t usually the busiest NHL days, yet this one was ripe with great moments.

The moments have been great enough that Sidney Crosby‘s bedazzling backhander already got its own post, while Sonny Milano provided ample competition with his downright silly goal for the Blue Jackets.

The bronze medal provides gold of its own, though, as Connor McDavid reminded the world why it’s pretty easy to look like a dominant team when you can basically just lob the puck up blindly and assume that it might end up becoming a goal for 97:

Factoids

Scores

PIT 3 – COL 2 (OT)
WSH 4 – TOR 3
CBJ 3 – DAL 2
EDM 6 – PHI 3
ANA 5 – BUF 2
SJS 5 – CAR 2

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 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.

How worried should winless Sharks be after loss to Predators?

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With the nostalgic signing of Patrick Marleau, plenty of San Jose Sharks fans were thinking of the past on Tuesday. That’s good, because right now, the present hasn’t been pretty.

The Sharks sunk to 0-4-0 on the young 2019-20 season after the Nashville Predators beat them 5-2. This is San Jose’s second 0-4-0 start in franchise history, with the only other instance coming in their awkward earlier phase in 1993-94.

Is it time to play the “Jaws” theme for a rattled Sharks group, or is too soon to ponder such horrors? Let’s bat around a few thoughts.

Sharks’ offense not going swimmingly

Tuesday’s performance brought out backhanded compliments.

After only managing a goal apiece in their first three losses, the Sharks finally scored two goals. Granted, it felt a little empty, as Brent Burns made it 4-2 with about 4:23 remaining in the third period. Also, they finally scored a goal on the power play.

San Jose managed a strong effort in the second period, but Pekka Rinne managed to only allow an Evander Kane deflection goal during that middle frame. Much like against Minnesota, Nashville really turned up the power in the third period to pull away from the Sharks.

A few players stick out as needing more. Timo Meier seemed like a bargain at a $6M AAV, but so far, he’s been ice cold, opening the season without a goal or an assist. Tomas Hertl brought hype as possibly the Sharks’ best center over Logan Couture, yet while Couture is contributing, Hertl is also at a goose egg.

Sharks get stung in transition

To some extent, San Jose is going to “live by the sword, and die by the sword” when it comes to gambling ways from defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. Karlsson’s attempt to transition died a painful death on this Filip Forsberg goal:

While Burns has been reasonably productive, Karlsson’s off to a slow start, with an assist in three games (and a healthy baby being born keeping him from the season-opener … maybe he just needs to get his sleep schedule right?).

San Jose is awfully top-heavy, so they’re going to need their best guys to be strong. That perceived lack of depth might mean more tough nights like these than the Sharks are accustomed to.

Predators’ mix looks good again

Matt Duchene now has six assists in his first three games in gold. That pass to Forsberg in the 4-1 goal above ranks as one of his sweetest dishes, and he’s had some great moments that didn’t end up on the scoreboard. Duchene made a fantastic toe-drag move during Tuesday’s game but was thwarted by Martin Jones, while he made a tremendous play to Mikael Granlund that forced Devan Dubnyk to make a highlight reel save in the team’s opener.

As Duchene could attest considering the early reactions to his cold start in Ottawa vs. the misleadingly hot Nashville start for Kyle Turris, it’s too early to say that the Predators “won” in essentially trading Duchene for P.K. Subban. Subban may eventually prove to be a more positive impact-player, all-around, for New Jersey.

The Predators were looking for the right combination of offense, defense, and goaltending in bringing in Duchene, though, and he might just give Nashville that extra gamebreaker to reach that next level.

That’s because Nashville already had some of those, from Forsberg to Roman Josi, who scored two goals and looks like he’ll cost someone (maybe the Predators, maybe a different team) a pretty penny on his next contract.

The Sharks don’t need to panic about making the playoffs, yet with each loss, they are certainly making their climb bumpier, especially as the Vegas Golden Knights appear as molten-hot as the Sharks are ice-cold. Besides, they faced a dangerous Vegas team twice, the Ducks are quietly undefeated, and the Predators could very well be the real deal.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 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.

NHL on NBCSN: Plenty for Sharks to do to turnaround sluggish start

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Three goals scored in three games. Twelve goals allowed. Three losses. Zero wins.

It’s not been an ideal start to the season for the San Jose Sharks. Thought as pre-season contenders, Peter DeBoer’s team has vastly underperformed and has continued to receive poor goaltending. While a PDO of 930, via Natural Stat Trick, would tell you they should find a way to bounce-back over time, there’s plenty that needs fixing.

“We’ve got to work,” said Sharks captain Logan Couture. “It’s not easy to score goals or win hockey games in the NHL unless you work. Every team is talented in this league. Usually the teams that work harder win games. All three so far, the other team has outworked us.”

The upcoming schedule doesn’t get any easier with games against the Predators, Blackhawks, Flames, Hurricanes in the next week before a home-and-home with the Sabres. So where’s it gone wrong early on?

The power play

Unsuccessful in 14 opportunities, the Sharks’ extra man unit has also given up a league-high three shorthanded goals in three games. Slow starts like that are nothing new for them. San Jose was 0-for-10 through the first three games of last season before finishing as a top-six unit.

It’s not that those units haven’t been able to generate chances, however. Through three games they lead the NHL with 29 power play shots. Given the talent that DeBoer is able to choose from, and with Evander Kane eligible to return from suspension Tuesday night, the dam is going to break sooner than later.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

The goaltending (again)

It was an issue last season and one that risks derailing another hunt for the Stanley Cup. In two starts Martin Jones has allowed five goals and has posted a .884 even strength save percentage. The netminder also continued a stunning stat by surrendering a goal on the first shot he saw in the season for the fourth time in five years.

Slow starts to games have also hurt. San Jose’s opponents — Vegas and and Anaheim — have opened the scoring within the first six minutes of their three games. 

Lineup consistency

DeBoer has yet to field a full roster this season. Kane has missed all three games, while Erik Karlsson sat out the first game against the Golden Knights due to the birth of his daughter. Couple that with new faces finding their way in a new lineup and it’s going to take time.

“You have to, I think that’s the bottom line,” DeBoer said last week about erasing the past. “We’re integrating some young players in the lineup and the message is: You can’t drag this stuff around.”

Randy Hahn and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 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.

PHT Morning Skate: Kane on ref criticism; Rinne on future

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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.

Evander Kane stands by his comments about officials last week and did speak with Stephen Walkom, the NHL’s director of officiating: “There’s been some dialogue, some questions and answers, but like I said, that’s what’s in the CBA, that’s what is in the rulebook. No matter what I guess transpires, the player’s accountable for it. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is what it is.” [Mercury News]

Pekka Rinne on retirement, family, the present and his future plans. [Tennessean]

• Now that Alex DeBrincat has been extended is Dylan Strome next on Stan Bowman’s list? [NBC Chicago]

• New NHL rules forcing coaches to think twice before challenging plays. [Calgary Herald]

Leon Draisaitl vs. Auston Matthews: who ya got? [Edmonton Journal]

• This is fun: the rookie cards for every NHL head coach. [Puck Junk]

• Is this a long goodbye for Taylor Hall and the Devils? [Spector’s Hockey]

• This sounds promising: “The Philadelphia Flyers announced today a new, immersive fan experience at the Wells Fargo Center, the Gritty C.O.M.M.A.N.D. Center, set to debut this Wednesday, October 9 for the Flyers home opener. This new space is the first-ever peek into Gritty’s world and offers fans the opportunity to get ‘grittified’ by professional stylists.” [Flyers]

• It’s all about simplicity as the Senators work their way through a rebuild. [The Score]

• ‘Willie,’ the autobiographical documentary about Wille O’Ree, combines worlds for Capitals part owner Sheila Johnson. [NHL.com]

• Meghan Duggan, captain of the Olympic champion U.S. hockey team, is working out through her pregnancy with a plan to return to the national team. [Olympic Talk]

• A look ahead at the week in fantasy hockey. [RotoWorld]

• Michael Leighton has announced his retirement after 18 professional seasons. [The Athletic (sub. required)]

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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.

Five biggest surprises of NHL’s opening week

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We’re already through the first week of the 2019-20 season and there have been plenty of interesting storylines and surprises. There’s never been a greater amount of parity in the NHL and that makes for some fun nights. Even though it’s incredibly early, we’re going to run down some of the biggest surprises so far.

There’s an excellent chance that a lot of these trends won’t hold up, but they’re still significant enough for the hockey world to take notice.

Here we go:

Mika Zibanejad is lighting it up:

How good has Zibanejad been for the Rangers through one week of action? Well, he’s already picked up four goals and four assists in just two games. That puts him on pace for 328 points, which we’re pretty sure he won’t hit. He posted a goal and three assists in the opener against the Winnipeg Jets and he shredded his old team, the Ottawa Senators, with three goals and an assist on Saturday night.

The 26-year-old was fantastic for New York last year too, as he posted a career-high 30 goals and 74 points in 82 contests. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see that the Rangers won that Zibanejad for Derrick Brassard swap that happened in July of 2016.

His start to the season puts him in some pretty good company:

That’s impressive!

Stamkos isn’t impressed with Lightning’s play: 

The Tampa Bay Lightning ran away with the President’s Trophy last season only to get bounced by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Through three games, the Bolts have a 1-1-1 record which isn’t catastrophic by any means. If you look back to last season, they didn’t hit their third loss until the 10-game mark, so they have work to do if they’re going to match that.

After blowing a 3-1 lead against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, Steven Stamkos made sure to send a message to his teammates and the entire organization.

“Today was a [terrible] game for us,” Stamkos said, per NHL.com. “Unless we change things, it’s going to be a really, really long year. We rely so much on our goaltending and our power play and the passing. It’s three games into the season, that’s the good news. There’s lots of times to correct these things. I don’t want to get too down, but it’s frustrating knowing the group we have in here and we keep continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.”

No one expected Stamkos to utter those words this early.

[NHL Fantasy Hockey: Olofsson, Haula highlight this week’s best adds]

• The Stars and Sharks have no victories: 

A pair of teams that made the playoffs last season have failed to come up with a win in their first three games of the year. The Sharks have dropped decisions to the Vegas Golden Knights (twice) and the Anaheim Ducks. To make matters worse, San Jose has only found the back of the net three times in three games. That’s clearly not good enough.

The good news, is that Evander Kane has finished serving his suspension for making contact with an official, so he should give his team a boost in their next game which is Tuesday night in Nashville. Again, there’s no reason to panic yet, but the Sharks need to get their act together soon.

The Stars are in the same boat. Dallas was an overtime goal away from making it to the Western Conference Final last year, but that hasn’t translated into success this year. There’s good news, as all three of their losses have been by a single goal.

Dallas’ top guys have to get going in a hurry if they’re going to get back on track. Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov have no points in three games, while Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski each have a point.

• The Detroit Red Wings are…fun? 

Not many experts picked the Red Wings to make the playoffs this season, but some of their young veterans have sent a clear message to the rest of the league during opening week.

The Wings are off to a 2-0-0 start thanks to two wins over Nashville and Dallas. Tyler Bertuzzi had a four-point night against the Predators and followed that up with an assist against the Stars, while Anthony Mantha had three points against Nashville and four goals against Dallas.

Mantha currently has a share of the lead in goals scored with Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews.

“[Mantha] gets exponentially better when he’s playing with confidence, and that’s what you are seeing now,” head coach Jeff Blashill said after Sunday’s win. “When he’s moving his feet and going like this, you are looking at a guy who is 6-foot-5 with speed and great hands and he’s showing that whole package.”

The 25-year-old had a career-high 25 goals in just 67 games with the Wings last season. Is this the year he hits 30?

The Buffalo Sabres aren’t bleeding goals:

Yes, most teams are two games into their season, but what fun would it be if we didn’t read too much into some of these trends. The Sabres, who entered the season with question marks on defense and in goal, have only allowed three goals in their first two games.

Goalie Carter Hutton has stopped 46 of 49 shots he’s faced against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils and that’s been good enough to earn two wins. Hutton deserves a lot of credit, but his teammates do too.

The Sabres have been really good!

Before we get all excited about the prospect of Buffalo finally being good, we have to remember that they got off to a strong start last year, too. They eventually fell apart and never recovered. Is this the year they get over the hump? Is this the year they shock the NHL? Well, we only have to wait another 80 games before we find out for sure.

What’s coming up this week?
Jack Hughes vs. Connor McDavid, Tues. Oct. 8, 7 p.m. ET

• Sharks vs. Predators, Tues. Oct 8, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

Phil Kessel plays game No. 1,000 on Sat., Oct. 12, 9 p.m. ET vs. Avalanche

WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOCKEY
Devils vs. Flyers, Weds., Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

NHL on NBCSN
Kings vs. Canucks, Weds. Oct. 9, 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

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.