Jacob Markstrom

Jacob Markstrom points to retired Sedin twins jerseys
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The Buzzer: Pastrnak hat trick; Markstrom does Swede job honoring Sedin twins

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Three Stars

1. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

Consider this a 1a/1b situation with the player listed next. Really, though, it’s matter of taste.

Either way, Markstrom produced one heck of a performance. Markstrom managed a 49-save shutout after watching the Sedin twins’ retirement ceremony.

When you look at the Canucks’ 3-0 record, you might assume that Vancouver fed off the energy of that ceremony. If they did, they had a funny way of showing it. The Blackhawks managed a 49-20 shots on goal advantage, yet couldn’t beat Markstrom one time.

Markstrom stands out as rock for Vancouver, especially lately. In winning two games in a row, Markstrom stopped 85 out of 87 shots faced.

2. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

Again, this is a tough call. Pastrnak generated a hat trick on Wednesday, leading Boston to a helpful win against the hated Habs. “Pasta” now has two hat tricks against Montreal this season, and eight goals against the Canadiens in four games.

By scoring three goals, Pastrnak stands alone as the goals leader this season with 41.

That said, he got some help, particularly when Brad Marchand set the table for Pastrnak with a ludicrous display of skill.

3. Brandon Sutter, Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks faced off against the Blackhawks, and the Bruins prevailed. It really was a fitting jersey retirement night for the Sedins, eh?

Markstrom carried the Canucks on his back, but Sutter was involved in all three Vancouver goals. Sutter collected an empty-net goal and two assists. That included a primary assist on the game-winner. While the Flames squandered a chance to earn breathing room, Vancouver is in a solid position to win the Pacific.

Highlight of the Night

Marchand pounced on a turnover, bamboozled a bunch of Canadiens, then sent a tremendous assist to Pastrnak:

Sedin jerseys retired

This post has more on the speeches, appearances, and ribbing, but check out the Sedin ceremony here:

Factoids

  • Markstrom generated a 43-save shutout against Carolina on Dec. 12. Factoring in that, Markstrom became the first Canucks goalies to generate two 40+ save shutouts during the same season. Naturally, Markstrom drew attention to the Sedin twins when the crowd honored his big night. (NHL PR)
  • The Canucks note that Markstrom’s 49-save shutout is the most in franchise history.
  • Here is a fun side-by-side comparison of Henrik and Daniel Sedin from the league:

  • Pastrnak didn’t just jump into the Maurice Richard Trophy lead on Wednesday. Pastrnak joined Alex Ovechkin (tied for second at 40 goals) as the only two players with four hat tricks this season. The winger would need three more to match Phil Esposito’s seven from 1970-71 as the most in Bruins’ history, though. (NHL PR)
  • Hey, Pastrnak joined Ovechkin in another specific-yet-impressive category. Pastrnak and Ovechkin rank as the only active players to reach nine hat tricks (playoffs + regular season) before turning 24. “Pasta” has time to earn more, as he doesn’t turn 24 until May 25. Wayne Gretzky holds the overall record with a patently absurd 36. (NHL PR)

Scores

BOS 4 – MTL 1
LAK 5 – CGY 3
VAN 3 – CHI 0

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: Stone ties career high; Vasilevskiy keeps point streak alive

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Three Stars

1) Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

He opened the game with two goals and then added three assists in the Golden Knights’ 7-2 win. Stone tied a career high with five points, a feat he previously recorded twice with the Ottawa Senators. Stone lit the lamp early in the first period when he banged home a loose puck in front, but his prettiest goal of the game came early in the second period. No. 61 danced around Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson and then lifted a shot over the glove of Sergei Bobrovsky. His three assists were also impressive as the Golden Knights ended a season-long eight-game road trip.

2) Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings

It can’t get much worse in Detroit this season. However, Larkin has given Red Wings fans a reason to believe they have a foundational building block for the future. No. 71 scored twice including a neat breakaway deke with less than one second remaining in the opening period as Detroit snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres. Larkin also added a shootout tally after Detroit surrendered the game-tying goal in the final minute.

3) Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Russian netminder improved to 15-0-2 in his last 17 starts and set a Lightning record for longest point streak by a goalie in the 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Vasilevskiy made 29 saves as he broke Nikolai Khabibulin’s record that stood since April of 2003. He also picked up his fourth assist of the season when Nikita Kucherov tallied an empty-net goal in the final minute. After a slow start to the season, the Bolts have regained their form as an elite team in the Eastern Conference.

Other notable performances

  • Marc-André Fleury claimed sole possession of fifth place on the NHL all-time wins list with his 460th victory, passing Henrik Lundqvist.
  • Kieffer Bellows scored twice in his second career NHL game in the New York Islanders’ 5-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings.
  • Cale Makar has made the transition to the NHL look too easy as he picked up his 39th and 40th point of the season.
  • Mackenzie Blackwood made 46 saves in his second career shutout as the New Jersey Devils rolled past the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-0.
  • Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho each had two goals and an assist as the Hurricanes topped the Coyotes, 5-3.
  • Steven Stamkos recorded his 25th of the season and has scored seven goals in the previous six games.
  • Jeff Petry sniped the overtime winner as the Montreal Canadiens collected their fourth win in the past five games.

Highlights of the Night

Connor McDavid can fly on the ice but his speed when he has possession of the puck makes him the most dangerous player in the NHL.

Vincent Trocheck showed great vision when he fired a pass from the top of the crease on one knee to set up Mike Hoffman late in the first period.

Kieffer Bellows scored his first NHL goal after Anthony Beauvillier delivered a pretty touch pass to set up the rookie forward. In two career NHL games, Bellows has a two-game point streak.

Damon Severson went coast to coast and wired a wrist shot off the post and in to give the Devils a two-goal advantage early in the second period

Ryan Dzingel sets up in Wayne Gretzky’s office and finds Jaccob Slavin darting toward the high slot.

Nikita Kucherov is known for his offense, but made a strong play in the defensive zone which led to a Stamkos goal. The Russian hustled back to intercept a cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby, then corralled the loose puck to set up the Lightning’s offensive attack.

Bloopers of the Night

Jacob Markstrom has to make a smarter play with the puck in this situation.

Panthers defenseman Riley Stillman over skated the puck, then struggled to find it and the Golden Knights capitalized.

Stat of the Night

Injury News

  • Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh did not return after blocking a shot in the second period against the Penguins.
  • Penguins defenseman John Marino took a puck to the face but early reports are that it was not as bad as it looked.

Scores

New York Islanders 5, Los Angeles Kings 3

Detroit Red Wings 4, Buffalo Sabres 3 (SO)

Montreal Canadiens 3, Anaheim Ducks 2 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

Vegas Golden Knights 7, Florida Panthers 2

New Jersey Devils 5, Philadelphia Flyers 0

Colorado Avalanche 4, Ottawa Senators 1

Winnipeg Jets 4, St. Louis Blues 2

Minnesota Wild 4, Vancouver Canucks 2

Nashville Predators 3, Calgary Flames 2

Carolina Hurricanes 5, Arizona Coyotes 3

San Jose Sharks 6, Edmonton Oilers 3


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.

Goalies react to rise of the lacrosse shot in the NHL

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ST. LOUIS — Connor Hellebuyck was ready. It had been 49 days since Andrei Svechnikov successfully pulled off the lacrosse shot against Flames goaltender David Rittich. So when the Hurricanes forward took the puck behind the Winnipeg net, the Jets goaltender was prepared.

But Svechnikov was too quick and stuffed it into the top corner just past Hellebuyck’s blocker. The goaltender couldn’t believe it.

“To be honest, I was aware when I got scored on and I thought I played it perfectly and it still bounced in,” Hellebuyck told NBC Sports during NHL All-Star Weekend. “Not very happy about that being a goalie. I’ve got in my mind how I’d like to play that next time and I hope it doesn’t happen again to me.”

The lacrosse shot, invented by Bill Armstrong and made world famous by Mike Legg, has been in hockey for a long time. Players all around the world and at various levels of the game have successfully pulled it off. Yet NHL players hadn’t been brave enough to try on a regular basis until Svechnikov’s goal. Now, he’s done it twice, Filip Forsberg scored with it two weeks ago, and it’s becoming a thing. 

Only three goals have been scored with the move, but the number of attempts have increased. If you’re an NHL goalie, you’ve now got to be ready for it.

“Honestly, I think every single goalie has to be aware right now because everyone’s trying,” said Rittich. “For example, Matt [Tkachuk] just tried a couple nights [ago] when we played in Toronto. I think everyone should be aware. This league is pretty good. Every single guy has got skill. Every single guy can do it. You kind of have to be aware.”

“Guys’ skills nowadays is crazy,” said Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom. “For sure, you’re aware of it … there’s been a couple of times there’s a player maybe you see out of the corner of your eye [and you] try to pick it up. I’ve been fortunate enough, but knock on wood it doesn’t happen to me.”

Now that it’s become a bit of a trend in the NHL, it’s not only goalies who need to be aware. Defensemen have to be ready as well since they have a better line of sight to behind the net than their goaltender.

“It is a tough position when you’re on your knees or looking the other way when you’re squared up to it,” said Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.

Safety issue?

As the lacrosse move gains fans among NHL skaters, the league has reminded officials such attempts could be considered high-sticking. As long as the stick is below the shoulders and crossbar then such goals will stand.

There’s also the potential issue of a swinging stick moving toward a goaltender down on their knees protecting the net. The NHL rulebook says that “accidental contact” on a high-stick is allowed “if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion.” But there’s a difference of opinion from the goalie union on the move if it’s a potential safety issue.

“No, not really. It’s such a fast and physical game,” said Markstrom. “I’m not worried about that at all, to be honest. It still counts as one goal. It doesn’t count as two. As long as it stays that way I think it’s going to be more normal goals.”

Said Hellebuyck: “I don’t want to call it a safety issue but if a stick definitely comes across our face, it should be high-sticking, it should be no goal. I believe the one on Rittich was through his facemask, so for me I would call that a high-stick and no goal, but we’re not used to that rule yet so the game’s going to have to change a little bit.”

The NHL is always looking at ways to increase scoring and here’s a popular move players are trying. But if the lacrosse move becomes a regular shot option for skaters will we see goalies raise safety concerns about it?

“You’ve got to look at it at some point because you can’t ignore it,” said Andersen. “But so far, so good. No one’s gotten hurt by it. If goalies start getting hurt you’ve got to take a look at it, like with anything else.”

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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.

How the Canucks climbed to top of Pacific Division

For the first time in five years Vancouver Canucks fans have reason to be excited about their team. They are the hottest team in the NHL right now, and with their 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night are 12-3-0 over their past 15 games. That run has helped them climb to the top of the Pacific Division and put them in a position where they have a very good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

While it is true that the Pacific Division is very watered down this season — especially with the struggles of Vegas and San Jose — the Canucks still have something building here. They are exciting, they can score, and as of Monday have the third-best goal differential in the Western Conference.

Let’s take a look at what is driving their success so far this season.

Quinn Hughes has been better than advertised

Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are the young cornerstones at forward, but Hughes is the player that’s really helped get this rebuild running in the right direction.

He may not win the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year, but he is almost certainly going to be Vancouver’s third straight finalist (following Boeser and Pettersson) as he competes with fellow rookie defenseman Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) for that crown. He’s already a 20-minute per night defenseman and fills one of the single biggest needs the Canucks have had the past couple of years — a young, impactful, top-pairing defenseman to lead their blue line. He’s the type of player that as soon as you watch him you know he’s going to be a star with the way he skates, moves the puck, and contributes to the offense.

But what’s really made him such a valuable piece is that he is able to do all of that while still being the team’s best defensive defenseman as a 20-year-old rookie. When he is on the ice during 5-on-5 play this season the Canucks are allowing the following:

  • 52.3 shot attempts per 60 minutes
  • 28.2 shots on goal per 60 minutes
  • 2.24 expected goals against per 60 minutes
  • 27.4 scoring chances per 60 minutes
  • 2.24 goals against per 60 minutes

Those numbers not only place him first among all Canucks defenders in every category, he is first by a significant margin in all of them.

(Data via Natural Stat Trick)

J.T. Miller has been the perfect support player

It’s been no secret the past two years that Boeser and Pettersson were the two players driving the bus for the Canucks offensively, and they still are.

It’s also no secret that two players alone can not carry a team on their own. And while the Canucks still have some depth concerns, Miller has been everything the Canucks could have hoped for him to be and more.

They raised some eyebrows when they traded a future first-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for him, but it’s hard to argue with the results right now.

He is in the middle of a career year and currently on pace for more than 30 goals and 70 points, while also being one of the best possession-driving forwards in the entire league.

They paid a steep price, and the trade definitely carried some risk, but he is signed long-term, at a fair price, and has been a perfect fit within the core, while also being young enough to be a part of that core in future seasons. I was not a huge fan of the move at the time, but at some point you have to start adding talent to make your rebuild actually get somewhere. The Canucks have done that here.

Jacob Markstrom has been a rock in net

Markstrom hasn’t been one of the league’s elites in net, but he has been a rock solid starter since taking over that position in Vancouver. He may not steal a ton of games, but he’s not losing many games for them, either. He’s been a steady, and durable goalie that has consistently given them better-than-league average play the past few years. He has been even better this season.

While Hughes has been an immediate sensation on the blue line, this team still has its flaws defensively and gives up its share of shots and chances. They’re not yet a championship-level defensive team, and that makes quality goaltending even more vital for their chances. Markstrom is giving them that, and in the process is playing his way toward what could be a pretty significant raise this offseason.

MORE:
NHL Power Rankings: Looking at top Stanley Cup Contenders
The 6 coaches and general managers that can impact NHL playoff race
The 10 players that can impact NHL playoff race

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.

Max Pacioretty, Tomas Hertl added to 2020 NHL All-Star Game

NHL All-Star Game
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The NHL announced a couple of changes for the Pacific Division roster for the 2020 All-Star Game on Friday afternoon.

San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl and Vegas Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty have both been added to the game as replacements.

Hertl is replacing San Jose teammate Logan Couture, who will be sidelined several weeks due to an ankle injury.

Pacioretty is going in place of Anahein Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.

The league announced on Monday that Silfverberg has been excused from the game due to the imminent birth of his child. This leaves the Ducks with no current representative in the game. Silfverberg will also not have to miss any regular season games because his absence from the All-Star weekend is excused.

Pacioretty was Vegas’ representative in the Last Men In vote, and will now be their only representative in the game. Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was named to the initial roster, but has since withdrawn from the game. He was replaced by Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom.

Pacioretty’s bounce back year

This will be Pacioretty’s first ever appearance in an All-Star game, which is kind of surprising given how productive he has been throughout his career. During his peak he was one of the league’s best goal-scorers before going through a bit of a decline the previous two seasons.

This year, though, all of that production is back.

He is in the middle of one of the best offensive seasons of his career and has been one of the best forwards in the NHL. As of Friday he already has 20 goals and 45 total points in the Golden Knights’ first 47 games, while also posting dominant possession numbers. Those numbers have him on a 35-goal, 78-point pace for the season.

Hertl one of Sharks’ few bright spots this season

Hertl will also be appearing in his first ever All-Star Game.

After a slow start that saw him go pointless in his first five games, Hertl has since bounced back and produced at the level the Sharks expected. As of Friday he has 15 goals and 34 total points in 42 games and is one of the few players on the Sharks’ roster that has not been a disappointment this season.

Hertl was also a candidate for the Last Men In vote before being added to the roster.

The NHL All-Star weekend will take place on January 24-25 in St. Louis.

More All-Star Roster Changes

Alex Ovechkin will not play in All-Star Game 
Kris Letang, Tristan Jarry added to All-Star Rosters
Fleury withdraws, Markstrom added

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.