Jamie Benn

Elvis Ovechkin three stars pht buzzer
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The Buzzer: Elvis, Ovechkin, and others who rocked

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Three Stars beyond Elvis and Ovechkin

1. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago blowing out Toronto will lead to some hand-wringing, no doubt. Yet, as much as that was on a tough night for Frederik Andersen, give the Blackhawks some credit. Toews topped all in that game with an outstanding four-point performance (two goals and two assists).

Saturday continued what’s been one heck of a month for Toews. The Blackhawks captained pushed his January total to 15 points (5G, 10A). Toews reached that total in just eight games, scoring at least one point in seven contests.

Scratch that. Toews has been on fire for a while now. He started off ice-cold with only two points in 11 October games. Toews took off after that, and has generated an impressive 41 points in his past 28 contests.

Underrated rookie Dominik Kubalik contributed to Chicago’s win, too, with three points (2G, 1A).

2. Riley Sheahan, Edmonton Oilers

Sheahan scoffs at Toews’ slow start. The journeyman forward failed to score a point in 12 October games, and managed one in 11 November contests. Sheahan went and matched his December points total (four in 14 GP) in one contest on Saturday.

That’s right, he generated four points, scoring an empty-netter plus three assists. Connor McDavid dominated in his own right with two goals, but Sheahan helped the Oilers rout the Coyotes. Josh Archibald generated three points (1G, 2A) as well.

This just in: the Oilers have a lot of “that guy’s still around?” forwards. It’s honestly cool to see some of them have such a strong day, and maybe take a bit of the pressure off McDavid here and there.

3. Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets

It’s as though Atkinson never missed any time. After scoring a goal and an assist in his first game in almost one month on Thursday, Atkinson generated three points (2G, 1A) on Saturday. This gives Atkinson seven points (4G, 3A) in his past four contests.

Others give Atkinson a run for his money, even beyond the next section. Jason Zucker (1G, 2A) and James van Riemsdyk (1G, 2A) both contributed to their respective teams’ blowouts. Atkinson’s extra goal gives him the edge.

OK, now let’s consider Elvis and Ovechkin

Saturday featured enough strong performances that it feels better to give these two a mention. After all, they already received their own posts. Yes, these two probably rank as the “real” third and fourth stars of Saturday, or higher, depending upon your personal taste.

Highlight of the Night

Marc-Andre Fleury is suffering through a tough season, big-picture wise. “The Flower” keeps adding to his resume of breathtaking saves, though:

Comic relief

Jamie Benn provides us with a reason to laugh. At least those of us who aren’t immediately transported to our own memories of hilarious blunders.

That video summarizes the Stars’ night succinctly, as the Wild beat them 7-0.

Factoids

  • Ovechkin nabbed consecutive hat tricks to push his career goals total to 692. He passed Mario Lemieux (11th all-time, 690) and tied Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time (692). Mark Messier sits just two goals away at eighth with 694. Ovechkin also generated consecutive hat tricks for the third time in his career. In doing so, Ovechkin joined Joe Malone (four times) and Wayne Gretzky (three) as the only players to generate consecutive hat tricks three or more times, according to NHL PR. Again, this post delves deeper into Ovechkin’s latest accomplishments.
  • Ovechkin’s teammate John Carlson reached 60 points. Carlson managed the feat in just 49 games, getting to 60 faster than any Capitals defenseman; Mike Green held the previous mark with 60 by game 57. Opinion: Green deserved better treatment from hockey folks during his peak years.
  • Merzlikins authored the 18th instance of a rookie goalie getting a shutout of at least 41 saves, via NHL PR.
  • Cale Makar scored his 11th goal, setting a new record for goals by a rookie Avalanche defenseman.
  • Dominik Kubalik reached 20 goals in his 47th game. NHL PR points out that Kubalik ranks among sixth Blackhawks to reach 20 goals in 50 games or less.

Scores

WSH 6 – NYI 4
COL 5 – STL 3
EDM 7 – ARI 3
OTT 5 – CGY 2
CHI 6 – TOR 2
MTL 5 – VGK 4 (SO)
FLA 4 – DET 1
PHI 4 – LAK 1
CBJ 5 – NJD 0
NSH 2 – BUF 1
MIN 7 – DAL 0
VAN 4 – SJS 1

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 Pavelski signing has impacted Sharks, Stars

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It’s going to be a big night in San Jose on Saturday as former captain Joe Pavelski will make his first return to the Shark Tank as a visiting player.

Pavelski and the Stars are rolling in on a six-game winning streak and have been one of the league’s best teams since a 1-7-1 start had them buried in the Western Conference standings.

The Sharks, meanwhile, have never really been able to get on track this season and are now in desperation mode as they look to salvage what has quickly become a lost and wasted season. They are going to need to do a complete 180 in the second half just to have even a fighting chance of making the playoffs.

With Pavelski set to make his return, let’s take a quick look how his departure from San Jose has impacted both teams so far this season.

The Sharks never replaced Pavelski’s production

Very little has gone right for the Sharks this season. The goaltending has been bad again, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have rapidly aged, a lot of forwards have taken a step back, and now Logan Couture is sidelined for weeks with an ankle injury.

They also had 38 goals from last year’s team walk out the door when Pavelski signed his three-year contract with the Stars. Even if you assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that Pavelski was going to regress from that number, that goal production from a year ago was still a significant part of the Sharks’ success. He was the leading goal-scorer on the second-highest scoring team in the league, and all of that production just suddenly disappeared. Add in the free agency departure of another underrated forward, Joonas Donskoi, and the Sharks lost nearly 20 percent of their goal total from last year’s team. The only meaningful addition they brought in from outside the organization was a reunion with 40-year-old Patrick Marleau four games into the season. That was never going to be enough. And it hasn’t been.

The Sharks were hoping that at least some of that production could be replaced from within with bigger roles for some of their young players, but it just hasn’t happened. At the halfway point of the season Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, Marcus Sorensen, and even All-Star Tomas Hertl are all on pace for less production this season. The result is a team that is currently the sixth-lowest scoring team in the league (2.65 goals per game).

Maybe the Sharks were right to not match (or exceed) Pavelski’s offer from Dallas. Maybe it would have turned out to be another big contract for an aging, declining player on a team that now seems to have a few of them.

But those goals last year still happened and still need replaced. The Sharks not only lost them, they never found a way to replace them.

Pavelski’s impact with the Stars

Pavelski’s addition in Dallas was significant because he filled their biggest need — scoring depth.

The 2018-19 Stars were one of the most top-heavy teams in the league offensively (and the most top-heavy playoff team), relying almost entirely on Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov to carry the offense. They were so top-heavy that no other forward on the team scored more than 30 points over the full season. Finding someone that could provide a real secondary scoring threat was a must.

That is where Pavelski came in.

While no one should have expected a 35-year-old Pavelski to make a run at the 40-goal mark again, he at least provided some depth that did not previously exist. Whether or not he has provided that depends on how you want to look at it. From a raw numbers perspective, his production is probably viewed as a disappointment. He enters Saturday’s game with only eight goals and 18 total points in 44 games.

As down as those numbers are, it is important to keep in mind that is STILL better than what the Stars were getting a year ago from their depth players. Keep in mind, only four Stars forwards scored more than eight goals during the entire 2018-19 season. Pavelski’s numbers also include a brutal 13-game stretch to start the season where he was virtually invisible offensively. He has been been better since.

Once he started chipping in more offense, the wins followed.

Any intangible impact?

Pavelski has always been held in high regard as a leader, and both teams will probably have a reason to argue on behalf of that. San Jose could easily argue his departure has left a hole in their room. The Stars could argue they needed his sort of veteran presence. Sharks beat writer Kevin Kurz touched on this a little bit in his lead-up for Saturday’s game for The Athletic.

There very well could be something to that. But in the end it’s probably a lot more black-and-white than that.

The Stars were a good team last season without Pavelski and are a good team again this season with him. They are winning with a nearly identical recipe — good defense, great goaltending, offense when and where they can get it.

The Sharks were a good team with Pavelski that also had a huge flaw. They never fixed that flaw, then added to it by losing 52 goals from their lineup with almost none coming back in.

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.

 

 

Stars hold off Kings, extend winning streak to five

Anton Khudobin saved his best for the final seconds to help preserve a 2-1 victory for the Dallas Stars.

Jamie Benn and Blake Comeau scored 37 seconds apart early in the second period as Dallas erased a one-goal deficit and extended its winning streak to five games.

Anze Kopitar netted his 16th of the season, but the Kings fell for the third straight game. Jonathan Quick had 30 saves.

Lindell stays hot

The Stars defenseman has been collecting assists left and right during a four-game point streak. Lindell picked up another two helpers Wednesday, extending his total to seven during the stretch and 16 on the season.

John Klingberg has not played since the 2020 Winter Classic and Lindell has stepped up to provide offense from the backend in his absence.

In this day and age, every NHL team needs mobile defensemen that can push the pace. Lindell has provided that and more during the five-game winning streak.

Johns close to returning

Stephen Johns has reported to the AHL for a three-game conditioning stint. The 27-year-old D-man has been sidelined since 2018 with post-traumatic headaches.

“You’re talking about a young man who is 6-foot-4, he can skate, he can shoot a puck, he’s a physical presence,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the team’s website. “He’s what every team is looking for. He’s a good person. He brings a lot to the table. When we signed him, he was coming off a very good year for us and we thought he was going to be a big part of our top four. … Now, we have an opportunity to bring him back.”

If Johns does return to the NHL, the Stars will get an extra boost on the backend before evaluating their strategy for the Trade Deadline.

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.

Stars have extra motivation to grab at least one round of home-ice advantage

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Look, every sports team craves home-field (or in this case, ice) advantage. Even with that in mind, the Stars have plenty of incentive to wrestle away the Central Division’s second seed from the Colorado Avalanche.

The Kings don’t serve as much of a threat on paper, but let’s consider larger trends to see why the Stars should do what they can to take care of business on Wednesday.

Stars fighting through challenges while Avs hit a snag

Looking at the Stars’ and Avs’ recent records alone makes you realize that things could get tight.

Despite all of the turmoil that came from the surprise coaching change of Jim Montgomery being replaced by Rick Browess, the Stars settled down and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. They’ve won four games in a row, with a nice chance to make that five tonight.

You’d think that the Avalanche would climb, not stumble, with several key players returning from injuries. Instead, the Avalanche lost their last game and are a mediocre 4-5-1 in their past 10.

Colorado is still ahead of Dallas for the second seed, but not by much.

Avalanche: 25-14-4 for 54 points in 43 games played
Stars: 24-14-4 for 52 points in 42 GP

Indeed, if the Stars beat the Kings on Wednesday, then it would merely come down to tiebreakers. Kind of hard to believe, right?

[Five players the Kings might trade]

Stars rely on home games

Again, the Stars have serious incentive to try to hop over at least the Avalanche. (The Stars have some chance of leaping the Blues [59 points, 43 GP], but it’s unlikely.)

So far in 2019-20, the Stars boast a 15-6-2 home record, while they’re only 9-8-2 on the road. A stark home/road disparity extends beyond this season, too.

  • The Stars own an 87-45-14 record in 146 home games since 2016-17, the seventh-best mark in the NHL.
  • The Stars rank seventh-worst on the road during that same span (56-70-16 in 142 road games since 2016-17).
  • Overall, they landed very much middle-of-the-pack since 2016-17 began (143-115-30 in 288 GP).
  • This home/road split carries over noticeably from year to year. Things were most extreme in 2016-17; the Stars went 22-13-6 at home and just 12-24-5 on the road.

Those stats provide reasonably compelling evidence that the Stars really are a far more dangerous team in Dallas.

Now, I can’t tell you exactly why the Stars have been that much better at home. Maybe opponents feel sluggish after eating all of that brisket and delicious Tex-Mex food? Perhaps a physical player like Jamie Benn takes it up a notch in front of a partisan crowd? The Stars morphed into a team that sometimes survives on a fairly slim margin of error lately, so maybe the sometimes-subtle home-ice advantages tip the scales?

Either way, with the door open a bit, the Stars should burst through it. Playing key home playoff games could end up making an, erp, Texas-sized difference.

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.

Dallas Stars, Dude Perfect team up for some hockey trick shots (Video)

With the 2020 NHL Winter Classic just days away, the Dallas Stars teamed up with the folks at Dude Perfect to show off some hockey trick shots.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn showed off some of their skills in the video feature above. Be sure to check all of them out.

Seguin, Benn and the rest of the Stars will host the Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Wednesday (1 p.m. ET, NBC).

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.