Mathew Barzal

Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders
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Varlamov steady in Islanders’ bounce-back win

After an 8-3 defeat against the Nashville Predators earlier this week, questions about the New York Islanders being an elite team in the Eastern Conference began to arise.

With a 3-2 shootout win on the road against the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins, the Islanders answered the naysayers.

Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves and stopped two of three shooters in the shootout in his 12th win of the season. Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle both scored in the skills competition as the Islanders snapped a seven-game winless streak against the Bruins.

Varlamov showing his worth

The Russian netminder made his best save of the night late in the second period when he robbed Anders Bjork with his glove. Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy circled the net before sending a cross-ice pass to Bjork but Varlamov stretched out and snagged the puck to keep the game tied at the time.

When Lou Lamoriello signed Varlamov this summer to replace Robin Lehner, the move was far from universally praised. But the Islanders front office has proven their ability to identify talent in between the pipes.

If Varlamov continues to trend in the right direction, would Lamoriello consider moving Thomas Greiss at the trade deadline in order to collect a few additional assets? Goaltending has been a strength for the Islanders since Barry Trotz and his lieutenants have arrived, but is subtracting Greiss from the roster a smart gamble?

Pastrnak’s filthy move

When your team loses in a shootout, incredible dekes are often forgotten.

But, David Pastrnak‘s slick move in the second round is worth remembering. The NHL-leading goal scorer slid from his backhand to his forehand before Varlamov could even react.

The goal won’t count toward his total, and the Bruins will leave with only one point, but the shootout gave Pastrnak another forum to display his impressive skills, and the forward took full advantage.

Does Rask have a flaw in the shootout?

Both Eberle and Barzal converted their shootout attempts with wrist shots instead of attempting a deke.

Eberle skated in on the left side of the ice and fired a wrist shot past Tuukka Rask’s blocker, while Barzal flew down the middle of the ice before slowing and eventually wiring a wrist shot over the glove.

Do the Islanders know something about Rask that the NHL has not figured out?

It certainly could have been a coincidence, but will be interesting to see if other players opt for the same strategy against Rask in his next shootout appearance.

The Buzzer: Red Wings snap skid; hats off to Panarin

Artemi Panarin Hat Trick Rangers
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Three Stars

1. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks probably had no business winning this game. They were badly outshot, outplayed, and needed to rely on their goalie to keep them in it. Fortunately for the Canucks, Markstrom was up to the challenge and played one of the best games of his career as he stopped all 43 shots he faced in a 1-0 overtime win. He held on just long enough for Elias Pettersson to score the game-winning goal thanks to a fluky assist from an unlikely source. Read all about it here.

2. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers. The Rangers spoiled Bob Boughner’s San Jose coaching debut with a 6-3 win that was highlighted by another huge game for Panarin. He scored three goals and added an assist in the win to continue his incredible 2019-20 performance. His first year with the Rangers has been everything the team could have hoped for as he is now up to 18 goals and 41 total points in 31 games. The Sharks, meanwhile, are now 0-5-1 in their previous six games.

3. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres. His point streak is now up to 15 consecutive games thanks to a two-goal effort in a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators. It is the second game in a row that Eichel has scored a pair of goals as he continues to climb the NHL’s scoring leaderboard. He is unstoppable right now and trying to carry the Sabres to a playoff spot all by himself.

Other notable performances from Thursday

  • The Detroit Red Wings’ losing streak has finally come to an end. They were winners for the first time since Nov. 12 thanks to a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets to snap what had been a 12-game losing streak. Robby Fabbri continued his strong play since joining the team with a pair of goals while Filip Zadina recorded three points.
  • The Calgary Flames improved to a perfect 7-0-0 under new coach Geoff Ward thanks to a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Johnny Gaudreau scored a pair of goals as part of a three-goal third period for the Flames to get the win.
  • Tristan Jarry recorded his third shutout in his past four starts for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they were 1-0 winners over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus coach John Tortorella had no words for his team’s lackluster performance. Read about it here.
  • Clayton Keller scored a pair of goals for the Coyotes in their 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks to put them back in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.
  • Eric Staal was in the lineup after a scary injury on Tuesday and scored a goal in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
  • Oskar Sundqvist had a goal and an assist for the St. Louis Blues in a 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
  • Another strong start for Jonathan Quick as he stopped 36 out of 37 shots for the Los Angeles Kings.
  • Steven Stamkos scored twice for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a huge 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins.
  • Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee each had a pair of points in the New York Islanders’ 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

Highlights of the Night

It came in a losing effort, but Nashville’s Matt Duchene scored an absolute beauty of a goal in Buffalo.

Check out this quick tic-tac-toe passing by the Islanders to set up Mathew Barzal for a power play goal against the Panthers.

 

Eichel’s goal to extend his point streak was an absolutely perfect shot.

Blooper of the Night

The puck ended up getting lost in Markstrom’s equipment and he needed a lot of assistance in finding it.

Factoids

  • Panarin’s hat trick on Thursday was the third of his career, all of them coming with different teams. [NHL PR]
  • Joe Thornton played in career game No. 1,600 on Thursday, making him and Patrick Marleau the first set of teammates to have 1,600 games played in their careers. [NHL PR]
  • The Islanders’ points percentage of .733 is the second highest in franchise history through the first 31 games of a season. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 4, Nashville Predators 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Boston Bruins 2
New York Islanders 3, Florida Panthers 1
Pittsburgh Penguins 1, Columbus Blue Jackets 0 (OT)
Detroit Red Wings 5, Winnipeg Jets 2
St. Louis Blues 4, Vegas Golden Knights 2
Minnesota Wild 6, Edmonton Oilers 5
Calgary Flames 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2
Arizona Coyotes 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2
Los Angeles Kings 2, Anaheim Ducks 1
Vancouver Canucks 1, Carolina Hurricanes 0 (OT)
New York Rangers 6, San Jose Sharks 3

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.

The Buzzer: Eichel scores 4; Milestones for Stamkos, Coach Q

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Three Stars

1. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres. Entering play on Saturday the Sabres had lost seven of eight, were riding a six-game losing streak, and needed something to go their way to get things back on track. Their captain came to the rescue in a big way. Eichel scored four goals and provided all of the offense for the Sabres in a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. It was the 10th four-goal game in Sabres franchise history and the first since Thomas Vanek did it during the 2009-10 season. It is already the the fourth four-goal game in the NHL this season, joining David Pastrnak, Anthony Mantha, and James Neal.

2. Derek Grant, Anaheim Ducks. Sometimes you need an unlikely hero to step up and the Ducks got that on Saturday when Grant scored three goals for his first career hat trick in a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. The win snapped what had been a nine-game point streak for the Blues, as well as a five-game losing streak for the Ducks. Entering Saturday Grant had scored just two goals on the season and only 18 in 228 career games.

3. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. The absence of linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog has not slowed down MacKinnon one bit. He took over on Saturday night with two goals — including the overtime winner — and an assist in a 5-4 win for the Avalanche. His overtime goal was a highlight reel tally that helped the Avalanche secure the two points after allowing a two-goal lead to disappear in the final three minutes of regulation. He is now up to 29 points in his first 20 games this season and has three three-point games over the past five. Rookie defenseman Cale Makar also deserves some attention for his four-point game.

Two big milestones

Stamkos scores 400th goal. It came in a losing effort, but Steven Stamkos scored the 400th goal of his career on Saturday. It is a great accomplishment for one of the best goal-scorers of this era, and it also produces a pretty big “what if” question — how many goals would he have today had he not missed so many games in his peak seasons to significant injuries and a lockout? The only active player to hit the 400 goal mark in fewer games than Stamkos is Alex Ovechkin.

Quenneville wins 900th regular season game. Thanks to the Florida Panthers’ 4-3 win over the New York Rangers, Joel Quenneville became only the second coach in NHL history to record 900 regular season wins. Scotty Bowman is the only other coach to hit that number.

Other notable performances from Saturday

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins extended the Toronto Maple Leafs’ losing streak to five games in a dominant win. Evgeni Malkin and Dominik Kahun were the offensive stars for the Penguins as they dominated a Maple Leafs team that continues to look completely lost. Read all about this game here.
  • The Dallas Stars received big contributions from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn as they overcame a two-goal third period deficit to beat the Edmonton Oilers in overtime. Read about how Seguin and Benn were difference-makers here.
  • Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper stopped all 38 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season. He also nearly sparked a goalie fight by slamming Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk to the ice. Read all about that game right here.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks no doubt remembered Pekka Rinne talking about what an “easy” game he had the first time he faced them this season. His night on Saturday was even easier because he only made it through half the game before being benched in a 7-2 rout. Alex Nylander scored two goals for the Blackhawks in the win.
  • Evgenii Dadonov scored two goals for the Panthers in their 4-3 win over the Rangers.
  • Andrei Svechnikov continued his strong sophomore season with an overtime winner for the Carolina Hurricanes. He is now up to nine goals this season.
  • Big win for the Winnipeg Jets against the Tampa Bay Lightning to improve to 8-3-1 in their past 12 games and remain surprisingly competitive in the NHL’s Central Division.
  • Here come the Sharks. Their 4-3 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings improved their winning streak to six games.

Highlights of the Night

The New York Islanders’ point streak hit 14 games on Saturday (13-0-1) thanks to an incredible rally that saw them overcome a 3-0 deficit against the Philadelphia Flyers. Mathew Barzal scored the shootout winner and it was an absolute beauty of a goal.

The best shootout goal of the night, though, belonged to Washington Capitals forward Jakub Vrana for this Datsyuk-ian dangle to beat Jaroslav Halak in the fifth round of the shootout against the Boston Bruins. The Capitals won to improve to 14-3-4 on the season. That is the best record in the NHL.

We told you MacKinnon’s overtime winner was incredible, and here it is.

Blooper of the Night

It probably has to be that bizarre disallowed goal in Montreal where Phillip Danault, capping off a chaotic scramble around the goal line. Read all about it here.

Factoids

  • Jonathan Huberdeau now has more assists than any player in Panthers history. [NHL PR]
  • Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the third set of teammates in the past 30 years to have at least 40 points through their team’s first 22 games of the season. [NHL PR]
  • Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter skated in his 1,000th career game on Saturday, making him the 11th player from the 2003 draft class to reach that milestone. The only other draft class with that many was the 1979 draft class. The Kings were 4-3 winners over the Vegas Golden Knights on Carter’s big day. [NHL PR]

Scores

Carolina Hurricanes 4, Minnesota Wild 3 (OT)
Los Angeles Kings 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3
Dallas Star 5, Edmonton Oilers 4 (OT)
Arizona Coyotes 3, Calgary Flames 0
Winnipeg Jets 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 3
Washington Capitals 3, Boston Bruins 2 (SO)
Buffalo Sabres 4, Ottawa Senators 2
New Jersey Devils 4, Montreal Canadiens 3 (OT)
Florida Panthers 4, New York Rangers 3
New York Islanders, Philadelphia 3 (SO)
Pittsburgh Penguins 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 1
Anaheim Ducks 4, St. Louis Blues 1
Chicago Blackhawks 7, Nashville Predators 2
Colorado Avalanche 5, Vancouver Canucks 4 (OT)
San Jose Sharks 4, Detroit Red Wings 3 (SO)

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.

Our Line Starts podcast: Lucic suspension; Blues soldier on without Tarasenko

Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Patrick Sharp react to Milan Lucic defending the sucker punch that got him suspended. The Blues keep winning without Vladimir Tarasenko; are they built to contend for another Cup? Plus, an interview with Mathew Barzal of the Islanders, who talks about the influence of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz, the challenge of having two home arenas, and his detailed recollection of Josh Bailey‘s OT goal against the Penguins last year. The guys also take a surprise call from a mysterious Dominik Hasek impersonator.

0:00-2:00 Intros
2:00-7:40 Milan Lucic defends his sucker punch
7:40-13:20 Blues winning without Tarasenko
13:20-16:45 The guys reveal their favorite goals of all-time
17:00-25:35 Michael Farber interviews Mathew Barzal
25:35-31:55 Reaction to the Isles’ 10-game winning streak
31:55-end Mystery phone call from “The Dominator”

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Stunning numbers: Islanders’ 10-game winning streak edition

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During the 2019-20 NHL season we will take an occasional look at some stunning numbers from around the league. Today we take a look at some stunning numbers on the New York Islanders’ 10-game winning streak.

No one can stay ahead of them. Here is a weird one. During the current streak the Islanders have spent just 95 minutes trailing on the scoreboard, by far the lowest total in the NHL over that stretch (the next closest team is Boston, having spent 120 minutes playing from behind since Oct. 12). That is kind of what you might expect from a team that has won 10 games in a row, always playing with the lead. So what’s wild about that? They have given up the first goal in six of the 10 games, including their most recent win on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators. They have fallen behind early more often than not and then immediately erased the deficit before locking down the rest of the game.

Everybody is contributing to the offense. They have scored 34 goals during the 10 games, one of their best offensive stretches over the past two years, and it is a total team-wide contribution. They have received at least one goal from 15 different players, at least two goals from seven different players, and at least four goals from four different players (Mathew Barzal, Derick Brassard, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee).

Nine different players have been credited with a game-winning goal.

They are not getting the benefit of any power play time. Almost all of that offense has been generated during 5-on-5 play with only three of those 34 goals coming on the power play. And it’s not necessarily because the power play has struggled. It’s because they are not getting any power plays. At all. They have been on the power play just 15 times over the past 10 games (for a total of 24 minutes) which is by far the lowest total in the league during that stretch.

The fewest power play opportunities per game since Oct. 12:

  • Florida Panthers: 2.6 per game
  • Tampa Bay Lightning: 2.6 per game
  • Anaheim Ducks: 2.6 per game
  • Edmonton Oilers: 2.5 per game
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: 2.3 per game
  • New York Islanders: 1.5 per game

The penalty kill has been nearly perfect. While they are not getting the benefit of many power plays, they have only been shorthanded 30 times, allowing just one goal and actually scoring a shorthanded goal. Their penalty kill goal differential is, quite literally, 0 over the past 10 games.

The goalies have been identical. How identical? Check out the numbers during the streak.

  • Thomas Greiss: Five games played, 154 shots against, 145 saves, .942 save percentage, 5-0-0 record
  • Semyon Varlamov: Five games played, 151 shots against, 143 saves, .947 save percentage, 5-0-0 record

You are going to win a lot of games when you get that from two different goalies.

About the shot attempts against. Islanders fans are probably sick of hearing this, but one of the biggest reasons people are always waiting for the bottom to fall out on this team is the simple fact they give up a lot of shot attempts and don’t generate a lot of their own. This is usually bad and there is plenty of evidence to back that up. Last year only two of the bottom-11 teams in the league in shot attempt differential made the playoffs. The year before only three of the bottom 12 teams made it. The year before that only two of the bottom-10 made it. Those teams generally don’t do well, and the ones that do always seem to think they are the ones that stumbled upon the key to “keeping pucks to the outside.” Then almost all of them regress the following year and end up missing the playoffs. The more time you spend defending, the more chances you give up, the more goals you give up. It’s not hard to figure that out.

The Islanders are doing it again, and especially during this streak.

Over the past 10 games they have been one of the league’s worst teams at allowing shot attempts, which seems bad. The thing is, they have been one of the rare teams that might actually be doing a good job of limiting chances. While they give up a lot of attempts, they don’t allow many to actually get to the net. They have also been one of the best teams at limiting high-danger chances over the past 10 games (only 9.38 per game, eighth lowest in the league).

(All data via Natural Stat Trick)

Winning streaks like this usually mean playoffs. And by usually, I mean every time with only two exceptions. The 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers and 2018-19 Buffalo Sabres are the only teams in NHL history to have a winning streak of at least 10 games during a season and actually miss the playoffs. So you have to like that if you are an Islanders fan.

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.