Ryan O’Reilly

Getty Images

The Buzzer: Rangers can’t keep up with Bruins’ top line

2 Comments

Three Stars

1. Top line of the Boston Bruins

Let’s not kid ourselves; it would be pretty silly to try to split hairs regarding which of Brad Marchand (two goals, three assists), David Pastrnak (five assists), and Patrice Bergeron (hat trick) had the best night for arguably the best line in the NHL. We might as well give them the collective award, especially since other players deserve some limelight on a pretty busy Sunday night.

Marchand might have the sexiest night, as he scored five points, with two from goals and three from assists. All of Pastrnak’s five points were assists, and now that Pasta is at 23 points, Pastrnak leads the entire NHL (sorry, John Carlson). Bergeron combined his hat trick with his usual versatile work, including going 15-5 on faceoffs.

Zdeno Chara doesn’t belong in that top three conversation, but his night is worth noting: one goal, one assist, +6, six SOG, and two blocked shots.

2. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues

You could say this is a duo award in a way that the Bruins top line is a three-way tie of sorts, as David Perron (game-winning goal, three assists) also had a four-point night along with ROR, who scored two goals and two assists. The Blues needed those points, too, as St. Louis was merely caught sleeping. The Blues carried a 3-1 lead into the third period against a struggling Red Wings team, but that Detroit squad has Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Anthony Mantha. That trio powered a surge where the Red Wings briefly took a 4-3 lead, only for ROR to tie things up on the power play (primary assist: Perron) and then for Perron to win in OT.

The defending champions had to wipe some sweat off their brow in Motown/Hockeytown/a place with a lot of nicknames.

3. Nick Paul, Ottawa Senators

For some scrolling Twitter or scoreboards, they might see Nick Paul and his two-goal, one-assist night, and ask “Who?” The Sharks might have been asking who is that, or what was that, on this goal:

(Erik Karlsson‘s face says it all.)

Paul is 24, and was a fourth-round selection (101st overall in 2013) by the Dallas Stars. This three-point night gives Paul 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 62 NHL games, sprinkled over multiple seasons with the Senators since 2015-16.

As bumpy as this season is expected to be for Ottawa — you can bet the Sharks are stunned losing on Sunday — it might inspire the Sens to take longer looks at players like Paul. He’s shown some promise in the AHL lately, scoring four points in three games for the Belleville Senators this season, and 39 points in 43 games in 2018-19.

There were some other worthwhile performances on Sunday, including Dylan Strome (2G, 1A also), but Paul got the GWG, and also the novelty factor.

Highlights of the Night

Honestly, that Senators win over the Sharks had quite a few great goals. There was that booming shot by Paul, a great video game-like bit of speed and skill from Anthony Duclair, and an impressive breakout pass from Brent Burns leading to a nifty Kevin Labanc goal. So why not enjoy the highlights from that Ottawa upset, in general?

Factoids and tidbits

  • Uh oh: Rangers star Mika Zibanejad left Sunday’s game and didn’t return because of an upper-body injury.
  • Also Rangers-related: with two assists, Tony DeAngelo became the first Blueshirts blueliner to generate multiple points in three consecutive games since Brian Leetch did it in 1996-97, according to NHL PR.
  • The Islanders’ seven-game winning streak is their longest since 1989-90. Read more about that streak here.
  • Also via NHL PR: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (both tied with Carlson for second in the NHL with 21 points) are the third set of Oilers teammates to generate 20+ points through the first 12 games of a season; Wayne Gretzky did so twice with Mark Messier, and once with Jarri Kurri. Gretzky’s lowest total during that time was 28 points, while he hit 33 during the other two occasions. Alright player, that Gretzky.
  • Seven of James Neal‘s 10 goals have come on the power play so far, tying him with Messier (1987-88) and Bill Guerin (1998-99) for the most PPG for Oilers players through the first 12 games of a season, according to Statscentre.

Scores

FLA 6 – EDM 2
STL 5 – DET 4 (OT)
OTT 5 – SJS 2
NYI 5 – PHI 3
BOS 7 -NYR 4
CHI 5 – LAK 1
VGK 5 – ANA 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.

Three observations on the Blues’ inconsistent start

4 Comments

One of the fascinating things about the St. Louis Blues’ worst-to-first turnaround during the 2018-19 season was always going to be the lessons other teams in the league tried to take away from it. For example, how many teams off to sluggish starts this season would wrongly assume they could repeat what the Blues did while ignoring that the Blues were always built to win last season, and even during their dreadful start were always just one key player (a goalie) away from turning it around.

The Blues’ inability to get saves early in the season was the single biggest downfall for the team and was submarining an otherwise strong contender with a great defense. Once Jordan Binnington got his mid-season call-up and steadied the position everything came together and resulted in their first ever championship.

The biggest question after that was always going to be whether or not Binnington’s second half and postseason performance were something he could duplicate over a full season. As the Blues prepare to play their 10th game of the season on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings the early results have been a little mixed, and the team is once again off to an inconsistent start having won just four of their first nine games.

So what’s going on with the defending champs?

The goaltending hasn’t been there yet

Defensively the Blues are right about where you would expect them to be, sitting among the league’s best teams in preventing shots attempts and shots on goal. Despite that, they still find themselves in the bottom half of the league in goals against and just like early last season the goaltending has been the biggest issue.

So far the duo of Binnington and Jake Allen has an overall save percentage of just .893, a mark that places them 23rd in the NHL. And while that is better than what they were getting early last season it is still not good enough. Most of that is due to Allen’s two appearances (eight goals allowed on just 53 shots), but Binnington hasn’t really been all that consistent yet, either.

For as great as he played late in the regular season, there was nothing in his professional track record to suggest he was ever going to maintain that level of performance every year. To be fair, the Blues don’t really need that sort of performance to win. They are so good defensively and do such a great job preventing shots that even above average goaltending would make them an incredibly difficult team to score against. When Binnington has given them that level of play this year, the Blues have won. When he hasn’t — as has been in the case in three of his past four starts — the Blues have lost.

They’ve surrendered a lot of leads

A somewhat surprising development given their strong defensive structure, but it’s come down to big keys — the goaltending issue mentioned above with a little bit of bad luck added in.

  • In their season-opener on banner raising night they let an early 2-0 lead slip away against the Washington Capitals and turned it into a 3-2 loss.
  • One week later they had a 3-2 lead against Montreal with 28 minutes to play and surrendered four consecutive goals on their way to a 6-3 loss.
  • In their very next game after that they had a 2-0 lead in New York against the Islanders with five minutes to play and allowed three consecutive goals to lose in overtime.
  • In the game after that they had a 3-1 lead against Vancouver with 27 minutes to play, allowed two consecutive goals, and then lost a marathon six-round shootout where only one goal was scored.

There is an element of bad luck to losing three consecutive overtime/shootout games within the first nine games of a season, especially when one of those games comes down to an extended shootout. You’re basically flipping a coin at that point and hoping it comes up heads, while the game-tying goal against the Islanders came on a rather fluky redirection in front (the first and third goals in that game, though, were not good ones for Binnington).

It is way too early to be overly concerned

The big picture outlook is simple: the Blues have received some of the worst goaltending in the league so far, while the quartet of Ryan O'Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, Colton Parayko, and Justin Faulk have combined to score two total goals — a trend that almost certainly will not continue — and the team has still managed to play at a .611 points pace (a 100-point pace over 82 games). We are also talking about a team that is probably one or two bounces away from having one of the best records in the league despite having not yet played their best hockey yet. The defense is still there, the defense is still playing well, and there is still room for some of their top contributors to produce more. As long as the goaltending doesn’t completely fall into a crater this is still a team that has all the necessary ingredients to get back on track.

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: Predators rally over Capitals, Laine carries Jets, Marleau’s big return

Getty
1 Comment

Three Stars

1. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets. It is not a stretch to suggest that Laine’s 2018-19 season was a bit of a disappointment. Not necessarily a bad season, just not what anyone really expected from him. He is doing his best to make everyone forget about that so far this season. He continued his incredible start on Thursday with a four-point night (two goals, two assists) to help the Jets pick up a 5-2 win in their home opener against the Minnesota Wild. He now has three goals and 10 total points in the first five games for a Jets team that is now 3-2-0 despite having a woefully undermanned defense.

2. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks. Is he the missing ingredient for the Sharks? That remains to be seen, but for one night he was by scoring two goals in a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Maybe signing a 40-year-old veteran after an 0-4 start was a desperation move on the part of the Sharks, but he definitely made an impact in his first game back in teal. Read more about it here.

3. Ryan Johansen, Nashville Predators. Thanks to a four-goal third period the Predators were able to overcome a 4-2 deficit against the Washington Capitals to win for the third time in their first four games. Johansen played a big role in the win with a pair of goals, his first two of the season.

Other notable performances from Thursday

  • Brayden Point made his return to the lineup for Tampa Bay with three points as part of a huge 7-3 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos also had four points each. Read more about all of their performances here.
  • The Edmonton Oilers are 4-0 for the first time since 2008-09 thanks to a great performance from Mikko Koskinen in net and James Neal‘s seventh goal in four games, already matching his season total from a year ago. Read more about the Oilers — and Neal’s — great start here.
  • Sidney Crosby scored a goal and added an assist to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, handing the latter their first defeat of the season.
  • The Calgary Flames overcame a two-goal third period deficit to defeat the Dallas Stars. Johnny Gaudreau scored the winner in the shootout.
  • Anthony Mantha continued his fast start and helped the Red Wings win again as they topped the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Phillip Grubauer stopped 39 shots for the Colorado Avalanche and Andre Burakovsky scored his first goal with the team as they came from behind to defeat the Boston Bruins. The Avalanche had a little bit of luck on their side as two potential Bruins goals were wiped out by video review.
  • David Perron scored two goals and Ryan O'Reilly finished with four points as the St. Louis Blues rallied past the Ottawa Senators for their third consecutive win.
  • The Arizona Coyotes are on the board with their first win of the season thanks in part to a two-goal effort from Conor Garland. Barrett Hayton also recorded his first NHL point in his first ever game.

Highlights of the Night

This sequence by the Coyotes to take a 2-0 lead over the Vegas Golden Knights is really something to see.

Burakovsky’s first goal as a member of the Avalanche was quite the individual effort.

Gaudreau’s shootout winner was a pretty slick backhander.

Blooper of the Night

Pretty much the only thing that did not go well for the Tampa Bay Lightning during their big win over the Maple Leafs was this play here.

 

Factoids

  • Phil Kessel skated in his 777th consecutive game, moving him past Craig Ramsay for the seventh-longest consecutive games streak in NHL history. [NHL PR]
  • Marleau is only the 13th player in NHL history to score at least one goal in 22 different seasons. [Sportsnet Stats]
  • One more Marleau fact: His consecutive games streak extended to 789, the sixth-longest in NHL history. He is also the only player to appear in every possible game during his 30s, which is just incredible. [Ross McKeon]
  • No player in Oilers franchise history has scored more goals through the first four games of a season than James Neal’s seven. [NHL PR]
  • Alex Ovechkin scored two power play goals for the Capitals to move ahead of Luc Robaitaille for fourth place on the NHL’s all-time power play goals list. [NHL PR]
  • The Red Wings’ win against the Canadiens snapped a nine-game losing streak against Montreal. [NHL PR]
  • Sharks defenseman Brent Burns became the 23rd defenseman to reach the 200-goal mark. [NHL PR]

Scores
Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Toronto Maple Leafs 3
Detroit Red Wings 4, Montreal Canadiens 2
Edmonton Oilers 4, New Jersey Devils 3 (SO)
Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Anaheim Ducks 1
St. Louis Blues 6, Ottawa Senators 4
Nashville Predators 6, Washington Capitals 5
Winnipeg Jets 5, Minnesota Wild 2
San Jose Sharks 5, Chicago Blackhawks 4
Calgary Flames 3, Dallas Stars 2 (SO)
Colorado Avalanche 4, Boston Bruins 2
Arizona Coyotes 4, Vegas Golden Knights 1

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

WATCH LIVE: Blues raise Stanley Cup banner before meeting Capitals

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season begins with Wednesday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals when the Blues raise their 2019 Stanley Cup banner. Coverage begins at 6:30p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blues will raise their first-ever Stanley Cup banner 364 days after the Capitals did the same thing following their 2018 championship season. The only repeat champion over the past 2 decades is the Penguins, who won in 2016 and ‘17 before losing to Washington in their quest to three-peat.

“They’ve turned the page and moved forward,” said Blues GM Doug Armstrong. “There are still remnants of last year’s success — the ring ceremony opening night, maybe a visit to the White House or the Hall of Fame presentation — there are still moments that are connected to last year’s team. But once the guys walked into the room this training camp, they don’t talk about it.”

Washington enters this season with teo of its key players, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom, entering the final year of their current contracts. With Alex Ovechkin two years away from free agency himself, and the Capitals tight against the salary cap already, it will be difficult for the team to retain every core piece from its championship group.

“I didn’t think we would be able to get enough money to sign Carlson, and we made it happen,” said Capitals GM Brian McLellan. “I am not ruling anything out. I mean, obviously it will be tough to do, especially if they both have good years. It is going to be hard to do, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Alex Ovechkin enters this season 13th on the all-time goals list with 658. He is 10 away from tying Luc Robitaille for 12th place, but it will take a while to move up beyond that. 30 goals would move him to 11th, 40 goals would move him to eighth, and if he can match his total from last season (51), he would take sole possession of seventh.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Washington Capitals at St. Louis Blues
WHERE: Enterprise Center
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Capitals-Blues stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Jakub VranaLars EllerT.J. Oshie
Carl HagelinChandler StephensonRichard Panik
Brendan LeipsicNic DowdGarnet Hathaway

Jonas SiegenthalerJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovNick Jensen
Martin Fehervary – Radko Gudas

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

BLUES
Jaden SchwartzBrayden SchennVladimir Tarasenko
Sammy BlaisRyan O'ReillyDavid Perron
Robby FabbriTyler BozakRobert Thomas
Ivan BarbashevOskar SundqvistAlex Steen

Alex PietrangeloJustin Faulk
Jay BouwmeesterColton Parayko
Vince DunnRobert Bortuzzo

Starting goalie: Jordan Binnington

Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with a special 90-minute edition of NHL Live, as host Kathryn Tappen, analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp, and NHL insider Bob McKenzie preview the evening’s doubleheader and the upcoming 2019-20 season. Analyst Jeremy Roenick will be on-site in St. Louis to capture the scene outside Enterprise Center prior to the raising of the Blues’ first-ever Stanley Cup championship banner.

Mike Emrick, who returns for his 15th season as NBC Sports’ lead NHL play-by-play commentator, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Capitals-Blues from Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Mo.

Three things to watch for on opening night

1 Comment

The 2019-20 regular season is finally upon us!

There’s four games on the opening-night schedule, including a doubleheader on NBCSN (Capitals vs. Blues at 6:30 p.m. ET and Sharks vs. Golden Knights at 10:30 p.m. ET). One game doesn’t make or break a season, but there are certain things to look out for when the schedule begins tonight.

Here are three storylines we’ll be keeping an eye on during tonight’s games:

• Are the Ottawa Senators the worst team in the NHL?

The Senators were the worst team in the NHL last year by a considerable margin. That’s what happens when you move on from players like Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson and Matt Duchene. Ottawa finished with just 64 points last year, which put them in the basement of the NHL standings. The team directly ahead of them was the Los Angeles Kings and they finished with 71 points.

The Sens have some good pieces in place like Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom and a few others, but how long will it take them to be competitive? Given some of the size and grit on the current roster, it’s important to note that they probably won’t be easy out. They’ll be in your face, they’ll make life difficult for you, but they probably won’t win many games.

Ottawa gets their biggest rival tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs. We’ll find out if they can push the Leafs and if they can be one of the big surprises in the league.

• Can Jordan Binnington pick up where he left off? 

The Blues made what seemed like an improbable run to their first Stanley Cup championship last year. They did so on the back of Ryan O'Reilly and Jordan Binnington. Nobody’s worried about O’Reilly’s ability to perform, but there are some questions when it comes to Binnington’s outlook. Can he continue being a strong number one goalie at the NHL level on a nightly basis? He’s no longer an unknown commodity around the league.

The Blues paid him during the off-season, as the two sides agreed to a two-year, $8.8 million extension. The 26-year-old has a tough act to follow. He finished last season with a 24-5-1 record, a 1.89 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage.

It’s going to be tough to follow that up. It all starts against the Capitals tonight.

• How lonely will Connor McDavid be this year?

Earlier this week, McDavid was skating on a line with James Neal and Tomas Jurco during practice, which means Leon Draisaitl was on another unit. There’s no reason to believe McDavid can’t perform next to anybody, but the sad state of the Oilers is apparent when you look at the wingers they have on their roster. No disrespect to Neal, who has had a strong career, but he’s coming off a seven-goal, 19-point season in Calgary. As for Jurco, he was limited to just 33 games in the AHL last season.

Again, McDavid doesn’t depend on his wingers to produce, but it would be nice for him to get some help whenever he’s on the ice. General manager Ken Holland has a lot of work to do to improve this roster. The fact that the high-end talent is already in place within the organization is good news, but the supporting cast needs to be blown up in a hurry.

Can McDavid drag the Oilers into the playoffs? They open the season at home against the Vancouver Canucks.

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.