The Metropolitan Division won’t win the 2020 NHL All-Star Game after winning the 2019 edition. The Atlantic Division dispatched the Metro 9-5 in the first round. The Atlantic awaits the winner of the Central vs. Pacific Divisions.
As you’d expect, the game had a lot of goals, plenty of laughs and smiles, with very little defense.
The gap between the two teams was exaggerated, though. David Pastrnak and Anthony Duclair both generated a hat trick and assist apiece, although their third goals were both empty-netters. Tyler Bertuzzi (four assists) and Victor Hedman (1G, 3A) were the Atlantic’s other four-point players.
Seth Jones (1G, 3A) ranked as the Metro’s only four-point producer.
It’s the NHL All-Star break, which means it’s a good time to reflect on what’s happened during the first four months of the 2019-20 season. There’s been plenty of surprises and disappointments so far, and it’s never too early to begin discussing who could be up for the the major awards in June.
The PHT staff was polled for their top three choices for the Hart, Norris, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Calder. Below are our selections and our reasons behind our No. 1 selections.
Let us know your winners in the comments.
SEAN: The problem for the super duos in Boston and Edmonton is there are arguments to be made for McDavid and Draisaitl and Marchand and Pastrnak for MVP. All are worthy, but right now the top spot has to go to MacKinnon for what he’s done this season with the Avs. His 70 points puts him top three in NHL scoring and he kept on scoring as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog missed time with injuries. How important has been for Colorado? The second leading scorer on the team — Cale Makar — is 35! points behind him.
JAMES: Woof, this is a tough one. MacKinnon gets the edge for two reasons: First, his defensive impact is stronger than guys like McDavid (in a granular way) and secondly, MacKinnon generated big offense and huge shot totals even with key linemates out. He didn’t have the luxury of Mikko Rantanen as often as McDavid had Leon Draisaitl or Pastrnak had Brad Marchand (who’s just as worthy of consideration as Pastrnak).
ADAM: The Oilers’ roster still isn’t very good outside of the top-two or-three players, and McDavid is single-handedly putting that team on his back and carrying it. He is simply the most dominant player in hockey. He should be going for his third or fourth MVP at this point in his career.
JOEY: This may be the obvious pick, but the Oilers are so thin behind McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that it’s hard not to consider their captain the frontrunner to be MVP. McDavid is currently on pace to pick up 127 points, which is one point fewer than last year’s Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov, finished the season with in 2018-19.
SCOTT: Whether he wins the award or not, McDavid is by far the most valuable player in the National Hockey League
JAMES: If Carlson’s scoring lead shrinks, I’d lean toward someone like Pietrangelo, who scores and also shines more in underlying metrics. Carlson’s still mostly … fine, though, really, and his offense has been impossible to ignore. Not just 13 goals and 60 points, but also six game-winners. Sorry, I can only ignore so many shiny points. Hamilton would be in the top three if not for his unfortunate injury — I assume we’ll sadly have to forget about him here.
ADAM: I say this knowing Hamilton is almost certainly not going to win at the end of the season because of his injury (and because Carlson’s point total will get most of the votes) but we are talking strictly first half performance here, and I think Hamilton was the best all-around defenseman in the first half before his injury given his dominance at both ends of the rink and his ability to control the pace of the game. He has always been underappreciated and a legit No. 1 defender, and this is his best performance to date.
JOEY: How can you argue with the Carlson pick? The 30-year-old is top 10 in league scoring, which is shocking at this point, and he’s on pace to surpass the 100-point mark. His overall game isn’t terrible either. What a year.
SCOTT: The offensive part of his game this season has been outstanding but Carlson’s play on both ends of the ice is a huge reason why the Capitals are atop the NHL standings.
SEAN: Hellebuyck is as important player to his team as anyone this season. As the Jets continue to struggle, the netminder has stood out keeping them above water and in the playoff race. He sports a .926 even strength save percentage, is top five in goals saved above average (10.75, per Natural Stat Trick), and leads all goalies in goals above replacement (16.3), wins above replacement (2.8), and standings points above replacement (5.5), as tracked by Evolving Wild.
JAMES: Hellebuyck deserves legitimate MVP consideration. The Jets would be lost without them, as they’re getting swamped and basically asking Hellebuyck to save the day. He’s doing so to a staggering extent. Bishop’s been incredible for Dallas, though, and is even impressive in certain stat categories. Sheer workload wins it for Hellebuyck.
ADAM: Bishop does not get enough attention for being one of the league’s best goalies. He has already been a Vezina finalist three different times in his career and should be there again this season. The Stars have a good team, but no one person is driving their success more than him.
JOEY: Hellebuyck might not have the best numbers of the three candidates on this list, but he’s done a relatively good job playing behind a less-than-stellar defense. The Jets lost Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba in the off-season, so being the goaltender on that team was never going to be easy.
SCOTT: Binnington busted on the scene last season but has proven that it was not a fluke with excellent play between the pipes.
SEAN: The Blue Jackets are in a playoff spot, just as we all predicted back in July… Despite all of the departures in free agency Tortorella has gotten the best out of his charges, with a special thanks to the recent play of goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. As Cam Atkinson said before the season, Columbus came in with chips on their shoulders and have proved doubters wrong through the first half.
JAMES: Let’s be honest; “keeping your job” is the real Jack Adams Award for coaches in 2019-20. There are some great choices — including Barry Trotz, who didn’t make the top three — but Sullivan’s Penguins haven’t just rolled with huge injury punches. They’ve also managed to be a top team, not just a team clinging to wild-card contention. Sullivan’s versatility as a coach has really impressed me since he joined the Penguins.
ADAM: Sullivan. The Penguins not only lead the league in man-games lost due to injury, but the quality of players that have been sidelined is far and away above what any other team has had to deal with. They are still one of the league’s best defensive teams, one of the league’s best teams overall, and are playing like they did during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons when they won the Stanley Cup.
JOEY: Tortorella has had to make serious adjustments heading into this season. Losing Panarin and Bobrovsky is something most coaches wouldn’t be able to overcome. Whether they make the playoffs or not, Tortorella needs to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams.
SCOTT: With all the injuries that have ravaged the Penguins, they are still in prime position in the Eastern Conference and Sullivan has done a great job of integrating call-ups up and down the lineup.
SEAN: Makar and Hughes will be the top two finalists and so far it’s an incredibly close race. They’re tight in points (Makar leads with a 0.88 points per game average) and close in minutes played (Hughes is ahead by over a minute per night), but Makar gets the slight edge here with his impact offensively for the Avs. The only question come awards season is if Ilya Samsonov came play his way in being the third finalist.
JAMES: Hughes vs. Makar remains a tough choice, and picking third is tough, with Adam Fox and forwards like Victor Olofsson (injured) and Dominik Kubalik knocking on the door. The three defensemen above are bringing offense, but are also carrying significant workloads — and not just “for rookies.” Hughes strikes me as the most impressive from an all-around standpoint, while Makar’s offensive brilliance cannot be ignored. It’s a strong, strong year for rookie defensemen, and Marino’s a hidden gem. All three defensemen are averaging more than 20 minutes per night on playoff teams.
ADAM: Makar looks like he is going to be a superstar. While the forward trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog is the foundation of the Avalanche roster, a player like Makar is what really takes them to another level as Stanley Cup contenders. An impact defenseman that can move the puck, play those minutes, and help drive the offense the way he does is a cornerstone player and the type of defenseman that has Norris Trophies in his future.
JOEY: Makar has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in his first full year in the NHL and he’s managed to pick up 11 goals and 35 points in 40 games this season. The 21-year-old looks like he’s going to be a huge factor in Colorado for many years to come. He’s definitely the rookie of the year if he stays healthy.
SCOTT: The transition to the NHL shouldn’t be this easy but Makar has been a force on the Avalanche blueline.
Lightning, Canadiens continue to head in different directions
Right now the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens are two runaway freight trains heading in very different directions.
They continued their current streaks on Thursday night as we continue to get some clarity in what was once a jumbled and surprising Atlantic Division playoff race.
The Lightning, thanks to their 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes, extended their current winning streak to nine games on, while the Canadiens let an early two-goal lead slip away in a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It is the Canadiens’ eighth loss in a row.
Let’s take a quick look at what is happening with each team at the moment.
The Lightning are back
It is not just the fact they have won nine games in a row that matters. Or even the fact they have the second-best record in the league (14-4-1) since the start of December.
It is the way they are collecting those wins.
They are starting to steamroll teams much the same way they did during the entire 2018-19 season and are finally starting to shake off the early season rust that pushed them down the standings. Over the past three games alone they have outscored the Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes (all teams currently in a playoff position) by a combined margin of 17-3. They are starting to tilt the ice in their favor and dominate teams in the shot attempt and scoring chance numbers. They are pushing the play in every game, they are dictating the pace, and they are playing on their terms. And no one is really able to match up with them.
Their superstars are also starting to get rolling.
Thanks to Thursday’s win they are now up to second place in the Atlantic Division and still have two games in hand on Boston (first place) and Toronto (third place).
They look to win their 10th game in a row on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Canadiens might be out of it
Canadiens fans have seen this story play out before.
Strong start to the season that is followed by a complete meltdown that eventually takes them out of playoff contention.
After turning a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Thursday, the Canadiens have now lost eight games in a row and are just 6-15-4 in their past 25 games.
That stretch includes two different eight-game losing streaks. All of that comes after an 11-5-3 start to the regular season.
In the end it all comes down to a lack of high end, impact talent at forward. The injuries this to players like Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, and Joel Armia have simply been too much to overcome. This was never a particularly deep team to begin with, and when you take some of their top forwards out of the lineup for any stretch of time it is going to hurt in a big way. Add in the fact that Carey Price has not been able to bail them out like he has so many times in the past and you have a perfect recipe for the mess that is currently playing out in Montreal.
They are now nine points out of a Wild Card spot with five teams ahead of them.
Without some sort of a drastic change that deficit seems almost impossible for them to overcome the way things are going.
They have a chance to snap their losing streak on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
Montreal’s Shea Weber will get a lot recognition as he shows he can still be a high-level player, and there will probably a push to try to get him a Norris Trophy before he retires (he has not yet won it). Victor Hedman, Alex Pietrangelo, and Roman Josi are all big names having their usual big years.
But if we are talking about the absolute best defenseman in the NHL this season, and the player that should have the best claim on being the Norris Trophy frontrunner at the halfway point of the season, it almost has to be Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
He has been excelling in every area of the game and playing at a level that almost no other player in the league has matched across the board.
First, let’s look at some numbers.
We will break this down into three different categories: Raw offensive numbers, possession numbers, and defensive metrics. League rank among defenseman with a minimum of 500 minutes played will be in parenthesis. Those rankings are out of 144 players.
The raw offensive numbers
Goals: 13 (2nd) Total points: 37 (4th) Even-strength points: 24 (4th) Points per game: 0.88 (5th) Shots on goal: 157 (1st)
Just looking at his production, he is among the league’s elite in his ability to provide offense. Not quite as good as Carlson offensively, but in the top-five in every major offensive category for defensemen.
For as good as he is when it comes to providing goals and points, it is his ability to drive possession and control the pace of games where he starts to set himself apart from everyone else.
The possession numbers (5-on-5 play)
Shot attempt share: 58.3 percent (1st) Expected goal differential: 59.1 percent (1st) Scoring chance share: 59.8 percent (1st) High-danger scoring chance share: 58.8 percent (4th) Shots on goal for per 60 minutes: 37.3 (4th) Scoring chances for per 60 minutes: 31.7 (4th) High-danger scoring chances for per 60 minutes: 13.1 (4th) Expected goals for per 60 minutes: 2.80 (3rd)
Basically, when Hamilton is on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Hurricanes are dominating the puck. They have been a top possession team in the league for a couple of years now, but their dominance goes to an entirely different level of elite when Hamilton is on the ice. There is not one other defenseman in the league that ranks in the top-four in every single one of these categories.
What really drives home Hamilton’s value is that his performance here is not just about offense.
The Hurricanes shut teams down when he is on the ice, too.
The defensive numbers (5-on-5 play)
Shots on goal against per 60 minutes: 26.1 (3rd) Shot attempts against per 60 minutes: 47.2 (2nd) Scoring chances against per 60 minutes: 21.3 (4th) Expected goals against per 60 minutes: 1.93 (14th) Goals against per 60 minutes: 1.81 (8th)
They simply do not give up shots on goal or scoring chances (or goals) with Hamilton on the ice. These are shutdown defensive numbers combined with elite offensive production.
Oh, and his penalty kill numbers? Mostly outstanding as well. The only negative number is the actual goals against, but when you look at how good the Hurricanes are at suppressing shots and attempts with Hamilton on the ice in PK situations, some blame has to go to the goalies for that number.
Probably the most shocking thing about Hamilton is the fact he is a 26-year-old, right-handed defenseman that has consistently been among the best in the league at his position, and he not only slides under the radar for his play, but has also somehow already been traded by two different teams (Boston and Calgary) in his career.
This is the type of player teams should be looking to build their defense around, and the type of player that traditionally does not get traded under any circumstances.
Especially when — as is the case with Hamilton — their contract is probably a steal under the salary cap.
He is everything you look for in a No. 1 defenseman. He can skate, he can move the puck, he can jump into the play and join the rush, he scores, he drives possession, and he does all of that without giving up or sacrificing anything in the defensive end.
That is sometimes a delicate line to balance for players (and especially defensemen), and right now no one is doing it better than Hamilton.
1. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks. He is doing everything he can to earn himself a big payday this summer. Markstrom helped the Canucks extend their current winning streak to four games while also jumping back into a playoff spot in the Western Conference. He stopped 49 out of 51 shots in a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings, stealing two huge points for his team. He has really established himself as a quality NHL goalie over the past couple of years, and this might have been one of his best games yet.
3. Warren Foegele, Carolina Hurricanes. Foegele was, quite simply, a beast for the Hurricanes on Saturday night. He finished with four points (two goals, including a shorthanded goal, and two assists), was a plus-four, and attempted seven shots during the Hurricanes’ 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals. It is the first four-point game of his NHL career and only the second time he has recorded more than two points in a game. The win helped the Hurricanes keep pace in the wildly competitive Metropolitan Division and snapped what had been a three-game losing streak.
Other notable performances from Saturday
Ryan Strome had four points (including two goals) and Tony DeAngelo scored an overtime winner for the New York Rangers as they put an end to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ winning streak.
The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame a brutal start that saw them give up the first 18 shots of the game (and two goals) to earn a 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Alex Killorn scored two goals and Victor Hedman had four assists in the win.
Bryan Rust scored two more goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they held on for a 6-4 win against the Nashville Predators. Jake Guentzel‘s power play goal with one minute to play in regulation was the game-winning goal.
Mark Stone scored two goals in a dominant Vegas Golden Knights win to help them jump ahead of the Arizona Coyotes for first place in the Pacific Division.
Mike Hoffman had three points for the Florida Panthers as they overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings, 5-4, handing the Red Wings their fifth consecutive defeat.
Ben Bishop made 42 saves for the Dallas Stars and Alexander Radulov scored the shootout winner in a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Highlights of the Night
Mika Zibanejad is on a roll for the Rangers right now and this second period goal off the rush was a real beauty.
Mario Ferraro and Joel Kellman both scored their first career goals for the Sharks on Saturday.
The one highlight of the night for the Coyotes was this tic-tac-toe passing play to set up Michael Grabner for a goal.
Steven Stamkos recorded his 800th career point for the Lightning on Saturday night.
Alex Ovechkin scored the 256th power play goal of his career for the Washington Capitals. That moves him ahead of Teemu Selanne for third on the all-time list. [Capitals PR]
Marc-Andre Fleury recorded the 454th win of his career to tie Curtis Joseph for the sixth-most wins in NHL history. [NHL PR]
Joe Thornton recorded career assist 1,079 for the Sharks, moving him into a tie with Adam Oates for seventh most in NHL history. [NHL PR]
Markstrom’s 49 saves were the most by a Canucks goalie since Roberto Luongo stopped 54 shots in Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals. Luongo was eventually traded for Markstrom. [NHL PR]
Dallas Stars 3, Colorado Avalanche 2 (SO)
New York Rangers 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 4 (OT)
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Montreal Canadiens 4
Florida Panthers 5, Detroit Red Wings 4
Pittsburgh Penguins 6, Nashville Predators 4
Carolina Hurricanes 6, Washington Capitals 4
Vancouver Canucks 3, Los Angeles Kings 2
Vegas Golden Knights 4, Arizona Coyotes 1
San Jose Sharks 6, Philadelphia Flyers 1