Top 25 Questions For Second Half Of NHL Season

The first half of the 2019-20 NHL season is in the books, and not everything went as we expected. There were coaching changes in Toronto, Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey and Nashville, some surprising teams have played their way into playoff contention, and we might have a player who is not Alex Ovechkin lead the league in goals this season. We look ahead to the second half of the season and 25 of the biggest questions to be answered along the way. 

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Is John Hynes enough to fix the Predators?

Is John Hynes enough to fix the Predators?

Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI 

After a disappointing first half, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile did something he almost never does — he made a coaching change. Peter Laviolette is out; John Hynes is in. Hynes is just the third coach in Predators franchise history and now has the task of trying to get things back on the right track in Music City. He has a lot of talent to work with, and the Predators have been an outstanding 5-on-5 team this season even under Laviolette. The problem is the special teams and goaltending have completely abandoned them. If Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros do not play better, the coach may not matter.  

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Will the Sharks ever get it figured out?

Will the Sharks ever get it figured out?

Darren Yamashita, USATI 

This is one of the most baffling situations in the NHL this season. The San Jose Sharkswere supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender but have instead been one of the league’s worst teams. The goaltending duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has, predictably, been a mess for the second year in a row. They have not been good enough as a team this year to mask that, and with Logan Couture now sidelined it is difficult to see the Sharks digging themselves out of this hole. The optimistic might look at the Blues from a year ago as an example pf how quickly things can turn around (bad start, in-season coaching change), but the Sharks do not seem to have a Jordan Binnington card to play like the Blues did.  

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Will the new-look Maple Leafs break through?

Will the new-look Maple Leafs break through?

John E. Sokolowski, USATI 

After three straight first round exits and an underwhelming start this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved on from Mike Babcock and promoted Sheldon Keefe to head coach. The early results have been everything they could have hoped for. They are playing a faster, more aggressive style offensively, they are scoring goals like they should be given their roster and they just look like a better team. They are no longer trying to win every game 2-1 and are finally allowing their stars to play to their strengths. Will that be enough to get over Boston and Tampa Bay in the playoffs? Defense is still a question, but you have to like their chances based on the early results under Keefe.  

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How long will the Penguins stick with Tristan Jarry

How long will the Penguins stick with Tristan Jarry?

Charles LeClaire, USATI 

The only reason the Pittsburgh Penguins kept Jarry as their backup goalie at the start of the season is because he cost them less against the salary cap than Casey DeSmith. He has since taken over the starting job in the short term. The combination of his play (which earned him a trip to the 2020 All-Star Game) and Matt Murray’s struggles has not only made him Pittsburgh’s goalie for now, but he also has probablythe team MVP to this point. Murray has always been seen as the long-term answer and already has two Stanley Cups on his resume, so you cannot count him out, but Jarry has pedigree as well (first goalie taken in his draft class) and has been the better goalie this season.  

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Will the Oilers get McDavid and Draisaitl some help?

Will the Oilers get McDavid and Draisaitl some help?

Perry Nelson, USATI 

The Oilers have wasted the first part of the careers for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, making the playoffs just one time in four years. Everything the team does has always been dependent on these two carrying the offense, and that has not changed this season. Thanks to a fast start, the Oilers have managed to stay in the playoff hunt but are far from a lock to make the postseason. What they still desperately need is more secondary scoring to take some of the pressure off the big two. If McDavid and Draisaitl don’t score, no one does, and that is no way for a team to contend for a championship.  

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

Posted 1 day ago  |  By Adam Gretz

NHL Players Who Deserve To Be First Time All-Stars This Season

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Tyler Bertuzzi has earned his first trip to the NHL All-Star Game.

Despite the rough start to the Detroit Red Wings‘ 2019-20 season, the 24-year-old forward is on pace to top his stats from last season — currently leading his team with 15 goals and 31 points.

Bertuzzi won’t be the only first-timer at this year’s event in St. Louis though, as players such as Dougie Hamilton and Frederik Andersen also will be making their All-Star debuts. And there could be even more newbies going with them.

Fans still have time to cast their Last Men In votes, and there are 10 candidates from across the NHL who are looking for their first tickets to the midseason spectacle.

Here’s what makes these 10 candidates deserving of their first All-Star bid.

Cale Makar – Defenseman, Colorado Avalanche
The rookie defenseman exploded onto the scene when he joined the Avs during last season’s playoffs and is making a strong case to win the Calder Trophy through his first regular-season campaign. Heck, if he hadn’t missed eight games due to an upper-body injury, he would probably be leading all rookies in scoring.

Not only would a trip to the All-Star Game be a nice way to top off Makar’s first season in the pros, but it also would be nice to see a new face on this year’s Central Division squad.


Mitch Marner – Forward, Toronto Maple Leafs
As with all things Maple Leafs, it made headlines last year when Marner was denied participation in the ASG festivities in San Jose. The young forward took the rebuff well, however, and he is back in the mix yet again this time around.

The 22-year-old leads the Leafs with 29 assists, and his 40 points are second only to Auston Matthews, who has already earned his fourth consecutive All-Star nod.

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

By Chelena Goldman  |  Last updated 1/6/20

The 25 Biggest NHL Stories of the 2010s

It was an incredible decade for the NHL that saw a new team enter the league and immediately become a Stanley Cup contender, an old NHL city get a new NHL team and some dramatic shifts to the balance of power in the league thanks to a series of blockbuster trades and free agent signings. We continue our look back at the past decade with the top 25 NHL stories from the 2010s. See which ones make the cut. 

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The NHL returns to Winnipeg

The NHL returns to Winnipeg

Terrence Lee, USATI

After two decades without the NHL, Winnipeg finally got its own team again when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated north for the start of the 2011-12 season. Fans flocked to the arena and created one of the most intense home-ice advantages in the league, but the team rarely provided much excitement on the ice. The Jets basically continued to play like the Thrashers, only in a different uniform and in a different city. That finally changed during the 2017-18 season when they won the first postseason game in franchise history (Atlanta or Winnipeg) and reached the Western Conference Final before losing to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in five games. 

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Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals finally win the Stanley Cup

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals finally win the Stanley Cup

Geoff Burke, USATI

It was starting to look like it may never happen for Ovechkin and the Capitals. After winning three Presidents’ Trophies and then falling short in the playoffs every time and never being able to get past the second round or the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps finally broke through during the 2017-18 season and exorcised all of their postseason demons. They beat the Penguins, they overcame a 3-2 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Final, for once they were the ones who had the hot goalie, and all of the breaks finally went their way at the right time. Now they have their championship, and no one can ever take it away from them. 

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Another lockout canceled half a season

Another lockout canceled half a season

Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI

No sport has struggled with labor peace more than the NHL, and less than a decade after losing an entire season (2004-05) to a work stoppage, the NHL lost another half season in 2012-13 to the third lockout of the Gary Bettman era. The 2012-13 season ended up being a 48-game campaign (similar to the 1994-95 season, also cut short by a lockout) and saw the Chicago Blackhawks win the second of their three Stanley Cups in the salary cap era. 

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The Vegas Golden Knights become an immediate Stanley Cup contender

The Vegas Golden Knights become an immediate Stanley Cup contender

Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI

This is probably one of the most unbelievable stories in the history of the NHL, let alone the past decade. When the NHL expanded to 31 teams for the 2017-18 season, there were a lot of critics who wondered if the Vegas Golden Knights would be a success. On the ice, expectations were understandably low because they were an expansion team. But their immediate success turned Vegas into one of the hottest tickets in the league. The Golden Knights have been a Stanley Cup contender since Day 1 and reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, losing in five games to the Washington Capitals. 

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Sidney Crosby’s head and neck injuries

Sidney Crosby's head and neck injuries

David Dermer, USATI

The best player of the generation had the majority of his peak years crushed by a concussion and neck injury that limited him to just 99 out of a possible 224 games between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 season. It all started with a two-game sequence in 2010-11 with hits from Dave Steckel and Victor Hedman that cut short what was his best season. Crosby’s career speaks for itself, and he will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play in the NHL, but it still feels like we were robbed of fully seeing him at his absolute best. 

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John Tavares goes home

John Tavares goes home

John E. Sokolowski, USATI

The biggest free agency saga of the past decade had to be John Tavares, the longtime face of the New York Islanders franchise, leaving the team in the summer of 2018 to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, his hometown club. It gave the Maple Leafs an incredibly talented core and raised the expectations in Toronto to Stanley Cup or bust. Meanwhile, expectations were at an all-time low for the Islanders, but they rebounded under the leadership of new coach Barry Trotz and actually advanced further than the Maple Leafs in the playoffs. 

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Barry Trotz leaves the Capitals to join the Islanders

Barry Trotz leaves the Capitals to join the Islanders

Stephen R. Sylvanie, USATI

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the Capitals finally breaking through, but it’s big enough of a move that it deserves its own recognition. Trotz became the first coach since Mike Keenan in 1994 to leave a Stanley Cup-winning team the following season. The reason: The Capitals and Trotz could not come to terms on a new contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid coaches in the league. He ended up being hired by the New York Islanders and helped orchestrate one of the most stunning one-year turnarounds in recent league history. 

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Bruins bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston

Bruins bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston

Greg M. Cooper, USATI

With their Game 7 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins finally brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time since the 1971-72 season. It was the start of a great run for the Bruins that saw them reach two more Stanley Cup Finals in the next decade. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, and Tuukka Rask were at the center of that run.

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The Penguins go back-to-back

The Penguins go back-to-back

Aaron Doster, USATI

It had been nearly two decades since a team won the Stanley Cup in consecutive years when the Penguins accomplished the feat during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. What made their run so stunning is that it came at a time when everyone had started to close their championship window in the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang era. The Pens needed a coaching change, some major trades and a couple of in-season call-ups in 2015-16 to start their run, but all of it together reopened their window and produced two more Stanley Cups. 

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Minnesota breaks the bank on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter

Minnesota breaks the bank on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter

Brad Rempel, USATI

On July 4, 2012, the Minnesota Wild made their boldest series of moves ever when they signed the top two free agents on the market — Parise and Suter — to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. This was during the time period when NHL teams were handing out mega-long-term, front-loaded contracts to reduce the salary cap hits over the term of the deal. How did this work out for Minnesota? Probably not as they expected. The Wild have been a consistent playoff team but have never made it beyond the second round and only twice made it out of the first round in the Parise-Suter era. Both players are now in their mid-30s and still have five years remaining after this season on their deals. 

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Ilya Kovalchuk leaves for the KHL

Ilya Kovalchuk leaves for the KHL

Orlando Ramirez, USATI

The New Jersey Devils reached the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Final and were so close to winning another championship thanks in large part to the play of All-Star forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Within two years, everything fell apart for them. Parise left in free agency for Minnesota following the season, and then one year later Kovalchuk, in the middle of a mega-contract with the Devils, abruptly announced his retirement from the NHL and returned to the KHL. He spent more than five seasons playing in the KHL before returning to the NHL before the 2018-19 season, signing a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings. 

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Blackhawks fire Joel Quenneville

Blackhawks fire Joel Quenneville

Patrick Gorski, USATI

After winning three Stanley Cups and helping put together one of the most successful teams of the salary cap era, the Blackhawks decided to part ways with Quenneville, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the league, early in the 2018-19 season. It was stunning just because of how successful Quenneville was and how many problems the Blackhawks seemed to have had beyond the coach. Quenneville ended up joining the Florida Panthers the following offseason, while the Blackhawks have continued to take steps backward as their championship window rapidly slams shut. 

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The Blues go from worst to first

The Blues go from worst to first

Winslow Townson, USATI

One year after the Capitals finally kicked down the Stanley Cup door, the St. Louis Blues did the same, erasing years of disappointment and misery for their fans. The Blues also made it difficult on themselves, going from the worst record in the Western Conference in early January to the top of the NHL mountain in June. As if that was not crazy enough, the player who helped spark the turnaround was Jordan Binnington, a rookie goalie who started the season as a backup…in the American Hockey League. 

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The Taylor Hall trade

The Taylor Hall trade

Ed Mulholland, USATI

On the afternoon of June 29, 2016, there were three major roster transactions across the NHL in a span of 60 minutes that dramatically shook the landscape of the league. The first was the Oilers trading Hall, at the time their best player and one of the best left wingers in the league, to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson. It was a one-for-one trade, and it stunned pretty much everyone outside of the Oilers front office that the return was so little. Hall went on to win the league MVP two years later, while Larsson has been nothing more than a solid but unspectacular second-pairing defender. It was one of the most one-sided trades of the decade. 

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The P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade

The P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade

Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI

This was the other massive trade on June 29, 2016. After years of trade rumors and speculation that they might do it, the Canadiens finally traded Subban, one of the most popular players to play for the team in generations, to the Nashville Predators in a one-for-one deal for Shea Weber. It was a curious move because Weber was older, had a worse contract and probably wasn’t as good as Subban at the time. But the Canadiens wanted to shake things up and make a bold move, so they did. Weber is still a good player when healthy, but he has started to break down. Subban, meanwhile, helped lead the Predators to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. He was then traded to New Jersey two years later. 

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Paul Holmgren breaks up the Flyers for Ilya Bryzgalov

Paul Holmgren breaks up the Flyers for Ilya Bryzgalov

Len Redkoles, Getty

The Flyers’ quest to find a franchise goalie took a dramatic turn in the summer of 2011 when general manager Paul Holmgren, never one to shy away from a bold trade, traded his two core players (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter) to retool his team around Bryzgalov, signing the goalie to a massive contract. While the Carter and Richards trades brought a lot of talent to Philadelphia, the Bryzgalov contract was a complete disaster that ended in a buyout two years later. Richards and Carter were also reunited in Los Angeles and helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups. The Flyers have made the playoffs just four times in eight years and made it out of the first round just one time. 

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The Shea Weber offer sheet

The Shea Weber offer sheet

John Russell, Getty

Everybody loves to talk about the potential a restricted free agent offer sheet every offseason, but they almost never happen. And when they do, they almost always get matched. The most intriguing offer sheet of the past decade came in 2012 when the Flyers signed restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $100 million offer sheet. It was just one year after the Flyers overhauled their team for Bryzgalov and was another insanely bold move. The Predators, having already lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild in free agency, had no choice but to match the offer. It produced a ton of “what if” scenarios. What would the Predators have done with the draft pick compensation? How would the Flyers build around that contract? Would it inspire other offer sheets in the future? 

18 of 25

The Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

The Red Wings' playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

Rick Osentoski, USATI

Between the 1990-91 and 2015-16 seasons the Detroit Red Wings were a mainstay in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, qualifying in each of the 25 years and being one of the most stable, consistent and successful franchises in all of professional sports. They reached the Stanley Cup Final six times, won it four times and were always in contention. That run finally came to an end during the 2016-17 season and has started a new streak: missing the playoffs. Barring a miracle turnaround, the Red Wings are on track to miss for the fourth consecutive season and given the makeup of their roster, there does not seem to be much hope of this new streak coming to an end anytime soon. 

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The great tank battle of 2014-15

The great tank battle of 2014-15

Timothy T. Ludwig, USATI

At the start of the 2014-15 season, everyone in the NHL knew there were two elite prospects at the top of the 2015 draft: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. This was also a time when the team with the worst record in the league was guaranteed one of the top two picks in the draft, which meant at least one of these two potential franchise players. The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes were in a year-long race to the basement that actually saw Sabres fans enthusiastically cheering for the Coyotes in a late-season game. The Sabres ended up finishing with the league’s worst record but lost the draft lottery. They picked second and ended up with Eichel. Arizona, meanwhile, was the biggest loser; they picked third and selected Dylan Strome. The Edmonton Oilers moved ahead of both teams and won the right to pick McDavid. The NHL ended up changing the draft lottery rules a few years later. 

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The Oilers win four draft lotteries in six years — including Connor McDavid

The Oilers win four draft lotteries in six years — including Connor McDavid

Perry Nelson, USATI

On the ice the Oilers have been the least successful team in the NHL over the past decade, and their only consistent success has been getting some great luck in the draft lottery. They won the top pick in 2010, 2011, 2012 and then again in 2015. Those picks turned out to be Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Connor McDavid. The latter was the big one and it infuriated fans — and teams — across the league because of the way the Oilers squandered their previous draft lottery successes. Edmonton being gifted the best draft prospect since Sidney Crosby seemed to be laughably unfair. And just as they did with the previous picks, the Oilers have failed to build a consistently competitive team around him. 

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The Department of Player Safety

The Department of Player Safety

Tom Szczerbowski, USATI

The NHL had a major head shot problem. Marc Savard’s career was ended by a brutal hit from Matt Cooke. David Booth’s career was derailed by a similar hit from Mike Richards. There was nothing the league could do about them because they were, at the time, legal hockey plays. The addition of Rule 48, focusing on hits to the head, as well as the creation of the Department of Player Safety (led by Brendan Shanahan) at the beginning of the 2011-12 season was supposed to help put a stop to such plays. Suspensions rapidly increased and, eventually, targeted hits to the head started to decline. It is not a perfect system and there are flaws with consistency and enforcement, but things are dramatically better than they used to be. 

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Raffi Torres checks his way out of the league

Raffi Torres checks his way out of the league

Rocky W. Widner, Getty Images

Torres was one of the most notorious headhunters in the league and was the recipient of some massive suspensions for his constant reckless play. He was given a 25-game ban for an egregious hit on Marian Hossa in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was banned for an entire series one year later and then in 2015 earned his most significant suspension when he was given a 41- game ban for a preseason hit on Jakob Silfverberg. He never played another game in the NHL. 

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John Scott: NHL All-Star

John Scott: NHL All-Star

Aaron Doster, USATI

The NHL has tried everything to make the All-Star game exciting: fantasy drafts, North America vs. The World, and the current 3-on-3 mini-tournament. The latter seems to be the most successful attempt, and it hit its peak during the 2015-16 season when longtime enforcer John Scott was voted into the game by fans. The league tried to talk him out of playing (which did not go over well). He not only played, but he also ended up stealing the show and recording a hat trick in the game. 

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The Olympic debate

The Olympic debate

Pool Photo, USATI

Starting with the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, the NHL had been sending its best players to the Winter Olympics every four years, producing an incredible best vs. best tournament. That run ended during the 2018 games, and it remains unclear when, or if, the NHL players will ever go back. The NHL seems determined to make the World Cup of Hockey work and serve as a replacement for the Olympics, but neither the players nor fans seem to share that same level of excitement. 

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Columbus stuns Tampa Bay

Columbus stuns Tampa Bay

Aaron Doster, USATI

This was probably the biggest NHL upset of the decade. The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 wins, had the league MVP and scoring champion, a Vezina Trophy winner in goal, a Norris Trophy winner on defense and a Jack Adams-caliber coach behind the bench. It was supposed to be their year to win it all. They not only did not do that, but they also did not win a single playoff game, getting swept in Round 1 by a No. 8 seed Columbus Blue Jackets team. It was the Blue Jackets’ first-ever postseason series win, and it came after a bold decision at the trade deadline to go all in. Instead of trading pending free agents Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets instead added more in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. It gave the city a taste of success but quickly fizzled in Round 2 and over the summer when all of the free agents departed. 

By Adam Gretz

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_25_biggest_nhl_stories_of_the_2010s/s1__30520889#slide_1

The 10 most disappointing NHL teams so far this season

With the 2019-20 NHL season a quarter of the way through, we are starting to get an idea of what each of the 31 teams should be capable of.

Some teams are exactly what we expected them to be on the good side (Washington, Boston, St. Louis) as well as the bad side (Ottawa, Los Angeles, Detroit).

Others have so far been better than we expected, and some significantly so (Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg).

This is not about any of those teams.

This is about the 10 teams that have been a disappointment so far this season. There is still time for some of them to turn things around and accomplish something significant. But they better start that process sooner rather than later because it can be incredibly difficult to make up lost points as the season goes on.

With that in mind, these are the 10 teams that have disappointed us so far.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs.  No team has defined “disappointment” this season more than Toronto.

After a third straight third-place finish and a third straight Round 1 exit, the Maple Leafs made more dramatic changes to their roster this offseason by dumping Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, Nikita Zaitsev, and Connor Brown and replacing them with Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, Cody Ceci and Jason Spezza.

The early results are not positive.

They remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league and have not yet had the goaltending that can mask those flaws that have existed for more than three years now. Even worse, the team seems stale under the leadership of coach Mike Babcock, who is too often looking lost and being outplayed. This has been a .500 team through the first quarter of the season, and it needs some dramatic changes — both systematically and to the roster — to get to where it wants to be.

Babcock’s seat is almost certainly getting hotter, and we cannot ignore the fact that a team coached by him has not made it out of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2012-13 season. Since then 28 different NHL coaches have won at least one playoff round, including two (Barry Trotz and Mike Yeo) who have won playoff rounds with multiple teams.

By this point in their development, the Leafs should be Stanley Cup contenders. Not only is this team not quite reaching that level, but it seems to be slipping further away from it.

2. San Jose Sharks.  The Sharks are high on this list because they had an absolutely dreadful start. They were not just disappointing but literally one of the worst teams in the league through the first month.

The same goaltending duo that failed them a year ago is back and still struggling, their two big names on defense have not been as dominant as in the past and they started with one of the league’s worst records. To their credit they are starting to play their way out of that early hole by winning six in a row after a 4-10-1 start. If there is a team that could potentially duplicate what the St. Louis Blues did a year ago, this might be it because of the strong core in place. The Sharks’ biggest weakness is still in net, and the most disappointing part is they do not seem to have any interest in trying to fix it.

3. Vegas Golden Knights.  Had they simply been able to not give up four power play goals on a five-minute power play in a Game 7, this is a team that probably could have gone on another lengthy postseason run a year ago. They brought back largely the same roster, which should have been even better because they were going to get Mark Stone — arguably the team’s best all-around skater — for a full season. The early results have been disappointing though, as they find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings in mid-November. Their big problem: goaltending.

Marc-Andre Fleury is still an excellent starter, but they have not found any sort of capable backup to give him a rest, which is forcing Fleury to play entirely too many games for an almost 35-year-old. They can’t expect him to play 60 regular-season games and be fresh for the postseason.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning. A record-setting regular season in 2018-19 was followed by the most disappointing postseason performance in recent league history — maybe the entire league history. The Lightning followed that up by opening the 2019-20 season in rather underwhelming fashion, winning just nine of their first 17 games and not really carrying the play in any of them. They are showing signs of getting back to their 2018-19 level, but they are not consistently there. Nobody should have ever expected them to win 62 games again, but this roster is still way too talented be barely above .500 a quarter of the way through the season.
5. Calgary Flames.  A lot of things went right for the Flames a year ago to allow them to — shockingly — climb to the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. Some regression should have been expected. But this much? Probably the most disappointing aspect of this team in response to its Round 1 playoff exit to Colorado was to try and get more physical by trading for Milan Lucic instead of trying to counter the speed of a team like the Avalanche. Some of Calgary’s top players are off to slower-than-expected starts (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano), but if they can get back on track it will go a long way toward getting the Flames to where they should be.

6. Nashville Predators.  Losing Filip Forsberg for six games was a big blow, but the overriding issue here is the fact the goaltending duo of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros has been subpar. That can sink an otherwise great team, and right now it is holding the Predators back. One positive development so far: The power play unit that was an insult to hockey has dramatically improved this season. If they can get the netminding back to its normal level, there still might be a potential lengthy playoff run here.

7. New York Rangers.  The Rangers went all in this summer with the additions of Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Kaapo Kakko. It seemingly accelerated their rebuild and raised expectations dramatically, but as it turns out, maybe a little too much. They still have major flaws on the roster, especially at defense and center. Even with that, it still feels like this team should be a little better than what it has been. The Rangers may not be a playoff team just yet, and they have been overmatched in too many games.

8. New Jersey Devils.  The Devils were one of the teams to win the offseason thanks to some draft lottery luck (getting the No. 1 pick and Jack Hughes), a couple of huge trades (P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev for next to nothing), an intriguing free agent pick up (Wayne Simmonds) and the return of a healthy former league MVP (Taylor Hall). The problem is they forgot to address their biggest issue, which is in net. The lack of a top-tier starting goalie has played a huge role in some terrible late-game meltdowns that have seen them surrender several multi-goal leads (they have lost four games they led by two goals or more, including two games with three-goal leads) to turn a potentially competitive team into one that is right back near the bottom of the standings. With Hall’s contract status uncertain after this season, returning to the playoffs would have been significant, but they have a long way to go before they are in that discussion.

9. Minnesota Wild.  Former general manager Paul Fenton was on the job for only one year but still managed to leave quite a mess behind for new general manager Bill Guerin. The team lacks star power, has too many big-money players over the age of 30 and made some misguided trades a year ago (specifically the Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask swap). The playoffs always seemed to be a long shot, but through their first 20 games they have the second-worst points percentage in the league, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings. This team is not particularly good, but it should not be this bad.

10. Dallas Stars.  So far this has been a tale of two teams. The Stars were big spenders in the offseason once again, signing Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry as free agents to hopefully fix the depth of what was one of the league’s most top-heavy teams a year ago. Things did not get off to a smooth start.

They won just one of their first nine games, Pavelski had a miserable start, the goaltending struggled and their top duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn could not find the back of the net.

Suddenly, though, things are starting to get back on track. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin are stopping everything in net, Pavelski has started to produce, Seguin and Benn are waking up offensively and the team went on a 10-1-1 run after a 1-7-1 start. Keep in mind that this was a team that was a double overtime Game 7 loss on the road from reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago. There is talent here and a potential contender. The Stars make the disappointment list for their rough start, but they are starting to become the team they should be.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_10_most_disappointing_nhl_teams_so_far_this_season/s1_13132_30569477

By: Adam Gretz

The 10 most surprising developments of the NHL season

The first month of the 2019-20 NHL season has been full of surprises. Teams that we looked at as preseason Stanley Cup contenders have not yet played to expectations. Teams that we considered to be preseason draft lottery contenders have not only exceeded expectations but also are looking like potential playoff teams.

Here we take a look at 10 of the biggest surprises so far this season.

1. Everything about the Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers have been a laughing stock across the NHL for more than a decade and have been especially frustrating for the way they have wasted Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The opening night roster looked like it was going to be more of the same during the 2019-20 season. But through the first month of the season, the Oilers find themselves in the thick of the Pacific Division race and as of Nov. 11 had a three-point division lead. The concern is that almost all of the offense has been driven by McDavid and Draisaitl, and that recipe has not exactly worked well in the past. How long they can maintain that remains to be seen, but helping matters so far has been a surprisingly strong performance from goalie Mike Smith and James Neal going through a massive bounce-back season that has already seen him score 12 goals in 19 games. He had just seven goals in 63 games for the Calgary Flames a year ago.

2. The San Jose Sharks might not be good 

Everyone knew the Sharks had issues with their goaltending (well, everyone except for the Sharks themselves), and that problem is still as big as it was a year ago. Adding to that: The team in front of the goalies seems to have taken several steps backward. Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns have not been as dynamic on the blue line, a lot of offense lost from Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi has not really been replaced, and the Sharks are already facing a pretty steep mountain when it comes to making the playoffs. Not everyone has the talent to pull off what the St. Louis Blues did a year ago in going from worst to first, but the Sharks might be a team capable of that IF they can fix their goaltending and if everyone else on the team starts to play to expectations.

3. The Vancouver Canucks might be good 

The general direction of the team has been bizarre because it hasn’t really committed to any sort of meaningful direction and has signed some really questionable long-term contracts. But the Canucks’ young stars (Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes) have quickly become impact players who look like they can carry the team; Hughes is already emerging as possibly another Calder Trophy contender. What is impressive, too, about the Canucks’ start is they are showing a lot of signs that they might be for real, especially with the way they control shot attempts, push the pace and outscore their opponents at even strength.

4. Something might be wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning 

Did their latest postseason exit finally break them? The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the most dominant regular-season teams ever, tying a league record with 62 wins and possessing an All-Star roster full of individual award winners. It seemed like it was finally their year to win the Stanley Cup, until they could not even win a single playoff game, losing in four straight to the No. 8 seed, Columbus Blue Jackets. It was a perfect situation for a team to make drastic, knee-jerk changes that would probably do more to set them back than push them ahead. Is that what happened here? The Lightning have not only won just eight of their first 15 games, but they also have not been anything close to what they were in recent years in style.

5. Winnipeg is still in it

This is a pretty big shock simply because the Winnipeg Jets defense did not look to be NHL quality at the start of the season. Jacob Trouba was traded, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers exited in free agency, and their best player — Dustin Byfuglien — is taking a break from the game due to an ankle injury and is reportedly contemplating his future in a situation that will probably bring in a neutral arbitrator. Even with their forward talent it seemed like this was going to be a tough year for the Jets because the defense was just, quite simply, not good. But they are finding ways to compete and are not going away thanks to their forward depth up front and some great goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck.

6. The Rangers and Devils have not shown much improvement 

No teams had bigger offseasons than the Rangers and Devils. They had the top two picks in the draft (Jack Hughes to New Jersey; Kaapo Kakko to New York) and made several impact additions to their rosters (Devils added P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds; Rangers added Trouba, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox). More than a month into the season, and neither team has really taken a big step forward, with the Devils being especially disappointing thanks to multiple blown leads of two or more goals. And they are facing some pressure to convince their best player — Taylor Hall — to re-sign after this season. Meanwhile, general manager Ray Shero has just one playoff appearance in five years with the team.

7. The New York Islanders somehow look even better

If you were expecting the Islanders to regress after their surprising turnaround a year ago, you are probably disappointed right now. Thanks to a 10-game winning streak that was broken just last week, they are once again near the top of the NHL standings and look like a team that is going to break the mold for what we think a playoff team should look like.

8. The Toronto Maple Leafs look ordinary  

They have not necessarily been bad, but they are not really doing anything to make anyone believe they have the roster — or the coach — to break through the glass ceiling that has been Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the second offseason in a row, they made a significant addition to their roster, this time adding defenseman Tyson Barrie from the Colorado Avalanche. But is there anything about their play that makes anyone believe they have what it takes to beat the Boston Bruins? Or any of the top teams in the Eastern Conference? They have not shown it yet.

9. The Blackhawks’ window seems to be closed

After two straight non-playoff seasons, we probably should not be too surprised the Blackhawks are struggling again. What makes it stand out even more is they really tried to improve the roster with the additions of Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan, Andrew Shaw and Robin Lehner. It has not really helped. The defense remains a major problem that is going to be dependent on the goaltending duo of Lehner and Corey Crawford to steal games. Perhaps most concerning is that after a bounce-back performance in 2018-19, Jonathan Toews is once again showing signs of a significant decline offensively. With the money it have invested in him the team needs more.

10. Somebody might actually score more goals than Alex Ovechkin this season

Ovechkin finished as the NHL’s top goal scorer two years in a row and in six of the past seven seasons. He is the most dominant goal scorer ever, is not really slowing down even at 34 years old and is off to one of his best starts ever. He seems like a lock to score at least 50 goals again as long as he stays healthy. That still may not be enough to get him another goal-scoring crown simply because David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) and Draisaitl, who narrowly missed out on the goal-scoring crown a year ago, are scoring goals at such a ridiculous pace. Both players look like they are going to give Ovechkin his best challenge in years.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_10_most_surprising_developments_of_the_nhl_season/s1_13132_30509882

By: Adam Gretz

Three takeaways from Washington Capitals’ 4-3 overtime win over Toronto Maple Leafs

The last time the Washington Capitals faced the Toronto Maple Leafs, the final score was in favor of Washington, who managed a 4-3 win. On Tuesday, the story had the same ending, but played out in a completely different way.

Prior to puck drop, Alex Ovechkin had some advice for the Maple Leafs when it came to winning, which may have added some fuel to their showdown in Toronto.

In a back-and-forth game that featured multi-goal performances from Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson and Auston Matthews, Washington ultimately came out on top with a 4-3 overtime victory.

Let’s take a look at the three takeaways from Tuesday’s matchup:

1. Johnny for Norris

John Carlson’s among the biggest names in the NHL right now, and for good reason. The long-time Capitals defenseman, who went from a promising prospect to top-pairing blueliner, is making a hefty case for the Norris Trophy early on and continued his campaign with vigor on Tuesday.

After going without a point in Washington’s outstanding 6-5 comeback victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, Carlson was right back at it for the Caps, scoring about halfway through the opening frame to tie the game at 1-1. He struck again on a second-period power play when he fired a slapshot past Frederik Andersen to give Washington a 2-1 lead.

The last time the Washington Capitals faced the Toronto Maple Leafs, the final score was in favor of Washington, who managed a 4-3 win. On Tuesday, the story had the same ending, but played out in a completely different way.

Prior to puck drop, Alex Ovechkin had some advice for the Maple Leafs when it came to winning, which may have added some fuel to their showdown in Toronto.

In a back-and-forth game that featured multi-goal performances from Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson and Auston Matthews, Washington ultimately came out on top with a 4-3 overtime victory.

Let’s take a look at the three takeaways from Tuesday’s matchup:

2. Leafs power play still lacking, but finally connects

Since John Tavares has been out of the lineup with a broken finger — which also came in a game against Washington — Toronto’s power play has been far from impressive.

Entering Tuesday’s contest, the Leafs were 1-for-12 over their last five games without their captain. And vs. the Caps the same storyline followed. They were 0-for-6 on their first opportunities before finally converting on their seventh attempt when William Nylander found Matthews in the slot, who ripped the puck past Braden Holtby to give Toronto a 3-2 lead.

Fortunately for the Maple Leafs, they’ve still managed to average at least three goals per game without Tavares in the lineup, thanks to Matthews and Co. stepping up in his absence.

However, in the long run, success on the man advantage will be crucial — regardless of Tavares’ presence or not — for a longer playoff run this season.

3. Ovechkin’s still got it

Alex Ovechkin knows how to do that hockey.

That’s stating the obvious, but the 34-year-old just won’t slow down. His prowess was evident on Tuesday, as he struck not once, but twice on the power play to pave the way to the 4-3 overtime victory. His first power-play tally was a finisher on a great end-to-end effort by T.J. Oshie to tie the game at 3-3, while his second came from the office and won the game in OT.

Beyond lighting the lamp, Ovechkin finished the game with 10 — yes, 10 — shots and also had primary assists on both of Carlson’s goals. The Russian winger leads all active skaters in career double-digit shot games with 49, the next leader being Eric Staal with nine, as per ESPN’s Dimitri Filipovic.

Washington’s captain now has 11 goals on the season, putting him in second in the league’s goal-scoring race (tied with Matthews), trailing leader Pastrnak by just one goal. His two goals on Tuesday put him at 669 for his career, surpassing Luc Robitaille (668) for the 12th-most goals in NHL history.

By: Sammi Silber

https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nhl/news/three-takeaways-from-washington-capitals-4-3-overtime-win-over-toronto-maple-leafs/7tan5jwomtgx1dvq6pdrzsz3k

The best pure goal scorer for every NHL team

It is hockey’s most valuable skill and the one that is most difficult to consistently do well — goal scoring. Some players are great at it because they have a great shot, a lightning quick release or just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Every team needs a great goal scorer to win, and here we take a look at the best pure goal scorer on every team in the NHL. Some you know well, but others may not get the recognition they fully deserve.  1 of 31

Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell

With Corey Perry now playing in Dallas, and Ryan Getzlaf getting older, the Ducks’ best goal scorer is the 26-year-old Rakell. His production slumped a bit this past season, but before that he scored 97 goals in the three previous seasons, including a pair of seasons with at least 33 goals. He does not get a lot of attention around the league, mainly because the team around him has not been great, but he is an outstanding player.  2 of 31

Arizona Coyotes: Phil Kessel

The Coyotes have not had a player like Kessel in more than a decade. He may be getting older and have his share of flaws away from the puck, but he can also still be one of the NHL’s best offensive player. Arizona needed an impact player who could be the focal point of the offense, and he provides exactly that.  3 of 31

Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak

The Bruins have the NHL’s best line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Bergeron and Marchand are the superstars, and Pastrnak is set to join them. He has topped the 30-goal mark in three straight seasons and had he not missed nearly 20 games due to injury a year ago, he would have been a near lock for 40 goals. If you wanted a sleeper pick for the NHL’s goal scoring crown this year, he would be a good choice given his talent and the quality of the players around him.  4 of 31

Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner

After being a top goal scorer without the luxury of playing next to a legitimate No. 1 center in Carolina, Skinner arrived in Buffalo at the start of the 2018-19 season and found an instant chemistry alongside Jack Eichel. Playing next to one of the league’s best young players helped him produce his first-ever 40-goal season and landed him a huge long-term contract to stay in Buffalo. He may not score 40 every year, but with combination of his quick shot and Eichel’s playmaking, he should always have a chance to do it.  5 of 31

Calgary Flames: Matthew Tkachuk

Just three years into his career, and Tkachuk is already an impact player in every possible way. He scores goals, he makes plays, he agitates opponents and he plays on the edge of the line. He is basically the Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. He is going to be a 35-40 goal winger for a long time. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho

In just a couple of years the answer to this question will be Andrei Svechnikov, but for now Aho still gets the edge because he has done it consistently over three years in the league. He may not be a challenger for the league lead, but he is going to score 25-30 goals every year throughout his prime. Add in his playmaking and two-way game, and you have a great franchise player.  7 of 31

Chicago Blackhawks: Alex DeBrincat

Is it a bold call to choose DeBrincat over, say, Patrick Kane? Probably, and maybe Blackhawks fans disagree, but DeBrincat is just now entering his third year in the league and already has 70 goals in 168 games, including a 41-goal performance in his second year. He is going to be the foundation of the next chapter in the Blackhawks franchisee. He is also one of the latest examples that teams should not be afraid to take smaller, undersized players. Talent wins.  8 of 31

Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon

After bursting onto the scene as an impact rookie at the age of 18, MacKinnon’s career kind of leveled off for a few years. Then he blossomed into a mega star and one of the league’s best players. He is the cornerstone piece of a team that should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future and has scored 80 goals over the past two full seasons.  9 of 31

Columbus Blue Jackets: Cam Atkinson

It is a good bet that Cam Atkinson is a lot better than you realize. One of the most overlooked players in the league, Atkinson has scored 35, 24 (in only 65 games), and 41 goals the past three seasons, respectively. With Artemi Panarin now in New York playing for the Rangers, Atkinson is going to have to be one of the go-to players in the Blue Jackets lineup.  10 of 31

Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski

Pavelski was the Stars’ big offseason acquisition this summer, as they hoped he could be one of the missing pieces in their lineup. They needed secondary scoring, and Pavelski has been one of the league’s best goal scorers for the past six years. A late bloomer when it comes to being an impact player, Pavelski is coming off a 38-goal season for the Sharks, the fifth 30-goal season of his career. 

Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin

One of the league’s fastest players, Larkin finally had a big breakout goal-scoring year during the 2018-19 season and recorded his first 30-goal season. Even though it seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 23 years old and is one of the bright spots on a rebuilding Red Wings team. He figures to be a huge part of their future.  12 of 31

Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid

He already has a pair of 40-goal seasons on his resume, and it is only a matter of time until he hits 50. Combined with his game-breaking speed and precision passing, he is the most complete offensive player in the sport and seems like a lock to finish near the top in every major offensive category every year as long as he stays healthy. He has already won two scoring titles, and there is almost certainly a goal scoring crown in his future.  13 of 31

Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov

He is one of the league’s best all-around players and is an absolute steal under the salary cap. Along with his great defensive play and superb playmaking, he also has scored at a 30-goal pace the couple of years. He is only 24 years old and might still have his best days ahead of him.  14 of 31

Los Angeles Kings: Ilya Kovalchuk

Maybe this is a testament to how far the Kings have fallen the past few years, but Kovalchuk probably really is the answer. At his peak he was one of the most dominant forwards in the league and was the league’s best goal scorer before Alex Ovechkin arrived. He spent a large chunk of his career playing in the KHL only to return this past season. The Kings coaching staff a year ago never seemed to trust him (or want him), but he should be poised for a bounce back year under Todd McLellan.  15 of 31

Minnesota Wild: Eric Staal

This was a toss-up between Staal and Zach Parise. But with Parise slowing down and Staal being the best goal scorer on the team in recent years, we are going with him. A few years ago Staal looked like his career was about ready to come to an end, but joining the Wild seemed to spark something for him and he has been a completely different player, even hitting the 40-goal mark once.

Montreal Canadiens: Brendan Gallagher

Gallagher has really evolved over the years, going from a depth player whose biggest intention seemed to be rattling the cages of his opponents to a legit top-line player who can score 30 goals. He has hit the 30-goal mark in each of the past two seasons and has become one of the Canadiens’ best and most important players.  17 of 31

Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg

Predators general manager David Poile has assembled his team over the years through a series of major trades. The best of them all was getting Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat. Erat was a flop with the Capitals, while Forsberg has blossomed into one of the league’s best players and an outstanding goal scorer. Since joining the Predators, he has averaged more than 30 goals per 82 games.  18 of 31

New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall

When healthy, Hall has been everything the Devils wanted him to be when they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for Adam Larsson. The big question for the Devils is whether they can convince him to re-sign with the team, especially as they are off to a brutal start of the 2019-20 season.  19 of 31

New York Islanders: Anders Lee

A sixth-round draft pick and at one time an afterthought in the Islanders organization, Lee has transformed into one of the best net-front players in the league and the best goal scorer on the team. With 28 goals a year ago, he showed that his production was not just the result of playing alongside John Tavares and that, yes, he can score on his own and help drive the offense.  20 of 31

New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin

From the moment he arrived in the NHL, Panarin has been one of the league’s most impactful offensive players. He is an outstanding playmaker who makes his linemates better, but he is also an outstanding goal scorer who is going to push the 30-goal mark every year. The Rangers signed him to a massive contract in free agency to be a significant part of their rebuild. 

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Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk

It is slim pickings on this Senators team for goal scoring talent. About 10 years ago the answer would have easily been Bobby Ryan, but he has not been that player for some time now. Brady Tkachuk is in only his second year in the league but has already shown a goal scoring touch and is one of the few bright spots that this team has to build around long term.  22 of 31

Philadelphia Flyers: James van Riemsdyk

Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier are the best players on the Flyers, but none of them has ever been a truly great goal scorer. Their brilliance is in their passing (Giroux, Voracek) and defensive play (Couturier). It is van Riemsdyk who has been one of the more overlooked goal scorers in the league and a truly good one. In his first year back with the Flyers in 2018-19, he scored 27 goals in only 66 games.  23 of 31

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby

Crosby is known more for his passing and “200-foot game,” but one of the most overlooked parts of his career is that he has two Rocket Richard Trophies on his resume. He makes the wingers around him better goal scorers, yet he is still the best goal scorer on his team — one of the best players ever.  24 of 31

San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture

With Joe Pavelski now in Dallas and Patrick Marleau at the age of 40, the Sharks do not really have a great pure goal scorer on their roster. They have a lot of great all-around players and impact offensive performers but nobody who has really established himself as a great goal scorer every year. The closest is probably Couture, the team’s best forward. In a good year he will challenge the 35 mark but is usually a good bet to score close to 30 for the Sharks.  25 of 31

St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko

He is probably the one player on the Blues’ 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning team who has a shot at the Hall of Fame. He is lock to score at least 30 goals every season and can carry the team’s offense on his back when he is at his best. He also proved to be a big-time performer in the playoffs with 33 goals in 70 career postseason games, including 11 during the team’s championship run. 

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Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos

The second best goal scorer of his era, trailing only the great Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Stamkos has five 40-goal seasons on his resume, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns (and one 60-goal season!). The disappointing thing is that his career could look even better had it not been for a run of serious injuries (plus a half-season lockout) between the ages of 23 and 26 that robbed him of a significant portion of his peak years. Even with that, he is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in hockey.  27 of 31

Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares

There is a convincing case to be made for Auston Matthews to get this call for the Maple Leafs (he has scored at a 40-goal pace over the first three seasons of his career), but Tavares is coming off a 47-goal season and has been scoring at an elite rate in the NHL for more than a decade now. That is worth something. A lot, actually. He came to Toronto, his hometown, with huge expectations and a massive free agent contract and not only never seemed phased by the pressure, but he actually had the best season of his career.  28 of 31

Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser

It would be tempting to put Elias Pettersson here after the rookie season he had, and he is certainly the Canucks’ most impactful player. But a lot of his rookie goal scoring total came off a hot stretch in the first month of the season that he may not be able to duplicate. Boeser, on the other hand, has shown over two full seasons that he can regularly put the puck in the net. The only thing that has slowed him down is injury. If he can ever play 82 games, he might have a 40-goal season in his future.  29 of 31

Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty

Mark Stone is the best all-around player on this team, but Pacioretty still gets the slight edge when it comes to pure goal scoring. He may not be the 40-goal threat he was a couple of years ago when he was at his peak in Montreal, but as long as he stays healthy enough to play a full season he should be good for 30-35 goals.  30 of 31

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin

I mean, come on. Who else was this going to be? There is a convincing argument to be made that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer who has ever played in the NHL, and he has a legitimate shot to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record. Even if he does not, the fact he is going to seriously challenge it in this era of defensive, structured hockey with goaltending at the best level it has ever been is an incredible accomplishment. 

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Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine

Laine has already proved to be such a great goal scorer that when he scored 30 goals during the 2018-19 season (only his third season in the league) it was viewed as a down year for him. He has scored at least 30 goals every year he has been in the league and seems destined to have a couple of 50-goal seasons in his future. The Jets being positioned to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 was one of the biggest turning points for the franchise. 

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/the_best_pure_goal_scorer_for_every_nhl_team/s1__30275615#slide_31

By: Adam Gretz

The biggest storylines in 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs

The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs are set to begin, so settle in for two months of unpredictable chaos, madness and excitement. Some of the big stories worth watching include the Washington Capitals‘ pursuit of a repeat, Tampa Bay’s quest to finally get over the hump and Sergei Bobrovsky’s attempt to solve his postseason demons. All of these are among our 20 biggest storylines to watch in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Can the Capitals repeat?

Winning the Stanley Cup once is incredibly difficult. Winning it two years in a row is even harder. It is something that has been done only three times since 1990, and the Capitals are going to try to add to that list. They still have all of the superstars that made their 2018 championship possible and made some smart additions at the trade deadline to bring in Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen to sure up the defense. They have all of the ingredients at their disposal to do it.

Will the Lightning finish it this season?

After experiencing repeated playoff heartbreak over the past four years, the Lightning are back and better than ever this season. They completed one of the best regular seasons in NHL history, and they enter the playoffs as the clear favorites to win the Stanley Cup. If they do not reach at least the Stanley Cup Final with this roster, it will be their biggest postseason disappointment yet.

The Golden Knights’ encore performance

So much to watch with the Golden Knights. Will they have their over-the-top pregame performances? Will they be able to make another run to the Stanley Cup Final? Can they actually win it all in Year 2? You have to like their chances not only because of the strength of their roster but also because their path through the Pacific Division bracket features two teams with significant question marks in goal. That is a good position to have an advantage in this time of year.

Joe Thornton’s last ride?

The only thing Thornton’s Hall of Fame career is missing is his name on the Stanley Cup, and this might be his last best shot to do it. He is not getting any younger, it is not known how much longer he is going to play in the NHL, and the San Jose Sharks went all in on this season to try to get a championship. They will need a healthy Erik Karlsson to get there and for Martin Jones to get his act together in net after a miserable regular season.

Will the Stanley Cup return to Canada?

A Canadian-0based NHL team has not won the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens did so all the way back in 1993. There are three Canadian teams that have a chance to do it this season with Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg all punching their tickets to the playoffs. The Flames, having finished the year with the best record in the Western Conference, seem to be the team with the best chance to do it, but they have major questions in goal. The Maple Leafs have to get through their arch nemesis in Boston, while the Jets have been trending in the wrong direction down the stretch.

 

Can the Maple Leafs get out of the first round?

If they do not, there is going to be some intense scrutiny in Toronto. Not only do the Maple Leafs need to win as a team, but coach Mike Babcock also needs to advance for the sake of his own reputation. There have been 23 different coaches who have won a playoff series since a Babcock-coached team has, while he has made it out of the first round just once since 2010. That is not what you want from the highest-paid coach in the NHL

The Islanders return to the playoffs

Nobody expected the New York Islanders to be here. After missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and then losing John Tavares in free agency, expectations were as low as humanly possible for them at the start of the year. But they defied the odds all year and put together one of the most incredible one-year turnarounds in recent NHL history, going from the worst defensive team in the league a year ago to the best this season. How long can their goalies continue their great play and will they find enough offense? Those going to be the big questions for them.

Full List Here

By: Adam Gretz

NHL playoff primer: 5 intriguing matchups to watch in the 1st round

It’s playoff season once again.

Before you fill out your postseason bracket, we break down one key matchup across five first-round series that could make or break a team in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Top-line takeover

It’s no secret – for the Leafs to trump the Bruins, they need to find an answer for the three-headed monster of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand.

The Leafs were tormented by the Bruins’ top line in their seven-game series last postseason. Bergeron and Co. controlled possession, posting a Corsi rating of 64.90, and dominated Toronto in high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, 49-26. An encouraging note for the Leafs is that the Corsi number dropped to 54.84 when matched with Auston Matthews and shot up to 75 when going against Tomas Plekanec – suggesting the trio dominated much of the play against a veteran player who is no longer in the league.

Looking at the regular season, both Matthews and Bergeron were out of the lineup for two of the teams’ meetings this season, so we’ll have to see how the coaches choose to deploy their top talent with the pair back in the mix.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders

Goaltending vs. star power

The Islanders claiming home-ice advantage was key, but perhaps their biggest edge sits between the pipes. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss combined to capture the William M. Jennings Trophy this season, and their dominant play must continue for the team to be successful against the Penguins’ offensive arsenal.

Though neither netminder has a ton of playoff experience, the job will likely be Lehner’s to lose. Since returning from injury on March 19, the 27-year-old has posted a 5-2 record with a .942 save percentage.

Barry Trotz’s club allowed a league-low 191 goals on the campaign and posted a record of 38-2-2 when scoring at least three times in a game. Led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins boasted the fifth-best offense this year and rostered four players with 70-plus points.

Pittsburgh mustered 13 goals in four games against the Islanders during the regular season, with Crosby and Malkin combining for eight points.

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche

Can ‘Johnny Hockey’ outperform MacKinnon?

Calgary’s Gaudreau and Colorado’s MacKinnon each notched a career-high 99 points this season. Though they play different positions up front, the two will be a joy to watch compete as they best embody the speed and skill that will be on display in this series.

The All-Stars have no problem facing the pressure of playoff hockey, either, as MacKinnon has tallied 16 points in 13 career contests, with Gaudreau posting 11 points in 15.

Both men know how to deliver when it matters most, too. “Johnny Hockey” racked up 39 points and 17 goals in the third period or overtime this season, while MacKinnon contributed 37 points and 15 goals in those clutch moments. When the game is on the line, look for one of these two studs to follow through.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Stingy penalty kill vs. Electric man advantage

Special teams will heavily influence this matchup between one of the greatest regular-season teams ever and a franchise looking for its first playoff series victory.

The Lightning’s power play was lethal this season, clicking at a league-leading rate of 28.2 percent. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, deploy the NHL’s top penalty kill.

The Lightning and Blue Jackets posted similar possession numbers with Corsi ratings of 51.59 and 50.21, respectively. The more even-strength hockey Columbus can play, the better its chances of pulling out the upset – in the regular season, the Lightning erupted for six power-play goals on 11 attempts in their three victories over the Jackets this year.

St. Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets

Battle in the crease

This Central Division clash is about as even as any playoff series on the slate. The Jets won 47 regular-season games and sported a goal differential of plus-28, while the Blues won 45 contests and were plus-24. Both teams finished with 99 points, but what may ultimately separate the two in this series is the play in the crease.

The Blues netminder was one of the best stories of the season. In 32 appearances, Binnington posted a .927 save percentage and an unbelievable 1.89 goals-against average en route to setting a franchise record for wins by a rookie goaltender with 24. The 25-year-old has yet to face the Jets this season, perhaps to the Blues’ advantage.

Hellebuyck was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season but will need to regain his form in a hurry after taking a step backward this year. The 25-year-old won 10 fewer games and saw his goals against average spike from 2.36 to 2.90.

With two netminders trending in opposite directions, goaltending will be the deciding factor in this series.

By: Matt Teague

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2019 NHL All-Star rosters announced

The NHL has announced the four rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game today, scheduled to be held on January 26th in San Jose. Earlier today, Alex Ovechkin, who was elected captain of Metropolitan Division squad, told the league that he wouldn’t be attending and will accept the punishment of missing one game either before or after the break. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews will represent the Pacific, Central and Atlantic respectively, as the other captains. A replacement captain for Ovechkin has yet to be named.

The full rosters are as follows:

Pacific Division

John Gibson (ANA)
Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK)

D Erik Karlsson (SJS)
Brent Burns (SJS)
Drew Doughty (LAK)

Connor McDavid (EDM)*
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY)
Joe Pavelski (SJS)
F Elias Pettersson (VAN)
F Clayton Keller (ARI)

Central Division

Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Devan Dubnyk (MIN)

D Roman Josi (NSH)
D Miro Heiskanen (DAL)

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)*
Mikko Rantanen (COL)
Blake Wheeler (WPG)
Patrick Kane (CHI)

Mark Scheifele (WPG)
F Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

Atlantic Division

Jimmy Howard (DET)
G Carey Price (MTL)

Keith Yandle (FLA)
D Thomas Chabot (OTT)

F Auston Matthews (TOR)*
F Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
F Steven Stamkos (TBL)
John Tavares (TOR)

F David Pastrnak (BOS)
F Jack Eichel (BUF)

Full List

By Zach Leach