After a two month absence at the hands of a sports hernia injury, Sidney Crosby returned to action Tuesday evening against the Wild. The Pens' captain has officially taken the reins back from Evgeni Malkin who was unconscious during that spell. As he always is when Crosby is injured.
Pittsburgh led the league with an 18-6-4 record while Sid was on the shelf. And they can thank Geno for most of that success. Here’s hoping Malkin doesn’t just fall back to ‘earth’ aka a point-per-game pace rather than the 120 clip he was rolling at.
Evgeni Malkin’s last two months with Crosby on the shelf
• 26 GP
• 11 goals
• 27 assists
• 91 SOG
• Pittsburgh leads the league with 42 points over that span.
The 101st best player off all-time, ladies and gentlemen
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 13, 2020
For reference, Sid was skating with Jared McCann and Dominik Simon on Tuesday. If you’ll recall, I predicted McCann would be the best option to replace Jake Guentzel’s style when Crosby returned. Bryan Rust and Dominik Kahun stuck with Malkin to complete the top six.
It sure didn't take long for Sid to get his feet under him, producing a goal and three helpers in the win. He didn't show an ounce of…rust. Malkin wasn't left out either scoring two goals, an assist and putting six shots on net. McCann went 1+1.
Nicklas Backstrom negotiated and signed his own extension on Tuesday. The 32-year-old inked a five-year deal that runs through his age-37 season paying him 9.2 million per season. We’ll call a spade a spade and dub this ‘payment for past performances’ deal. Backstrom was on a tremendously team-friendly deal that paid him just 6.7 for the past 10 seasons.
However, I also really like the Swedish centre and see his game ageing well. His approach is predicated on sky-high intelligence and patience with the puck. The typical skills that break down with age – speed and physicality, won’t impact his style as much as it would to, say, a power winger. Sure, the Caps will be eating some production in the latter years, but I like Backstrom to continue to be at or near a point-per-game for the next few seasons. Cap leagues, justifiably hate this deal and I can dig that.
Side note: Crosby's 8.7 million dollar hit for 12 seasons is probably the best contract that no one talks about.
Noah Dobson scored his first career goal as the Islanders dismantled the Red Wings 8-2. Not too much to get into here. Detroit is truly dreadful. They're earning that lottery selection.
Dobson is going to be a splendid player for a lot of years for the Isles. He'll also finally solve their issue of a legitimate PPQB. Just give him a beat or two to get there.
Owners will need to start saying goodbye to Esa Lindell’s production as John Klingberg returns to action. Lindell always seems to do an admirable job when Klingberg is out, this time putting up eight assists in the last eight games.
He’ll never be a real high-end point-getter though and we know that. The Stars rely too heavily on him on the PK and defensive zone. And he’ll always have Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen ahead of him. Thomas Harley won’t be far behind either.
Klingberg had a power-play apple in their game against the Avs on Tuesday. But it was Lindell who buried the OT winner. Looks like we can postpone that goodbye another day.
The Avs were messing with their power-play units as they attempt to shake off the three-game losing streak and are just 3-6-2 in their last 11. Despite their record, their PP over that span sits seventh in the league clicking at 22.5 percent. Anyways, this is not the best for Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar owners.
#Avs getting in some power-play unit work.
PP1: Compher, Girard, Kadri, Landeskog and MacKinnon
PP2: Jost, Kamenev, Makar, Nichushkin and Rantanen
— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) January 13, 2020
Girard has been LIGHTS OUT the last little while with 11 points in six games coming into Tuesday’s match against the Stars. And he was doing much of his damage in a sustainable way at even-strength.
The biggest hurdle in maximizing the defensive assets that are occurring in Colorado is that… they’re all so damn good. There simply won’t be enough prime ice to go around for Makar, Girard and Bowen Byram (when he arrives next year). Either one of them will lock it down and the other two will fight for the scraps. Or we see a rotation that leads to streaky production for all.
I’d do a lot to own any of the three in different circumstances, but when they all suit up for the same squad it throws more wrinkles than can be ironed out.
Jack Hughes played in Toronto for the first time on Tuesday. The rookie and 2019 first-overall selection spent a great deal of his youth in the GTA area as his dad worked for the Leafs. He remained on a line with Miles Wood and Wayne Simmonds. The American center has had his trials and tribulations early in his career, and on Tuesday night he had a front-row seat to see what a young team looks like after a couple of years of marinating.
Quite literally a front-row seat. He played just over seven minutes before apparently feeling too sick to go one. He probably wasn't the only one feeling sick as the Devils were defeated 7-4.
I have so little faith in the San Jose Sharks these days. Virtually every player has either underperformed save for Evander Kane who has fallen cold as his streaky self often will and the now-injured, Logan Couture. At least Bob Boughner has done the right thing and put his three of the four best forwards together.
Kane, Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc formed the first line for the Sharks in their matchup against the Coyotes on Tuesday. They were pretty good with Labanc and Kane each potting two points. The Coyotes beat the Sharks up 6-3 with Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel each grabbing three points.
Watch out for these Desert Dogs.
Rasmus Dahlin is a bad man. The kid is just 19 years of age and pulling the rug out like a grizzled vet. I'll reiterate, Dahlin is pacing at a clip we haven't seen from a U20 defender in the last 36 years. He's just barely scratching the surface.
Rasmus Dahlin is slick pic.twitter.com/ZyYwpbYysv
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 15, 2020
I was recently asked who I would choose in a dynasty between Dahlin and Quinn Hughes. It was a cruel question because I love them both so much. But my gut leans Dahlin by a hair. I like Hughes's position in Vancouver a touch more, and I expect Dahlin will become leaned on a bit more in all situations, but still, the Swede has damn near generational-type abilities.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) January 15, 2020
I'm not sure what Jonathan Huberdeau needs to do to be recognized as one of the truly elite players in the game today, but whatever it is, he hasn't found it yet. All he's done is been one of the most consistent point improvers of the last half-decade. Breaking 90 last season. On pace for 111 this year. Sitting seventh overall in the past two years of service.