Ramblings: Pastrnak Returns, Barkov Rolls On, & Scoring is Up and It Is Spectacular (March 20)

by Cam Robinson on March 19, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Pastrnak Returns, Barkov Rolls On, & Scoring is Up and It Is Spectacular (March 20)

 

In a pivotal Eastern Conference battle, the Canadiens and Flyers met in Philadelphia on Tuesday evening.  Montreal came into the contest losers of two straight and with just four points in their last six games. That run was pushing them closer to the 10th place, Flyers than the eighth-place, Blue Jackets.

 

Carey Price and Carter Hart both came to play, but it was the Habs who jumped out to a 2-0 lead half-way through the contest. Brendan Gallagher’s 31st of the year tied his previous career-best set a season ago, while Shea Weber converted his 12th tally. Sean Couturier got the Flyers on the board in the final frame on a power-play marker, but Max Domi sealed it into the empty net with under 90 seconds to play.

 

The win pulled the Habs to within a single point of Columbus for the final Wild Card spot but CBJ had a contest with the Flames later in the evening.  

 

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Let’s just jump right into that one to keep the suspense from building too high.

 

Calgary came into the night leaders of the West with 95 points despite being just 5-5-0 in their previous 10 games. They fell behind early in this one after Zach Werenski scored his 11th, but tallied the next three and never looked back. Dave Rittich stopped 33 of 35 to record his fourth straight victory. The loss leaves CBJ clinging to that final Wild Card spot.

 

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Remember when Freddie Andersen was one of the best fantasy netminders? Yeah, neither do I. The Danish puck-stopper has been flipping the bird to his owners during the fantasy playoffs for the better part of two weeks. Heading into a Tuesday night matchup with the Preds, he had allowed 14 goals in three games.

 

He and the Maple Leafs were desperately looking to stop the skid, but it wasn’t to be. Brian Boyle gave the Predators a 1-0 lead at 4:47 of the first period. Wayne Simmonds boosted the Predators a 2-0 lead at 9:13 of the third period. Filip Forsberg scored an empty-net goal to make it 3-0.

 

Kyle Turris returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous two contests. He skated just 11:30 on the fourth line.

 

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Ben Bishop returned from a brief injury stint to try and rekindle his shutout-streak. He was going up against a red-hot Sasha Barkov and the Florida Panthers so it was going to be a tough task.

 

The shutout streak ended just two minutes into the contest, lasting a total of 233:04. Not too shabby though. And of course, it was Barkov who found the back of the net – his first of two goals on the evening. The 22-year-old is absolutely feeling it these days.

 

 

He’s one of the most underrated players in the game today. Barkov has just six total penalty minutes while averaging 22:28 per contest. That mark trails only Connor McDavid (23:03) and Leon Draisaitl (22:36) as the Oilers ride their only horses right into the dirt.

 

The best is yet to come for the Finnish pivot.

 

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Bishop and the Stars weren’t shaken by the early goal against. The top line took over from there, with Jamie Benn (1+2), Alex Radulov (2+1), and Tyler Seguin (0+4) combining for 10 points. The Stars took this one 4-2 and are now five points up on the Wild and looking set to rejoin the playoff picture. 

 

Here is a look at the Stars' stats since the infamous 'horseshit' comments by the team's CEO:

 

 

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Tuukka Rask recorded what might have been the easiest shutout of his career. The Finnish netminder turned aside just 13 shots as the Bruins blanked the Islanders 5-0 on Tuesday evening.

 

The big news in this one was the return of David Pastrnak. After missing nearly six weeks with an injured thumb, the 22-year-old was back to his old spot on the top line next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. He skated 14:19 with three shots on goal. That entire line was rested as this one was never in doubt.

 

There were reports that Jake DeBrusk would miss this game due to injury, but he managed to dress and buried his 23rd of the campaign. As expected, Danton Heinen lost his cushy spot in the top six and was skating on the left side of Sean Kurlay – who happened to pot two markers in this game, and Chris Wagner.

 

Heinen nabbed an assist in this one, but skating on the third line doesn’t present a lot of reasons to expect the production to continue.

 

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The Penguins received a massive boon as Kris Letang returned to the lineup after missing nearly a month. The team’s top blueliner didn’t miss a beat as he scored a goal, recorded four shots, 12 penalty minutes and skated a team-high 26:45. Jake Guentzel continued his terrific season by posting a goal – his 37th of the season, and an assist. The 24-year-old may be clicking on 18.7 percent of his shots this season, but he is no stranger to high conversion rates.

 

Here’s a tweet from the tail-end of his rookie season in 2016-17

 

 

There aren’t too many players I would feel comfortable projecting to hang around the high-teens for conversion rates; Guentzel is one of them. His living next to Sid doesn’t hurt that one bit.

 

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It wasn’t enough though, as the Pens fell 3-2 to the Canes in a shootout. Carolina is now two points back of the Pens for the third spot in the Metro. They have two games in hand.

 

Of note, Sebastian Aho led all skaters with 28:27 – including 3:54 in overtime. That’s a career-high for the 21-year-old.

 

Petr Mrazek stopped 33 of 35 to record his sixth quality start in his last seven starts. He’s battled all the way back to a .909 save percentage on the season. Not bad for a throwaway.

 

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The Caps waltzed through the Devils 4-1 on Tuesday. But to be fair, nearly everyone does that to New Jersey these days. Their roster is a who’s who of AHL players and they lost Kyle Palmieri to injury in the first frame. He did not return.

 

The tank is rolling deep.

 

Phoenix Copley made 20 saves, Brett Connolly scored a goal and an assist, and Alex Ovechkin recorded the rare no-shot game.

 

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In a battle between two not-very-good teams, Jimmy Howard made 41 stops to help the Red Wings defeat the Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Gardens.

 

Fresh off of signing his first professional contract, and receiving the BIG10 Conference Player of the Year Award, Taro Hirose skated in his first NHL contests. He grabbed an assist on Frans Nielsen’s first-period goal.

 

Andreas Athanasiou scored two goals to give him five in his previous four games and 28 on the campaign.

 

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Jaden Schwartz scored three and added a helper, David Perron chipped in with two goals and an assist as the Blues feasted on the Oilers 7-2. Jordan Binnington made just 15 saves to improve his record to 18-4-1 with a 0.930 save percentage.

 

McDavid saw his eight-game, multi-point, and 12-game point streaks come to an end.

 

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We all know scoring is up. But just how high is remarkable. Let’s take a gander at the five seasons prior to this one and see how the quality and quantity of production has fluctuated. To keep things simple when comparing to 2018-19, I’ve set the games played minimum at 55.

 

Way back in 2013-14, we witnessed 11 skaters record a point-per-game or better. Sidney Crosby led the way with 1.30 points-per-game. Four skaters played at a 90-point pace or better. 2014-15 saw eight skaters break the point-per-game mark with Jamie Benn leading the way with 87-points.

 

2015-16 slipped even further. Just seven skaters played at the point-per-game pace. Patty Kane ran away with the Art Ross with his 106 points. No other skater played at a 90-point-pace. 2016-17 was nearly identical. Eight skaters at or above the point-per-game mark, with McDavid the only triple-digit producer, and Crosby the only other player to play above a 90-point pace.

 

Last season we began to see a shift for the good. A whopping 24 skaters clicked above the point-per-game mark. We had three 100-plus point seasons from McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, and Claude Giroux. Meanwhile, we had eight others produce at or above the 90-point threshold.

 

The good times have certainly continued to roll in 2018-19. With just 10 games remaining on the schedule for most clubs, we have 35 players above the point-per-game mark. We have already witnessed three players crack the 100-point barrier, and seven more are on pace to join them by early April.

 

Kucherov is on pace to record the first 130-point campaign since Teemu Selanne dropped 132 back in 1992-93. Mario (161) and Jagr (149) each amazed in 1995-96, but we're unlikely to see that level up for some time, if ever. 

 

2017-18’s 2.97 average goals-per-game represented the highest mark since the 2005-06 season when penalty calls were… actually called on a regular basis thanks to the lockout. This season has taken it a step further with a 3.03 goal-per-game average.

 

We’re not back to the four-goal average we saw in 1981-82 (I use the word ‘saw’ loosely as I wasn’t even a glimmer in my papa’s eye at that point), but we are slowly crawling back to the gaudy totals of the early 1990s before the clutch and grab era took over. And it’s not due to the referees calling things either. The league has steadily slowed it’s power-play opportunities from a high-water mark of 5.85-per-game in 2005-06 to the 2.98 we’re seeing this season.

 

What’s the difference? Well, teams are shooting a bit more. Goaltending equipment has shrunk. But what’s really driving things can be explained by an increase in performance. The young talent that enters the game on a yearly basis has made life very difficult on oppositions coaches and goaltenders. Let’s push to embrace this style, and push for more power-plays in the future. One day, I’d like to draft a player who has a legit chance at posting 150-plus points.

 

Dare to dream, people. Dare to dream.

 

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