The N.H.L. Schedule Is Shaky, but McDavid and Draisaitl Are Steady


In the month forward, the N.H.L. plans to make use of the serene scenes of Lake Tahoe as a backdrop for 2 out of doors video games. But the 19 days of competitors in January introduced a little bit of chaos to the league’s schedule.

Since the season started on Jan. 13, dozens of gamers have been positioned on the Covid-19 protocol-related absence record, which incorporates gamers who check constructive and those that are being monitored due to shut contact with somebody who examined constructive.

Despite the format modifications and shortened schedule, the season has had its share of constants. Most of the league’s high groups from final season have continued to thrive, and superlative performers like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl raised their scoring tempo to seldom-seen ranges, persevering with their offensive dominance from final season.

All statistics and standings are up to date getting into Thursday’s video games.

The N.H.L. had a rocky path to resumption, and the turbulence didn’t finish as soon as the parameters of the 2021 season had been set.

The Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Vegas Golden Knights, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche had been affected by the virus because the calendar turned from January to February.

The league has made postponement selections on a case-by-case foundation. Unlike the N.B.A., the N.H.L. has set no minimal variety of dressed gamers for a recreation to be staged. The N.H.L. has prevented some cancellations by having observe squads accessible to every crew.

For Vegas, solely the teaching employees was initially affected, and the crew performed its Jan. 26 recreation towards the St. Louis Blues with its normal supervisor and minor-league teaching employees behind the bench. But after no less than three coaches and two gamers had been added to the Covid-19 record, three of the Golden Knights’ video games had been postponed.

Earlier this week, the league introduced the postponement of Devils video games by way of no less than Saturday. The crew, which final performed on Sunday, had 14 gamers on the Covid absence record on Tuesday. The Buffalo Sabres, the Devils’ most up-to-date opponent, is not going to play once more till no less than Monday. The league on Wednesday postponed the Wild’s video games by way of no less than Tuesday. Then Thursday evening, the league stated Colorado’s video games by way of Feb. 11 can be postponed due to gamers getting into virus protocols.

In this season of turmoil, few issues have been sure. But the Edmonton Oilers’ two-headed monster of Draisaitl, the reigning Most worthy participant, and McDavid, the 2016-17 M.V.P., has been rock stable as soon as once more.

How copious has this tandem’s scoring been? The pair closed the month by combining for 11 factors in an Eight-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators. In January, that they had a staggering 43 factors in 11 video games, with McDavid averaging two factors per recreation and Draisaitl falling some extent shy of that clip. McDavid’s eight objectives tied him for the league lead in January with Vancouver’s Brock Boeser, and his 14 assists had been second solely to Draisaitl’s 15.

To put the Edmonton duo’s feats in context, Anaheim Ducks skaters produced 41 factors in January, that means Draisaitl and McDavid outscored that complete crew.

Toronto Maple Leafs ahead Mitchell Marner and Colorado heart Nathan MacKinnon had been among the many high 5 January scorers, but MacKinnon is out with a lower-body harm to begin February.

A star was additionally concerned in a blockbuster commerce, with the Winnipeg Jets transport the sniping winger Patrik Laine and the previous first-round choose Jack Roslovic to the Columbus Blue Jackets for heart Pierre-Luc Dubois.

In web, most groups have cut up begins extra evenly amongst their high two goalies. Carolina’s Petr Mrazek, Vegas’s Marc-André Fleury and Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko have thrived in platoons. Mrazek and Fleury posted goals-against averages of 1 or beneath in January — additionally they ranked first and second in save proportion — whereas Demko did the identical in his final three begins. Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer led the league in wins with six.

Kings heart Anze Kopitar, 33, has additionally returned to peak kind, because the 10-month layoff for nonplayoff groups benefited Los Angeles’ 30-something veterans. His 11 assists in January had been the fourth most within the N.H.L. He had yet one more than the wunderkind defensemen Cale Makar of Colorado and Quinn Hughes of Vancouver, who completed first and second in final yr’s Calder Trophy voting.

This yr’s Calder Trophy voting for the N.H.L.’s high rookie could also be dominated by gamers of their 20s, as a substitute of youngsters from the final couple of drafts.

Goalie Vitek Vanecek, 25, was thrust into motion for Washington after Braden Holtby departed for Vancouver in free company, the backup Henrik Lundqvist introduced he would miss the season because of a heart condition and the starter Ilya Samsonov tested positive for coronavirus, according to The Washington Post. Vanecek was the January rookie of the month after winning five games, tops among rookies.

But Kevin Lankinen, 25, leads all rookies in save percentage and goals-against average, having turned the corner on his competitors in the Chicago Blackhawks’ open casting call for a No. 1 goalie.

The top point producer and nickname-earner among rookies has been Minnesota winger Kirill Kaprizov, also known as Kirill the Thrill and Dollar Bill Kirill. Kaprizov, a 23-year-old Russian, was a fifth-round pick in 2015 who then charted a magnificent career at the professional and international level in his home country. He was the youngest player on the gold medal-winning side at the 2018 Olympics and an offensive leader for C.S.K.A. Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.

When he arrived in the N.H.L., Kaprizov became the first player in league history to record three points and an overtime game-winning goal in his debut. For an encore, he set up the overtime winner in his second game.

Devils defenseman Ty Smith, 20, tied Kaprizov for the rookie lead in both points and assists in January. Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller, 21, leads all rookies with a plus-seven rating, an uncommon achievement for a player on a last-place team with a negative goal differential.

The Rangers held Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, out of the World Junior Championships so he could prepare for the N.H.L. season. But he had just one point, a goal, in eight January games.

All seven Canadian franchises were moved into the new North Division, requiring more shuffling.

Five former Pacific teams merged with three former Central squads to make the West Division. The former Central Division teams — St. Louis, Colorado and Minnesota — occupied the first three positions in the standings before Thursday’s games. The Avalanche have one of the league’s best goal differentials at plus-14.

After moving to the Central, the Florida teams got off to strong starts, despite being affected by Dallas’s postponements. The Panthers posted a 5-0-1 record in January, while last year’s Stanley Cup champion, the Tampa Bay Lightning, darted out to a 4-1-1 start.

The North is the only seven-team division, yet it has five of the 10 highest-scoring teams thus far. Montreal — which was seeded 24th in the 24-team playoffs last season — leads the league in goals per game and in goal differential. The Canadiens are in first place, ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who retooled their supporting cast during the off-season.

In the East, the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres were tossed in with six former Metropolitan Division teams, including the Devils, Islanders and Rangers. In what promises to be a competitive race, the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers are tied for the division lead.

Alex Ovechkin returned to action on Saturday after his four-game absence due to the league’s coronavirus protocols. He resumed his pursuit of the career goal-scoring record, and in dramatic fashion. His overtime game-winner against Boston was his 708th goal, tying him with Mike Gartner, another Capitals great, for seventh on the career list. Ovechkin remained 186 goals behind Wayne Gretzky’s record entering Thursday’s game against the Rangers.

Another record that once seemed unassailable now appears likely to fall. San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau last week played his 1,731st game, tying Ron Francis for fourth on the career list. If Marleau finishes the season with at least 45 games played, he will surpass Gordie Howe for the N.H.L. record. Howe, though, played an additional 419 games in the World Hockey Association.



Source link Nytimes.com

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