NHL Rink Wrap: Marner rages on; Matthews reaches 30 before injury scare
Top players from Monday in the NHL
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs
During the NHL action on Monday, player of the night candidates waxed and waned. Auston Matthews scored two goals to reach 30+, but there were scares after he left with an injury. Anthony DeAngelo collected two points, while Frederik Andersen looked like he might help beat his former teammates.
You could even make a feel-good argument for Matt Murray stopping 32 out of 33 shots for a win in 2022.
Eventually, Mitch Marner emerged as the clear player of the night for Monday in the NHL (just two games).
Marner scored the goal to send Hurricanes - Maple Leafs to overtime, then scored the overtime game-winner. He also collected an assist, so it was a three-point night for Marner, who reached 40 points in 34 games overall.
Most impressively, Marner’s now on a five game multi-point streak (7G, 7A). Marner’s on an eight-game point and goal streak (10G, 9A for 19 points in 8 GP). He’s scored multiple points in seven of eight contests. Goodness.
Monday NHL highlights: Hurricanes - Maple Leafs, Senators - Devils
Two strong NHL teams battled it out on Monday, as the Maple Leafs hosted the Hurricanes in front of a condensed Canadian crowd. (You might have heard Gary Bettman complaining about that.)
If this was a playoff preview for the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs, then fans are in for a treat:
When the Devils play the Senators, are the highlights for the winners, or the losers?
Monday NHL Takeaways
NHL injury, COVID updates returning from All-Star break
With Monday representing something of a soft return to NHL action (Senators - Devils, Maple Leafs - Hurricanes being the only games played), there were some injury and COVID updates out of the break for 2022 NHL All-Star weekend.
Did Jack Hughes contract COVID after participating in NHL All-Star weekend? Perhaps, and it makes you wonder if the events brought on unnecessary risks.
Either way, Jack and his brother Quinn Hughes entered NHL COVID protocol, as did Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. Three Winnipeg Jets also entered NHL COVID protocol around Monday: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Neal Pionk, and Austin Poganski. In brighter NHL COVID news, Alex Ovechkin may play as early as Tuesday if he’s cleared after missing a game and the All-Star festivities.
As far as NHL injury news goes, Jack Eichel is closing in on his Golden Knights debut after being cleared for contact. Tuukka Rask won’t practice this week, while Jake Muzzin and Teuvo Teravainen are getting healthier.
Matthews third in NHL to 30 goals, stays in Maurice Richard race ... unless he got injured?
It’s likely easy to forget, but Auston Matthews began the season on a cold streak individually. Through six October games, Matthews was limited to one goal and one assist.
Since Nov. 1, Matthews ranks among four players who’ve scored at least 50 points, and his 30 goals lead everyone during that span. With that goal on Monday, Matthews stayed strong in the Maurice Richard Trophy race overall, becoming the third player in the NHL to reach 30 goals this season. What seemed like a William Nylander goal was switched to Matthews, so Matthews ended the night at 31 goals.
All due respect to Alex DeBrincat as a 26-goal cutoff, here’s how Matthews and the rest of the Maurice Richard Trophy frontrunners look after the NHL action on Monday:
Updated look at Matthews in the Maurice Richard Trophy race
Chris Kreider: 33 goals in 47 games played (Rangers: 47 GP), 147 shots on goal, 22.5 shooting percentage
Leon Draisaitl: 32 goals in 42 GP (Oilers: 42 GP), 149 SOG, 21.5%
Auston Matthews: 31 goals in 40 GP (Maple Leafs: 43 GP). 180 SOG, 17.22%
Alex Ovechkin: 29 goals in 46 GP (Capitals: 47 GP), 213 SOG, 13.6%
As remarkable as Kreider has been, this is the first 30-goal season of his career. Going forward, both Kreider and Draisaitl are likely to see at least a bit less puck luck.
Ovechkin, meanwhile, as been slowing down -- though he’s still shooting a ton, and hasn’t really even been living off of the power play as much this season.
All three of those snipers could outlast Matthews in the Richard race. That said, it certainly wouldn’t be shocking if Matthews makes it two straight goal-scoring titles in a row.
Naturally, that’s all contingent upon Auston Matthews not being injured. Once again, a Maple Leafs star was shaken up by an unlucky fall where an opponent accidentally kneed them in the head/neck. While it wasn’t nearly as scary as the Corey Perry - John Tavares accident, Matthews took quite some time to leave the ice after his collision.
Naturally, PHT will stay posted on the injury status for Matthews. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it looks? He was shaken up late in the third, and then Marner ended the contest quickly in OT, so it’s not clear if he was unable to return, or just didn’t have enough time.
No word on Auston Matthews, Keefe says. Needs time to be assessed.— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) February 8, 2022
Can Hischier do more to help Devils improve?
If you were to grade Devils captain Nico Hischier for his play last season, you’d probably just give him an “Incomplete.” Injuries and all-around bad luck really doomed Hischier in 2020-21.
Generally speaking, injuries haven’t been as much of an excuse this season. Following the NHL action on Monday, Hischier appeared in 40 of the Devils’ 46 games.
Yet it’s tempting to still grade Hischier as an “Incomplete,” or for the Devils to hope that his true value is TBD.
[No surprise, Devils aren’t killing it in latest PHT Power Rankings]
By deflecting in a power-play goal against Ottawa, Hischier scored his ninth goal and 25th point of the season. He also broke a painful six-game pointless streak where he accrued a -7 rating* and went two games without a shot on goal.
Thankfully for the Devils, this slump doesn’t tell the whole story about Hischier. The 23-year-old’s season has mostly been solid, peaking with 10 points in 13 November games.
But the highs and lows cancel each other to readout that’s mostly ... OK. His Hockey Viz heat map radiates “fine.”
For the Devils, the dream would be to hold big advantages at 1C (Jack Hughes) and 2C/maybe a wing spot (Hischier). Hughes is increasingly holding up his end of the bargain, making that $8M per year look like a bargain in the making. But can Hischier be a difference-maker? At this point, he’s arguably not worth his $7.25M cap hit (The Athletic puts his current “market value” at around $5.9M).
Considering his age, at least Hischier has time to flip that script.
* - Plus/minus is largely a dreadful stat, but players still care about it. And it can be decent shorthand for “player enduring a bad time,” even if it’s foolish to put too much weight in how that reflects a player’s performance.
Tuesday’s big story
Golden Knights serve as an interesting test for Oilers in Evander Kane era
Through three games with Evander Kane as a controversial addition, the Oilers won twice and gathered at least a point in each contest (2-0-1). Kane’s been productive, too, scoring a point per game (2G, 1A in three GP).
That said, the Capitals were the only game on the Oilers’ schedule that hasn’t been a “gimme” so far, and Washington was without Alex Ovechkin. To some, beating the Canadiens and dropping an OT loss to the Senators may qualify as the minimum.
Starting with Tuesday’s game against the Golden Knights, the Oilers get truer tests during the Evander Kane era. They play their next three games at home, and four of six in Edmonton. Time to collect standings points, whether Evander Kane remains productive or not.
NHL scores from Monday
Maple Leafs 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Senators 4, Devils 1