NHL Rink Wrap: One playoff spot left; Matthews reaches 60 goals
Tuesday’s top NHL players
Steven Stamkos, Lightning
For the first time in his storied NHL career, Steven Stamkos crossed the 100-point barrier. Actually, at the conclusion of a busy Tuesday in the NHL, Stamkos has 101 points in 79 games this season.
He scored two goals and two assists for four points to cross that 100-point threshold. While it’s been a tremendous season for Stamkos overall, he’s been absurdly hot lately. That four-point night on Tuesday continues one of the most impressive runs in the NHL: Stamkos has stacked up five straight games of at least 3 points (four in each of the last two). Going further, he’s on a seven-game multi-point streak.
The icing on the cake is that, frankly, few expected Stamkos to put up his best season (at least numerically) so late in his career.
Tuesday night presented other noteworthy performances around the NHL. Here are some of the most prolific ones:
- Nikita Kucherov also had four points alongside Stamkos (in Kucherov’s case, 1G and 3A).
- Tim Stützle matched Stamkos with a two-goal, two-assist game of his own. That leaves him with 57 points in 77 games this season.
- On his way to reaching the 120-point mark, Connor McDavid also scored four points (1G, 3A).
Tuesday NHL highlights
Here’s Auston Matthews reaching 60 goals on the season:
Seriously, it’s surprising Stamkos took this long to score 100 points in a season. Sweet either way:
How can Connor McDavid score 120 points? Well, because he can do things like this.
So many twists and turns in the Stars’ important shootout win over the Golden Knights. Check the takeaways for more on that game and other NHL playoff updates.
This Jason Robertson goal warrants its own attention, though. With two in that game, he has 40 on the season.
Nice goal completed by Taylor Hall, but it’s Sergei Bobrovsky’s limited reaction that really makes the highlight sing.
Matthew Tkachuk spoiled a would-be Predators win with a last-second goal. (He also pulled off some high-level trolling on Tuesday.)
Tuesday NHL Takeaways
Playoff clinching updates: last spot down to Stars/Golden Knights; Hurricanes win Metro; Kings, Predators are in
You won’t find many, if any, nights in the NHL season that were as important as Tuesday.
No doubt, the biggest game was the Stars’ narrow shootout win over the Golden Knights. In short, this confirms a few things.
- The Golden Knights aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they have no margin for error. They need to win their two games, while the Stars would need to lose both of their games (against weak teams) in regulation.
- So, yes, the Stars merely need one point to clinch the final West playoff spot. There’s room for them to climb above the Predators in the West wild-card positions.
- Even so, the Predators clinched their NHL playoff spot after everything that happened on Tuesday.
- The Kings clinched theirs while sitting on their couches and eating potato chips.*
* - Probably not eating potato chips. That said, pro athletes burn a ton of calories, so they could probably get away with it. Veterans like Anze Kopitar may not approve, though.
We saw the occasional seeding/division title/playoff matchup confirmed during Tuesday’s NHL games, too.
- By beating the Rangers, the Hurricanes clinched the Metropolitan Division title.
- The Maple Leafs will hold home-ice advantage for at least the first round, as they locked up the Atlantic Division’s second seed. Toronto’s most likely to face Tampa Bay, but Boston has a chance to sneak into the third spot. (A small one, though, to be clear.)
- Similarly, the Oilers clinched the second seed in the Pacific. With that, we know another playoff matchup: the Oilers face the Kings in the Pacific’s 2/3 seed matchup.
- By losing the Metropolitan Division title to the Hurricanes, the Rangers nabbed the second seed in the Metro. The Rangers’ opponent boils down to who wins the race between the Penguins and the Capitals.
Auston Matthews reaches 60 goals; Connor McDavid crosses 120 points
Auston Matthews became the first Maple Leafs player to reach 60 goals scored in a single season. You can watch that highlight above, and read about his accomplishment here.
Steven Stamkos was the last player to score 60 goals, doing so back in 2011-12. There’s some nice symmetry to Stamkos authoring his first 100-point season on the same day Matthews cracked 60. Matthews is also the first player to collect both 60+ goals and 100+ points since Alex Ovechkin pulled off that difficult feat in 2007-08.
The accolades really stacked up during the NHL action on Tuesday.
As mentioned earlier, Connor McDavid followed scoring 100+ points in a shortened 2020-21 season by reaching the rare 120-point mark. He’s comfortably beyond that, too, with 122 points in 79 games this season.
Oilers Connor McDavid— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 27, 2022
6th player since 2000-01 with 120 points in a season
Look, I know both Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are young, but I’d rest each one of them if I had any say with the Maple Leafs/Oilers. These players carry huge workloads for their teams. Why not get them rest and limit their exposure to injuries?
That’s probably an easier argument to make to the Lightning with 32-year-old Steven Stamkos, but such discussions should be had for every team beyond the Golden Knights. (Yes, that’s right; I even think the Stars should consider resting key players as early as Wednesday’s game against the Coyotes.)
No doubt, playoff positioning can be important -- most crucially clinching a spot, but also angling for home-ice advantage. Even so, teams need to weigh the risk of injuries vs. the reward of competing.
Tuesday’s NHL games provided additional examples of why it might just be better to rest key players. There’s no guarantee any of these players will miss time, but it’s also possible that they could play hurt and be far less effective than you’d expect.
- Juuse Saros left the Predators’ loss to the Flames with what could be a lower-body (ankle?) injury. Saros powered the Predators’ playoff push by bringing the quantity of a workhorse (67 games played) with the quality of an elite goalie.
As great as Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, and others have been, a healthy Saros gives the Predators their best chance to upset a team like the Avalanche or Flames.
Perhaps the Predators would’ve been better off hoping for the best against the Flames on Tuesday, then play it by ear if the Golden Knights were hanging in there later this week? Oh well.
- Look, I get that the Rangers wanted to beat out the Hurricanes for the Metro title. Still, this is a team that’s been looking stronger and stronger, and had at least some home-ice advantage locked up. Now they need to worry about possible injuries to both Andrew Copp and Artemi Panarin.
Considering the limited number of roster spots teams have to work with, there’s only so much “load management” possible in the NHL. A team that did everything right could still lose crucial players to injuries.
Still, teams should use injuries like these to overcome stubborn players who want to suit up for meaningless games.
Wednesday’s big NHL story
Stars can clinch a playoff spot, eliminate Golden Knights if they get one point vs. Coyotes
Really, the Dallas Stars shouldn’t need more than 60 minutes to beat the extremely weak Arizona Coyotes. Even if you were really impressed with the Coyotes upsetting the Wild, you’d likely admit that this is as close to a “tap-in” as you can ask for in 2021-22.
There’s not even really an issue of rest, as both the Stars and Coyotes were involved in the NHL action on Tuesday.
All of that said, it would be oddly fitting if the Stars clinched their playoff spot and eliminated the Golden Knights by going beyond regulation. Last season, the Stars missed the playoffs in part because they were so bad in overtime and shootouts. This season, it could end up being the difference for the Stars over the Golden Knights.
Stars: 45-30-5 (95 points in 80 games), 30 regulation wins, 40 regulation/OT wins, five shootout wins [two shootout losses]
Golden Knights: 42-31-7 (91 points in 80 games), 33 regulation wins, 38 ROW, four shootout wins [three shootout losses]
Yeah, the universe may just demand that the Stars clinch their playoff spot with an overtime win against the Coyotes. Maybe tie it together with Peter DeBoer saying one last odd thing about his goalies?
Tuesday NHL scores
Hurricanes 4, Rangers 3
Oilers 5, Penguins 1
Senators 5, Devils 4 (OT)
Lightning 4, Blue Jackets 1
Maple Leafs 3, Red Wings 0
Bruins 4, Panthers 2
Flames 5, Predators 4 (OT)
Islanders 4, Capitals 1
Stars 3, Golden Knights 2 (SO)
Coyotes 5, Wild 3
Avalanche 5, Blues 3
Canucks 5, Kraken 2
Ducks 5, Sharks 2