Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sharks Report: Couture Not Ready, Labanc and Meier Steadily Improving

It was a nice way to head into Xmas break for the San Jose Sharks: a shutout of their rivals on home ice. The Sharks got it done on Saturday, 2-0 over the Kings, and closed the gap between themselves and first place to six points. But more than anything it was a statement win by San Jose on a night when both teams brought their A games.

Here are the Pacific Standings at Xmas:

Here are 5 thoughts on the win and the state of the Sharks as they break for four days from Dec 24 through 27.

All stats provided by @NatStatTrick.

1. Has Peter DeBoer finally found a way to bring Jannik Hansen to life?

Along with Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen has been one of the more disappointing Sharks of late. Both Danes have failed to produce offense, but Hansen, to his credit, has always shown a willingness to engage and to lay his body on the line. But three points in 24 games? That leaves a bit to be desired. But things could be on the upswing for Hansen. In the last two games Hansen has had the opportunity to play with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski and his energy has been high. So far it hasn't added up to much at even strength, but it might be an experiment that DeBoer continues. Here's what the numbers look like for Pavelski/Thornton/Hansen thus far.

2. Marcus Sorensen looks very good on the fourth line

It's a relatively small sample size, yes. But let's take a moment to consider the fact that Marcus Sorrenson, a 5'11" Tasmanian Devil-like forward, is currently the Sharks points per 60 leader at 5-on-5. He's put up three goals and is averaging 2.37 points per 60 in 75 minutes of total ice time. The Swede looks like a keeper on the fourth line, and he's making himself appear more valuable every time he finds the twine.

3. Labanc and Meier steadily improving

If we look at just the month of December we can see that Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are very impactful players at the moment. Each has scored four points at 5-on-5 in December to tie for the team lead among forwards. Four points doesn't sound like a lot but in Sharks terms it is. That's the reality in San Jose right now. Points don't grow on trees. Plus, when we look at October and November, we can see that Labanc had two 5-on-5 points and Meier had four. Each player has made significant improvements in point efficiency since. Meier was .99 per 60 in Oct/Nov, while Labanc was .59 points per 60. In December They've each improved significantly in the 11 games they've played. Labanc put up 1.9 points per 60, while Meier put up 1.68.

It's also significant that both players have been able to make these strides with Peter DeBoer's blender in full effect and with the absence of Logan Couture of late. The Sharks have scrambled to roll four effective lines and Labanc and Meier have found ways to contribute without relying on the team's biggest stars.

4. Meier/Tierney/Donskoi a formidable third line for the moment

Again, small sample size, and it's not all that likely that this line can stay together for too long as Donskoi may be needed in the top six group, but 28/50/27 appear to have some special mojo going. Look at these possession stats (a 63 percent Corsi? That's something to write home about):

5. Couture will take his time before returning

You can't replace a player of Logan Couture's caliber, especially this season, when he's far and away the Sharks leader in goals (15) and the team's overall scoring leader with 26 points. But that is exactly where San Jose will be as it heads out of the Christmas break and prepares to face the Calgary Flames on Wednesday at SAP Center.

According to Kevin Kurz of The Athletic, Couture skated for the first time since suffering a concussion on Friday December 22nd (10 minutes, after practice), and while things went well, Couture is clearly not confident that he's nearing a return.

Here's a snippet from Kurz' piece:

“It’s a long way away. … There’s a lot of stuff that has to happen for me to come back. You can’t just skate (once) and then say you’re fine,” Couture said. “I’m not playing if I don’t feel good. It could be one game, it could be 10 games, it could be a whole season. With head injuries you don’t know. There’s no timeline. Everyone is different, everyone handles it different, everyone’s brain handles it different. These are the injuries that it’s tough to judge timelines.”

And here's the whole article, as it was tweeted last Friday:

The Sharks are 2-1 since Couture went down on Dec. 15 in Vancouver. Good teams play through--and grow through--adversity, and it appears that the Sharks are doing just that.

Notes, Numbers, Tweets:

Sharks Outtakes:

This may even be better than the actual Sharks holiday video.

Sharks With and Without Donskoi:

The Sharks have scored 13 goals and allowed 10 at 5-on-5 with Donskoi on the ice this season. Without him they've allowed 49 and scored just 38.

Sharks With and Without Pavelski and Thornton

One area where the Sharks need to be better is the top line. The Sharks have scored 13 and allowed 20 with the two joes on at even strength. A lot of it has to do with the revolving door on this line, but San Jose can and will be even better with some more dominance from the top line.

Last year San Jose scored 42 and allowed 34 with Pavelski and Thornton on the ice together at 5-on-5.

All stats provided by @NatStatTrick.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Isles Report: Comeback Squandered as Ducks Tie Late and Win in OT

The Islanders continue to struggle with defense and goaltending and ended up with an overtime loss to the Ducks that drops them to 3-6-2 in December. It could have been an inspiring victory but Rickard Rakell potted a late goal at 18:45 of the third with Ryan Miller pulled, then Hampus Lindholm completed his first career hat-trick at 4:03 of overtime to give Anaheim a much-needed two points.

Here are five thoughts on the Islanders latest loss:

1. The Isles don't look good at 5 on 6

It was way too easy for Anaheim to tie this game, and it was way too strange that Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech were out as a pair when the goal was scored. But that is the reality on the Islanders blue line right now. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk can't play 60 minutes a game. End of story. The Isles D corps are short on experience and oftentimes slow to react to danger. The overtime goal saw both Mayfield and Pelech tied up in front of the net while Rakell drifted in a dangerous area at the right circle, where he was able to bang a shot home into a virtually empty net.

Enjoy it below:

There was nothing Halak could have done on this play, but it sure looked like Mayfield could have drifted out to challenge the shooter as Pelech seemed to have the front of the crease. Obviously there's going to be a two-on-one in front of the net if Mayfield drifts to cover Rakell, but somebody has to prevent the Ducks' sniper from having a wide open look like that.

It's the second time in three games that the Islanders have allowed a tying goal with the opposition's goalie pulled--not a positive trend.

2. New York is bleeding goals

The Islanders have allowed at least four goals in eight of their eleven games this month. It's not pretty right now. They have allowed five or more goals six times in 11 December games.

3. The Goaltending Isn't Great Either

The Islanders have the NHL's worst save percentage in December at .865. Jaroslav Halak actually played a pretty decent game in goal tonight but he was beaten clean on shots by Hampus Lindholm for the Ducks third goal and the overtime winner. Lindholm ripped both shots, but Halak really could have made both saves. Halak made 35 saves tonight, and in his defense, the Ducks has 36 scoring chances to just 20 for the Islanders. The loss isn't all on him, but despite his solid effort, he could have been sharper, particularly against Lindholm.

Take a look at Lindholm's second goal. The Isles lost the draw and were slow to react. They were careful not to screen Halak, but how about challenging the shooter? Very soft play from the Islanders, who seem to shoot themselves in the foot with plays like this far too often these days. See the play below:

' 4. Pelech and Mayfield Held their Own

I keep wanting to beat up Scott Mayfield because he just looks like he's a step slow in his own zone when he makes reads and when he tries to start the breakout, but from a possession standpoint he and Adam Pelech were the Islanders strongest pair. Mayfield had a 56.67 CF% (17 for, 13 against) at 5-on-5, and he played over ten minutes against Ryan Getzlaf. Pelech had a 55.17 CF% (16 for, 13 against). The Thomas Hickey (8 for 15 against) and Ryan Pulock (7 for, 16 against) pairing got blown up in possession, while Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuck were possession neutral but on the short end of the scoring chance battle (9 for 17 against).

It's hard to tell where to place the blame when it comes to the Islanders D, but they are clearly struggling in coverage, breakouts and on the penalty kill. Is there any hope that they can improve or will Garth Snow have to make a deal in the not too distant future to right the ship?

Honestly, it seems like Pulock and Mayfield are in over their heads while trying to play Doug Weight's uptempo system. They are slow-footed and slow to make the reads that spring the plays or break up opponent's opportunities. Maybe Weight's system is fine, but it's just not suited for the bottom four personell that he is currently working with?

What came first the chicken or the egg?

5. The Offense, As Usual, Was Good

There were definitely some signs of life and some good ones at that in this game. A pair of goals from John Tavares, a 5-on-3 goal by Mathew Barzal and Andrew Ladd's 9th of the season helped New York climb back from two-goal deficits twice.

Josh Bailey took over the NHL assist lead with three helpers. He's having an incredible contract year for the Islanders and is in line for a big raise right along with his linemate JT. Will the Islanders have enough cap space to sign them both long-term?

Tavares' pair of goals leaves him with 21 and ties him with Anders Lee for the team lead. Both are now two behind Alexander Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov, who lead the NHL with 23 goals.


Snipe of the Night

Weight Speaks:

The Metro:

The Saucer Pass Hockey Podcast, Episode 19

Today on the Saucer Pass Hockey Podcast we dip into the mailbag to answer listener questions. Like: Who has the Calder lead? (3:30) Does the new building increase the likelihood of Tavares signing with Isles? (18:48) What will Vegas do at the deadline if they are in first? (9:40) Who will make the playoffs from the Metropolitan Division? (11:05) Who has been the most entertaining player to watch this season? (17:10) Is Anaheim a Playoff team? (20:30) Who is the NHL's biggest surprise this season? (6:40) WE also talk about the Islanders thin blue line, poor goaltending and putrid power play. (15:30) And we say MERRY XMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Penguins Acquire Oleksiak from Stars

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has made the first two of what could be many trades.

On Tuesday the Pens dealt Josh Archibald, goalie prospect Sean Maguire and a sixth-round pick in 2019 to the Coyotes for veteran AHL goalie Michael Leighton and a fourth-round pick in 2019. Pittsburgh then turned that pick around to acquire 25-year-old Oleksiak for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft.

“This is a guy who can really skate," Rutherford said of Oleksiak, who has three points and is a minus-6 in 21 games for Dallas this season. "He's an excellent skater for a guy that big. Plus, he sees the ice well and will make things easier for our left-handed defensemen because they won't have to play on the right side as much.”

Pittsburgh is struggling at 17-15-3, two points outside of the final wild card in the Eastern Conference and in sixth in the Metropolitan Division.

Can the Isles Survive without Calvin de Haan?

The casual hockey fan may not know who Calvin de Haan is, or even that it's a small "d" not a big "D" in his last name, but that doesn't make dealing with the fact that the Islanders may have lost de Haan for the season when he injured his shoulder in overtime of Saturday's 4-3 win over the Kings any easier.

The Islanders have been surviving with a very green and unproven bottom four on their blue line all season long, and the biggest reason that they have been able to do that is de Haan.

The 26-year-old Ontario native is second on the team in 5-on-5 ice time and he has been a stabilizing force for rookie Adam Pelech on the team's second pair. The two left-handers have played 312 minutes together, and during their minutes the Islanders have scored 17 goals and allowed 15 at 5-on-5.

Rookie Scott Mayfield has also benefitted from de Haan's presence and the pair have played just over 82 minutes together and managed a 5-on-5 Corsi Percentage of 56.6 percent (7 goals for and 3 against). There's a lot to be said for de Haan's veteran presence and his poise this season. He doesn't stand out as an offensive player, but he's gotten better with each season. de Haan's points per 60 (1.18), assists per 60 (1.06) and primary assists per 60 (.59) are all higher than they've ever been through 33 games this season.

The Islanders have regularly been running out three virtual rookies on the blue line (only Pulock is an actual rookie but Mayfield and Pelech are very green and had never played a full season before this year), and they will have to keep doing that for the remainder of the season without one of their key veterans to lead the way.

It won't be easy.

12 points may not be enough to make jaws drop, but de Haan is currently a plus-11 while playing a key role in facilitating the development of 23-year-old Pelech. So not only are the Isles losing de Haan, there also forced to find a new partner that can keep Pelech on an upward trajectory from a development perspective. Much like de Haan, Pelech's performance has been under the radar in 2017, but he's come along nicely compared to where he was last year. His 11 points in 29 games are already one more than he had in 44 last year, and he seems more capable of handling the pace of the game this season.

It's easy to panic but in reality the Islanders should be able to survive without de Haan. And according to head coach Doug Weight, de Haan he may not be out as long as was first suspected.

If de Haan is out for a long period the Islanders will at least get a glimpse of what the team's blue line looks like without him (we'll call this a bleak silver lining). His one-year, $3.3 million deal means he's a free agent at the end of the season. The Islanders can move on from de Haan this summer if they wish, or they can try to sign him at a decent price due to his injury-plagued walk year.

What it will take to sign de Haan long-term is another story for another day, but most believe he will be due $4 million or more. In the meantime the team desperately needs Pulock, Pelech and Mayfield to continue to be better. Each player has shown signs that they are ready to be quality full-time NHL defensemen, but each has shown their weaknesses as well. Mayfield looks like an AHL defenseman sometimes, but he's managed to make up for a lack of footspeed and offensive creativity with a really diligent defensive game and good physicality. Pelech looks like a keeper and a potential top four defenseman but he'll need to keep working on his skating and decision-making. Pulock has been far too timid for his skillset, but has started to come out of his shell of late. He's been more physical and has shown some puck poise in the offensive zone. Five points and a minus-6 in 20 games isn't much to write home about, but Pulock has been better of late as he has developed comfort.

Bottom line? It's going to be a bumpy ride for the Islanders defense this winter without de Haan. New York has allowed 67 5-on-5 goals against already this season, which ranks them 25th in the NHL. As things get tighter down the stretch the Islanders will need to win a few 2-1 and 3-2 games and it's not clear if they have the personnel to get that done (the fact that neither Jaroslav Halak nor Thomas Greiss is playing great will put extra pressure on the D).

Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuck are a premier top pair, but the bottom four will be tested.

Will we see a Pulock-Pelech pairing emerge? They pair have developed some chemistry and have a 56.31 5-on-5 Corsi Percentage in just under 54 minutes. If so the Isles will roll two of Thomas Hickey, Dennis Seidenberg and Mayfield to form the other pair.

It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence but both Hickey and Seidenberg have a lot of experience and can mentor Mayfield along.

If all else fails Devon Toews and Sebastian Aho are ranked No.4 and No.5 in scoring by defenseman in the AHL. Is either of them ready for the step up? Might be a good time to find out.

It's not an ideal situation for the Islanders, given that three players in their current top six have under 100 games on their NHL resume.

No matter what happens with Toews and Aho in Bridgeport, one thing has become clear over the course of the Islanders first 33 games: The defense has proven to be a work in progress, and quite frankly, not good enough to make this team a legitimate Cup contender. It's been great to watch Pelech, Pulock and Mayfield come along slowly, and Doug Weight has done a good job at easing their development. But it's sink or swim time in the brutal Metropolitan Division and the Islanders should be actively searching for a second-pair defender that could be a long-term fit. I'm not saying make a desperate move, but by all means GM Garth Snow better be kicking some tires while de Haan's shoulder heals. If things start to go south without de Haan a move might have to be made.

Until then, Islanders fans should cross their fingers and hope that these young defensemen are ready to take the next step.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sharks Report: Couture Injured, but Sharks Come Back from Brink Again

The Sharks managed to pluck a point after a shaky start against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday Rogers Arena. That's the good news. The bad news is that they lost in overtime thanks to a Sam Gagner roof job and they may have lost their leading scorer and best player for some time, as Logan Couture was knocked out of the game after taking a hit from Alexander Burmistrov at 5:12 of the third period.

A couple of notes before we get into bullets:

-- The Sharks have battled back fron deficits of two or more goals to earn points three times in their last five. This team has heart.
-- The Sharks remain in third the Pacific, dropping to 17-10-4 with the OT loss.
-- The Sharks have now scored 85 goals, ranking them 27th in the NHL.
-- The Sharks have allowed just 75 goals, tied with Tampa for the lowest in the NHL.
-- At 53.17%, the Sharks have the NHL's third-highest 5-on-5 Corsi Percentage.

1. No word on Couture Yet

Let's start with the very bad news: Logan Couture was hit in the face by an Alexander Burmistrov shoulder on a third period play that resulted in an interference call on the Russian. The puck went past the two skaters in the corner and Burmistrov elected to throw a hit as Couture went to step around him to track the puck. Couture immediately went down and looked kind of stunned before getting some help to get off the ice and down the tunnel to do the dressing room.

At the moment, we are in the dark about the severity of the injury. It could be a concussion or it could be some follow-up damage to Couture's face, which was reconstructed last season after he took a puck to the face in March. Either way it's not good for the Sharks. Couture has been the go-to guy in San Jose this season. He has put up 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points in 31 games for the Sharks, which includes three game-winners and 10 power play points.

After the game there was no report coming from head coach Peter DeBoer and Couture was not made available for comment, so it's wait and see. The Sharks next play on Monday in Edmonton.

2. Sharks Sleepwalk Through First Period

The Sharks possess one of the most stingy defenses in the NHL, but casual fans wouldn't have guessed that was the case early on Friday in Vancouver. Goalie Martin Jones was peppered by 22 shots in the first stanza, and according to Natural Stat Trick he faced 18 scoring chances at all phases, 11 of which were deemed to be high danger. That does not sound like an exxageration. And while the Sharks tilted the ice in periods two and three to climb back into this game, Jones was huge in net throughout, making several highlight reel saves, including one against Thomas Vanek with the Canucks leading 3-2 in the third that might be the biggest single reason that the Sharks were able to steal a point in this game.

Here it is:

Over at the Athletic Kevin Kurz points out some of Jones' struggles of late--he has allowed four or more goals in his last five starts--but don't let the numbers fool you. He was probably the biggest reason the Sharks didn't get blown out in this one.

Look closely at all four of the Canucks goals and you can see that Jones pretty much had no chance on any of them. Maybe Brock Boeser's PP goal was one he could have stopped, but Boeser is a major league sniper that was left all alone by the Sharks PK unit--not a good idea.

PS... Jones is still stuck on 99 career wins.

3. Burns is getting on track

Brent Burns chipped in with his second multi-goal game in the Sharks' last three contests, and that's a great sign for San Jose's struggling offense. He scored one on the power play and tied the game in the third with a seeing-eye goal from the point. From a possession standpoint Burns was solid with a Corsi % of 60.53 at 5-on-5. He led the Sharks in shot attempts with eight.

Burns now has 13 points in his last 12 games an leads all NHL defenseman in points since Nov. 22.

Speaking of Burns, this fan had a milestone night in Vancouver:
4. Sorensen Gets First Goal of Season

Here's a goal that will buy Marcus Sorensen a few more games in the NHL at the very least. The Swede, who has provided a ton of energy since his most recent callup, was rewarded on Friday. He scored the goal that brought the Sharks within a goal, and if you watch the replay ever so slowly you'll see that Sorensen made a heck of a play getting this puck from skate to stick. The goal was looked at as a potential kick-in but Sorensen made this play clean.

Sorensen had three shot attempts and two high danger opportunities in 11:22 of 5-on-5 time for the Sharks last night.

5. Donskoi Gets Time on Top Line

Peter DeBoer and his blender were in full effect last night as Joonas Donskoi was moved from the third to the second to the first line over the course of last night's game. That meant that Melker Karlsson was moved down and Kevin Labanc was moved all around. Honestly, it gets pretty hard to track at times, but DeBoer has a good feel for the game and who may or may not be able to provide the offense on a given night.

Labanc started the night with Chris Tierney and Timo Meier and that line was pretty solid from a possession standpoint. But Labanc just cannot snap out of his funk. He has now gone 22 games without a goal, not scoring since October 14. Seems like now would be a good time for Danny O'Regan to step in and have a shot. Labanc has seemed like a threat when he's been on the ice, and he led the Shark in Corsi Rel at 5-on-5 last night at 16.69%, but what can you say? No goals in 22 games is pretty hard to get excited about.

Chris Tierney continues to look really impressive with and without the puck for the Sharks. He ranked fourth in Corsi Rel at 5-on-5 last night at 6.92.

Donskoi did not register a shot last night, but still made his presence felt in his usual, puck-houndy way.



MILESTONE: Joel Ward's 300th point
Ward was also a plus-2 last night.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Oilers Will Get Boost As Cam Talbot Returns on Saturday vs. Wild

Cam Talbot will make his return from a lower body injury when the Oilers face the Wild on Saturday in Minnesota, and head coach Todd McLellan hopes the return of one of the backbones of the club will spark an uptick in form.

"I don't want to downgrade [backup goaltender Laurent] Brossoit and the work that he came in and did but your starter is your starter and you feel good when he's back in there," McLellan said. "He's fresh and he has been able to practice--not a complete practice--so there is some concern there, but at some point he's going to have to play his first game. The sooner the better."

Talbot has been out since November 28 and has gone 10-10-1 with a 3.00 GAA and a .903 Save Percentage. Those numbers are way off the stellar stats that Talbot put up in 2016-17, when he went 42-22-8 with a .919 save percentage while making 73 starts in the regular season for the Oilers.

Talbot's Save Percentage currently ranks him tied for 36th in the NHL with Carey Price, and his .800 Save Percentage on the penalty kill is even more concerning. But Talbot was displaying some better form right before his injury--he has allowed two goals or less in each of his last three starts--and he's produced much better numbers that Brossoit.

Brossoit has a .760 Save Percentage on the penalty kill and overall he went 3-4 with a .890 Save Percentage and a 3.16 GAA.

Talbot says he took the club's advice and was cautious about rushing his return. He told reporters he felt good about four or five days ago, but elected to take his time. "I feel great now," he said. "I felt good four or five days ago but they wanted to just make sure that we gave it the extra few days, but yeah I feel great now and [the injury] shouldn't limit me in any way."

The Oilers currently stand at 13-17-2 and are 9 points out a wild card spot in the Western Conference as well as nine points behind the Sharks for third in the Pacific.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Statisfaction 12.15: Isles Woeful PK Contributing to Team's December Swoon

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. The Islanders PK is a Black Hole

The New York Islanders are getting hammered while shorthanded in December. And we're not talking about eggnog by the Xmas tree hammered. The team has allowed ten power play goals in eight games this month, and if you break it down into power play goals allowed per 60 minutes the numbers look even worse.

New York is allowing 21.69 power play goals per 60 mins, and the next-worst team (Ottawa) is allowing 11.88 goals per 60. Islanders netminders Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss have struggled to make saves, registering an NHL-worst 74.36 save percentage while shorthanded in December, and the team has allowed 66.6 scoring chances per 60 mins, which ranks them 24th overall in the NHL.

Goaltending is surely playing a big role in the team's woes, but the skaters have looked pretty disjointed as well. The Islanders have two rookies (Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield) logging significant minutes on the PK, as well as their perennial all-star John Tavares. It's a pretty discombulated bunch that really misses Nikolay Kulemin , who was lost for the season with an upper body injury in November. The Islanders penalty kill currently ranks 30th in the NHL at 73.19 percent, and in December they have a 50 percent kill rate, having allowed ten power play goals in 20 times shorthanded.

The good news for New York? It's virtually impossible for their penalty kill to get any worse. Whether it can get significantly better with the current personnel is another story entirely.

2. Josh Bailey's Hat Trick Can't Stop Columbus

Josh Bailey got his first career hat-trick against the Blue Jackets on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, but it was the Jackets who came away with the 6-4 regulation win. The victory was special for Columbus because it places them back at the top of the Metropolitan Division, and it was also statistically impressive, because it marked the first time the Blue Jackets have even won a game in which their opponent has recorded a hat-trick.

Bailey's hat-trick is the 31st in the NHL this season. There were 59 across the NHL all of last season.

3. Anaheim Leads the NHL in man-games lost with 189

Corey Perry is week-to-week after suffering a knee injury on Monday night when he collided with Carolina's Jeff Skinner, which helps bring Anaheim's NHL-leading # of man games lost due to injury to No.1 in the league.

Here are the top five teams in terms of man-games lost:

Anaheim 189
Buffalo 160
St. Louis 127
Boston 126
Montreal 121

All things considered, the Ducks haven't done too poorly in the standings. They defeated the Blues tonight to improve to 14-11-7, just two points out of a wild card in the Western Conference. Even better is the news that Ryan Getzlaf is back after missing two months due to a facial injury.

4. Vegas is Still Cruising

The Vegas Golden Knights became the fastest expansion team to reach the 20-win mark in NHL history by defeating the Penguins 2-1 at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday.

Marc-Andre Fleury outdueled Matt Murray, making 20 of 21 saves to defeat his old team. Vegas (20-9-2) has needed just 31 games to get to 20 wins. They climb to within one point of the Pacific lead and improve to 12-2-1 at home with the win.

5. Erik Karlsson is getting no love from the hockey gods

December has not been great to former Norris winners. Of all the defenseman that have been on ice for at least eight 5-on-5 goals since the start of the month, two of them are Norris winners. It's been brutal for Erik Karlsson who has been on ice for zero 5-on-5 goals for and 10 against. That's just hard to believe, especially given that he's been a positive possession player despite Ottawa's woeful form of late. Things have not been all that much better for Brent Burns, who has been on ice for two Sharks goals and eight against. Here are the ten defenseman who have been on ice for eight or more five-on-five goals in December.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kyle Turris Says Sens Owner Didn't Want Him

Speaking to media ahead of Wednesday's Predators-Canucks game in Vancouver, Predators center Kyle Turris says that Senators management wanted to sign him but team owner Eugene Melnyk did not. Turris was traded in a three-player deal that brought Matt Duchene to Ottawa--not exactly a terrible trade on paper, but the Senators have skidded to a halt since the deal went down, which has ramped up pressure on the Senators and their owner.

"It's tough because I think management did want to sign me, but I think that the owner didn't," Turris said following Nashville's morning skate according to CBC. "And that was his decision."

Turris signed a six-year, $36 million deal with Nashville immediately after the deal. The red-hot Predators have gone 11-2-2 since the deal with Turris centering a line with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala that has been the heart of the team with Ryan Johansen missing time.

The Senators are 1-10-2 since the trade and speculation is swirling in Ottawa, where Erik Karlsson was recently asked to give the team the 10 teams that would satisfy the requirements of his no-trade clause.

But Turris, who spent parts of seven seasons in Ottawa, says that patience is needed.

"With the success you had the year before, everybody's giving you a bit more respect and playing you a bit harder," he said. "They'll figure it out. Over the course of the season they'll bounce back."

One piece of advice from Turris? Don't lose Karlsson.

"He's such a good player all around. Defensively, offensively he is the heart of that team. He's a great leader, he's a great person," he told CBC. "He's somebody an organization like Ottawa can't lose."

Dubinsky Will Miss 6 to 8 Weeks with Fractured Orbital Bone

Wanting a piece of Zack Kassian is one thing. Actually getting a piece of him is entirely another.

Blue Jackets' center Brandon Dubinsky learned that the hard way on Tuesday night during the Oilers 7-2 win over Columbus. He lost this scuffle and ended up with a broken orbital bone above his left eye, which will keep him out for 6 to 8 weeks.

It's a tough loss for the Blue Jackets who have struggled with depth at center all season long. Dubinsky has three goals and nine assists with a plus-5 in 31 games for the Jackets.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mark Scheifele, on the Underappreciated Greatness of Blake Wheeler

Blake Wheeler is considered to be one of hockey's most underrated players by many in-the-know hockey fans. Count Mark Schiefele among them.

The Jets sniper did a radio hit with Hockey Central on Tuesday and tossed some heavy praise in the direction of his linemate.

Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos brought up Wheeler half way through the interview, saying "When we think of Wheeler we don't necessarily put him in the same category as some of the best playmakers in the league--it just doesn't come to your mind naturally--but maybe it should because the vision that this guy has I think is a little underestimated around the league, don't you think?"

Here's Scheifele's reply:

"It's very underrated. He's probably one of the best passers in the game right now. He sees things that I don't even see and now it's getting to instinct where I know if I pop out in a certain area it's on my stick, even if there is only room for a puck to get through, it's getting through and I'm like, I don't know how he sees it. I try to watch tape I try to practice things in practice to be the same passer to him but I don't know how he sees it.

He's a special player and I really enjoy playing with him. He is a special player and not just in a passing aspect. He does everything so well. He gets in on the forecheck, he blocks shots, he can kill penalties, he's awesome on the power play--he does everything for our team and I think that's what you want from a leader and he does a great job with that."

Schiefele also had high praise for the Jets line of Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp, saying that the trio does a lot to help the Jets in matching up with top teams.

"That Lowry/Copp/Tanev line has been awesome for us, same with the Hendricks line," Scheifele said. "Some nights it's maybe not on the scoreboard but they have been scoring a lot as well. They get on the forecheck, they get possession. The Lowry line can play against top lines so you know that gives my line and Little's line maybe some easier matchups at home. For us it's huge when you have depth. We need all lines firing and if one line's not scoring we have the other three to try and put a few in the net. It's been huge, having that depth."

Wheeler leads the Jets with 38 points, while Scheifele is second with 35. Copp, Lowry and Tanev have chipped in for 22 points combined to help the Jets scoring output. Winnipeg is tied for second in the NHL in goals with 106 through Tuesday night.

There are many reasons that the Jets have finally turned their fortunes around and look to be headed for what would be just their second playoff appearance since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011. The goaltending of Connor Hellebuyck is certainly high on the list. But the Jets unsung hero is undoubtedly Blake Wheeler. There may not be another player who does as much for his team while getting so little recognition for it.

Statisfaction 12.12: Tanev/Lowry/Copp Dominant in December

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp -- who knew?

The Winnipeg Jets are getting possession dominance from an unlikely trio in December, and the numbers are nothing short of mind-blowing. In just over 63 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp have a CF% of 68.27 (71 for, 33 against) and they've dominated the scoring chances by 40 to 19. Just unreal contribution, especially when you consider that the rest of the Jets lines have been negative from a possession standpoint without them on the ice.

2. Barzal Draws Penalties

A quick look at the rookie scoring leaders shows Mathew Barzal tied for first in the NHL in points with 28. But put up points isn't all Barzal has been doing. With his speed and deception the rookie has forced defenders to take liberties to try and keep up with him. He's drawn 17 penalties this season, which ranks him 5th in the NHL and first among rookies.

In case you were wondering, Boeser has drawn four penalties this season.

3. Brent Burns Leads the NHL in Giveaways

And this is not surprising. But at least Burns is heating up offensively--he scored a pair last night in San Jose. See the top 10 giveaway leaders below.

4. Connor Murphy and Brent Seabrook are Riding High for Hawks

Many--myself included--did not understand what exactly Chicago GM Stan Bowman was trying to achieve by giving up Niklas Hjalmarsson for Connor Murphy last summer, but the 24-year-old defenseman is showing his best game over the last month while playing the left side on a pair with Brent Seabrook.

He has the NHL's best CF% at 5-on-5 since November 1, and he's been on ice for 14 goals for and 8 against in that span while putting up a goal and four assists.

5. A Very Special Trio

Their are currently three players that average a goal per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 AND a primary assist per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (250 minutes TOI or more). Not easy to do. Want to know who they are? Thought you did...

1. Jaden Schwartz: 1.2 Goals per 60, 1.79 primary assists per 60
2. Patrick Kane: 1.16 goals per 60, 1.13 primary assists per 60
3. Jonathan Marchessault: 1.03 goals per 60, 1.37 primary assists per 60

Friday, December 8, 2017

Sharks Win a Wild, Weird Wonderful One over Hurricanes

That was not how you draw it up. But a win is a win is a win and the San Jose Sharks will take a 5-4 overtime victory which saw them outscored 4-0 at even strength by the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at SAP Center.

Here are five thoughts from Thursday's madness:

1. Shorties supreme

The Sharks got a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson midway through the second period off a sweet feed by Chris Tierney. It was a massive goal because the Sharks had taken the play to Carolina for the first 10 minutes of the middle stanza with nothing to show for it. With the Canes on the PP and threatening to put the game away (surely a 4-0 lead would have ended this game for all intents and purposes?), Tierney took his time and made the perfect play on Karlsson's goal. Noah Hanifin did what he was supposed to do while defending San Jose's 2-on-1. He played the pass and left Tierney the option to shoot. But with no back pressure Tierney made a very composed decision to wait out Hanifin, and when he saw his moment he threaded a pass to Karlsson who had backed up considerably but was still in position to bury the one-timer into an open net.

Barclay Goodrow made it two shorthanded goals when he netted the equalizer in the third, bringing the remaining fans (where were ya Sharks fans?) to a frenzy. Goodrow made the smart decision to join the rush and he beat two Carolina defenders down the ice, took a flip pass from Jannik Hansen and deposited a breakaway goal past Cam Ward. Great effort by Goodrow, not known for his scoring, to sense the time and tempo of the play and go for it while shorthanded.

2. Jones Resilient in one of the Sharks worst defensive games

Let's be honest here. The Sharks were horrible defensively in this game. Sebastian Aho could have scored eight goals. Brent Burns was sloppy. Paul Martin was sloppy. Even Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sloppy at times. But the one constant, as it has been all season, was Martin Jones. He could have easily hung his head after giving up Carolina's fourth goal to Jeff Skinner at 14:44 of the second. But Jones never wavered and didn't let the Canes expand their lead. Jones finished the night with an .840 save percentage. By the numbers it was a horrible game for him, but in reality he got it done.

3. DeBoer's blender in effect

Marcus Sorensen had a fantastic first two periods for the Sharks, he nearly set up a goal by Joel Ward and almost had one of his own. He was flying around the ice and really looked good on a fourth line with Ward and Goodrow. But he did not see the ice in the third (he got two shifts, totalling 75 seconds).

After a dismal first period, Timo Meier was yanked off the top line and replaced by Kevin Labanc. Both Labanc and Meier appeared to get the message. They played with urgency for the remainder of the game. Labanc in particular was a lot harder on the puck. He'll have to keep playing that way if he wants more ice time. At times it's frustrating to see all the shifting of the lines with the Sharks' youth, but it's also understanable. DeBoer wants more out of these kids, and he's firing off messages to them at a rapid clip.

Labanc finished with positive possesion numbers (18 for, 10 against) but was on ice for one of Carolina goals. That said, he hasn't scored since Oct. 14, a run that has seen him demoted to the AHL (where he scored) and return. The kid needs a goal.

Sorensen was also positive (9 for, 6 against) but may have lost the script defensively (our guess). From where I was sitting (couchside) Sorensen looked like a really good match with Goodrow and Ward on line #4. I want more.

4. Martin Struggles in return

It was nice to see Paul Martin back, but his form wasn't a picture of elegance. The defenseman, playing in just his third game of the season and first since October 7, put up a 5-on-5 Corsi of 29.63 percent and didn't see the ice in the final 14 minutes. Nonetheless it was a good start, and one unintended consequence of his return may have been that his presence jogged Brent Burns' memory and reminded last year's Norris Trophy winner that he can score. Neither Martin or Burns were great defensively on this night, but it was nice to see Burns get the OT winner. More important was his helper on Logan Couture's power play goal in the third. It was very nice to see Burns distributing the puck rather than shoot it for once.

5. Speaking of Couture

Couture was relatively quiet offensively, but he chipped in his 14th with a wicked PP one-timer in the third (video can be seen below). That's what your leading scorer is supposed to do--get big goals.

6. Other notes

There was a lot to like about the play of Dylan Demelo and Joakim Ryan on Thursday night. The pair was not on ice for a goal against, and both players used some explosive skating to skate the puck out of trouble and spearhead breakouts. DeMelo had an impressive 75% Corsi at 5-on-5, and he's notched a 58.18 CF in just over 53 minutes with Ryan this season. Could be a really nice No.3 pair for the Sharks here. (Ryan took a lot of shifts with Burns in the third after Martin was benched)

Tomas Hertl made a fantastic play when he snaked around Noah Hanifin to earn a golden opportunity. Another reminder of how good Hertl can be when he's at his best.

Thursday's win marked the first time ever that the Sharks have come back from a three-goal deficit after the first.

The Sharks had 27 scoring chances (all phases), per Natural Stat Trick, in periods two and three. They allowed 25. Not your typical Sharks game.

Joe Thornton had two points and tied and passed Dale Hawerchuk for 19th on the NHL's all-time points list.

7. Tweets:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Boychuk Out for Isles vs. Penguins Tonight

The New York Islanders will be missing one half of their top defensive pairing when they take on the Penguins on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.

Johnny Boychuk left the morning skate early and will miss the game with what head coach Doug Weight calls a "lingering injury."

Boychuk has played all 27 Islander games, going 3-5-8 with a plus-8.

He is second on the Isles in ice time per game, logging 20:47 a night.

Thomas Hickey will draw in on defense for the Islanders, while fourth-line center Casey Cizikas will make his return to the lineup. He has missed the last four games after suffering a lower body injury against Ottawa on November 25. Cizikas has gone 4-4-8 and a plus-5 in 23 games for the Isles.

Bo Horvat Sidelined with Broken Ankle, Could Miss Six Weeks

The Vancouver Canucks will be without their second leading scorer for a while.

Horvat injured the right ankle during Vancouver's 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. He appeared to jam it into the boards after taking a hit from Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifin.

The team announced that it will know more about an official timeline for Horvat's recovery after the 22-year-old meets with specialists.

"We're not talking about who is out, we're talking about who is in and how we're going to win," Canucks head coach Travis Green said on Thursday. "It's unfortunate, but it gives guys an opportunity to step up."

The surprising Canucks are currently 14-10-4, good for third place in the Pacific Division. They host the Flyers on Thursday night.

Sharks Paul Martin Set to Return, and Brent Burns Should be Excited about that

There's nothing like the comfort of your favorite pair of jeans. You slip them on, the belt is already on there, the wallet might even still be in the back pocket from last night's trip the grocery (if you're a guy and you carry your wallet in your back pocket). They fit just right, you wear them every day, or until someone tells you you wear them every day--then you change them.

On Thursday the Sharks should be getting their favorite pair of jeans back.

We're talking about Paul Martin, Brent Burns longtime partner who has missed all but two games this season.

The Sharks have been doing just fine defensively, but with rookie Tim Heed out with injury and Brenden Dillon serving his one-game suspension, the timing couldn't be more perfect for Martin's return.

That's because the aforementioned Burns is still seeking his Norris Trophy winning mojo this season. He has just one goal and 11 assists to go with a minus-8 in 26 games this season--now you see why these old jeans might be just what San Jose needs at this stage of the season.

The Sharks offensive woes certainly don't start at the blue line, but getting some of Burns production back would be a very welcome development in Teal Town for a team that is struggling to score goals in a big way.

Head coach Peter DeBoer has thrown a whole bunch of kids into the blender this season and none of them have proven to be prolific offensively. Don't get us wrong, there's some promise, particularly when it comes to Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, but when it comes to kids, DeBoer has always been hesitant about throwing them into critical roles, especially when they aren't making significant contributions on the score sheet.

So far the Sharks have overcome their poor offense (2.5 goals per game, third-worst in the NHL) with excellent defense and sturdy goaltending (2.3 goals allowed per game, second-best in the NHL). But any little thing that tweaks the offense in a positive fashion will be more than welcome.

Could Martin be that guy?

If the 36-year-old Minnesota native can help Burns rekindle his offensive prowess, the Sharks will certainly be better off. It's been a difficult season for many Sharks' veterans, but nobody is struggling more than Burns. Playing primarily with Martin last season Burns put up 1.79 points per 60 minutes. This season he is down to 0.64 and can't buy a goal (he has just one).

Burns has been paired primarily with rookie Joakim Ryan this season, and the pair have been excellent from a possession standpoint, putting up a 5-on-5 Corsi of 55.27. But that Corsi number has not translated into goals as the Sharks have scored just 1.14 per 60 mins while allowing 2.27 per 60 mins with the pair on the ice together.

It's not that Ryan and Burns have been bad, but maybe Burns will benefit from not having to worry about a rookie partner while he's on the ice. Sometimes we tend to under appreciate what comfort means to players on the ice. Burns may feel a little more responsible for other partners, and San Jose's coaching staff surely wants him to be a little more defensively responsible when he's out there with a rookie that is getting his first taste of the NHL game. So maybe what Martin's return means for Burns is a return to freewheeling hockey.

It certainly worked last season.

In 2017-18 the Sharks were strong with Martin and Burns on the ice. In the 1179 minutes that the pair was on the ice at 5-on-5, San Jose averaged 2.65 goals per 60 minutes while allowing 2.09. Different season, different vibe in San Jose offensively. This team has been largely snakebitten this season and the absence of Patrick Marleau up front combined with the slow start of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski is no doubt dragging those numbers in the Sharks first 26 games, but it sure isn't bad news that Burns is getting his longtime partner back.

Anything, at this point in time, helps.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Devils Could be For Real, and If They Aren't Right Now They Will Be Soon

It's been a long time since the New Jersey Devils were good (they've missed the playoffs in each of the last five years), and that explains why a lot of people are not on board with the current incarnation of this team, but there's a lot of good reasons why the Devils are currently sitting atop the best Division in hockey, and even if they don't finish the year there, they are certainly looking like a team that is about to be good for a pretty long time.

It's happened suddenly, like a counter attack that leads to an odd man rush that leads to a bar down finish.

Suddenly, the team that was led by a brooding Taylor Hall to a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season has a brand new complexion. Hall has benefitted from a sterling rookie class that features last year's No.1 overall pick Nico Hischier as well as Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher, surprisingly gifted Jesper Bratt and Blake Coleman.

That quartet of rookies has chipped in 61 points (no other NHL team's rookie class has as many points) and has energized a Devils team that nobody expected to be good prior to the start of the season.

Hischier has been even better than advertised. He's a speedy, creative playmaker that has learned the ropes quickly and ranks tied for fourth among NHL rookies in points (20) and third in assists (15); Butcher has been a savior on a Devils blue line that was thought to be one of the worst in the NHL in the preseason. His 10 power play points rank him tied for second among rookies, and he's also picked up his 5-on-5 game of late, earning more minutes and holding his own in his own end of the ice. He's not a power play specialist by any means and he could be headed for a future as a bona fide top pairing defenseman.

Bratt might be the unlikeliest of rookie stars in the NHL this season. He was the No.162 pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and he's cracked the lineup and scored nine goals in 27 games for the Devils.

Rounding out the Devils rookie class is Coleman who is a plus-8 this season, with four points.

The infusion of youth has sparked Hall (29 points in 27 games) and the rest of the Devils veterans and the team is playing fast, inspired hockey, rolling four pesky lines that counter attack with precision and score off the rush. Even though they haven't mastered the possession game, the Devils have found a way to rank 8th in the NHL in percentage of High Danger shot attempts.

Devils coach John Hynes flew to Toronto to meet with Hall on his home soil this summer, and their meeting of the minds has paid dividends. Hall needed a year to adjust to the shock of being shipped out of Edmonton just as Connor McDavid and Cup hopes returned, but he's rejuvenated and playing with passion again. It probably doesn't hurt that a day after the Devils took over the top spot in the Metropolitan win with a big win at Columbus, the fumbling Oilers dropped to 11-15-2 with a loss to the Flyers at home.

What a difference a year makes.

The Devils still are far from being a perfect team. New Jersey still ranks third to last in the NHL in CF% at 46.55, but that number has improved since the team acquired Sami Vatanen in a trade for Adam Henrique in early December.

The Vatanan trade, once the Finn is fully assimilated into the lineup, should pay huge dividends for the Devils. It's another great move by General Manager Ray Shero, who has acquired Vatanen, Hall and Marcus Johansson over the last 15 months in savvy trades.

It's going to be really tough for the Devils to stay in the top three of the Metropolitan Divison, but the team is extremely well coached, with both special teams units currently in the top third of the NHL, and one of the best goaltenders in the NHL in Cory Schneider. Schneider ranks 8th in the NHL in save percentage at .923, and he could make the difference for this team as it battles for a postseason berth come springtime.

It may happen, it may not, but at the very least their is hope brimming in New Jersey for the first time in a long time.

Saucer Pass 18: Talking the Thornton Hit on Oshie

In Today's Edition of the Saucer Pass Hockey Podcast we look at Joe Thornton's hit on T.J. Oshie and wonder if it's clean. We hear from Tom Wilson and a livid Peter DeBoer, who felt that the Caps pulled some bush league stuff by sending Wilson out after Thornton.

We also talk about Roberto Luongo's injury.

And the torrid form of Carey Price ahead of the Habs home game against the Blues tonight.

Plus, who is the heart and soul leader of the Habs, in our humble opinion. We tell you!

And we talk about the Dallas Stars and their yellow laces.

And we wonder what is up with Erik Karlsson this year.

And we say goodbye.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Statisfaction 12.5: Marchand Beastin' and So is Barzal

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. Marchand is the straw that stirs Boston's kool-aid

How good has Brad Marchand been for the Bruins this season? Let's put it this way: Even better than Patrice Bergeron.

The Bruins have outscored opponents 16 to 2 at 5-on-5 with Marchand on the ice this season (Bergeron is 18 for and 6 against if you are wondering). Without him they have been outscored 44 to 31. Of course Marchand's linemates have a lot to do with this equation, but we're just blown away by the stark contrast of Marchand's WOWYs.

2. Barzal Keeps Making Calder Case

The Islanders are John Tavares' team and they will be til the day JT decides to head for greener pastures (or retires), but no player has been as critical to New York's early season success as Mathew Barzal. The 20-year-old rookie has been on fire all season and he's third on the team in CF% rel (6.43) and second on the team in CF/60 rel (9.95). Even more impressive are the possession stats of the line that Barzal has been driving. Barzal is centering Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle and if you watch the Islanders regularly, you know who the boss of this line is.

With a CF% of over 60 percent, this is one of the best possession lines in the NHL, and it's fronted by a rookie. Can you say Calder?

And Barzal's doing more than racking up possession stats.

He is 14th in the NHL in 5-on-5 points per 60 at 2.82 (min 200 mins) and 5th in the NHL in assists per 60 (2.06).

3. The Kings are Dominating the Third Period

The Kings scored four goals in the third period of their 5-2 win over the Wild at Staples Center on Tuesday, giving them 40 third period goals on the season while they have allowed just 13. The 27-goal differential is by far the NHL's best (Second-best in the NHL is Toronto at a plus-14 in the third).

The Kings are already more than half way to matching their total of third period goals from last season. They scored 78 in the third last season, while allowing 62.

A lot is going right in L.A. thus far this season. Anze Kopitar already has three more goals than he did all of last season, Dustin Brown is three goals from matching his 80-game total from last season, and Jonathan Quick isn't hurt. Watch out for this team, especially when Jeff Carter makes his return.

4. Shenn's Hattie is the NHL's 30th of the Season

Brayden Schenn is having a career year in St. Louis and he had a big night on Tuesday, netting his third career hat-trick to bring his season's total to 13 goals and 20 assists for the Blues. Pairing with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz has been a dream for Schenn, who was traded from the Flyers to the Blues this summer.

Schenn is on pace to blow some of his previous best numbers out of the water. He's never scored more than 59 points in a season but he's currently on pace for 96. Seriously.

Schenn currently has 33 points in 28 games and is a plus-22 for the Blues. He's also averaging 2.73 goals/60 at 5-on-5 and 3.41 points per 60 at all phases (17th in the NHL).

Getting back to the hattie theme, there were 59 hat-tricks in the NHL last season, and through just about one-third of the season we already have 30. Alexander Ovechkin leads the NHL with three, while John Tavares (2) is the only other player with more than one.

Patrick Laine led the NHL with three hat-tricks last season and six other players finished the season with two (Grabner, Kucherov, Ovechkin, Kane, Pacioretty, Forsberg).

5. Burns still shooting like crazy for Sharks

Watching the Sharks it's hard not to notice just how much last year's Norris Trophy winner elects to shoot the puck. Clearly he's got the green light from head coach Peter DeBoer, but is Burns really helping the offense? He leads the NHL in 5-on-5 shot attempts with 185, which is 26 more than Vladimir Tarasenko and 49 more than Dougie Hamilton, who ranks third on the list.

Only 79 of Burns' shots have gone on net and only 30 of those 185 shot attempts were considered scoring chances.

If you add in the power play time, Burns has 240 shot attempts and 100 shots on goal. What's most interesting about Burns' numbers this year is that his shot attempts are actually down ever so slightly. No big difference there, but opponents must be pressuring him more because his points per 60 mins have been cut in half and his quality chances have been limited.

Burns is putting up 1.11 points per 60 at all phases, compared to 2.24 last season.

Burns is averaging 4.14 individual scoring chances per 60 compared to 6.65 last season.

Burns is responsible for .18 high danger chances per 60 compared to .79 last season.

Burns shots are generating .74 rebounds per 60 compared to 1.18 last season.

It's probably time to start shooting less and passing more.