Major milestones within reach for 2018/19 NHL season

There are numerous NHL and franchise milestones that could and should be reached in the 2018/19 season by some of the league’s star players. We’ll take a look at some of the achievements which will most likely be set during the upcoming campaign.
Russian sniper and recent Stanley Cup winger Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals enters the season with 607 regular-season goals to rank 19th on the overall goal scoring list. The Caps’ captain can move up to number 15 with 18 more goals. If he happens to finish the season with 650 career goals he would become the 14th NHL player to reach that milestone. At 1,122 points he is also 78 shy of 1,200 for his career and his 229 power-play goals are ranked ninth in league history. He could move to number four all-time in power-play markers with 17 more.
Thirty-nine-year-old centre Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks will enter the season with 1,493 regular-season games under his belt. Once he plays in his seventh game in 2018/19 he will become just the 19thNHL player to skate in at least 1,500 contests. In addition, Thornton currently has 1,030 assists and is just 10 away from ranking number 10 in NHL history for helpers. He also needs 31 more points to crack the top-15 all-time scoring barrier which Teemu Selanne currently holds with 1,457 points.
Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby could also crack the 1,200 point barrier as he enters the campaign with 1,116. This means he’ll need to score at least 84 points this year. It’s not out of reach though considering the centre has racked up at least 84 points in each of his last five seasons. Also, Crosby has skated in 864 regular-season games for Pittsburgh and once he reaches 915 he will become the franchise’s all-time leader in games played as he will pass the great Mario Lemieux.
Forward Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning enters the season with 348 goals and will become the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer once he reaches 384. He needs 36 this season to break the current mark of 383 which is held by Vincent Lecavalier. Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Patrick Marleau hasn’t missed a game since 2009/10 and has played in 1,575 regular-season games to rank 11th on the all-time list of games played. If he plays in at least 38 contests this season he will break into the top 10 and if he plays in all 82 games he will end the season fifth overall.

Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown has played 1,045 times for the franchise while the team record for regular-season outings is 1,111 and held by Dave Taylor. Brown needs to suit up 67 more times to break the current mark. Anaheim Ducks’ forward Corey Perry has played 957 games with the franchise and should break the team record of 966 held by Teemu Selanne early in the season. Forward Ryan Getzlaf isn’t far behind Perry as he enters the season with 917 games under his belt for Anaheim.
Goaltender Tuuka Rask of the Boston Bruins is 51 games short of 500 for his career and once he plays in game number 469 he’ll set a new franchise record for games played by a netminder. Also, when Rask wins his 15thgame of the season he’ll set a new Bruins’ record of 253 wins.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers reached a pair of milestones last season by becoming just the third NHL goalie to play in 1,000 games and he also moved to number four on the all-time wins list with 470. In 2018/19, Luongo needs six shutouts to move into fifth place as well as 14 wins to reach number three overall. He will also be ranked second all-time in games played for a goalie if he plays in 29 games this season and reaches number 1,030.
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price already holds the franchise record for games played and is fourth in team history in shutouts. He’ll also become Montreal’s number one in wins if he can backstop his team to 29 victories in 2018/19. He enters the season with 286 career wins while Jacques Plante is the franchise leader with 314. Goaltender Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues has won 117 games for the club and will pass franchise leader Mike Liut if he can win 36 games this year.

Success of St. Louis Blues’ upgrades will come down to goaltending

The St. Louis Blues were one of the most active NHL teams during the offseason with several player moves under their belt. However, once the season faces off in October the success of those transactions will basically depend on how good their goaltending is. This means there will be a lot of pressure on the shoulders of number one netminder Jake Allen. General manager Doug Armstrong did a fine job of addressing his team’s needs after missing the playoffs last year, but they won’t mean much unless Allen is at his best.
The Blues made a big splash in the free agency market by signing centre Tyler Bozak from the Toronto Maple Leafs, left-winger David Perron from the Vegas Golden Knights and left-winger Patrick Maroon from the New Jersey Devils. The 32-year-old Bozak has scored 365 points in 594 career games while the 30-year-old Perron has 444 points in 722 contests and the 30-year-old Maroon has chipped in with 178 points in 375 outings. Perron previously played for the Blues for seven seasons in two different stints and Maroon was born in St. Louis.

The biggest move of all though was the acquisition of centre Ryan O‚ÄôReilly in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. The 27-year-old O’Reilly is the top faceoff man in the league and has accumulated 422 points in 651 games. The Blues gave up Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, and a first-round draft pick in 2019 and second-rounder in 2021 to get him, but they now have a legitimate two-way first-line centre. Of course, they were in the hunt for a middleman ever since Paul Stastny was dealt to Winnipeg at last year’s trade deadline for a first and fourth-round draft pick and forward Erik Foley.
The Central Division Blues definitely look strong enough to challenge for a playoff spot in the Western Conference as they already had some excellent scoring depth with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz. In fact, they appear to be one of the top teams in the conference as they’re also solid on the blue line with Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson and Jay Bouwmeester. Therefore, the only question mark concerning the squad in 2018/19 is between the posts.

The 28-year-old Allen of Fredericton, New Brunswick was originally drafted by the Blues with the 34th overall pick back in 2008 and will be entering his sixth season with the club. He’s racked up a record of 117-71-15 in 219 games with a 91.3 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average along with 16 shutouts. He’s also 9-10 in 22 playoff contests with a 92.2 save percentage and 2.10 GAA. Allen played 15, 37 and 47 games in his first three seasons as he shared the workload with former teammate Brian Elliott. His workload then increased to 61 and 58 games as Elliot left and Carter Hutton took over as the backup. Hutton has since moved to Buffalo where he signed as a free agent this summer.

Some critics feel Allen has struggled over the past couple of seasons since becoming the team’s number one starter and at one time he was benched when his save percentage dipped down to 89.7. He turned things around though and lost just eight times over his final 27 games of the 2016/17 campaign. The Blues made the playoffs that year and Allen posted a 93.5 save percentage in the postseason. He was inconsistent in the crease last season however and Hutton ended up playing in 32 games and was arguably the better goalie. Allen finished the season with a 2.75 GAA and 90.6 save percentage in 56 games with just one shutout.

Allen needs to improve on those numbers in 2018/19 if the Blues are to return to the postseason. The team may score quite a few more goals due to the strengthening of the roster, but they won’t win games unless Allen can regain his best form. His numbers since joining the league have basically been at the league-average level, which isn’t bad by any means. But the Blues will need Allen to provide above average goaltending if their recent acquisitions are going to help the club get back in the playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings Captain Henrik Zetterberg could miss upcoming season

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg is possibly facing retirement as the 37-year-old Swedish forward is dealing with a health issue. It’s possible that Zetterberg won’t be able to suit up for the NHL team to start the upcoming 2018/19 season due to an ongoing issue with his back. General manager Ken Holland recently announced the news on the club’s website and said Zetterberg’s health issues mean he hasn’t been able to train properly during the offseason.
Holland, the rest of the club and the team’s fans obviously hope for the best, but they’ll just have to wait until training camp starts in September to see how healthy the player is. If Zetterberg is able to play it will be his 16th season in the NHL, all with the Red Wings. The back problem isn’t anything new since he had surgery on it in 2014 to fix a ruptured disc. However, he missed just five games in the 2014/15 campaign and has been able to play the full 82-game schedule in each of the last three seasons.
But according to Holland, Zetterberg had some issues with his back last season and although he played the club’s games, he didn’t practice with the squad for the last 10 weeks of the schedule. The news from Holland doesn’t look too good at the moment, especially since he announced on July 1st that he believed his captain would be able to play this year. Zetterberg’s scoring output may have tailed off slightly with age over the past few years, but his leadership skills and experience are essential to the team.
Zetterberg came in second in team scoring last season with 11 goals and 45 assists for 56 points as centre Dylan Larkin led the Red Wings with 63 points. Larkin, who just signed a fiver-year $30 million contract with Detroit, said Zetterberg has played with a lot of pain over the years and believes he’s still the best player on the team. He added that he definitely hopes the veteran can play this year, but understands that his health and future need to be taken into consideration.
Zetterberg told the press at the end of last season that he isn’t thinking about retirement any time soon and he’ll work out in the summer and see how he feels once training camp opens. If for some reason he can’t play in 2018/19, there’s a good chance Zetterberg may have to hang up his skates due to his age and deteriorating back. He’ll turn 38 years old in October. So far, he’s appeared in 1,082 regular-season games and has racked up 960 points on 337 goals and 623 assists.
He’s also played in 137 playoff contests and added another 57 goals and 63 helpers for 120 points. Zetterberg led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2007/08 and was rewarded for his excellent performance by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason.

Buffalo Sabres ready to climb the NHL standings

The Buffalo Sabres have been one of the NHL’s doormats for the past several seasons, but general manager Jason Botterill is doing his best to change that. The Sabres finished dead last in the league last season for the third time since 2013/14 with 62 points. However, they finally won the draft lottery and now look poised to make the postseason for the first time since 2010/11. The Sabres did manage to add one key piece to their rebuilding puzzle when the Edmonton Oilers drafted Connor McDavid first overall three years ago as they landed forward Jack Eichel with the second pick.
Eichel hasn’t had much in the way of help on the ice since then though other than centre Ryan O’Reilly. Therefore it’s hard to understand how the club will be any better this season since O’Reilly was traded this summer. Of course, finally owning the first overall draft choice was a step in the right direction and Botterill used it to select ace 6-foot-2-inch Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin from Frolunda HC of Sweden’s Elite League. Along with Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres now appear to possess two of the best young defencemen in the game and also have Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe in the mix.
The defence certainly has unlimited potential with those two on the blue line and Botterill then went about upgrading the forward positions. He acquired Conor Sheary from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional fourth round draft pick. Sheary proved he was the real deal in 2016/17 with 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points in just 61 contests, but his numbers dropped off last year with 18 goals and 12 helpers for 30 points in 79 games. The Sabres feel he can regain his scoring touch though by skating on the left wing with either Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt at centre.
Let’s not forget the O’Reilly trade to the St. Louis Blues enabled Buffalo to add some depth up front as Patrick Berglund was acquired along with Vladimir Sobotka, 20-year-old prospect Tage Thompson and a first and second-round draft pick. The newcomers will be joining Eichel, Sheary, Mittelstadt, Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart up front in a young and versatile forward core. To top things off, Botterill was then able to pry Jeff Skinner away from the Carolina Hurricanes for a prospect named Cliff Pu and a second, third and sixth-round draft pick.
The 26-year-old Skinner is a quick, skilled winger who has cracked the 30-goal barrier three times and racked up 89 goals over the past three campaigns. Only 11 other NHL players scored more than Skinner during that span and just six players bettered his 74 even-strength goals. Skinner, the NHL’s rookie of the year as an 18-year-old in 2010/11, obviously believes Botterill has the Sabres moving in the right direction as he agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the team. He told the media he believes the Sabres’ young core is quite exciting and he feels he can be a key piece of their puzzle.
So while the Sabres seem to look pretty good at both ends of the rink heading into the season they’re also going to need top-notch goaltending to improve in the standings. This task will fall on the shoulders of 32-year-old Carter Hutton who was signed as a free agent from St. Louis in the offseason. Hutton inked a three-year deal for $8.25 million and will be entering his sixth NHL campaign. He played just 32 games last year and went 17-7-3. But when it came to goalies who appeared in at least 30 contests he led the league in goals-against average at 2.09 and save percentage at 93.1.
Hutton will now have to prove he can be just as effective with a heavier workload. If he should happen to falter it looks like 25-year-old Linus Ullmark will get the nod. Ullmark has appeared in 26 games with Buffalo over the past three seasons with a 9-13-2 record along with a GAA of 2.52 and a 91.7 save percentage. All the stars will need to align for Buffalo to make the playoffs this year. They need to score more goals, allow fewer against, stay healthy and improve both on the power play and penalty kill. If they can gradually achieve all of those goals, the club should be playing in the postseason once again in the next year or two.