New York Islanders’ hot streak should result in playoff spot

Even though the New York Islanders dropped a 2-1 decision in overtime on the west coast to the San Jose Sharks on November 23rd they still managed to extend a new franchise record. The point earned for the overtime loss meant the Islanders finished the game by earning at least one point in their past 17 regular-season NHL contests. The team has gone 15-0-2 during its hot streak and hadn’t been beaten in regulation time since October, 11th when they were downed 5-2 on the road by the Carolina Hurricanes  during the second week of the season.

The game in San Jose was also the club’s third straight overtime outing and seventh-straight game to be decided by just one goal. In fact, eight of the 17 games during the streak have gone to overtime or a shootout. The Islanders previous record for consecutive games with a point was 15, which they achieved three times before since joining the league in 1972. The last time they were this hot was back in 1981/82 when they won a franchise-record 15 games in a row and before overtime and shootouts were introduced in the NHL.

Head coach Barry Trotz was understandably impressed with his squad and told the media his players simply show up every night and compete as hard as they possibly can. He added that the team understands two points are just as important in October and November as they are in February and March and they just find a way to win on most occasions. As of November 25th the streak had enabled the Islanders to climb to second place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Washington Capitals sat atop the division with 37 points while the Islanders were next with 34 points with a record of 16-3-2 and they also had four games in hand on the Capitals. The three regulation losses were also tied for the fewest in the league with the Boston Bruins. As a team, the Islanders were above league average in most categories. Their power-play was clicking at a success rate of 20 per cent while the league average was 19.6 and their penalty killing was 83.3 per cent with the average being 80.3.

As far as goals-for per game go, the team was scoring at a pace of 3.14 per outing with the average being 3.03. Keeping the puck out of their own net has arguably been the Islanders’ strongest point as they owned the third-best goals-against average at 2.43 with the league average being 3.03 per game. The team had earned at least one point in 18 of their 21 games this season to lead the league in that department at 81 per cent. Another remarkable statistic is the fact the Islanders goaltenders haven’t allowed a goal in a shootout this season as they’ve stopped 100 per cent of the shots faced.

On an individual level, goaltender Thomas Greiss owned a record of 9-1 with the second-best save percentage in the league at 93.2 and the second-best goals-against average of 2.07. Fellow netminder Semyon Varlamov was 7-2-2 with a 91.3 save percentage and 2.63 GAA. The team’s scoring has been well balanced as centre Mathew Barzal is leading the team in goals, assists and points with nine, 11 and 20 respectively in 21 games.

Brock Nelson has chipped in with eight goals and 11 assists while Anthony Beauvillier has eight goals and eight helpers  with Derrick Brassard six goals and 10 assists. In addition, fellow forwards Josh Bailey and Anders Lee have 14 and 10 points respectively while blue liners Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock each have 10 points. When former captain John Tavares jumped ship and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in the summer of 2018 many fans felt the Islanders may slip in the standings.

The opposite has been true though and since Trotz took over behind the bench in 2018/19 the team has allowed the fewest goals against in the league. There’s no doubt the Islanders’ point streak will eventually come to an end but the team would have to completely collapse the rest of the way to miss the playoffs and that’s unlikely to happen.

Hockey Hall Of Fame Inducts newest members

This year’s inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto may not feature any former superstars but the list does include some former Stanley Cup-winners and solid, consistent players. The induction ceremonies on November 18th will see Sergei Zubov, Vaclav Nedomansky, Guy Carbonneau, and Hayley Wickenheiser enter in the players’ category while Jim Rutherford and Jerry York will be inducted as builders.

Guy Carbonneau of Sept-Iles, Quebec, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the 44th overall pick in 1979. After learning the ropes of pro hockey for a couple of seasons in the American Hockey League he established himself in the NHL as an excellent defensive forward from 1982 to 2000. Carbonneau played in 1,318 NHL regular-season games with the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Canadiens and accumulated 663 points on 260 goals and 403 assists with 38 goals and 93 points in 231 playoff outings.

Carbonneau was an exceptional centre who won the Frank Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward in 1991/92, 1988/89 and 1987/88. The former Canadiens’ captain also helped his teams to three Stanley Cup championships as he hoisted the cup with Montreal in 1985/86 and 1992/93 and again with Dallas in 1998/99.

Russian native Sergei Zubov was one of the NHL’s top defensemen from 1992 to 2009 after beginning his career in his hometown in 1988 with CSKA Moscow. Zubov was then drafted into the NHL by the New York Rangers in 1990 with the 85th overall selection. He skated in 1,068 regular-season games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars and Rangers and notched 152 goals and 619 helpers for 771 points. When retiring from the NHL back in 2009 Zubov was the league’s all-time leading scorer for Russian-born defensemen and is currently ranked second behind Sergei Gonchar.

Zubov made the 2005/06 NHL Second All-Star Team and also proved to be a top postseason performer with 24 goals and 117 points in his 164 playoff contests. He helped the 1993/94 Rangers team capture the Stanley Cup and was a teammate of Carbonneau’s in Dallas in 1998/99 when the Stars hoisted the silverware. On the international level, Zubov helped Russia win a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Albertville, Canada in 1992.

Vaclav Nedomansky hails from the former nation of Czechoslovakia and became the first hockey player to reach North America after defecting from a communist Eastern European nation. In 1974 he found himself in Toronto and promptly joined the World Hockey Association’s Toronto Toros. Nedomansky had already played more than 12 years in his homeland when landing in Toronto and the forward scored 41 goals and 81 points in his first pro season with the Toros.

Nedomansky played a second season with the Toros and then skated with the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA for a year. He started the next season in the WHA but then joined the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL after just 12 games. He posted 254 points in his 252 WHA games and had 354 goals along with 534 points prior to that in 388 outings in Czechoslovakia. He played four seasons for the Red Wings and a year each with the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

He then retired at the age of 39 in 1983 with 121 goals and 277 points to his name in 420 NHL regular-season contests with three goals and five assists in seven playoff games. On the international front, Nedomansky played with Czechoslovakia at the Olympics in 1968 and 1972 and suited up in numerous World Championship tournaments, totalling 80 goals and 39 helpers for 119 points in 93 contests with the national team of Czechoslovakia.

Center Haley Wickenheiser served as captain of the Canadian National Women’s Team for several years and captured five Olympic medals. She won gold four straight times from 2002 to 2014 and also won a silver in 1998. In addition, she was named the most valuable women’s player of the Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City and again in 2006 in Torino, Italy. The native of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan currently works with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the front office and won seven gold medals along with six silvers at the Women’s IIHF World Championships.

She’s also the Canadian women’s’ team all-time leading scorer with 377 points from 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 career games. Wickenheiser debuted with the national team at the age of 15 in 1994 and played 23 years for the squad until 2017. She made hockey history in 2003 when she became the first woman to score in a men’s professional game when she found the back of the net while playing in Finland with HC Salamat of the third division.

Jim Rutherford, who’s currently the Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager, won the Stanley Cup in 2005/06 when he was at the helm of the Carolina Hurricanes and the native of Beeton, Ontario then helped guide the Penguins to the title in 2015/16 and again in 2016/17. He was also named the 2015/16 General Manager of the Year.

Jerry York of Watertown, Massachusetts coached for 47 years in the NCAA college league while spending 25 seasons at Boston College, 15 campaigns with Bowling Green and seven seasons with Clarkson. He holds the all-time coaching record for wins in American college hockey at 1,067 and is one of only three head coaches in the NCAA to win a national championship with different schools. He helped Bowling Green win the crown in 1983/84 and won four titles at Boston College from 2000 to 2012.

Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin off to another fast start

Even though he’s now 34 years old, Russian sniper Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is off to yet another excellent start with 13 goals in his first 18 games in the 2019/20 NHL campaign. It seems inevitable Ovechkin will reach the 30-goal mark for the 15th straight season since making his league debut back in 2005/06. He now has 671 career regular-season markers in 1102 games and is just 224 goals away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all time scoring mark of 894.

Ovechkin appears to defy the odds year after year when fans expect him to eventually slow down and he’s on pace to score 59 time this season. His career-best is 65 goals which he reached in 2007/08 and he’s failed to reach the 40-goal plateau in just four of his 15 full seasons. One of these was the shortened 48-game campaign of 2012/13 when he still managed to score 32 times. Ovechkin has scored at least 50 goals in eight seasons and has also led the NHL in goals on a record eight occasions.

He won his eighth Rocket Richard Trophy last season for tallying 51 goals to move into first place all time after being tied with Hall of Famer Bobby Hull for leading the league in scoring seven times each. If Ovechkin can stay healthy and keep up his scoring pace he could possibly become the NHL’s greatest goal scorer. Gretzky leads the way with 894 while Gordie Howe ranks second at 801 with Jaromir Jagr coming in third at 766. He also needs to overtake the likes of Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito and Mike Gartner who have 741, 731, 717 and 708 goals respectively.

One NHL record Ovechkin is bound to set in the next year or two is for career power-play goals. Dave Andreychuk currently holds the mark with 274 goals with the man advantage while Ovechkin has tallied 252 power-play goals with five of them coming this season so far. The Capitals’ winger is already in elite company for being the third-oldest NHL player to score 50 goals in a season as his output last year placed him behind Jaromir Jagr and Johnny Bucyk in that category.

Scoring goals has never been a problem for Washington’s captain as he notched 52 in his rookie season while also taking home the Calder Trophy in 2005/06 and making the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. He’s a sure-fire bet to be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible as he’s a 12-time All-Star (8 First-Team, 4 Second-Team) who has won 17 individual awards during his NHL career along with a Stanley Cup. His silverware collection includes three Hart Trophies and eight Rocket Richard Awards.

Ovechkin’s greatest individual campaign came in 2007/08 by taking home the Hart, Richard, Art Ross, and Lady Byng Trophies when he racked up 65 goals and 47 assists for 112 points. Ovechkin’s overall play is just as impressive as there’s no indication that he’s slowing down. And even though he plays a somewhat reckless, physical style of hockey, he’s remained relatively healthy throughout his career simply due to his incredible strength. He’s missed just 30 games since entering the league in 2005/06 and that’s one of the reasons he has a legitimate shot at toppling Gretzky’s career scoring mark.

Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli hoping to pick up the pace

With enough ice time and a chance to help contribute to the power-play, 22-year-old center Anthony Cirelli may one day become a point-per-game NHL player. The Woodbridge, Ontario native was halfway there when the 2019/20 season faced off with 50 points in his first 100 NHL career games on 24 goals and 26 assists but there’s still a lot of hard work ahead of him.

No matter where Cirelli’s played, he’s never really been a huge offensive threat but has contributed to the cause consistently. He notched 19 goals and 29 assists last season while playing all 82 games and averaging just under 15 minutes of ice time per game in his official rookie campaign. The young man has shown head coach Jon cooper that he’s capable of playing an effective 200-foot game in the NHL and started the season with a plus-36 rating.

He’s an excellent penalty-killer and managed to score five times while shorthanded last year. Cirelli’s defensive prowess is so good he could enjoy a fine career in the league based on that aspect of the game alone, but he also has the potential to help out offensively as well. He has chipped in with six points in the first 12 contests this season which is on pace for his career average of 0.5 points per game. However, he’s managed just one goal to go along with his five helpers.

Cirelli’s a fine two-way forward who’s averaging just under 18 minutes of ice time this year, which is a three-minute increase from last season. Cirelli earned a spot in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2014/15 when he made the Oshawa Generals as a walk-on player. He scored 13 goals and 36 points in his rookie season in 68 games and added two goals and eight assists  in 21 postseason playoff outings. The Generals won the Memorial Cup with Cirelli tallying the tournament’s game-winning goal.

Cirelli obviously impressed somebody in the Tampa Bay organization as the club then drafted him in the third round in 2015 with 72nd overall selection. He returned to Oshawa for the 2015/16 season and notched 59 points in his 62 appearances with five points in five postseason games. He also made his pro debut by playing three games in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch, but didn’t get on the scoresheet.

In 2016/17 Cirelli played 26 games with Oshawa and scored 34 points before being sent to the Erie Otters in a mid-season. The then posted 30 points in his 25 outings in Erie for 30 goals and 34 assists on the season in 51 games. However, he still wasn’t seen as a major offensive player. That changed somewhat in the playoffs as Erie won the OHL championship and reached the Memorial Cup as Cirelli scored 15 goals and 16 assists in 22 playoff contests.

Cirelli started 2017/18 with Syracuse in the AHL and posted 14 goals 23 assists in 51 games and was then called up by the Lightning. He registered five goals and six helpers for Tampa in 18 games and added two goals and an assists in 17 postseason games. He followed up with 39 points as a rookie last year with a goal and assist in his four playoff games and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. It’s fair to say he’s off to an average start this season but the odds are Cirelli will eventually pick up the pace and could one day become a point-per-game player.