Washington Capitals’ defender John Carlson’s hot as a pistol

Washington Capitals’ defenceman John Carlson is on a torrid scoring pace this season as he leads all blue liners as of December 22nd with 47 points from 13 goals and 34 assists in 37 games. The 29-year-old from Natick, Massachusetts co-leads the league with six game-winning goals and is on pace to register 104 points in 2019/20. If he manages to keep up the pace he’ll definitely be joining some elite defencemen when it comes to scoring statistics.

Since the NHL began the 100-point barrier by a defenceman has been reached just 14 times and only five players have managed to achieve it. These are Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin, Brian Leetch and Al MacInnis. Orr did it six times while Coffey pulled it off five times and the rest reached 100 points or more once each. Leetch was the last rearguard to do it in 1991/92. For Carlson to join those legends he’ll need to score 53 points in his next 45 games.

No NHL defenceman has scored more than 90 points since 1993/94 when Ray Bourque did it and just three blue liners have notched more than 80 points since the 1995/96 campaign. These were Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks in 2018/19, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators in 2015/16 and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings in 2005/06. Carlson had a 13 point lead over Dougie Hamilton in blue line scoring on Dec. 22nd and was tied for seventh overall in the league.

Carlson has recorded a point on 37 per cent of his team’s goals sop far this year while Hamilton was next for a defender at slightly more than 30 per cent. Since 2017/18, Carlson has been on quite a roll with 41 goals and 144 assists for 185 points in 199 regular-season outings. This ranks him first or second for defencemen in goals scored, assists, total points, game-winning goals and even-strength goals. He now has 103 goals and 347 helpers for 450 points in 725 games while averaging 23:30 of ice time per night.

Many high-scoring defencemen are sometimes a liability in their own end but Carlson is a plus 101 for his career and is third in the league this season at plus 21. He’s also proved to be quite effective on the blue line once the playoffs start as he’s racked up 18 goals and 42 assists for 60 points in 107 postseason encounters. He chipped in with five goals and 20 points in 24 encounters in 2017/18 to help the Capitals win their first ever Stanley Cup.

It seems Carlson doesn’t just chip in with a point here and there as he’s already registered 14 multi-point games this season which is almost double any other blue liner in the league. The 6-foot-3-inch 220 lb rearguard was drafted by Washington in 2008 with the 27th overall pick in the first round and then registered 16 goals and 76 points in 59 games for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League the next season to prove the Capitals had made the right choice.

With 70 points last season and 68 the year before it looks like Carlson’s now hitting his peak. He doesn’t come cheap as he inked an eight-year deal in the summer of 2018 for a total of 64 million. This averages out to $8 million a year but if he keeps scoring at the same pace for the next few seasons it may well be money worth spending.

New York Rangers named NHL’s most valuable franchise for fifth straight year

The annual Forbes’ list of the NHL’s  most valuable franchises was recently released with the New York Rangers taking the top spot for the fifth consecutive year. The club has been valued at U.S. $1.65 billion, which is a six per cent increase over last year. The Toronto Maple Leafs were runners up with a value of $1.5 billion while the Montreal Canadiens were third at $1.34 billion followed by the Chicago Blackhawks at $1.085 billion and the Boston Bruins at a billion dollars.

All of the top five franchises are known as “original six’ NHL teams. However, the Rangers, Canadiens and Blackhawks all missed the playoffs last season and along with Toronto are all in non-playoff positions as of this December 16th.  The top 10 is rounded out by the Los Angeles Kings at $850 million, the Philadelphia Flyers at $825 million, the Detroit Red Wings at $800 million, the Washington Capitals at $775 million and the Vancouver Canucks with a value of $740 million. According to Forbes, there were no new additions to this year’s top-10.

The rest of the franchises from number 11 to 31 are ranked in value as follows: 11-Pittsburgh Penguins ($665 M), 12-Dallas Stars ($600 M), 13-Vegas Golden Knights ($580 M), 14- Edmonton Oilers ($575 M), 15- New Jersey Devils ($550 M), 16-San Jose Sharks ($540 M), 17- St Louis Blues ($530 M), 18-New York Islanders ($520 M), 19- Minnesota Wild ($510 M), 20-Calgary Flames ($500 M), 21-Anaheim Ducks ($480 M), 22-Colorado Avalanche ($475 M), 23-Tampa Bay Lightning ($470 M), 24-Nashville Predators ($460 M), 25-Carolina Hurricanes ($450 M), 26-Ottawa Senators ($445 M), 27-Winnipeg Jets ($420 M), 28-Buffalo Sabres ($400 M), 29-Columbus Blue Jackets ($325 M), 30-Florida Panthers ($310 M), 31-Arizona Coyotes ($300 M).

All 31 franchises saw their value rise compared to 2018 with Vancouver, Vegas and Winnipeg increasing by just one per cent while New Jersey increased the most at 21 per cent followed by the New York Islanders at 18 per cent, Dallas and St. Louis at 14 per cent, Calgary at 11 per cent and Colorado at 10 per cent.

Forbes also released a partial list of the league’s best fans based on stadium attendance, the secondary ticket sales market, the teams’ merchandise sales, their social media reach and popularity and their local television ratings. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ fans ranked number one followed by supporters of Boston, Chicago and Vegas. The rest of the top 10 is as follows: 5-Buffalo, 6-Toronto, 7-St. Louis, 8-Winnipeg, 9-Nashville, 10-Detroit.

This is the third time Penguins’ fans have been ranked number one since the list originated in 2009. Pittsburgh, Boston and Chicago have all treated their fans to success over the past decade as Chicago won three Stanley Cups (2009/10, 2012/13 and 2014/15). Pittsburgh captured two (2015/16 and 2016/17) and the Bruins one (2010/11). The Bruins also played in another two Stanley Cup Final series (2012/13 and 2018/19). Also, Vegas reached the Stanley Cup Final in the club’s first year in the league in 2017/18.

Goaltender Tristan Jarry fighting for Pittsburgh Penguins’ starting job

After playing just two NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, 24-year-old goaltender Tristan Jarry is now staking his claim for the team’s starting job in the crease. Jarry posted his second consecutive shutout on Dec. 6th with a 2-0 home win over the Arizona Coyotes just two days after blanking the visiting St. Louis Blues 3-0. Jarry stopped a combined 61 shots in the two outings and is now 7-4 on the season and hasn’t allowed a goal in his last 142 minutes and 46 seconds of action..

Jarry is making a strong case for the starting job as the Penguins’ number one goalie as Matt Murray simply can’t match the youngster’s numbers this year. Jarry owns a goals-against average of 1.81 this season with a 94.3 save percentage and has a 1.00 GAA in seven home games along with two shutouts. The 6-foot-2-inch, 195 lb native of Surrey, British Columbia has won six of his last seven starts and has allowed two or fewer goals in those half dozen victories and in nine of his ll games this season.

As of December 8th, Jarry was leading the NHL in save percentage and goals-against average and has been the Penguins’ top man in net after playing in just four of the squad’s first 19 outings. Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Murray is struggling at 5-0-4 with a 2.85 GAA and 89.7 save percentage. Jarry has made the most of his chances in net this year and it appears Pittsburgh will continue to ride his hot hand for the time being.

Jarry was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the second round in 2013 with the 44th-overall pick while playing with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He was the WHL’s top goalie in 2012/13 with a 1.61 GAA and 93.6 save percentage in 27 games. The next season he went 44-14-3 and 16-5 in the playoffs. He led his team to the Memorial Cup title and was named to the league’s Eastern Conference First All-Star Team. He made his pro debut in 2015/16 with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League and was called up by the Stanley-Cup-winning Penguins for the NHL playoffs as an emergency replacement.

Jarry played the 2016/17 season in the AHL and went 28-15-2 in 45 contests with a 2.15 GAA and 92.5 save percentage. He played in the league’s All-Star Game and shared the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award with Casey DeSmith as league-leading Wilkes-Barre posted the AHL’s lowest GAA. Jarry made his NHL debut in April, 2017 in the final game of the regular season with a 3–2 defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers. He then dressed as Pittsburgh’s backup for 11 postseason outings as the Penguins won the Stanley Cup for the second straight season.

In 2017/18, Jarry played with Pittsburgh early in the season while Murray was out of action and then returned to the AHL in January before being recalled to the NHL in February. He went 14-6-2 with Pittsburgh with a 2.77 GAA and 90.8 save percentage while going 9-5-2 in the AHL with a 3.05 GAA and 90.1 save percentage. Following the campaign, Jarry re-signed with Pittsburgh for two more years for a total of $1.35 million. However, he was injured in a 2018/19 preseason game with Pittsburgh and assigned to the AHL. He made history with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in November of that season by becoming the club’s first goaltender to score a goal but played in just two NHL games.

When the current season faced off Jarry had made the Penguins’ NHL roster and has definitely earned his keep with his stellar play so far. He’s taken over from Murray as the number one at the moment and has helped the Penguins to a 17-9-4 record as the club fights for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Jarry will be an unrestricted free agent next summer but is a bargain for the team this season with a salary cap hit of just $675,000. However, he should definitely earn a considerable raise next year if he keeps up his fine play in 2019/20.

Bruins’ David Pastrnak aiming for 70-goal season

When forward David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins found the back of the net for the 25th time this season he became the first NHL player to reach 25 goals by December 1st since Mario Lemieux achieved the feat in 1992/93. Pastrnak also became just one of 11 NHL’ers to mange it and his 25 goals in 27 contests represents the quickest goalscoring start in the league since Jaromir Jagr in 1996/97.

The next accomplishment in sight for the 23-year-old native of the Czech Republic is to score 50 goals in his team’s first 50 games. The last player to reach those numbers was Brett Hull, who achieved it for the second consecutive time in his career in 1991/92. The only other players to hit 50 goals in their first 50 or fewer games of a season have been Lemieux (twice), Maurice Richard, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky (three times), Cam Neely and Alexander Mogilny.

Pastrnak, who was drafted by Boston with the 25th overall pick in 2014, has scored at a rate of 0.93 goals-per-game so far this season and is on pace to reach 76 in the 82-game schedule. And with 15 assists in his first 27 games he has 42 points and is on pace for 121 points this year. The winger has notched five game winners and 12 of his goals have come on the power-play while his shooting percentage has been a very impressive 23.1 per-cent.

However, just eight players have managed to score at least 70 goals in an NHL season and these are Lemieux, Gretzky, Hull, Mogilny, Jari Kurri, Phil Esposito, Bernie Nichols and Teemu Selanne.

It’s highly unlikely Pastrnak will be able to keep up the scoring pace over the entire season but sports has always been about beating the odds. The Bruins play their 50th game of the season in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on January 19th so fans will have to wait about another six weeks to see if Pastrnak can reach the magical number of 50 goals by then.

Pastrnak scored his 20th goal in his 22nd game this season while Esposito reached the mark in 18 games, and Neely, who both played for Boston, did it in 19 games. Another Bruin, Herb Cain, scored 20 goals for the club in 20 games. For Pastrnak to score 70 times this season he needs to turn the goal light on another 45 times in the next 53 games and of course would need to remain healthy the rest of the way. Up until now, he’s played the full 82-game schedule just once in his NHL career.

Scoring 70 goals isn’t out of the question though since on paper the Bruins have one of the league’s easier schedules from now until April. A total of 27 of their 53 remaining contests are against teams that are currently in non-playoff positions. But this includes squads that very well could make the playoffs by the end of the season sch as the Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators.

But even if Pastrnak doesn’t score 70 goals this season he’s definitely on track at the moment to lead the league in goals and win the Rocket Richard Trophy for doing so. As of December 2nd, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals was second on the scoring parade with 20 goals in 28 games while Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers had 19 in 29. Leon Draisaitl of Edmonton had 18 in 29 and Pastrnak’s linemate Brad Marchand was ranked fifth with 18 goals in 27 games and even had a better shooting percentage than Pastrnak by scoring on 27.3 per cent of his shots.