Leon Draisaitl establishing himself as ‘Mr. Recreation Winner’

Leon Draisaitl is establishing himself as the NHL's best clutch goal scorer. (Photo via Getty)

Leon Draisaitl is establishing himself because the NHL’s greatest clutch aim scorer. (Photograph through Getty)

Welcome to 10 Insights and Observations. Each week, I’ll use this house to spotlight groups, gamers, storylines, and common musings across the NHL.

This week we have a look at Mr. Recreation Winner, the Boston Bruins seemingly by no means slowing down, a pleasant 2-on-1 play on offense, some sneaky good defensemen, a Habs goalie flying underneath the radar and far more.

Leon Draisaitl at all times comes up clutch

Should you lookup who has probably the most game-winning objectives yr after yr, there may be one certainty: Leon Draisaitl. League-wide, right here is the place he has ranked in game-winning objectives over the previous three plus seasons:

2019-20: Tied for first

2020-21: Tied for third

2021-22: Tied for first

2022-23: First

Since coming into the league, he’s second in game-winning objectives. Connor McDavid has eight greater than him in that point. For the reason that begin of the 2019-20 season, no one has extra game-winning objectives than Draisaitl. Within the playoffs, he has an absurd 59 factors in 37 video games. His efficiency final postseason taking part in via harm was unimaginable. A number of the defensive criticisms he faces are actual however with the sport on the road, he may be the perfect game-breaker within the league.

Sam Montembeault proving he belongs

When groups embark on a rebuild, the plain place to begin is to backside out and accumulate excessive draft picks. It’s the easiest way to build up high-end, cost-controlled expertise. Once you have a look at the highest scorers within the league, the overwhelming majority of them have been drafted by the workforce they’re scoring for. Groups are usually not within the behavior of shedding top-end gamers, so the overall resolution is that you could draft them your self.

However you’ll be able to’t simply depend on drafting high-end gamers on the prime of the draft order. It’s good to win within the margins and accumulate expertise all types of how — worth free agent signings, creating later-round picks via your system, successful trades and possibly even waiver claims.

The Habs might need discovered a kind of wins with waiver declare Sam Montembeault. He struggled final season, to place it mildly. In 38 video games he had an .891 save proportion and whereas the roster in entrance of him was weak, he did them no favours and helped them land the first-overall decide. It didn’t take a goalie skilled to note routine photographs getting into and questionable positioning. This season, although, he has been a brand new man.

It’s not going to get a lot consideration on a foul workforce however even only a .910 save proportion in entrance of that protection/roster in arguably the hardest division within the league is sort of spectacular. A 3rd-round decide by Florida in 2015, Montembeault is popping 27 in October. He has yet one more yr left on his contract, making simply $1 million earlier than being eligible to be a UFA. So he seemingly received’t be low-cost by the point the Habs need to make an actual playoff push. However he’s displaying this season that he can play within the league.

Nikita Zadorov has settled in properly in Calgary

The profession arc of Flames defenseman Nikita Zadorov has been fascinating. The 2013 first-round decide has bounced round a bit bit. He was included as an enormous piece within the commerce that introduced Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo. He was up and down in Colorado, finally getting traded in a package deal deal that netted the Avalanche Brandon Saad. In Chicago he obtained thrown to the wolves, with virtually 62 % of his non-neutral zone begins coming within the defensive zone.

The considering was absolutely that his 6-foot-6 body and penchant for physicality can be greatest used within the defensive zone to snuff out time and house for defenders. The Blackhawks struggled and finally moved on from Zadorov for a third-round decide.

Darryl Sutter determined to alter issues and really use him extra within the offensive zone. To this point in Calgary he has the 2 highest offensive zone begins of his profession. His 22 factors final season had been a (modest) profession excessive. He has tied his profession excessive in objectives already this season with seven, which is tied for seventeenth amongst all defensemen. Together with his dimension he has all of the leverage on the earth to actually lean into his shot and get some severe warmth on it.

A number of the offensive utilization is getting out of hand at occasions when he’s on within the remaining minute of a sport with the goalie pulled when Calgary is making an attempt to attain. The Flames do have higher offensive choices however he’s displaying he can produce a bit and his shot is a official weapon. Mix that with being one of many higher hitters within the league and nonetheless simply 27 years of age, and he’s placing collectively a pleasant little profession for himself.

Colin Miller holding his personal with Miro Heiskanen

Persevering with on the prepare of defensemen having fascinating careers is Colin Miller. Initially drafted by the LA Kings, he was a part of the commerce package deal that noticed LA get Milan Lucic. He put collectively a promising present with the Bruins that resulted in him getting claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights, the place he was a daily of their Cup run, taking part in over 19 minutes per sport and chipping in seven factors in 20 playoff video games at age 24.

However the subsequent season he began to fall out of favor a bit in Vegas as youthful defensemen developed, so the Sabres noticed a possibility to swoop in and get what was thought on the time to be a promising younger blueliner who was prepared for extra in a special state of affairs. But it surely simply didn’t work out in Buffalo, partly as a result of the Sabres had been only a dangerous workforce.

Midway via final season he had surgical procedure and solely performed six video games after that. He wanted a contemporary begin, and he’s getting one with the Dallas Stars. It helps while you’re spending most of your time taking part in with Miro Heiskanen, the most effective defensemen within the league, however he isn’t a passenger on that pairing. Heiskanen has performed extra with Miller than every other Stars participant at 5-on-5. In over 381 even-strength minutes collectively, they’ve managed over 54 % of the shot share, 57 % of anticipated objectives and outscored opponents 23-9.

No person is complicated Miller for a top-pairing defenseman unexpectedly — he’s solely taking part in 16:36 per sport, to maintain it in perspective. However by doing nicely alongside Heiskanen and successful their minutes by an enormous margin, it has allowed them to separate up their prime defensemen. Their prime three minute-eaters on protection — Heiskanen, Ryan Suter and Esa Lindell — all play on separate pairings. Final season, Heiskanen’s prime two companions had been Suter and Lindell. It’s a artistic solution to house out your prime defenders and to make sure you at all times have a top-quality participant on the ice.

The two-on-1 sneak assault

There may be nothing worse than a 2-on-1 the place the puck provider patiently tries to make a play however they take too lengthy and finally skate themselves right into a low-percentage alternative. They get across the hashmark, the defender goes right down to cowl the go, and except they make an unimaginable saucer go that truly connects, they take a meager shot on aim that the goalie can simply angle off. Even worse is the go merely getting blocked altogether and never even getting a shot off.

Among the finest treatments to that’s the excessive 2-on-1 go. The offensive participant makes the go at or simply earlier than the highest of the circle. It’s so excessive up within the offensive zone and much away from the online that the defender hasn’t even contemplated the go getting via simply but and also you catch everybody off guard. The Chicago Blackhawks was actually good at it and maybe no aim higher demonstrates it than the Patrick Kane heartbreaker.

They make that play from the highest of the circle. Rob Scuderi is actively deciding what to do along with his stick and the way shut he ought to place himself to Toews whereas the go is being made. Kane rips a one-timer from distance however it goes in. The chances of finishing that go from that far out are a lot increased as a result of you will have a lot more room to play with.

We noticed one other good instance a number of days in the past with Dillon Dube’s extra time winner in opposition to Columbus — once more a excessive go from the highest of the circle and once more a one-timer from the highest of the circle. Vladislav Gavrikov is simply beginning to shut the hole at the moment. However you give NHLers that a lot time and house to step into one and it’s going to be an issue.

Who wants assists when you’ll be able to rating objectives?

We love a great Cy Younger winner on this column — somebody who has much more objectives than assists. Presenting a brand new potential choice is at all times enjoyable and with that we provide you with: Kirill Marchenko. The Columbus rookie has performed 25 video games to this point this season and has an excellent 11 objectives. You will have possibly not heard of him regardless of his respectable aim whole as a result of he has zero assists. He’s the definition of a set off man, launching 45 photographs on internet via these 25 video games and simply looking his spots to come up with the puck and let it rip. He’s seeking to assault always. Take a look at this hat trick he scored not too long ago.

An off-the-rush wrap round, lingering within the offensive zone within the slot for a primary scoring alternative, then spinning off a verify and bringing a puck to the home to tear a shot — with zero regard for passing. He’s a aim hunter.

It’s much more entertaining while you have a look at his early AHL manufacturing. In 16 video games he had eight objectives and 11 assists. However in his two KHL seasons earlier than that he had extra objectives than assists in every season. Marchenko seems to be like an annual Cy Younger candidate.

Panthers run out of gasoline when it issues most

The Florida Panthers have been a little bit of a Rubik’s Dice all season and maybe nowhere is that extra evident than their objectives scored by interval. The swings are beautiful. No person within the league has scored extra objectives than them within the first interval and so they have a plus-10 differential within the opening body. They’re a fair higher with a plus-12 aim differential in second intervals. After which they offer all of it again late. No person within the league has been scored in opposition to extra occasions within the third interval. They’ve conceded 76 objectives within the third interval via 50 video games — final season the Crimson Wings gave up probably the most third-period objectives with 124 (second place was a notable hole at 107).

Besides the Panthers had been presupposed to problem for a playoff spot, not be in territory with final yr’s Crimson Wings. One working principle is that over the attrition of a full sport, their goaltending struggles finally reveal themselves. The Panthers have the sixth-worst all conditions workforce save proportion within the league. On the flip aspect, solely the Boston Bruins have been main extra occasions after the primary interval. The Panthers’ defensive depth took a success within the offseason and that was one thing they had been nicely conscious of. However they’ve invested loads into their goaltending and presumably hoped that may mitigate the losses on the blue line.

Goaltending isn’t the one cause, to make sure, however it hasn’t helped. Alongside the best way, the Panthers have been bleeding objectives in opposition to when the time to shut video games arrives.

Kris Letang’s storybook second

Within the class of fantastic, how about Pittsburgh Penguins veteran Kris Letang? After struggling a stroke — the second of his profession — it was truthful to marvel if the 35-year-old would ever even need to play once more. However just 10 days later he was again on the ice. He returned to sport motion solely to endure a lower-body harm that knocked him again out. Then his father passed away. He lastly returned on Tuesday and had 4 factors, together with the extra time winner.

How blissful he’s there and the way blissful his teammates are for him is truthfully simply superior to see. He is a straightforward participant to root for. These are moments you observe the sport for.

Bruins peaking too early or are they simply the most effective groups in NHL historical past?

At this level I preserve ready for the Bruins to come back right down to earth… and it simply is not happening. Should you kind the standings for the month of January alone, they’re nonetheless in first. They’re 10-1-0 for the reason that calendar flipped to 2023.

No Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand to start out the season? No downside. Lose Jake DeBrusk within the midst of a profession yr? Doesn’t matter. Taylor Corridor goes on a 16-game goalless drought whereas DeBrusk is out? Simply preserve successful.

They’ve 11 gamers with at the very least 20 factors already and 7 gamers with at the very least 10 objectives. It’s virtually truthful to marvel if they’re peaking too early, as they’re on tempo for a traditionally excessive factors proportion. Their .851 factors proportion is head and shoulders above the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning workforce that had a .780 factors proportion in its 128-point season.

The Presidents’ Trophy has been awarded 33 occasions, however solely eight of the winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup of their respective years. The final workforce to win each was the Chicago Blackhawks 10 years in the past, after they beat the Bruins. Like that Blackhawks workforce, although, this Bruins squad has a championship core led by Patrice Bergeron and Marchand. You merely can’t wager in opposition to these two gamers.

In the event that they sustain this tempo and really go on to win the Cup, it’s truthful to marvel if this is without doubt one of the greatest groups of all-time.

Islanders coping with January blues

On the opposite aspect, the Islanders are 2-8-3 this month. Solely Arizona has been worse by factors proportion. The Islanders are averaging 1.92 objectives per sport in that stretch and their energy play is clicking at 6.5 %. Via these 13 video games, no one has greater than six factors (4 gamers are tied for that quantity, for what it’s price). Anders Lee leads their workforce with 4 objectives in that point.

For reference, the best point-getter within the league in January has 19 factors (three gamers have achieved that to this point). The best aim scorer has 12 objectives. Brock Nelson leads all Islanders in scoring for the season with 43 factors — tied for fiftieth league-wide.

They’ve some depth, good defensemen and a top-end goalie. They’re prime 10 in objectives in opposition to per sport. However you’ll be able to’t survive this lack of scoring on this period. The Islanders had a good begin to the season and had been in a great place to take a run at a playoff spot on the finish of the calendar yr. However January has not been sort to them.

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