Within the month forward, the N.H.L. plans to make use of the serene scenes of Lake Tahoe as a backdrop for 2 out of doors video games. However the 19 days of competitors in January introduced a little bit of chaos to the league’s schedule.
Because the season started on Jan. 13, dozens of gamers have been positioned on the Covid-19 protocol-related absence record, which incorporates gamers who take a look at optimistic and people who are being monitored due to shut contact with somebody who examined optimistic.
Regardless of the format adjustments and shortened schedule, the season has had its share of constants. A lot of the league’s prime groups from final season have continued to thrive, and superlative performers like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl raised their scoring tempo to seldom-seen ranges, persevering with their offensive dominance from final season.
All statistics and standings are up to date getting into Thursday’s video games.
The schedule has needed to be rewritten.
The N.H.L. had a rocky path to resumption, and the turbulence didn’t finish as soon as the parameters of the 2021 season had been set.
The Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Vegas Golden Knights, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche had been affected by the virus because the calendar turned from January to February.
The league has made postponement choices on a case-by-case foundation. Not like the N.B.A., the N.H.L. has set no minimal variety of dressed gamers for a recreation to be staged. The N.H.L. has prevented some cancellations by having apply squads accessible to every staff.
For Vegas, solely the teaching employees was initially affected, and the staff performed its Jan. 26 recreation in opposition to the St. Louis Blues with its common supervisor and minor-league teaching employees behind the bench. However after at the least three coaches and two gamers had been added to the Covid-19 record, three of the Golden Knights’ video games had been postponed.
Earlier this week, the league introduced the postponement of Devils video games by way of at the least Saturday. The staff, which final performed on Sunday, had 14 gamers on the Covid absence record on Tuesday. The Buffalo Sabres, the Devils’ most up-to-date opponent, is not going to play once more till at the least Monday. The league on Wednesday postponed the Wild’s video games by way of at the least Tuesday. Then Thursday night time, the league mentioned Colorado’s video games by way of Feb. 11 can be postponed due to gamers getting into virus protocols.
The league’s stars are off to sturdy begins, and two have been traded.
On this season of turmoil, few issues have been sure. However the Edmonton Oilers’ two-headed monster of Draisaitl, the reigning most dear participant, and McDavid, the 2016-17 M.V.P., has been rock stable as soon as once more.
How copious has this tandem’s scoring been? The pair closed the month by combining for 11 factors in an 8-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators. In January, they’d a staggering 43 factors in 11 video games, with McDavid averaging two factors per recreation and Draisaitl falling some extent shy of that clip. McDavid’s eight objectives tied him for the league lead in January with Vancouver’s Brock Boeser, and his 14 assists had been second solely to Draisaitl’s 15.
To place the Edmonton duo’s feats in context, Anaheim Geese skaters produced 41 factors in January, which means Draisaitl and McDavid outscored that whole staff.
Toronto Maple Leafs ahead Mitchell Marner and Colorado heart Nathan MacKinnon had been among the many prime 5 January scorers, however MacKinnon is out with a lower-body harm to begin February.
A star was additionally concerned in a blockbuster commerce, with the Winnipeg Jets transport the sniping winger Patrik Laine and the previous first-round decide Jack Roslovic to the Columbus Blue Jackets for heart Pierre-Luc Dubois.
In web, most groups have cut up begins extra evenly amongst their prime two goalies. Carolina’s Petr Mrazek, Vegas’s Marc-André Fleury and Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko have thrived in platoons. Mrazek and Fleury posted goals-against averages of 1 or beneath in January — additionally they ranked first and second in save proportion — whereas Demko did the identical in his final three begins. Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer led the league in wins with six.
Kings heart Anze Kopitar, 33, has additionally returned to peak type, because the 10-month layoff for nonplayoff groups benefited Los Angeles’ 30-something veterans. His 11 assists in January had been the fourth most within the N.H.L. He had yet another than the wunderkind defensemen Cale Makar of Colorado and Quinn Hughes of Vancouver, who completed first and second in final yr’s Calder Trophy voting.
Some rookies have impressed early.
This yr’s Calder Trophy voting for the N.H.L.’s prime rookie could also be dominated by gamers of their 20s, as an alternative of youngsters from the final couple of drafts.
Goalie Vitek Vanecek, 25, was thrust into motion for Washington after Braden Holtby departed for Vancouver in free company, the backup Henrik Lundqvist introduced he would miss the season due to a coronary heart situation and the starter Ilya Samsonov examined optimistic for coronavirus, in accordance with The Washington Put up. Vanecek was the January rookie of the month after profitable 5 video games, tops amongst rookies.
However Kevin Lankinen, 25, leads all rookies in save proportion and goals-against common, having turned the nook on his rivals within the Chicago Blackhawks’ open casting name for a No. 1 goalie.
The highest level producer and nickname-earner amongst rookies has been Minnesota winger Kirill Kaprizov, often known as Kirill the Thrill and Greenback Invoice Kirill. Kaprizov, a 23-year-old Russian, was a fifth-round decide in 2015 who then charted an impressive profession on the skilled and worldwide stage in his residence nation. He was the youngest participant on the gold medal-winning aspect on the 2018 Olympics and an offensive chief for C.S.Ok.A. Moscow within the Kontinental Hockey League.
When he arrived within the N.H.L., Kaprizov grew to become the primary participant in league historical past to document three factors and an additional time game-winning aim in his debut. For an encore, he arrange the additional time winner in his second recreation.
Devils defenseman Ty Smith, 20, tied Kaprizov for the rookie lead in each factors and assists in January. Rangers defenseman Ok’Andre Miller, 21, leads all rookies with a plus-seven ranking, an unusual achievement for a participant on a last-place staff with a adverse aim differential.
The Rangers held Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 general decide within the 2020 draft, out of the World Junior Championships so he may put together for the N.H.L. season. However he had only one level, a aim, in eight January video games.
Races start in new divisions.
All seven Canadian franchises had been moved into the brand new North Division, requiring extra shuffling.
5 former Pacific groups merged with three former Central squads to make the West Division. The previous Central Division groups — St. Louis, Colorado and Minnesota — occupied the primary three positions within the standings earlier than Thursday’s video games. The Avalanche have one of many league’s greatest aim differentials at plus-14.
After shifting to the Central, the Florida groups obtained off to sturdy begins, regardless of being affected by Dallas’s postponements. The Panthers posted a 5-0-1 document in January, whereas final yr’s Stanley Cup champion, the Tampa Bay Lightning, darted out to a 4-1-1 begin.
The North is the one seven-team division, but it has 5 of the ten highest-scoring groups so far. Montreal — which was seeded twenty fourth within the 24-team playoffs final season — leads the league in objectives per recreation and in aim differential. The Canadiens are in first place, forward of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who retooled their supporting solid throughout the low season.
Within the East, the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres had been tossed in with six former Metropolitan Division groups, together with the Devils, Islanders and Rangers. In what guarantees to be a aggressive race, the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers are tied for the division lead.
Veterans have milestones approaching.
Alex Ovechkin returned to motion on Saturday after his four-game absence because of the league’s coronavirus protocols. He resumed his pursuit of the profession goal-scoring document, and in dramatic trend. His additional time game-winner in opposition to Boston was his 708th aim, tying him with Mike Gartner, one other Capitals nice, for seventh on the profession record. Ovechkin remained 186 objectives behind Wayne Gretzky’s document getting into Thursday’s recreation in opposition to the Rangers.
One other document that after appeared unassailable now seems prone to fall. San Jose Sharks ahead Patrick Marleau final week performed his 1,731st recreation, tying Ron Francis for fourth on the profession record. If Marleau finishes the season with at the least 45 video games performed, he’ll surpass Gordie Howe for the N.H.L. document. Howe, although, performed an extra 419 video games within the World Hockey Affiliation.