NHL Review April 29, 2021
MAPLE LEAFS CLINCH FIRST SCOTIA NORTH DIVISION PLAYOFF SPOT
Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 35th goal of the season and 10th game winner to help the Toronto Maple Leafs clinch the first playoff spot in the Scotia North Division witha 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. This marks Toronto’s fifth consecutive postseason appearance and 70th in franchise history.
Matthews scored his 17th career goal against the Canadiens (17-11—28 in 21 GP), with five of those tallies coming across an active seven-game point streak this season against Montreal (5-6—11 in 7 GP). Matthews’ 1.33 points-per-game rate versus the Canadiens is tied with Babe Dye for the highest among all Maple Leafs to face the club at least 20 times, while his 0.81 goals-per-game average is fourth highest in NHL history against Montreal (min. 20 GP).
Toronto and Montreal have been trending toward a playoff meeting in 2021, holding the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, since Feb. 19. It has been more than 42 years since the Maple Leafs and Canadiens met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with their last contest in the 1979 Quarterfinals taking place April 22, 1979 – about two months before Joe Thornton was born (July 2, 1979). Zdeno Chara (March 18, 1977) is the only active NHL player who was alive at the time. The Original Six rivals have contested 15 playoff series against each other, but have met only twice in the expansion era (since 1967-68; also 1978 Semifinals).
Matthews and Mitchell Marner have reached the postseason in each of their first five NHL campaigns, a feat achieved by only four other Maple Leafs in the expansion era: Tomas Kaberle (1998-99 to 2003-04), Dave Williams (1974-75 to 1978-79), Borje Salming (1973-74 to 1980-81) and Ian Turnbull (1973-74 to 1980-81).
McDAVID POSTS THREE POINTS FOR THE FOURTH STRAIGHT GAME
After posting his fourth consecutive three-point game and fifth straight with multiple points, Connor McDavid (0-3—3) is now on pace for 100 points this season as Edmonton defeated Winnipeg in a potential First Round playoff preview. The last player to record five or more consecutive three-point games was Jari Kurri in 1992-93 (6 GP).
McDavid (28-56—84 in 47 GP) is on pace to conclude the season with exactly 100 points. Only two players in the last 25 years have had at least that many points through 56 or fewer games played within a season: Mario Lemieux (55-78—133 in 56 GP) and Jaromir Jagr (46-58—104), both in 1995-96.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS EDGE AVALANCHE, EXTEND WIN STREAK TO 10 GAMES
Max Pacioretty (2-1—3) and Mark Stone (1-2—3) each registered three points and Marc-Andre Fleury (35 saves) recorded his 488th career regular-season victory as the Golden Knights claimed their 10th consecutive win. Vegas (35-11-2, 72 points) overtook idle Carolina (32-10-7, 71 points) for first place in the NHL standings as each club pursues its first Presidents’ Trophy.
Pacioretty extended his point streak to eight games and joined Stone in the 50-point club this season. Stone (1.19) will finish the season with at least a point-per-game average – a first for the club – while Pacioretty (1.09) is on track to do the same.
BLUES PULL AHEAD IN PUSH FOR LAST PLAYOFF SPOT IN HONDA WEST DIVISION
Trailing 3-1 entering the third period, Mike Hoffman (2-1—3) and Jordan Kyrou (1-1—2) combined to tie the game and Robert Thomas (1-1—2) scored the go-ahead goal with 23 seconds remaining to halt Minnesota’s win streak at seven games. St. Louis (22-19-6, 50 points) opened a three-point lead over Arizona (21-24-5, 47 points) for fourth place in the Honda West Division standings. The Coyotes lost in regulation to the Sharks (20-24-5, 45 points), who scored three times in the first period – including Evander Kane’s 20th goal of the season – en route to victory.
THORNTON, MARLEAU REACH MILESTONES
After being drafted first and second overall in 1997, making their NHL debuts just eight days apart in 1997-98 and playing together across 13 seasons with San Jose, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each reached career milestones on Wednesday. Marleau played his 1,600th game with the Sharks to join Gordie Howe (1,687 GP w/ DET) as the second player in NHL history to reach the benchmark with a single franchise, while Thornton collected his 1,100th regular-season assist.
Thornton added his name to a short list of NHL players to achieve the feat, joining Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey. The 41-year-old veteran recorded his first NHL assist 32 games into his career and completed his first season with just four helpers overall.
18-YEAR-OLD QUINTON BYFIELD MAKES NHL DEBUT FOR KINGS
Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, registered four shots on goal and logged 17:57 of ice time in his NHL debut. At age 18 years, 252 days, Byfield became the second-youngest Kings player in the last 10 years to make his League debut behind Tobias Bjornfot (18 years, 182 days on Oct. 5, 2019). When Byfield’s name was called during the draft in October, he became the highest-selected Black player in NHL history.
BATTLE FOR MASSMUTUAL EAST DIVISION SUPREMACY TAKES FOCUS TONIGHT
Tonight’s 10-game slate includes a battle between the top two teams in the MassMutual East Division as the Capitals (32-13-4, 68 points) will look to add to their lead over the Penguins (32-15-3, 67 points) in the first half of a two-game set. Jake Guentzel leads all players with 4-5—9 through six of eight games in the regular-season series; the last time a Pittsburgh player had 10 or more points in a single regular season against Washington was 1992-93.
ROOKIE JASON ROBERTSON AIMS FOR DOUBLE-DIGIT POINT STREAK
Jason Robertson enters tonight with a nine-game point streak (4-9—13), the longest by any rookie since 2017-18 (Clayton Keller: 10 GP w/ ARI) and longest by a rookie with the Stars/North Stars franchise in more than 30 years.
Robertson’s run has helped him boost his totals to 15-25—40 (44 GP) and pull within one point of Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov (22-19—41 in 48 GP) for the rookie scoring lead. The last date in 2020-21 that a rookie had more points than Kaprizov was after games played Feb. 19 when Chicago’s Pius Suter and Ottawa’s Josh Norris each had 10 points to Kaprizov’s nine.
The Stars (21-16-12, 54 points) head into another 2020 Stanley Cup Final rematch looking to move back into a playoff position for the first time since Feb. 3 when they held a 5-1-1 record. A win would place them ahead of the idle Predators (27-22-2, 56 points) for the No. 4 seed in the Discover Central Division – the last available playoff position in the division after Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay each clinched earlier this week.
Islanders’ Barzal Fined for Diving/Embellishment
New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal has been fined $2,000 as supplementary discipline under NHL Rule 64 (Diving/Embellishment), the National Hockey League announced today.
NHL Rule 64 is designed to bring attention to and more seriously penalize players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Fines are assessed to players and head coaches on a graduated scale outlined below:
Citation # Player Fine(s) * Head Coach Fine(s)
1 Warning N/A 2 $2,000 N/A 3 $3,000 N/A 4 $4,000 N/A 5 $5,000 $2,000 6 $5,000 $3,000 7 $5,000 $4,000 8 $5,000 $5,000
- For head coaches, each FINE issued to a player on his club counts toward his total. Four FINES issued to one player or a club collectively results in the head coach receiving his first fine.
Citations are issued by the National Hockey League Hockey Operations Department, which tracks all games, logs all penalties for diving or embellishment, and flags all plays not called on the ice that in its opinion were deserving of such a penalty. A Citation is issued once Hockey Operations, through its internal deliberations, is convinced that a player warrants sanction.
Barzal was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 126 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 30. His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident at 4:47 of the second period during NHL Game No. 730 against the Washington Capitals on April 22.
The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.