NHL Review March 31, 2021
FOX, STROME CONTINUE SUCCESS AS RANGERS END MARCH ON HIGH NOTE
New York scored five unanswered goals to erase an early 2-0 deficit, with Adam Fox scoring the winning goal to conclude March with 3-17—20 in 15 games. He became the first Rangers defenseman in more than 25 years to record 20 or more points in a single calendar month and just the third ever to achieve the feat, following Brian Leetch (5x; last: December 1995) and Brad Park (January 1974).
Fox also became the third NHL defenseman this season to reach 30 points (4-26—30 in 34 GP) and joined a short list of Rangers blueliners to reach the plateau in 34 or fewer games over the past 30 years. He owns an active eight-game point streak (2-13—15).
Ryan Strome assisted on the tying goal to extend his point and assist streaks to 10 and nine games, respectively, helping the Rangers (16-15-4, 36 points) move within two points of the fifth-ranked Flyers (17-13-4, 38 points) in the MassMutual East Division. His assist streak is the longest by any NHL player this season.
TOLVANEN OUTSCORES ROBERTSON AS ROOKIE SCORING RACE HEATS UP
In a battle between the two highest-scoring rookies in March, it was Nashville’s Eeli Tolvanen (1-1—2) who outperformed Dallas’ Jason Robertson (1-0—1) to help the Predators (19-17-1, 39 points) maintain fourth in the Discover Central Division. Nashville has won six straight games for the first time since 2017-18 (10-0-0).
After extending his point streak to six games with an assist on the first of Nashville’s two tying goals, Tolvanen became the first Predators rookie to score a regular-season overtime goal since teammate Filip Forsberg on March 24, 2015.
Robertson opened the scoring for the second straight game and boosted his totals to 5-11—16 in March (17 GP) after posting 2-4—6 through his first 11 contests of the season. The Arcadia, Calif., native became the first Stars rookie in more than 25 years to post as many points in a calendar month (Jere Lehtinen: 4-12—16 in February 1996; 13 GP).
MORE FROM TUESDAY’S SEVEN-GAME SLATE
Carter Verhaeghe notched multiple goals for the second time in three games – following a hat trick Saturday – to help the Panthers (23-9-4, 50 points) pull even with the Lightning (24-9-2, 50 points) and Capitals (23-8-4, 50 points) for the most points in the NHL standings. Verhaeghe ranks second in both goals (17; behind Tyler Toffoli: 18) and points (30; behind Tyson Barrie: 32) among players on new teams this season.
Carey Price earned his 49th career shutout – and first against Edmonton (15 GP) – as the Canadiens improved to 3-0-2 in their last five games overall and 4-0-2 in their last six contests at Bell Centre. Montreal halted Connor McDavid’s point streak at 11 games and have held him (0-2—2) and Leon Draisaitl (0-1—1) to only three points through four meetings this season.
Craig Smith (0-3—3) and David Krejci (0-3—3) each recorded three-point outings to help the Bruins earn their League-leading fourth third-period, multi-goal comeback win of 2020-21. That stands as a single-season franchise record, besting the previous mark of three achieved in 1986-87, 1994-95 and 2017-18. It marked the 21st such victory in the NHL in 2020-21 – only three campaigns have seen more such games at this stage (543 GP): 2019-20 (28), 2018-19 (23) and 2009-10 (23).
FIRST PLACE ON THE LINE TONIGHT IN NORTH AND WEST DIVISIONS
Tonight’s slate features doubleheaders in both Canada and the United States. On Sportsnet, the night begins when the Maple Leafs (22-10-3, 47 points) and Jets (22-12-2, 46 points) battle for first place in the Scotia North Division. On NBCSN, the Golden Knights (24-8-1, 49 points) and Kings (13-14-6, 32 points) clash in the finale as Vegas tries to keep Colorado (22-8-4, 48 points) at bay atop the Honda West Division standings.
MARCH MADNESS, #NHLSTATS STYLE
With the final day of March upon us, #NHLStats looks at some of the storylines from the busiest month of the season to date (229 GP entering March 31):
Oilers captain Connor McDavid has pulled ahead in pursuit of his third Art Ross Trophy, turning a six-point lead entering March into a nine-point advantage (over teammate and reigning scoring champion Leon Draisaitl). McDavid notched at least one point in all but three games this month, all during an 11-game point streak (7-16—23).
The battle for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy has intensified, with the number of players within five goals of leader Auston Matthews (23 G) jumping from one entering March to seven ahead of its final day. Matthews and the Maple Leafs are in action tonight, as are Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen and Vegas’ Max Pacioretty – each of whom ranked outside the top 30 in goals to start March but have climbed to the top eight with double-digit collections this month.
Defensemen have put on quite a show in March, with Adam Fox (3-17—20 in 15 GP) of the Rangers outscoring Dougie Hamilton (2-13—15 in 14 GP) of the Hurricanes – who posted at least one point in all but one game in March – to pace all blueliners entering the final day.
Stars forward Jason Robertson has shuffled the rookie scoring race with a 16-point performance in March, tops among first-year players entering the final day of play. Robertson has jumped from 12th to second place in rookie points, behind only Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov – who maintains his lead despite the scoring surge of a number of rookies this month.
Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer (11-2-1 in 14 GP) will finish with the most wins in March regardless of the outcome in tonight’s Avalanche-Coyotes game – though he could become the fifth goaltender in NHL history to post 12 victories in a calendar month. He sits tied with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy with 21 wins in 2020-21; Vasilevskiy has topped the NHL wins list in each of the previous three seasons (tied or outright).
PLAYOFF PURSUIT INTENSIFIES WITH 325 GAMES REMAINING IN 2020-21
Playoff races have kicked into high gear, with daily standings shifts as teams battle for the four positions in each division.
Scotia North Division: The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyed six- and seven-point cushions over the Oilers and Jets to start March, but those leads have been diminished to a two-point gap at most. Meanwhile, a battle is brewing for the No. 4 seed in the division which has been occupied since Feb. 19 by the Montreal Canadiens – who hold a considerable advantage in terms of games played.
Honda West Division: Vegas has held the No. 1 spot since Feb. 22 – though Colorado has tied them in points once since. Arizona’s active three-game winning streak has them within one point of a playoff spot – a position they haven’t held since Feb. 25.
Discover Central Division: Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida each held the No. 1 seed in March, but Nashville’s recent surge (8-1-0 in last 9 GP) has helped them pull from seven points out of a playoff spot at the end of February into the No. 4 seed.
MassMutual East Division: Washington remains atop the standings in a division that has seen dramatic changes this month. March began with the Capitals, Bruins, Islanders and Flyers as the top-four teams, separated by three points, but now sees the Penguins among the top three and only five points separating seeds 4 to 6.
Oilers’ McDavid Fined for Elbowing
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid has been fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for elbowing Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi during NHL Game No. 498 in Montreal on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. The incident occurred at 17:24 of the first period. McDavid was assessed a minor penalty for roughing. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.