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Some "mid-season" NHL notes

Thursday 2/8/24

Prior to this season, I'd never heard the period after the NHL All-Star game referred to as the second half of the season. That's a baseball thing (even though baseball's All-Star game is considerably after the actual mid-point of the season). But I figured some hockey notes were in order.

The Bruins had an awkward performance the other night in their first game back against the Calgary Flames here at the Garden, losing 4-1. I say awkward because they looked fumble-y. Passes in skates, missed stickhandles. Couldn't do a lot right.

David Pastrnak has carried this team. He is far and away the Bruins' most productive player, and that should get him some Hart trophy credit, but it won't. To give one an idea, though: He has 73 points. The next closest Bruin--Brad Marchand--has 47. That's a huge gap.

I was going to say that Charlie Coyle could reach 70 points, which surprises me some, but as I look at the numbers again, I think he'll end up somewhere around 63. This team needs strong goaltending to win, and to limit the turnovers. Charlie McAvoy, as I've said for years now, is not going to become that player that people want him to be or think he is. He's just not that good. Emphasize the that. He's fine. But this is not some elite defenseman.

Jeremy Swayman has somewhat better numbers than Linus Ullmark, which comes down to him having three shutouts to Ullmark's none. The difference in their numbers is in those three games.

We may see two defensemen hit the 100 point mark in a single season in Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar.

I no longer think Connor McDavid is going to be able to catch up in the Art Ross race this year. MacKinnon and Kucherov have it going on and I don't expect either to slow down that much, if at all. Perhaps this is the year MacKinnon gets his Hart trophy. He has that kind of talent and game, and you sort of thought he'd win one before it was all said and done. The Oilers just won sixteen games in a row and McDavid is still 17 points back or whatever it is. Then again, he might pick up 8 points in his next two games.

I'm also watching to see if Auston Matthews will reach 60 goals and fail to hit 100 points. Could very well happen. Shades of 1982-83 Lanny McDonald.

On a discussion forum I saw where many posters were saying that Connor Bedard isn't anything special, he'll always be injured, and I have to say, I don't think any of that at all. He may be better than Matthews.

That Blackhawks team is so bad that you can't really gauge Bedard's playmaking going by the numbers. He's missed all of this time with a broken jaw and he still leads that team in scoring. In second place is Jason Dickinson, with 25 points in 51 games. Consider that: your number two scorer is on pace for 49 points. What might be even more of an indication of the lack of talent on the Blackhawks outside of Bedard is that thirty-six-year-old Nick Foligno--a fourth liner previously with the Bruins--is fourth in scoring with 19 points in 44 games. It's an anemic forward group.

As for Bedard and injuries: He broke his jaw. Face things are not suggestive of someone being injury prone. They happen. What Bedard attempted to do was dipsy-doodle his way through the middle of the offensive zone, he dropped his head, and he got popped. He actually could have been popped harder, but it was a good hit all the same. Well, lesson learned. Don't dipsy-doodle there. People were talking about his lack of size, but you don't need size to thrive in today's NHL.

And yes, this isn't very 2023-24, but I have to put something here and I did mention Lanny McDonald (he of the 66 goals and 32 assists for the Flames in 1982-83), so here's a McDonald's commercial with the guy that you figure had to do one from back in 1983.

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