NHL Three Stars from Thursday
1. Mitch Marner / Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
So, Auston Matthews continued his red-hot pace. Beyond being the Maurice Richard Trophy frontrunner, Matthews has a shot to score 50 goals during a shortened season. Read all about that here, from why he’s on such a run, to his chances of reaching 50.
Mitch Marner deserves attention, too, and not just because Matthews’ hot streak already received its own post.
Much like Matthews (2G, 2A), Marner scored four points on Thursday. In Marner’s case, those points came from a goal and three assists. With that, Marner has 27 points in just 18 games. Considering the criticism Marner gets, and the Maple Leafs soak up, this is probably a good time to tip your cap to Toronto’s top scorers.
James Mirtle’s tweet captures Marner’s pace, while the replies remind us of how difficult it is for Maple Leafs players to satisfy critics.
Mitch Marner producing at a 123-point pace (over 82 games) so far this season.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) February 19, 2021
Now, don’t forget about Joe Thornton. There’s more on his three-point output alongside Maple Leafs teammates Marner and Matthews later on in this post.
2. Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets
Sure, the Predators are playing putrid hockey right now. Sometimes a sharp opponent or team can make a struggling one look even worse.
That happened on Thursday, as Merzlikins pitched a 32-save shutout against the poor Predators. This represents Merzlikins’ first win since Jan. 28
3. David Perron, St. Louis Blues
With Vladimir Tarasenko on the shelf, and Alex Pietrangelo out of town, the Blues asked other players to step up. In many cases, that’s happened, even if some of those breakthroughs have gone under the radar a bit.
For example: Justin Faulk and Torey Krug are quietly putting together one of the best starts of the season of any defense pair in the NHL. Krug’s been underappreciated for some time, but this is surprising stuff from Faulk. It’s early, but that two-pronged approach to replacing Pietrangelo looks pretty shrewd of St. Louis.
But if there’s one Blues player who keeps producing at a pretty high level without getting much recognition, it’s David Perron. If he maintains something close to his current pace, it’s possible Perron will give people no choice but to take notice.
With two assists and an overtime game-winning goal, Perron now has 18 points in 17 games this season. Perron has two seasons of 60 or more under his belt, so it’s not as though he’s never produced. He’s even done so in a shortened season. Producing a point-per-game, though? That would be new.
Linus Ullmark save: Highlight of night for Thursday in the NHL
Things are, uh, not good for the Sabres. As in: people are batting around Jack Eichel trade rumors lately, however likely a(n almost certainly ill-advised) Eichel trade would be.
Losing does that, especially prolonged losing. Linus Ullmark’s efforts weren’t enough for the Sabres to beat the Capitals on Thursday, but Ullmark’s save is the highlight of Thursday night in the NHL:
Question: would a possible Taylor Hall extension be good or bad news for the Sabres?
Stat of the night
Joe Thornton’s been really effective — when healthy — alongside Marner and Matthews. Thursday represented arguably Thornton’s best night with Toronto so far, and objectively his highest-scoring. With three points, the 41-year-old became the oldest Maple Leafs player to score 3+ points:
Thursday’s NHL scores
Devils 3, Bruins 2
Rangers 3, Flyers 2 (SO)
Penguins 4, Islanders 1
Blue Jackets 3, Predators 0
Maple Leafs 7, Senators 0
Capitals 3, Sabres 1
Blues 3, Sharks 2 (OT)
Kings 3, Coyotes 2 (SO)
Wild 3, Ducks 1
More NHL News
Why Auston Matthews is running away with Richard race, eyeing 50 goals Results aren’t pretty for the Senators, but they sure are fun NHL’s COVID-19 complications could weigh heavy on playoff picture
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
The Buzzer: Magic from Matthews, Marner, Thornton; Perron powers Blues originally appeared on NBCSports.com