As the regular season pushes its way to the close, the scoring race has tightened up of late, and I couldn’t be happier with the prospects of maybe, once again, a 100-point season, or maybe even a 50-goal campaign. Up until two weeks ago it was the Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby show, but over these past two weeks, Brad Marchand has gone bananas and tied or taken the lead in not only the Art Ross race, but also in the Rocket Richard race as the league’s best goal scorer.
Marchand was always lurking in or around the top ten, but stellar performances night in and night out have pushed this Bruin to the top. Since the turn of the New Year, Marchand has scored 25 goals, with eight multi-goal games, including a hat-trick in Vancouver on Monday night. I’ll go as far to say that Marchand may also win the Selke as the league’s best defensive forward, with his three short-handed goals and seven short-handed points.
Not to be outdone, the first American to ever win the Art Ross, Patrick Kane, has jumped to the forefront as well as the Blackhawks continue to club their way through the Western Conference. Kane has 15 goals since the calendar has turned to February, and over his last 10 games he has 11 goals and 15 points. Kane is looking to repeat his title run from last year as the NHL’s top scorer. As of this writing, Marchand, Kane and McDavid are all tied with 76 points, and at number ten sits Tyler Seguin with 67 points, so anyone in the top ten could skate away with some impressive trophy case hardware by April 9th.
After the 76-point log jam at the top, Sidney Crosby is holding down the fourth spot with 74 points, while playing six less games than the leaders. Teammate Evgeni Malkin is at 72 points while missing seven games, which just shows how skilled those Penguins are down the middle. With these two on the third ranked power play (22.47%), the chances of adding points at the same time are very good. Points or no points, this dynamic duo only cares about one trophy, the one that is earned through battles and raised in mid-June.
Nicklas Backstrom silently sits in sixth place with 71 of the quietest points in the NHL, and with the Stanley Cup on the mind of every Capital, Backstrom would much rather keep his stats silent, along with the rest of his teammates. Most players among the top 25 scorers in the NHL have a running mate somewhere in the mix, and Alexander Ovechkin is down at 23, but they always run in tandem, which is something you need to remember come draft day. Always get two from a line. Kane/Panarin, Seguin/Benn, Pavelski/Burns?
Oh yes, Brent Burns is currently seventh in the league with an even 70 points, and I pray he wins the scoring title. Burns is just one of the most adored players in the NHL by its young fans. Burns is also a HUGE force on the ice. The converted forward makes scoring from the point with snap shots look like walking, way too easy. Anchoring the Sharks dominant power play loaded with All-Stars, Burns can continue his offensive assault.
My current man crush, Nikita Kucherov, is sitting in eighth right now with 69 points, and like Malkin, he's only played 62 games thus far. The Lightning are loaded up front, and have one of the top three defensemen in the NHL anchoring their power play as well in Victor Hedman, who sits at 24th in points. Kucherov could be the one who sneaks past the leaders and wins the Art Ross, so deadly with the puck. My money is on Nikita powering the Lightning into the playoffs after an awful start.
Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele falls in at nine with 69 points as well, and his running mate, uber rookie Patrik Laine, falls in at 20th with an even 60 points thus far. I cannot say enough about how excited I am about this year’s awesome rookie class. It will not be long before this Winnipeg team gets their act together and makes a deep playoff push. I’m betting they’ll make a play for Ben Bishop come July 1 while the youngsters currently in the net have time to mature.
Holding down the #10 spot is Tyler Seguin, and with all that scoring, the glaring hole in his game and the entire Dallas Stars team is the lack of defense. Seguin currently is at +/- minus 15, which is horrid from where the Stars ended last season with 109 points and the best record in the Western Conference.
There are only three weeks left in the NHL regular season, so watch as many games as you can, as most of them will hold playoff implications. Well, at least two-thirds of them will. Time to go check out MLB box scores and NHL highlights.
You can always reach me @PolkaPat.