Saturday, May 25, 2024

NHL Star Power Index: Connor McDavid joins very elite company, Sam Reinhart caps off stellar regular season

Welcome to the NHL Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are controlling substantial buzz around the league. When a player is included on this list it may not be a good thing — it means that they are capturing a large amount of the hockey world’s attention.

These players are in no particular order when it comes to the amount of buzz that they’re creating. We’ll revisit the Star Power Index every week throughout the regular season.

Connor McDavid joined some very elite company earlier this week in a 9-2 win against the San Jose Sharks.

McDavid recorded his 100th assist of the 2023-24 season and became just the fourth player in NHL history to achieve that feat. McDavid became the first player since Wayne Gretzky (122 assists in 1990-91) to register 100 assists. 

The likes of Gretzky, Mario Lemieux (1988-89), and Bobby Orr (1970-71) are the only other players in league history that have tallied 100 assists in a single season.

The Oilers star ended up tallying a goal and an assist in Monday’s win against the Sharks. It happened to be his first game back in the lineup after missing time with a lower-body injury.

Just 53 seconds into the game, McDavid found the back of the net. McDavid received a pass from defenseman Darnell Nurse, and displayed his speed as he took the puck into the offensive zone. As the Oilers star roared down the ring, he was looking to pass the puck to teammate Zach Hyman, but the puck deflected off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and into the net.

After scoring on his first shift, McDavid made history as he recorded his 100th assist of the 2023-24 season late in the second period.

At the 15:35 mark of the second period, Nurse sent the puck all the way down the ice to McDavid, who was streaking into the offensive zone. McDavid displayed tremendous patience as he executed a two-on-one with Hyman to absolute perfection. He waited for a defender to slide by then put a pass right on the tape of Hyman’s stick for the easy goal.

When you take a closer look at McDavid’s numbers this season, he has tallied 62 primary assists and 38 second assists to make up his 100 total assists. The Oilers star has assisted on 35 of Hyman’s goals, which is his highest total with any player on Edmonton’s roster.

McDavid has also racked up 26 multi-assist games this season for the second time in his NHL career (2021-22). He’s currently tied with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov with 26 multi-assist games to lead the league.

It was a big deal to see McDavid get back onto the ice and produce with the postseason right around the corner. The Oilers will need McDavid playing at the highest level when the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway this weekend.

Sam Reinhart has had a career year during the 2023-24 season, and has ended the campaign in the best way possible.

Reinhart, who is in the midst of a contract year, has racked up a career-high 94 points (57 goals & 37 assists) this season. The Panthers star is also riding a three-game goal streak as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin.

Reinhart helped the Panthers capture an Atlantic Division title with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, and tallied two goals in that particular contest. With the game tied 2-2 in the second period, Reinhart scored what ended up being the game-winning goal.

Midway through the second period, Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov made his way towards the front of the net, but was stopped in front by Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll. While Woll did make the stop, the puck ricocheted out to Reinhart, who happened to be in the face-off circle. Reinhart immediately sniped the rebound shot past Woll to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead. 

Reinhart also added an empty-net goal late in the third period after defenseman Brandon Montour also scored a goal in the third period to give Florida a two-goal advantage.

The Panthers star has compiled four goals and an assist over his last five games dating back to April 6.

Reinhart’s 54 goals absolutely shattered his previous career-high in that department. His previous career-best was a 33-goal campaign during the 2021-22 season when he recorded 84 points.

The Panthers certainly have the firepower that’s necessary to make a deep run at the Stanley Cup after reaching the Stanley Cup Final a season ago. If Reinhart continues to put the puck in the net at an absurd rate, a repeat performance wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities.

The New York Rangers recently captured the Presidents’ Trophy as they’ve compiled the most points across the NHL during the 2023-24 season. One of the team’s bigger offensive producers who helped make that a reality has to be defenseman Adam Fox.

Fox was instrumental in helping to push the Rangers across the finish line for the Presidents’ Trophy. The New York blue-liner tallied a goal and an assist in the Presidents’ Trophy-clinching 4-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

After forward Jack Roslovic gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the opening period, Fox found the back of the net to help New York increase their advantage. 

At the 8:58 mark of the second period, forward Mika Zibanejad was able to chip the puck ahead to Fox, who was making a charge down the ice. Fox and Rangers winger Chris Kreider then executed a give-and-go to absolute perfection. Fox dished the puck off to Kreider on the wing, and Kreider flipped the puck toward the net onto Fox’s stick for a shorthanded goal right in front of the Ottawa net.

It was Fox’s second goal in his last four games. Fox’s goal was his 17th of the season and marked a career-high in that department after scoring double-digit goals in each of the previous two campaigns.

Entering the final day of the 2023-24 regular season, Fox is sixth in points (73), sixth in goals (17), sixth in power-play goals, and eighth in assists (56) among all NHL defensemen. 

Fox’s offensive prowess was a huge positive for the Rangers throughout the regular season. As the Stanley Cup Playoffs get set to begin, Fox will need to produce on both ends of the ice.

The Washington Capitals were fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch in recent weeks, and goaltender Charlie Lindgren was a huge feather in the team’s cap.

In his last three starts, Lindgren has put together a 3-0-0 record to go along with a 1.00 goals-against-average and a .962 save percentage. That stretch was highlighted by a 16-save shutout against the Boston Bruins on Monday, and allowed a grand total of three goals in those three outings.

Lindgren also rose to the occasion when the Capitals needed a strong performance the most. On Tuesday, the Capitals edged the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1, and Lindgren turned aside 27 of the 28 shots that he faced in that contest. 

As a result, the Capitals clinched the East’s No. 2 Wild Card spot with that win against the Flyers.

Lindgren has come up huge over the final weeks of the 2023-24 regular season. If he’s able to continue thriving in the crease, the Capitals will certainly have a chance to make life difficult for the New York Rangers in the opening round of the postseason.

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