Don't look now, but Connor McDavid is in position to become the first player to win the Art Ross Trophy in back-to-back seasons since Jaromir Jagr won four in a row from 1997-98 to 2000-01.
McDavid won the NHL scoring title last season with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists). But after getting a hat trick in the Edmonton Oilers' season-opener, he became almost an afterthought in the scoring race. At the All-Star break, McDavid was 10th in the NHL in scoring with 54 points (15 goals, 39 assists) in 49 games. He was 10 points behind League leader Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had been on top for most of the season.
But McDavid has been almost unstoppable since the break. He moved past Kucherov into the scoring lead by scoring two goals to help the Oilers defeat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Saturday. With 96 points, McDavid is one ahead of Kucherov and has a League-leading 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) in Edmonton's 26 games since the break. That includes four goals and six points in his past two games.
McDavid is getting more of his points at even strength than he did last season. He had three goals and 27 power-play points in 2016-17. This season, he has more power-play goals (five) but fewer points (16). That's by far the fewest power-play points by any of the NHL's top 15 scorers; the next-lowest is Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames with 24.
It's fair to say that as McDavid goes, so goes the offense for the Oilers, who have already been eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention. His League-leading 96 points have come while playing for a team that has scored 213 goals, tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for 18th in the League. McDavid has scored or assisted on 45.1 percent of Edmonton's goals, by far the highest percentage in the League. For comparison, Kucherov has 95 points for a team that has scored 266 times, meaning he's been directly involved in 35.7 percent of the Lightning's goals.
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Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is a big reason the Lightning enter Sunday on top of the Eastern Conference with 106 points, including a team-record 51 wins. Though the Lightning lead the NHL with 266 goals (excluding shootouts), Vasilevskiy has seen plenty of shots while earning his League-leading 42 victories, but the more he's faced, the better he's fared.
The 23-year-old faced 41 shots in a 7-6 victory against the New York Islanders on Thursday and is 8-1-0 when facing at least 40 shots. Those eight wins include two of his seven shutouts this season, although they also include two victories when he allowed six goals.
Bad matchup for Lightning?
Vasilevskiy saw 31 shots in Tampa Bay's 2-1 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. If the playoffs began Sunday, the Lightning and Devils would play in the Eastern Conference First Round, a pairing that might not thrill Tampa Bay. New Jersey swept the three-game season series from the Lightning and is the only team to defeat Tampa Bay three times this season.
Another team that might not want to see the Devils is the Pittsburgh Penguins. New Jersey is 3-0-0 against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions after a 4-3 overtime win in Pittsburgh on Friday. The teams play again in New Jersey on Thursday.
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Sharks get spark from Kane
The San Jose Sharks have to be thrilled with their acquisition of forward Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26.
The Sharks won their seventh straight game and are 10-2-0 since getting Kane after defeating the Calgary Flames 5-1 on Saturday. The win put them solidly in second place in the Pacific Division, six points ahead of the third-place Anaheim Ducks, and moved them within six points of the first-place Vegas Golden Knights.