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Laine scores 18 goals in month for Jets

Peers impressed by hot streak, which includes his 100th in NHL

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Patrik Laine had a November to remember for the Winnipeg Jets.

It was so good, everyone, including the 20-year-old forward, is left struggling for explanations and comparisons.

"I don't know, I'm starting to believe in myself again," said Laine, who had three goals through his first seven games of the season. "I don't think I've changed much. I'm just trying to believe and trying to work hard. I think success will come."

It has. Laine has 13 goals in his past six games, 18 goals in 12 games this month and 21 this season to lead the NHL in that category.

Video: WPG@STL: Laine pots one-timer from high slot

He scored two goals to help the Jets defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 at Bell MTS Place on Thursday, giving him 101 in the NHL.

Laine reached 100 goals in 179 games, the fastest in Jets/Atlanta Thrashers history. Ilya Kovalchuk, now with the Los Angeles Kings, scored his first 100 NHL goals in 209 games with the Thrashers.

At 20 years, 224 days, Laine is the fourth-youngest player in NHL history to score 100 goals. Wayne Gretzky (20 years, 40 days), Jimmy Carson (20 years, 116 days) and Brian Bellows (20 years, 179 days) each was younger.

"Good to get it out of the way and try to chase 200 now," Laine said.

Laine is the 10th player in NHL history to score at least 18 goals in a calendar month and is the first since Pavel Bure of the Vancouver Canucks, who scored 19 in March 1994.

Video: WPG@CGY: Laine one-times Byfuglien's pass for PPG

Teemu Selanne of the Jets (March 1993) and Joe Malone of the Hamilton Tigers (February 1921) share the NHL record for most goals in a calendar month, 20.

Laine has made scoring look easy at times in his three NHL seasons with an accurate, quick release or an overpowering one-timer on the power play.

He scored 36 goals in 73 games as a rookie in 2016-17, then had 44 goals in 82 games last season, second in the NHL behind the 49 goals by Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.

"The run he's been on, 11 goals in a week, obviously something I've never seen," Jets forward Blake Wheeler said, referencing the four-game stretch from Nov. 19-24 that earned Laine NHL First Star of the Week honors. "What a blessing he is to have. Tie game, down a goal, you're never out of it with a shot like that."

Coach Paul Maurice drew the same blank, asked if he has ever seen a player this hot.

"No, in part because I've never seen a guy shoot a puck like that," Maurice said. "I think he's going to get more shots and he's going to get different looks as he evolves as a player.

"But that shot was there at 18, right? It's been elite. I'm not sure it can get better. Maybe he's going to tell you it can ... we don't need his shot to get better. We just need to get him the puck as much as we can in different areas and he's going to score."

Video: WPG@VAN: Laine records his sixth career hat trick

Feeling good about his game is a part of the explanation for Laine's November scoring splurge, said Bryan Little, Laine's center.

"He's a guy when he's confident, he's feeling it," Little said. "And when he's not, he's pretty hard on himself. Right now, he's really confident and he's getting to those soft spots really well, getting open. Then he's making no mistakes with his shots."

Laine scored 18 goals on 54 shots in November for a 33.3 shooting percentage. He is on pace for a 71-goal season with December beginning and a game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center looms on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, CITY, MSG+2, NHL.TV).

But he said he has a more important priority after the first two months of the season.

"It feels like a lot of my shots are going in and that's why I'm trying to shoot every time I get the chance," he said. "Goals are not always telling the whole story. Like tonight, I think I could have played better hockey."

Playing better was Laine's focus when November began.

Video: FLA@WPG: Laine rifles go-ahead PPG in 2nd

After scoring three goals in October, he criticized his own game as poor and inconsistent.

Then came the trip to his home country for the 2018 NHL Global Series games against the Florida Panthers in Helsinki on Nov. 1 and 2.
Laine had a hat trick in the first game at Hartwall Arena, a 4-2 win for the Jets, and another goal in the second game, a 4-2 loss.

Maurice said the Global Series games were almost certainly the key that unlocked Laine's remarkable November.

"He stops when we're getting on the bus and signs all the autographs," Maurice said. "From what we know that he does, even stuff that doesn't make the newspaper, he's really sensitive to the people around him, the fans. So I think a personality like that also feels the weight and pressure and responsibility of going home to play in front of his home country.

"I was surprised when we got there how big a deal he was, not that he doesn't deserve it. It's rock-star status over there. He would know that, we wouldn't have. And I think that weight came off him and he had great success. That's the deep breath, then, for me that got him going."

Laine said he felt some self-imposed pressure when he arrived in Helsinki.

"[It was] the feeling that I had before the games, that I wanted to show everybody back home that I can still be a decent hockey player after those first couple games I had," he said. "And I think that kind of gave me the extra motivation for those games. 

"I've been trying to prove to everybody around the world and around the League that I'm still a pretty good hockey player and can still score, even thought I was struggling. It was definitely a good trip and I've had a lot of fun after that."

*** looks at how the elite Patrik Laine is still getting better:

Vain legendat ovat pystyneet samaan kuin Laine


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