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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 63.0: Dangler Turned Sniper? (5pm MT, SNW)

Is the Deutschland Dangler becoming a Sniper?

Leon Draisaitl was given that handle when he played for the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League. He’s always had a good shot, but his deft passing was his calling card. In the NHL he’s wowed fans, coaches, media and opponents with cross-seam-backhand-saucer passes which land perfectly on the tape of a teammate. In his first All-Star appearance last month he won the Premier Passing contest by ten seconds and beat the rest of the field of NHL All-stars by over 20 seconds.

He still loves passing, but this season he’s become a major goal-scoring threat and is on pace to score 50 goals.

Scoring 50 goals in today’s NHL is very difficult, and unless your name is Alex Ovechkin, it rarely happens

Since 2012, Ovechkin is the only player in the league who has scored 50 goals. In the past ten seasons, only Ovechkin (six times, soon-to-be seven this year) and Steven Stamkos (twice) have done it multiple times, while Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry and Evgeni Malkin have done it once. In a span of ten years, a mere five players have reached the elusive 50-goal club.

Draisaitl and Patrick Kane might join them this year. I hope we are seeing a trend where we see two or three players reach 50 each season, but considering how difficult of a milestone it is to reach, until we see multiple 50-goal men a year we need to enjoy and appreciate the season Draisaitl is having.

Even with his recent hot streak, 14 goals in his last 14 games, he will still need a very good final 20 games to reach 50 by potting 12 goals over his final 20 games.

Let’s dig deeper into Draisaitl’s goal totals.

In the previous ten years and including this year (11 in total), the NHL has had 39 players score 38+ goals in a season. These players did it a total of 62 times with Ovechkin doing it eight times. Steven Stamkos was the next best achieving it four times.

Of those 62 times, Draisaitl is on pace to be 59th in shots on goal. He has 170 thus far and is on pace for 224. Only Tomas Vanek (40 goals on 211 shots in 2009) Anders Lee (40 goals on 208 shots last season) and William Karlsson (43 goals on 184 shots last year) fired fewer shots.

Draisaitl is not scoring due to heavy shot volume. Of course his SH% is not sustainable year-after-year, but right now he is making his shots count and doesn’t need many chances to score.

Only 29 players have scored 40+ goals in this span, and only eight have scored 45. Draisaitl is definitely entering rare air in the NHL.

It is important to note very few players score 50 goals when they are 23 years of age and under.

In the past 25 years only 16 players have scored 50 goals when they were 23 and under. Ovechkin did it three times, Stamkos, Pavel Bure and Jeremy Roenick did it twice.

In case you’re wondering, 36 players who were 24 years+ scored 50 since 1992/1993.

I’d argue that in recent years, due to the scarceness of a 50-goal scorer, we’ve forgotten just how incredible of an achievement it is. Ovechkin should be applauded more for what he’s been able to do as a goal scorer, but because he was the only one analysts have gravitated towards other stats because more people are involved. The “200-foot” player has become more discussed, and arguably more revered, than a 50-goal scorer, which is amazing considering much of the analysis of the 200-foot game is based on opinion and reputation.

Goals are very easy to track. You either score 50 or you don’t. There is no grey area or room for opinion, and that’s likely why we have seen less of an appreciation for the truly elite goal scorers. I sincerely hope that is changing. NHL teams are averaging over three goals/game for the first time since 2006, and only the second time since 1996. I believe skills coaches like Adam Oates and others are a big reason why goal scoring is up. The best goal scorers are working with skills coaches in the summer. Working on getting shots off quicker, scoring from different angles and more places. Goalies have done this for years with their individual goalie coaches, and it’s nice to see shooters are finally catching up.

Hopefully we see more 50-goal seasons in the future, but for now I will watch closely to see if Kane and Draisaitl can join a very unique club.

Both could also score 50 and tally 100 points. That combination is more rare than a 50-goal season. It has only happened four times in the past decade. Ovechkin did it twice while Malkin and Crosby did it once.

Draisaitl is having an incredible goal-scoring season, and because reaching 50 is so difficult, he might never do it again. So enjoy the ride.

LINEUP…

Oilers

RNH-McDavid-Gagner
Rieder-Draisaitl-Chiasson
Lucic-Cave-Currie
Malone-Brodziak-Kassian

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Sekera-Benning

Koskinen

I expect a dominating performance from McDavid tonight. He is livid after sitting out two games and tonight is one of those games where you won’t want to miss any of his shifts.

Things I don’t comprehend: in 2019 Zack Kassian is fourth on the Oilers with 6-7-13 in 23 games. Tobias Rieder has 0-4-4, but Rieder is on the second line and Kassian starts tonight on the fourth line. I realize one is a left winger and the other plays the right side, and Rieder has skated well lately, but right now when he gets close to the goal he never looks like a threat. I haven’t seen any glaring errors from Kassian which would lead to a demotion. Yes, the odds suggest eventually Rieder will score eventually, but I don’t see him scoring six goals in the final 20 games. In the previous 20 games Alex Chiasson has only one goal, but how many really good chances has he had compared to Rieder? Rieder isn’t getting many good chances, because he’s rarely in the paint.

One other note about Draisaitl. I disagree with the notion put forth by Mark Spector that Ken Hitchcock has found a way to get more out of Draisaitl. I think it has to do more with the fact that McDavid missed three of the past four games and people noticed Draisaitl more because he wasn’t skating in the shadow of McDavid. Draisaitl has been really good for a long time. When a team has lost as much as the Oilers, I think we tend to focus on the negatives more and make it more than it was. Yes, Draisaitl didn’t have a good game against the Sharks, but he’s had way more good games than bad, and when McDavid isn’t around people finally realize how good Draisaitl really is.

Leafs

Hyman-Tavares-Marner
Johnsson-Matthews-Kapanen
Marleau-Nylander-Brown
Ennis-Gauthier-Moore

Reilly-Hainsey
Muzzin-Zaitsev
Dermott-Ozhiganov

Anderson

The Leafs have great depth in their top-three lines. McDavid and Draisaitl are first and 14th the past three years in scoring while Tavares and Matthews are 17th and 28th. The difference is the Leafs’ depth is much better than Edmonton’s. It isn’t close actually, and Nazem Kadri is out with a concussion. He loves playing McDavid, and his absence is a plus for the Oilers.

Tavares usually plays against the top lines so we will likely see a lot of McDavid’s line against Tavares’ and Matthews against Draisaitl. It should be an exciting game.

Jake Gardiner won’t play tonight and Mike Babcock didn’t give any indication as to why. When asked about Gardiner, Babcock responded with, “Not playing today. I’ll let someone else make the announcement” which makes me wonder if he’ll be out of the lineup long term.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Leafsnation:

With Morgan Rielly, Travis Dermott, Jake Muzzin and Jake Gardiner on the back end, the Leafs elected to stay locked and loaded heading into the playoffs, and that’s what contenders do. They cut their losses, and build teams that they believe can make a run for it at all costs. Luckily for the Leafs, “all costs” did not involve losing a single significant roster player, through the Muzzin trade or otherwise, and the rest – such as impending-UFA Jake Gardiner – is house money.

Without a 1st-round selection in this draft after the Jake Muzzin trade, the Leafs decided not to sacrifice more futures for this run, unlike the past two years. And that’s okay, too.

The novelty of the Jake Muzzin trade has faded, now a month later, and Leafs Nation was antsy as the trade deadline came and went yesterday afternoon. But the Leafs made their splash; they loaded up, and they’ve got their sights set firmly forward with the squad at hand.

What comes next is up to this group – with certainty, now. We’ll see what they can make of it.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton is 17-26-2-2 (ties) all-time in Toronto and they haven’t won in Toronto since December 2nd, 2010. In fact, Edmonton has only won four of their previous 22 visits dating back to March 27th, 1995. McDavid returns breathing fire and Edmonton wins an entertaining 5-4 game.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The panel will compare Matthews to McDavid, even though they aren’t in the same category right now. Matthews is a fantastic player, but he’s not on McDavid’s level.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Colby Cave scores his first goal with the Oilers. He scored his first career NHL goal earlier this season in Montreal, and he picks up second goal against the other Canadian Original Six team. His hometown of Battleford Saskatchewan is pretty fired up when scores against the Maple Leafs.

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