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NHL Morning Skate – March 31, 2024

* The Avalanche and idle Canucks became the sixth and seventh teams to clinch a berth in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Connor McDavid moved into first place in the Art Ross Trophy race for a few minutes Saturday before Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov reclaimed their lead on the five-time winner. The trio are separated by no more than two points headed into the final 19 days of the regular season.

* “Rocket” Richard Trophy front-runner Auston Matthews scored his 60th goal of 2023-24 and became the ninth player in NHL history to record multiple seasons with at least that many goals.

COLORADO CLINCHES BERTH IN 2024 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Nathan MacKinnon (2-2—4), Cale Makar (1-2—3) and Mikko Rantanen (0-3—3) had at least three points as the Avalanche (47-21-6, 100 points) rallied past the Predators to clinch a berth in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs and record their 10th 100-point season in franchise history. MacKinnon (47-80—127 in 74 GP) owns a one-point edge on Nikita Kucherov (42-84—126 in 72 GP) in the Art Ross Trophy race, Makar (19-62—81 in 69 GP) tied Quinn Hughes (13-68—81 in 73 GP) for most points among NHL defensemen and Rantanen (39-61—100 in 74 GP) reached the 100-point mark for the second time in as many seasons.



* Makar’s 1.07 points-per-game rate ranks second in Stanley Cup Playoffs history among defensemen (min. 30 GP) behind Bobby Orr (1.24 P/GP), while MacKinnon (1.30 P/GP) and Rantanen (1.24 P/GP) both rank in the top seven among all skaters with at least 50 games played (though two Oilers forwards are knocking on that door). Click here to read more on Colorado’s clinch.




IDLE CANUCKS ALSO SECURE SPOT IN 2024 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

The idle Canucks punched their ticket to the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs after the Wild lost to the Golden Knights and the Blues fell to the Sharks in regulation. Vancouver is on track for one of the largest year-over-year point improvements in franchise history as it seeks to become the sixth team since 1980 (when the 16-team playoff format began) to miss the playoffs and then win the Stanley Cup the next season (2023 VGK, 2019 STL, 2006 CAR, 1994 NYR & 1991 PIT have done so). Click here for more notes on Vancouver’s clinch.
 


MORE No. 1 PICKS SHINE IN WINS SATURDAY
Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t the only No. 1 pick with a noteworthy performance Saturday:

Auston Matthews scored to record his second career 60-goal season and became the third player in NHL history with multiple 60-goal campaigns for an Original Six club, following Phil Esposito (4 w/ BOS) and Steve Yzerman (2 w/ DET). The 2023-24 NHL season is the third straight campaign to feature at least one 60-goal scorer, following 2022-23 (Connor McDavid David Pastrnak) and 2021-22 (Matthews) – the only other instances in League history where three or more consecutive seasons featured at least one 60-goal scorer were a streak of 14 straight from 1980-81 to 1993-94 and six in a row from 1973-74 to 1978-79.



* McDavid(2-1—3) recorded three points to improve his totals in the month of March to 7-24—31 (15 GP), matching his career high for a single calendar month (December 2022: 14-17—31 in 15 GP). When the month of March started, McDavid was 10 points back of Nikita Kucherov in the Art Ross Trophy race. At the conclusion of his game on Saturday (before Kucherov hit the ice and MacKinnon completed his game), McDavid led the League in scoring. McDavid has now recorded multiple points in each of his last seven games (4-15—19 in 7 GP), one back of his longest career multi-point streak (8 GP in 2018-19).

 
Alexis Lafrenière (3-2—5) factored on five of New York’s eight goals – its highest-scoring game since Nov. 10, 2022 (8-2 W at DET) – while Jonathan Quick earned his 392nd career win and moved past Ryan Miller (391) for the most career wins by a U.S.-born goaltender in NHL history. Lafrenière became the seventh player in Rangers history to record five points in a game at age 22 or younger and the first since Brian Leetch on Feb. 17, 1989.
 

Steven Stamkos reached the 30-goal mark in a season for the ninth time in his career, which trails only fellow No. 1 overall picks Alex Ovechkin (17) and Sidney Crosby (12) for the most such campaigns among active players.

LIVE UPDATES HAS MORE ON PLAYOFF-BOUND TEAMS, CLUBS IN HUNT FOR BERTHS
Saturday’s edition of #NHLStats: Live Updates featured more notes from the 15-game slate. Some highlights include:
 
Wyatt Johnston had 1-1—2 and Jake Oettinger turned aside all 18 shots he faced as the Western Conference-leading Stars (47-19-9, 103 points) secured their seventh straight victory and matched the franchise record for longest winning streak. Johnston (53-47—100 in 157 GP) became the third player in club history with 100 career NHL points before age 21, following Brian Bellows (102-108—210 in 234 GP) and Mike Modano (57-82—139 in 159 GP).
 

Sebastian Aho (1-1—2) passed Kevin Dineen (250) for sole possession of third on the franchise’s all-time goals list, while Pyotr Kochetkov (26 saves) earned his fourth shutout of the season as Carolina (47-21-7, 101 points) held on to second in the Eastern Conference standings. Kochetkov became the first Hurricanes goaltender with four shutouts in consecutive campaigns since Cam Ward (5 in 2011-12 & 4 in 2010-11).


Aleksander Barkov (21-50—71 in 65 GP) tallied twice to extend his franchise record for most 20-goal seasons and help the Panthers (47-22-5, 99 points) keep pace with the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins (43-17-15, 101 points), who also secured a shootout win. Barkov recorded the 32nd multi-goal game of his NHL career to pass Pavel Bure and Olli Jokinen (both w/ 31) for sole possession of the most in club history.

* Jonathan Marchessault scored the overtime winner to help the Golden Knights (41-25-8, 90 points) pad their lead as the third seed in the Pacific Division. Marchessault became the second player in Golden Knights history to record 40 goals in a season, joining William Karlsson (43 in 2017-18). He also became just the fourth undrafted player in the past 20 years to record 40 goals in a season, a list that includes Artemi Panarin (44 in 2023-24), Jason Blake (40 in 2006-07) and Martin St. Louis (43 in 2006-07). Marchessault’s goal was into an empty net in overtime after Minnesota pulled its goaltender, which resulted in the Wild forfeiting their point. 
 

QUICK CLICKS

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Connor Hellebuyck’s kids make homemade sign for 500th NHL game

Elliot Lake, Ontario, wins Kraft Hockeyville 2024

DUCKS, CANUCKS FACE OFF SUNDAY ON NATIONAL BROADCASTS
A Pacific Division showdown will spotlight Sunday’s lone game when the Ducks (24-46-4, 52 points) visit the division-leading Canucks (45-20-8, 98 points) in a game broadcast nationally in the U.S. (TNT, MAX) and Canada (SN360, SNP). Vancouver, who has occupied first place in the Pacific Division since Dec. 21, can reach 100 standings points in a season for the 10th time in franchise history and first since 2014-15.

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