What to watch for: Laine meets his idol again

Alex Ovechkin admits to feeling old after hearing that Patrik Laine named him his childhood idol. And while there is a lot of comparisons that can be made of the two, people are not about to call him Ovechkin's equal.

It’s a busy night on the NHL schedule with 12 games and we’ll get you prepared with a few things to keep an eye on through the night.

Thursday marks the second time Patrik Laine meets his idol, Alex Ovechkin, in NHL action — just two days after the first meeting. Here’s hoping this one involves the two star goal scorers a little more.

When Winnipeg and Washington met Tuesday, the Capitals came away with a last-minute win thanks to a Jay Beagle goal with 30 seconds left in the game. Neither Ovechkin nor Laine recorded a point, and both were minus-1 (although, come on, that stat is obsolete).

This is a big deal for the hockey world as the premier goal scorer in the league (Ovechkin) faces one of the brightest up-and-coming snipers (Laine). When Laine first played against Ovechkin it was certainly a big deal, but now that he’s done it a couple times (once in the NHL, a few times internationally), the stone-faced Finn is brushing off the significance.

“I’ve played against him now, a couple of times,” Laine told the Winnipeg Sun. “I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter to me. He’s a good player and it’s nice to play against good players. I’m just trying to be better.”

Sure — but you better believe he’d like to one-up him in the goal department tonight.

The two combined for eight shots in Tuesday’s game (three for Ovechkin, five for Laine) so the chances were there and there should be some exciting moments in Thursday’s game as well. We can only hope to get something like we did in the first meeting between Laine and Toronto’s Auston Matthews, where both players made the score sheet and the ending was perfect, with the two stars trading great chances at the very end in OT.

But, of course, the game has much more to offer than just these two huge goal scorers. Don’t forget, Marcus Johansson actually leads the Capitals in scoring with 11 points in nine games as the 26-year-old looks for that breakout season — he’s been exceptionally consistent in scoring between 44 and 47 points in each of his four full NHL seasons.

Speaking of breakout players, how about Mark Scheifele, who ended last season on a tear after Bryan Little went down and he was thrust into a No. 1 centre role? He finished last year with 27 points in 21 games and has nine in his first 10 games this season to lead the Jets. Would it surprise you to learn he’s among the top scorers league-wide since the all-star break last season?

We’re not going to argue that Vancouver would be a playoff team if they could just get a little luck. More and more it looks like this season will be a long one, and that the 4-0-0 start was more mirage than realistic.

However, they’ve been shutout in three of their past four games now and although they generally aren’t a team that delivers a ton of shots (second-last league-wide in shots per game), they had a 42-22 shot advantage on the Canadiens Wednesday night and still found a way to lose 3-0. What can you say after a loss like that?

Something is going to start turning in their favour, at least a little. Vancouver is still a top 10 team in shot suppression and although they have had trouble generating offence of their own, it is worth noting their 4.63 team shooting percentage is second-last in the league. For context: the 30th ranked team in shooting percentage last season were the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings at 6.54 per cent. The Canucks were 27th with a 6.59 shooting percentage in 2015-16.

So while no one is really expecting big things out of Vancouver this year, the offence will not go on like this. A course correction is due — the question is whether or not the second game of a back-to-back road set is when it’ll come. That’s tough.

A couple days after meeting Auston Matthews and attracting the likes of Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey and Wayne Greztky to watch the game from the ACC in Toronto, McDavid takes his star talent to New York in his first game against the Rangers.

So far, the only team McDavid has played against that has been able to keep him off the score sheet are the Carolina Hurricanes, although he also has yet to meet Boston, Chicago, Florida, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Two days ago he was held off the score sheet completely in Toronto, and some wonder if there is a blueprint now for how to defend McDavid.

In the game before that, Ottawa held him pointless — so how rare is it for him to be held scoreless multiple games in a row?

The sample size, obviously, is small, but take note: McDavid was held pointless in his first two NHL games last season. After that, he was technically held scoreless in his last two games before being injured, although he didn’t finish the game against Philadelphia. When he returned to the lineup in February, McDavid went scoreless in back-to-back games just three times the rest of the season.

Here’s the kicker: he so far has not gone three games in a row without a point.

So, perhaps the smart money is on him getting a goal or an assist in his Madison Square Garden debut. Then again, perhaps not, considering he’s facing one of the best goalies to ever play in the NHL.

On Tuesday, Henrik Lundqvist earned his 60th career shutout, making him one of just 10 goaltenders to ever record 60 shutouts and 350 wins in their career. And he’s not slowing down either — Lundqvist is 4-2-0 with a 1.85 GAA and .931 SP in his past six games and has allowed two goals or fewer in five of them.

So, who do you got: McDavid or Lundqvist?

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