The ESPN+ exclusive schedule continues on Tuesday night with a double shot of potential Stanley Cup Final matchups, as the four teams involved are all in the NHL’s top eight by points percentage. Coverage starts at 7:55 p.m. ET for the Carolina Hurricanes at the Minnesota Wild, while things get rolling at 8:55 p.m. ET for the New York Rangers’ visit to the Colorado Avalanche.
To help get you ready for the matchups, we’ve put together a guide on all the key players to watch for all four teams, including in-depth statistical insights from ESPN Stats & Information, and more.
This season, ESPN+ will broadcast 75 exclusive regular-season games, with ABC and ESPN airing a combined 28 exclusive regular-season games for a total of 103 games. The complete broadcast schedule can be found here.
Carolina Hurricanes at Minnesota Wild
7:55 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN+
Line: Minnesota -130 | Over/under: 5.5
ESPN Power Rankings: 5
Goalie confidence rank: 6
Leading scorer: Sebastian Aho, 32 points in 26 games
2021-22 record: 19-7-1, second in Metro division
The Hurricanes are wrapping up a five-game road trip with this game. Carolina is 3-1-0 so far, and has allowed two or fewer goals in each of the first four games. They have never allowed two or fewer goals (excluding shootout-deciding goals) in each game of a road trip of five-plus games. The last club to do this in each game of a five-game road trip was the Blues, who did it twice in 2016-17.
Carolina enters Monday with the most wins (12), most standings points (25) and highest points percentage (.735, 12-4-1) on the road this season. Since coach Rod Brind’Amour took over in 2018-19, the Hurricanes are in a virtual tie for the third-best road points percentage in the NHL with the Bruins, at .612. Only the Lightning (.676) and Capitals (.665) are better.
The Hurricanes have played nine road games decided by one goal (going 6-2-1 in the nine games), which is tied with their opponent tonight — the Wild — for second most in the NHL behind the Ducks, who have played 11.
The Hurricanes are averaging 3.15 goals per game and 2.15 goals against per game. The difference of 1.00 goals per game this season is tied with the Panthers for the highest rate in the NHL. They also have the highest shots-on-goal-per-game differential in the NHL, as they average 6.0 more than their opponent.
Carolina has outscored opponents 28-14 in the third period, the second-best goal differential in the third this season behind only the Panthers, at plus-15. The 14 goals allowed are eight fewer than any other team.
Sebastian Aho missed Sunday’s game because of an illness, which technically ends his streak of five straight multi-point games (the NHL recognizes individual streaks only without missing team games), which was one shy of the longest streak in franchise history set by Mike Rogers in 1979-80 and Kevin Dineen in 1988-89 for the Hartford Whalers. Aho is tied for fifth in the NHL in points, with 32, and is averaging 1.23 points per game, which ranks 10th in the league and would be the highest single-season rate by a Hurricanes player since the team moved from Hartford in 1997-98.
Defenseman Jaccob Slavin has been averaging 28:14 time on ice per game in December, the highest rate in the NHL. That’s more than five minutes more per game than what his season average was entering the month (23:08).
Goaltender Frederik Andersen is seventh in save percentage this season, at .930 (minimum 10 games played) and second behind Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry (1.92) in goals-against average, at 1.93. Andersen’s career-best save percentage was .923, set in 28 games during his 2013-14 rookie season with the Ducks.
ESPN Power Rankings: 7
Goalie confidence rank: 20
Leading scorer: Kirill Kaprizov, 32 points in 28 games
2021-22 record: 19-8-1, first in Central division
The Wild are looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak under current coach Dean Evason. Even with losses in the past two games, the Wild’s 39 points and .696 points percentage are still tied for the best 28-game start in team history with the 2011-12 team.
The Wild are averaging 3.68 goals per game, which is third in the NHL, and would be by far the team’s best rate in franchise history (they scored 3.21 goals per game in 2016-17 and 2020-21). Including shootout-deciding goals, the Wild have scored four goals in a game 18 times this season, most in the NHL (not surprisingly, they are 15-2-1 in those games).
Wild defensemen have totaled a league-high 65 assists, and their 83 combined points trail only the Avalanche for most in the NHL. However, they are one of four teams that do not have a power-play goal from a defenseman this season (the others being the Blackhawks, Penguins and Flames).
Speaking of the power play, the Wild are 21st in the NHL this season in power-play percentage, at 17.4%. However, they have scored a power-play goal in each of their past five games and are 6-for-18 (33.3%) in that span. Their six power-play goals are tied for fourth this month.
Kirill Kaprizov is one of seven active players who averaged 1.00 points per game in their first 83 career games. The others are Alex Ovechkin (108 in first 83), Sidney Crosby (104), Evgeni Malkin (92), Connor McDavid (91), Elias Pettersson (84) and Mathew Barzal (83).
Ryan Hartman is averaging 0.83 points per game this season after averaging 0.36 for his career entering 2021-22. Hartman is just eight points away from tying his single-season career high of 31 set in 2016-17 with the Blackhawks and 2017-18 with the Blackhawks and Predators.
According to Stathletes, Kaprizov has 21 steals, which leads the NHL and is 12 more than anyone else on the Wild. Kaprizov has 33 possession gains from below the goal line in the offensive zone, which is second in the NHL, behind Connor McDavid.
New York Rangers at Colorado Avalanche
8:55 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN+
Line: Colorado -200 | Over/under: 6
ESPN Power Rankings: 6
Goalie confidence rank: 3
Leading scorer: Artemi Panarin, 32 points in 27 games
2021-22 record: 18-6-3, third in Metro division
The Rangers are 18-6-3, good for 39 points this season. They are one win and one point shy of the most in the league, and their .722 points percentage is tied with the Hurricanes for second best in the league behind the Panthers (.741, 18-5-4, 40 Pts). Their 39 points are tied for third most in franchise history through 27 games, and trail only the 41 points in 1971-72 and the 40 points in 1993-94; both of those teams went to the Stanley Cup Final (1993-94 Rangers won the Cup).
The Rangers have won four straight on the road and are 10-3-2 on the road this season. The only team with a better points percentage on the road this season than the Rangers’ .733 is Carolina (.735, 12-4-1). This performance is tied for the most points (22) the Rangers had in their first 15 road games of a season in franchise history with the 2010-11 campaign (11-4-0, 22 points); a win in this game would give them the most points through their first 16 road games all time.
The Rangers are 9-2-3 in games decided by one goal this season. The nine wins are tied for second in the NHL, and are one shy of doubling their total from all of last season, when they tied with the Red Wings for the fewest such wins (5-9-6).
Adam Fox has 29 points to lead all defensemen this season. If he gets a point on Tuesday, he’ll be the quickest to 30 points by a Rangers defenseman since Brian Leetch did it in 24 games in 2000-01.
Chris Kreider’s 17 goals are tied for fifth in the NHL this season, and would put him on a 51-goal pace over 82 games. There have been three 50-goal seasons in Rangers history: Jaromir Jagr, with 54 in 2005-06; Adam Graves, with 52 in 1993-94; Vic Hadfield, with 50 in 1971-72.
The Rangers are one of three teams with multiple 20-assist players: Adam Fox (24) and Artemi Panarin (23), joining the Oilers (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and Capitals (Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov). Both players are on an 82-game pace to put up approximately 70 assists this season, a benchmark that hasn’t been reached by a Rangers player since Wayne Gretzky in 1996-97 (72).
The Rangers have been without goalie Igor Shesterkin recently, who has the highest save percentage of any goalie with 10 games played this season, at .937. Alexandar Georgiev ranks 39th, at .902. However, Georgiev has a .951 save percentage in December, which is third among goalies with at least three games played this month.
ESPN Power Rankings: 10
Goalie confidence rank: 27
Leading scorer: Nazem Kadri, 34 points in 22 games
2021-22 record: 16-7-2, fourth in Central division
The Avalanche’s 4.32 goals per game is first in the NHL, and 0.62 goals per game higher than the next best team (the Panthers, at 3.70). The difference between the Avalanche and Panthers is roughly the same difference between second and 12th.
The Avs recently had a three-game streak of scoring seven goals, the first team to do that since the 1995-96 Penguins. The Avalanche’s 79 goals in their past 15 games are the most in a 15-game span since the 1995-96 Penguins. Including shootout-deciding goals, the Avalanche have 109 this season, tied for second most in the past 25 seasons through 25 games.
Since Nov. 11, the Avalanche have the most wins (12) and standings points (25), and the highest points percentage (.833, 12-2-1) in the NHL. Their 79 goals since Nov. 11 are 17 more than any other team.
Cale Makar has 12 goals to lead all defensemen, doing so in 22 games. The last defenseman with that many goals in a player’s first 22 games was Dave Ellett, who had 14 in 1988-89. Makar is on a 39-goal pace over the Avalanche’s 82 games this season, something that has been done only four times by a defenseman in NHL history, and not since Paul Coffey had 48 for the Oilers in 1985-86, the single-season mark for a defenseman.
The Avalanche have seven players with at least 20 points, five more than any other team. Using a 10-game minimum, the Avalanche also have five of the top 15 players in points per game, and no other team has more than two such players.
Colorado averages 3.88 power-play chances per game this season, which is the highest rate in the league. The Avalanche’s 97 power-play chances are tied with the Canucks for most in the league. Since Nov. 11, when their offense hit its stride, the Avalanche are converting 32.2% of their power-play chances, second best in the NHL behind the Maple Leafs, at 35.7%.
Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper is 41st out of 44 goalies (minimum 10 games played) in goals saved above expected (-9.1) this season, meaning he has allowed 9.1 goals vs. the expectation given shot quality and quantity faced.
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