Highlights of National Hockey League games on Sunday:
Jets 7 Penguins 1
Blake Wheeler scored a hat trick in less than five minutes of the first period and the Winnipeg Jets broke out to a five-goal lead in the first 20 minutes to hand the Pittsburgh Penguins a 7-1 defeat Sunday.
Matt Murray’s night ended just 18:07 into the game after he allowed four goals on nine shots the last straw being a weak wrist shot from Joel Armia that slid its way through traffic and between Murray’s legs. The Penguins goaltender immediately looked up to the rafters in disbelief and Pittsburgh quickly tabbed rookie Casey DeSmith to make his NHL debut in relief.
For the home crowd the story was Wheeler who notched his second career hat trick — and first as a Jet — and it took a mere 4:20 to accomplish.
Ryan Miller made 34 saves and seemed to get better as the game went on as Anaheim pulled out a shootout victory against Carolina.
Miller made nine saves in overtime and then stopped all three shootout attempts by the Hurricanes. He said he worked on defending breakaways as he recovered from a preseason injury that delayed his Ducks debut.
Corey Perry scored the lone goal in the shootout for Anaheim.
Flames 2 Capitals 1
Sean Monahan tapped in a feed from Johnny Gaudreau at 9:09 of the third period leading Calgary past Washington.
Micheal Ferland also scored for the Flames who snapped their four-game losing streak at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary goalie Mike Smith finished with 30 saves.
Jakub Vrana scored the lone goal of the game for the Capitals. Making just his fourth start of the season Washington goalie Phillip Grubauer made 36 saves but saw his record fall to 0-3-1.
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The combination of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov continues to power the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Stamkos and Kucherov began another big night when they combined on a goal 1:36 into the Lightning’s 7-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at Amalie Arena
Stamkos finished with four points (one goal three assists) and Kucherov had three (two goals one assist); each extended his season-opening point streak to nine games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau they are the second pair of teammates in the past 24 years to start a season with point streaks of at least nine games. Doug Weight and Pavel Demitra of the St. Louis Blues began the 2001-02 season with nine-game point streaks.
At 7-1-1 the Lightning have matched the best nine-game start in their history (they were 7-1-1 in 2003-04 when they won the Stanley Cup) and have more points than any team in the NHL. Tampa Bay is 6-0-1 in its past seven games and 5-0-0 at home.
Stamkos who missed the Lightning’s final 65 games last season because of a knee injury leads the NHL with 18 points (three goals 15 assists); Kucherov is second with 16 (10 goals six assists). Elias says Stamkos is the fourth player in the past 24 years to have 15 assists in his team’s first nine games of the season as well as the fourth in the past 21 years to average at least two points per game through his team’s first nine games. The others were Jaromir Jagr of the Penguins in 1999-2000 (18 points 2.00 per game) Mario Lemieux of the Penguins in 2002-03 (20 points 2.22 per game) and Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres in 2012-13 (19 points 2.11 per game).
Stamkos scored the 113th power-play goal of his career in the win against Pittsburgh passing Vincent Lecavalier for the most in Lightning history. He also became the third player after Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier) to have 600 points (324 goals 276 assists) with the Lightning. Stamkos ranks second in the NHL in goals and power-play goals since entering the NHL in 2008-09 behind only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals who has 405 goals and 156 power-play goals during that span.
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That is the question for any gaming franchise that gets iterated on an annual basis.
In the case of NHL 18, the game’s brain trust opted to double down on last year’s gameplay and go for polish instead of throwing out the kitchen sink. Figuring if this is enough of a change for you depends on whether you’re a hardcore player of the series, an occasional player or a newcomer to the series.
One of the biggest strengths of this year’s NHL game entry is accessibility. This focus on providing an enjoyable gameplay experience to a wide swath of gamers of varying skill levels and hockey-playing preferences is reflected in the various options available in the game, whether it be through classic difficulty options or even the control scheme.
Do you love the modern Skill Stick-based control system that uses the right analog stick to more accurately simulate stick handling? Perhaps you prefer the old-school button controls from 1994? Maybe you prefer a hybrid version that combines modern and classic controls? Once again, NHL 18 makes all three options available so you can play how you want to play, or at least close to it.
Another change that does not get as much attention but I find to be a great inclusion is a new tutorial mode, something I actually clamored for in my NHL 16 review. One reason it took me awhile to get used to the Skill Stick controls, for example, was because I had to look stuff up and then try to learn and apply them. NHL 18’s new training mode, however, lets you go through and practice all the key controls while they are explained to you. It works especially well when combined with the On-Ice Trainer introduced in NHL 16.
On the offensive side, for example, you can learn how to do normal shots, slap shots and wrist shots. Passing and aiming is also explained, as well as the various approaches to faceoffs. For puck-handling savants, there are two sections for basic and advanced dekes, including between-the-leg and one-handed tuck moves that are highlight reel-worthy. Just like in real life, these look awesome when successful and embarrassing when you fail (and could lead to a scoring opportunity for your foe to boot) so make sure to use them wisely.
On defense, you can practice various moves like body checks and stick lifts. After introducing a stickier defense last year in NHL 17, this year adds defensive skill stick skills like poke checks to further round out your options. I did notice that stick lifts can work too well at times, though, especially in situations where folks get bunched up, so you’ll want to keep that in mind. On the plus side, it makes playing defense a lot more interesting.
For folks who want to get into the action right away, you can do your traditional quick matches or jump straight into the Stanley Cup Finals. Folks who appreciate the grind of a full hockey season can still experience that, too. For an even fuller simulation experience, you can go through the expansion draft in Franchise Mode. Sin City fans can even play as the new Vegas Golden Knights expansion team, which, by the way, is just about the least interesting unrelated name you can come up with for a Las Vegas team. I mean, Vegas Wayne Newtons sounds a heck of a lot more intriguing than the generic-sounding Golden Knights, and I’m not just saying that because I’m being a salty Renoite. Well, maybe just a little.
Whether the changes are enough to convince gamers who like hockey but don’t feel the need to change games every year — especially with all the good games competing for gamers’ wallets these days — is a question that is certainly worth asking. If you’re looking for big changes, you’ll have to wait a bit more.That being said, if you’re a gamer who is looking to give hockey another try after a long absence or a newcomer who wants to take a stab at an NHL simulator, the new training mode, as well as several beginner-friendly features, make NHL 18 the perfect game to skate into.
NHL 18 builds on the foundation of the last few games while adding a fun and fast-paced 3-on-3 mode as well as a much welcome training mode for new or rusty players. Admittedly, the changes might not be enough to shake off that “been-there, done-that” feeling for some veteran players of the series who are looking for more. If you’re a new player or someone returning to the series after a long absence, however, NHL 18 serves as the perfect entry point.
Synergy has become an important part of the Hockey Ultimate Team – [if you’re not 100 percent on synergy, follow this link for the comprehensive guide] – and the goalies, both starter and back-up, contribute to the counts. While the vast majority of net watchers – including all of the above elite goalkeepers – add a one-time efficiency, this is a trap or long-range bomber, and there are a number of hockey goalkeepers to assist the three synergies.
Round robin, requires 6 points to open their team’s bonus of 2 stamina, agility, hockey control and delivery, can be aided by getting either New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, Flames keeper Brian Elliott or Red Wings net minder Jimmy Howard. Overall 85 of all players could not be your first choice goalkeeper – fortunately, A substitute goalkeeper helps you with the synergy .
Tape to Tape, which requires six points to unlock its team bonus of +3 to passing, offensive awareness and poise, will be contributed to by including either Chicago’s starting goalie, Corey Crawford, who is rated 88, or San Jose’s Martin Jones or Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen – both rated 86. Any of these wouldn’t be bad choices for your starting goalie, especially Crawford.
Team Wheel – the synergy that many will strive for – requires eight points to unlock a +3 perk to the whole team on acceleration, agility and speed, and is added to by both Cam Talbot of the Edmonton Oilers, and Islanders’ goalie Jaroslav Halak. Both stand at an 85 overall rating so can sit as back-up. There’s also the 84 overall of Boston’s Anton Khudobin who would act as a cheap synergy booster.
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