Part 2: Best of the Season
Colorado Avalanche vs. Seattle Kraken
This series was great because you never knew who would win each game. You thought the Avalanche would win the series, but that seed of doubt existed. If you remove the empty net goal, no winning margin was greater than two. We had a comeback win, an overtime win, three series ties, and an epic Game 7. The outcome was a second-year expansion team winning their first playoff series against the defending champs. You really couldn’t ask for more. The Avalanche would have liked a healthy team, but they got the breaks last year when they won the Stanley Cup.
Most Dramatic Series
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The first two games were as dreadful as the previous postseason, but they made up for it with the next five. In Game 3, the Maple Leafs tied the game with a minute left and won at the end of overtime. In Game 4, the Maple Leafs were down 4-1 halfway through the third period. But they scored three goals in six minutes to tie the game and force another overtime which they won on a power play goal. The city of Toronto had no idea how to react. With a 3-1 series lead going home, everyone expected the Maple Leafs to put the series away. But when they lost, everyone predicted another Maple Leafs series collapse. But the Maple Leafs found a way to win Game 6 for their third overtime win and first series win since 2004.
Best Game 7
Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers
This was one of the best Game 7’s in recent memory. You would either witness a monumental comeback from an eighth seed and a significant flop by the top seed or the top seed surviving a scare. When the Panthers took a 2-0 lead, you actually thought they would pull off the upset. The arena seemed dead. But when the Bruins came storming back and took a 3-2 lead, the building was alive, and you thought they would win. But when the Panthers pulled the goalie, I had a feeling they would tie the game, and they did. You could almost see 20k fans gasping in horror. The overtime was tense, and then Carter Verhaeghe finished the upset.
Team on the Rise
The last several teams I’ve mentioned did nothing the following season. So sorry, Sabres fans. Maybe I’m just bad at predicting, but I’m usually good. I wrote about the Ottawa Senators last season and figured it might take them a year to gel, and it did. But they looked great at times. There’s a great chance they’ll make the playoffs in a tough Eastern Conference.
The Sabres have accumulated a gluttony of young talent with Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt, Jack Quinn, and Owen Power. Throw in Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch, and you got a team. They still need a goalie. But they came close to making the playoffs last season, and they might this season. I wonder if the St. Louis Blues are kicking themselves for trading Thompson for Ryan O’Reilly. The Blues did win a Stanley Cup immediately after, but Thompson looks like a generational talent.
The Kraken were one of the biggest surprises. Sure, the Vegas Golden Knights went to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season, but they had a much better expansion draft. They got stars. The Kraken drafted talent but mostly the B-level variety. But they’re a hard-working group of unselfish players who don’t mind doing the little things. Their relentless style of play is one reason they almost nabbed the third-division spot. They have budding stars in Matty Beniers and Shane Wright. If they can find a goalie, they’ll win a Stanley Cup soon.
Adin Hill - Vegas Golden Knights
I wrote about the Matthew Tkachuk Jonathan Huberdeau swap here last year. Even before they played a season with their new teams, we knew it was a good move, and it exceeded expectations. The Flames obviously got the short end, but Tkachuk was leaving, so they did their best. But the Golden Knights acquiring their eventual Stanley Cup-winning goalie for a fourth-round pick is the steal of the century. Meanwhile, the Sharks have been looking for a goalie since Antti Niemi left in 2015. But you can see why it’s taking this long if they let Hill go for that price.
This past season was quite eventful.
Alexander Ovechkin was super busy this season. Here are only some of his accomplishments:
He scored his 787th goal as a Capital, setting a new record for goals with one franchise and surpassing the record held by Gordie Howe. He Scored his 403rd road goal, setting a new record for road goals and surpassing the record previously held by Wayne Gretzky. He scored his 136th game-opening goal, setting a new record for game-opening goals and surpassing the record previously held by Jaromir Jagr. He registered his 6,210th shot on goal, setting a new record for shots on goal and surpassing the record previously held by Ray Bourque. He recorded his 17th 30-goal season, tying the league record for most 30-goal seasons held by Mike Gartner. He scored his 802nd goal, surpassing Gordie Howe (801) for second all-time in NHL goals. He scored his 40th goal of the season, becoming his 13th 40-goal season, setting a new record for 40-goal seasons, and surpassing the record previously held by Wayne Gretzky.
Phil Kessel played his 990th consecutive NHL game, setting a new record for consecutive games played and surpassing the record previously held by Keith Yandle.
Patrice Bergeron recorded his 1,000th point, becoming the 94th player to reach the mark.
Steven Stamkos recorded his 1,000th point, becoming the 95th player to reach the mark, and his 500th career goal, becoming the 47th player to reach the mark.
Claude Giroux recorded his 1,000th point, becoming the 96th player to reach the mark.
Joe Pavelski recorded his 1,000th point, becoming the 97th player to reach the mark.
Erik Karlsson recorded his 100th point of the season, becoming the sixth defenseman to reach the mark and the first since Brian Leetch in 1991–92.
Connor McDavid recorded his 150th point of the season, becoming the sixth player to reach the mark and the first since Mario Lemieux in 1995–96.
Cale Makar recorded his 200th point in his 195th NHL game, becoming the fastest defenseman to 200 points in NHL history and surpassing the record previously held by Sergei Zubov.
Cal Clutterbuck recorded his 3,633rd hit, becoming the all-time leader in hits since the statistic began to be tracked and surpassing the record previously held by Dustin Brown.
Tage Thompson scored five goals in one game, becoming the 48th player in NHL history to do so. Thompson also became the fourth player in league history to score four first-period goals in one game.
Linus Ullmark became the 13th goaltender in NHL history to score a goal in an NHL game.
Mark Giordano blocked his 2,045th shot, becoming the all-time leader in blocked shots since the statistic began to be tracked and surpassing the record previously held by Kris Russell.
The Boston Bruins recorded their 63rd win of the season, setting a new single-season record for wins and surpassing the record previously held by both the 1995–96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018–19 Tampa Bay Lightning and recorded their 133rd point of the season, setting a new record for regular season points, and surpassing the record previously held by the 1976–77 Montreal Canadiens.