Jack Eichel played his first game in almost a year when he suited up for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Colorado Avalanche. The game was decent, but Eichel had more penalties than shots on goal, which isn't what you want. A banged-up Vegas team became even more banged up when Nathan MacKinnon hit Nolan Patrick in the head. The one guy that doesn't need any more headshots. He left the game and is still out. MacKinnon only got two minutes for some reason. The NHL said it wasn't deliberate and didn't further penalize him. It sure looked like it to me. His follow-through isn't a standard NHL move. MacKinnon isn't a dirty player, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
An interesting rumor floating around is the Golden Knights wanting to bring back Marc-Andre Fleury with Robin Lehner injured. The Golden Knights vehemently denied it, so you know it's true. I'd have mixed feelings if I were Fleury. On the one hand, you get to go back to a contender. On the other hand, the way he left Vegas wasn't on the best terms. It probably won't happen, though.
Things I like
- The Toronto Maple Leafs played the Pittsburgh Penguins and beat them handily. However, that was mostly due to Jack Campbell's 45 saves. But I was more impressed with the goals they scored. Auston Matthews scored 21 seconds into the game by anticipating what would happen and setting himself up for a breakaway after a nice pass. Then Morgan Rielly went coast to coast to score a beautiful power-play goal. David Kampf scored a short-handed goal after forcing a turnover. All I could think was, where are these Maple Leafs in the playoffs? The Maple Leafs have a great chance to win a playoff series finally, but the Florida Panthers look phenomenal this season.
Sidney Crosby scored his 500th NHL goal, joining an exclusive club of 46. Okay, it's not that exclusive. He's 44th in goals per game at 0.464. Surprisingly, Mike Bossy is first, Mario Lemieux is second, and Wayne Gretzky is eighth. Alex Ovechkin is seventh, and Auston Matthews is slightly ahead in sixth. That's something to keep an eye on. Back to Crosby, he's the 25th fastest to score 500 and the third youngest. Only Gretzky and Lemieux were younger. I'm going to say he ends up around 700 goals. But my most memorable Crosby goal wasn't scored in the NHL. It was the overtime winner during the Vancouver Olympics to beat the USA. It gave us that iconic Crosby pose.
We got some more Cole Caufield magic. With ten seconds left in the game, a minute after the St. Louis Blues scored the go-ahead goal; he ties it. Then he scores in overtime to seal the win. He's heating up with four goals in four games after none in his previous 17.
- The Edmonton Oilers are undefeated and scoring goals since the coaching change, which spells trouble. Against the Jets, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a great play short-handed to create a breakaway and force the Jets to take a penalty. On the ensuing four on four, Leon Draisaitl strips the puck, then skates down and passes to Connor McDavid. Look at that pass. Evander Kane has nine points in eleven games. The effort is there now. But they got crushed by the Minnesota Wild, so back to reality.
Things I don't
- The Minnesota Wild played the Florida Panthers in a great game. Down 4-2, Wild coach Dean Evason decided to roll the dice and pull the goalie with seven minutes and thirteen seconds left in the game. His top line was out, and the face-off was in the Panthers' end. Why not? I like the bold strategy. But they had problems keeping the puck in the zone initially, enabling the Panthers to almost score. You could sense it wasn't working, and then they failed to set it up a second time when they weakly tried to get the puck across, and the Panthers had a nice trap for them. At that point, I would have put the goalie back in, even during live action. Or possibly before after they initially failed to keep it in. Instead, the Panthers scored. I'll admit there really wasn't enough time to get the goalie out after the second turnover. Then they continued playing with the goalie pulled, and the Wild continued to struggle to set the puck up in the Panthers' end. They honestly played worse with the extra man. They had one shot on goal, I think, during the two minutes the goalie was pulled. They even kept the goalie pulled when the face-off was at center ice. The Panthers won that one and quickly scored again. It's okay to make bold moves but get a sense when they aren't working and change course. Stubbornness won't win you anything in life.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Nicolas Deslauriers vs Milan Lucic
A lot of grappling to go with the punches.
Goat of the Week
Claude Giroux - Philadelphia Flyers
A falling down Giroux decides to pass backward despite Kris Letang being right behind him. Letang then takes it the other way for the game winner. After finally winning two games in a row, the Flyers have lost four in a row.
Stat Line of the Week
02/18/21 Dallas 1 vs. Chicago 0
Skater TOI GA SV SA SV% SO J.Oettinger 65:00 0 34 34 1.000 1
Jake Oettinger, or the kid as he's known on Dallas Stars broadcasts, pitched a 34 shutout performance against the Chicago Blackhawks. He was also five of six in the shootout. Only Alex DeBrincat ruined his perfect game. This came after his 46 save one goal allowed performance in the Stars surprising win over the Avalanche.
24 – Wins and no losses when the Florida Panthers are leading after two periods 24 – Wins and one overtime loss for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames when leading after two periods 9 – Wins in a row for the Calgary Flames 1 – Natural hat trick for Mark Scheifele his fifth career hat trick 1 – Hat trick by Buffalo Sabre Tage Thompson, his first, in a losing effort against the Avalanche
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
Top 5 1. Colorado 2. Florida 3. Calgary 4. Tampa Bay 5. Carolina
Bottom 5 30. Montreal 29. Arizona 28. Philadelphia 27. New Jersey 26. Seattle