This was a great week of NHL games with several recurring themes. Many will be touched upon later in the column.
The Toronto Maple Leafs ended their week losing Auston Matthews and being spanked by the Ottawa Senators, although they did rebound against the Washington Capitals. But it started great. The Maple Leafs beat the Islanders behind some very crisp passing. William Nylander had two goals and two assists on the night, including this beautiful lob pass and a nice goal after a takeaway.
Then they beat the New York Rangers just 19 seconds into overtime courtesy of Mitchell Marner’s dazzling overtime goal where he goes around all three Rangers and the goalie. William Nylander recorded his 400th career point with an assist on the game-tying goal.
In one of the more entertaining games, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Florida Panthers in a wild 7-6 game. After a six-goal first period, the Penguins had a one-goal lead with under three minutes left. But Carter Verhaeghe ties it off a deflection (goal below). However, Kris Letang would score the overtime winner in his first game back. In fact, he had two goals and two assists after a month away.
Things I like
1.Games are never over until they’re truly over. On Friday night, the Carolina Hurricanes were down a goal to the San Jose Sharks when they gave up an empty netter two minutes later. A mere 15 seconds later, Sebastian Aho scored while their home fans were leaving. On their next rush, a few fans scampered back to their first-row seats. The Hurricanes tied the game with 12 seconds left when Martin Necas scored and then won it a minute into overtime when he scored again. I bet the fans that left right after the empty-net goal will be amazed to find out they won when they got home or checked their phones on the way. Necas also scored an overtime goal two days earlier against the Dallas Stars. The Hurricanes ended the week blowing out the Boston Bruins at home, like they did in the playoffs.
Things I don’t
Ryan Hartman had a lousy game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He let the game-winning goal bounce off his chest while standing by the net, not guarding anyone. Then 40 seconds later, he received a hooking penalty which shortened their comeback chances. They let up an empty net goal and did not come back. Later, he took the blame for the loss. Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason decided to lay it on with “He should be hard on himself.” and “It’s stupid. Absolutely stupid.” I think “I like it when players hold themselves accountable” would have sufficed.
In a press conference Gary Bettman actually said, “nobody tanks” in the NHL. While it’s true NHL teams tank less than other sports, it’s untrue none do. All you need to do is look at the Chicago Blackhawks to see it this season. I don’t know what to tell you if you don’t think they are. It makes less sense to tank in the NHL because of how the lottery is weighted, and one elite hockey player does not make as much of a difference as an elite NBA player or NFL quarterback. The last team to actively tank was the Buffalo Sabres, who desperately wanted Connor McDavid. They ended up with Jack Eichel, which isn’t a bad consolation prize. But we all know how that ended.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Mathieu Olivier vs Milan Lucic
They both threw punches for ten seconds and then stopped. Weird.
Luke Schenn vs Jamie Oleksiak
A decent back-and-forth.
Sam Lafferty vs Brett Kulak
Long with a lot of punches.
Goats of the Week
Tyler Seguin - Dallas Stars
Your first instinct as a defender is to try blocking the shot, which is great when you do. But in some instances, it’s better if you don’t even try. Seguin ended up deflecting the game-winning shot when there was no reason to because Jake Oettinger had Jack Hughes lined up. This was the third home overtime loss in a row for the Stars. In comparison, the Devils have been to at least overtime in five of their last six games. They’ve won their last overtime games, including the one below.
Sam Bennett - Florida Panthers
The Panthers beat the Bruins in overtime, but this is so bad it’s worth showing. I know it’s a natural reaction, but I don’t understand what Bennett was trying to do. At least he scored the next goal to make amends.
Pass of the Week
Jack Hughes - New Jersey Devils
Hughes passes from his knees along the board with two defenders on him to set up the overtime winner against the Vegas Golden Knights. P.K Subban threw his papers and stormed off the ESPN plus set afterward, claiming Hughes was the MVP and anyone who disagrees is wrong. Now I know where Subban went. It’s a bit dramatic, but Hughes should definitely be in the conversation. Logan Thompson had a tough night as the two earlier goals deflected off his teammates. The Golden Knights have only two points in their last eight games as they’ve stumbled out of first place.
Stat Line of the Week
1/26/23 Anaheim 5 vs. Colorado 3
Frank Vatrano has had a rather quiet eight-year NHL career. But he played two solid games in a row. He netted his third career hat trick to lead the Ducks come from behind win over the Colorado Avalanche, who really needed the win. He stole the puck on his second goal and stuffed it in from behind the net. The Anaheim Ducks have been a disappointment, but they’re still young. I wouldn’t mind Connor Bedard going there.
1000 – Games played by John Tavares
3 – Fights in sixteen seconds during the Minnesota Wild vs. Philadelphia Flyers
12 – Consecutive home wins for the Tampa Bay Lightning
28 – Games it took Linus Ullmark to reach 25 wins, the fastest to that mark since 1929-30 when it took Bruins goalie Tiny Thompson 29 games. Not bad for someone who only won 26 last season.
18 – Games this week that went to at least overtime
2:26 – Of ice time played for Edmonton Oilers emergency backup Matt Berlin. Backup Stuart Skinner was scratched, and while starter Jack Campbell was fine, Connor McDavid suggested they put him into the game with the Oilers up 7-3. O McDavid.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
- New Jersey
- Tampa Bay
- San Jose
- St. Louis
I stand by my original comment of the 49ers winning it all. Never did I think Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson would get injured. I don’t think any team has ever had four quarterbacks get injured in a season. If you look at the score, the first Eagles touchdown should not have counted. That was an incomplete pass. They should be allowed to snap the ball if upstairs doesn’t have all the camera angles yet. The third Eagles touchdown would never have happened if Purdy wasn’t injured. Johnson taking his eyes off the ball at a crucial time and then not even trying hard to recover it was a joke. The fourth one wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t injured either because they wouldn’t have felt the need to try and block the punt like that. That means it would have been 7-7 with only two Purdy passes thrown. What do you think the score would have been if he had been healthy? The 49ers would have blown them out. The Eagles are super lucky.
I have nothing to say about the Chiefs and Bengals other than they always put on a classic that’s separated by three points. The officiating was a little suspect in the second half, but it’s terrible in many games. Humans make mistakes, and there’s not much you can do.