And down the stretch they come. While the Boston Bruins chase history, everyone else except the Atlantic Division chase seeding. The playoff teams are mostly set. Although the Florida Panthers will make it interesting, it’s doubtful they will get in. They will need to win two more games than the Penguins to qualify. With nine games left, that’s a tall task. The only other unknown is whether the Winnipeg Jets will tumble out. I’d give that a high probability, except it would require the Calgary Flames or Nashville Predators to play well, and that’s unlikely. The division lead is very much up for grabs in the Central and Pacific, setting up crucial division games.
We had a few unusual occurrences this week. The Toronto Maple Leafs had four turnovers that led to New York Islander goals. While the Maple Leafs rebounded nicely against the Panthers, they didn’t look sharp in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes. Their powerplay looked more like a Hurricanes powerplay, and Matt Murray moved his leg sooner than he should and let in a critical goal. That was a tough loss, and the Maple Leafs would have swept the Hurricanes with a win.
The Edmonton Oilers successfully challenged three San Jose Sharks goals due to offsides. The Sharks also had a successful challenge. The challenges led to a phenomenal overtime and one of the more memorable sequences. Leon Draisaitl was named best passer by his peers, and this clip shows why. He steals the puck and delivers a beautiful long backhand pass, followed by another steal and a pass from his knees. On the receiving end for both was Connor McDavid, who missed on the breakaway but came back with the same move and scored his 60th of the season. He’s the first Oiler to hit 60 goals since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-87.
Things I like
The NHL is certainly a young man’s league, but the old men are still getting it done. Alex Ovechkin broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for most 40-goal seasons with 13. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby notched another 30-goal season and became the first to do so at age 18 and 35. There are records for everything.
The life of an NHL goalie is not ideal, as you’re passed around from team to team like a ping-pong ball. Dylan Ferguson was drafted by the Dallas Stars but never played for them. He was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, who let his contract expire. The Toronto Maple Leafs offered him a professional tryout agreement and later traded him to the Ottawa Senators. In between, he finished up his junior career in the WHL, and played on two ECHL teams and three AHL teams. His journey probably made his first career start that much sweeter. He won it after a 48-save performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and was so close to pitching a shutout. Only two other goalies made more saves in one of the first two games of their NHL career. He lost his next game but he’ll always have Pittsburgh.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Troy Stecher vs Paul Cotter
An unusual fight. Props to Cotter for recovering.
Brady Tkachuk vs Miles Wood
Short and sweet.
Goats of the Week
Ethan Bear - Vancouver Canucks
A few minutes into the game, Bear doesn’t look before he passes. Phil Kessel takes it for the easy goal. The Golden Knights won by one.
Anthony Mantha - Washington Capitals
More of a great steal by Evgeni Malkin than a turnover, but Mantha has to do better late in the third period. This was the game-winning goal and a much-needed Penguins’ win. Just look at the emotion in Malkin’s celebration.
Goal of the Week
Kent Johnson - Columbus Blue Jackets
Johnson scores a Michigan goal.
Stat Line of the Week
3/23/23 New York 2 vs. Carolina 1
The New York Rangers played the Carolina Hurricanes in back-to-back games. They lost the first one, and Artemi Panarin had no points. Panarin bounced back and had a beautiful one-timer and a great dish to set up Adam Fox as the Rangers beat the Hurricanes for the third time this season. Panarin has nine points in his last seven games and 82 points for the season for the fifth time in his career. However, his plus-minus is in the single digits for the first time since his rookie season.
100 – Career goals for Tage Thompson
619 – Career points for Aleksander Barkov, a Florida Panthers franchise record
51 – Goals for David Pastranek
31.6 – Power play percentage for the Edmonton Oilers, the only team above 26%
1.92 – GAA for Linus Ullmark, the only goalie under 2
5 – Short-handed goals for J.T. Miller, first in the NHL
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
- Los Angeles
- NY Rangers
- San Jose