Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wasn’t pulling any punches, Brian Boyle had three points as the Devils topped the Stars to move into a tie for top spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Maple Leafs visited the Red Wings’ new home for the first time in an Original Six showdown, and Sharks forward Joel Ward earned his 300th career point in his 700th career game. One thing remains: The Leafs are looking lost without Matthews.
Here are four things we learned in the NHL Friday.
Maple Leafs Looking Lost Without Matthews
Auston Matthews has missed eight games this season and it’s becoming a real problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Earlier this month the Leafs were actually 5-0-0 without their star but the team has since dropped three straight games in which the franchise centre has sat out with an upper-body injury.
“We’re missing a pretty important player who generates a lot of offence for us but that’s no excuse. We have won games when he has been out,” Tyler Bozak told reporters in Detroit following a 3-1 loss to Mike Babcock’s former team.
Toronto was outshot for the fifth time in the past six games.
“Obviously, it makes it easier on the other team because you don’t have to worry about matchups as much, I’d assume,” Bozak said when asked about the effect playing without Matthews has on opponents. “Whenever he’s in they’re going to want to get their best defensive guys and defencemen against him so it makes it a little easier on the other team, for sure. … We’re just going to have to get back to what we do and create a little more offence. We can’t rely on our goalies as much as we have. I think our special teams have to be better as well.”
The Maple Leafs are off until a rare Tuesday afternoon home game when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on the 100th anniversary of the franchise’s first game. It’s unclear whether or not Matthews will be ready to return for that game, but it is clear the coach and management are being patient with the reigning Calder Trophy winner.
“I used to ask players questions [about injuries], but what it is, it’s perceived as pressure from the coach,” Babcock said earlier this week. “And especially anything that lingers, if that makes any sense. That’s not my job as coach. … When you’re putting pressure on the guy and he comes back and he gets injured – and you see it all the time, recurring injuries – it makes no sense. Like you’re better, especially in a situation like we are, you buy a little time. The other thing about it is no matter who’s away you’ve got to find a way to win games. That’s just it, you know? Suck it up, play right, find a way to win.”
The Leafs have just four goals in the past four games without Matthews.
Sabres Waste Eichel’s First-Career Hat Trick
It seems at times that Jack Eichel’s immense talent is being squandered playing for a team that constantly finds itself in the basement of the Eastern Conference standings.
The 21-year-old American recorded his first-career hat trick, tied a career high with four points and had a career-high 11 shots on goal against the Carolina Hurricanes. He was outstanding but his team ultimately fell 5-4 in overtime.
“It’s not good enough to get a point,” Eichel told reporters at KeyBank Center after the game. “It seems like it’s been the reoccurring them here of late.”
The Sabres can thank Eichel for the single point they earned, though, after the third-year centre scored his second and third goals of the game just 10 seconds apart midway through the third period to tie the game at 4-4.
“Jack took matters into his own hands a little bit there in the third and found a way to tie the game, which was a great effort on his part,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said of Eichel’s performance.
It was the first hat trick scored by a Sabres player on home ice since Thomas Vanek did it in April of 2011.
Eichel had four two-goal games as a rookie in 2015-16 and six two-goal games in 2016-17. He had just one goal in his previous nine games before lighting up the scoresheet Friday. The second-overall pick of the Sabres from 2015 now has 11 goals and 28 points in 33 games this season.
Gaborik Reaches Milestone but Cares Not for Symmetrical Statistics
Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik became the 18th active NHL player, and 314th skater in the league’s history, to play 1,000 career regular season games Friday in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers, one of his former teams.
Not only did Gaborik join the silver-stick club, but he did so in style, scoring the Kings’ first goal of the game and assisting on his team’s other goal.
It was a big night for Gaborik, yet if you’re a fan of round numbers and symmetry then the third-overall pick from 2000 might’ve ruined your night.
Hypothetically, if Gaborik had failed to register any points and still finished Friday’s game at plus-1 his career stats would look like this:
So nice, so clean, but nooooo he just had to go and have his third multi-point outing of the season in his milestone game.
Now his career stats look like this instead:
All jokes aside, it’s quite the accomplishment for the Slovakian winger, who ranks fifth all time in goals and points among his compatriots.
The Kings, currently in the middle of a four-game Metropolitan Division road trip, will honour Gaborik when they return home for a Dec. 21 contest versus the Avalanche. Interestingly enough, if Dustin Brown suits up against the Islanders Saturday and Flyers Monday then he will be playing in his 1,000th game on the night Gaborik is honoured.
Sedins Were in Vintage Form as Canucks Snapped Streak vs. Sharks
The Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a thrilling 4-3 OT victory over San Jose and in the process picked up their first win at home against the Sharks since Jan. 21, 2012.
Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin shone in this one, both assisting on Vancouver’s three regulation goals. It was just the second time in their careers that the twins recorded the primary and secondary assists on three separate goals in the same game. The only other time they’ve done that was on Feb. 21, 2016 against Colorado.
Overall, it was the fifth time in their 17-year careers that both brothers recorded at least three assists in the same game. The first time they did it was in a 6-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Jan. 13, 2007. In that game, each brother had three assists but they only assisted on the same goal twice. That also happened on March 3, 2010 versus the Red Wings and Feb. 18, 2012 against the Leafs.
Also, rookie Brock Boeser continued making Canucks history.