(Life’s busy — it’s not always easy to stay on top of everything happening around the NHL. So in case you missed it, here are some of the best and worst highlights of the week.)
It’s not often a three-goal, five-point performance gets overshadowed in a week, but with all due respect to Gabriel Landeskog and his monster game against the Lightning, Carter Hutton has a slight edge.
The Blues backup set a new franchise record and an NHL-high this season with a 48-save shutout against the Jets. In full disclosure, Juuse Saros probably deserved best performance last week with his 46-save shutout against the Oilers, but the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel double feature was too hard to pass up. Plus, Hutton’s came against one of the league’s best offenses and power plays, so that’s worth bonus points.
Nicest Individual Goal
Adam Henrique seemed like a lock to have the best goal of the week with his alley-oop solo rush against Sami Vatanen and the Devils, but this one by Dmitry Orlov is in a different category of filth. The celebration at the bench was top notch, too.
Best Squad Goal
The Canadiens were the runner-up this week with this Jeff Petry-led beauty against the Canucks, but Sean Couturier’s goal against the Red Wings was just a notch above. All five players touched the puck, plus the pass by Claude Giroux between two Red Wings was stupid good.
This apple by Max Domi is really the best of two worlds. The pass to Clayton Keller was superb, and the dangle to set it up was even better.
For the passing purists, there were some other good ones this week. Jordan Oesterle found Patrick Kane coming off the bench with this head’s up stretch pass. Martin Frk was the recipient of two slick setups this week, first on this cross-crease bullet by Jonathan Ericsson, followed by this Dylan Larkin dish that cleared two Flyers before landing perfectly on his stick. For the sauce enthusiasts, David Desharnais’s backhand pass to Paul Carey was also decent.
Is this the best save ever made on the first shot of a game? It honestly might be. Anders Nilsson had no business making this stop, and on an elite shooter nonetheless.
This one was unfortunate, as Brian Elliott was having a hell of a game before allowing this stinker to Ryan O’Reilly in the third period.
Players must have been in the holiday spirit, because there were a bunch of gifts handed out this week.
But taking the cake this week is Jonathan Drouin. It wasn’t your typical toss-it-up-the-middle-without-looking giveaway, but it sure was a major brain cramp. He literally just skates right into Bobby Ryan despite having two easy outlets on the wing. Yikes.
Best Shootout Goal
It was slim pickens this week, with only four shootouts to choose from. But this one by David Pastrnak was pretty nifty.
Philadelphia’s Robert Hagg scored his first career goal this week, Charlie McAvoy and Pierre-Luc Dubois had their first big-league scrap, and Vatanen and Henrique each had their first points against their former teams. The most impressive, however, was Hampus Lindholm’s first career hat trick Thursday against the Islanders. Even though Lindholm’s first goal just hit him on the way in, you just don’t see this too often — it was only the fourth D-man hatty in the last five seasons.
Michael Grabner is the most confusing goal-scorer in the league, given that he’s not a top-six forward, gets no power-play time and doesn’t shoot the puck all that much. Yet he’s tied for seventh in the league with 17 goals. That’s what makes his goal against the Bruins so good. He fires the puck several feet above the net and it just happens to bounce perfectly off the glass, off Tuukka Rask’s back and into the net. A goal-scorer’s goal if there ever was one.
Most Reckless Play
This is about as reckless as it gets. To hit a guy at that speed, in that spot, after the puck is gone is just disgusting. It’s incredible Vladislav Namestnikov wasn’t badly injured on that play. Erik Johnson got suspended two games for that, which seems light given how dangerous it was but precedent and what not.
Vince Dunn, meet Drake Caggiula.
Kevan Miller is a scary man, so kudos to Zach Bogosian for dropping the mitts with him and taking a beating in honor of his fallen teammate.
You’ve surely seen the numbers by now, but in case you haven’t the New York Islanders are second in the league in goals for and 30th in the league in goals against. The defense certainly has to wear some of that, but the goaltending has been abysmal. Halak has been the better goaltender, posting a 3.07 GAA and .903 SV% compared to Greiss’s 3.83/.883. It’s pretty incredible actually that Greiss has started nearly the same amount of games as Halak (18 vs. 20) despite putting up numbers from the 1980s. What makes this whole situation even more bizarre is that Halak has actually put up good numbers at 5-on-5. He has a better save percentage (.932) at evens than Sergei Bobrovsky, Pekka Rinne, Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist. But until the overall numbers improve, he’s going to receive a lot of the blame for the team’s struggles.
Monkey off the Back
It was a good week for slump-busting. Mitch Marner scored his first in 15 games, Erik Karlsson got his first in 17, Radim Vrbata potted his first in 18 and Mikko Koivu ended a 24-game goal drought and 11-game pointless streak. But no player is feeling better this week than Byron Froese, who scored his first goal in almost two years. Although the drought was dragged out over a long period of time, it was only 32 games which is bad but not crazy for a fringe fourth-liner. Given that Koivu is an actual good NHL player his drought is probably worse, but the mental baggage of going so long without a goal would be tough to carry around.
Some impressive streaks came to an end this week. David Pastrnak’s 12-game points streak fell, as did linemate Brad Marchand’s nine-game spell and Corey Crawford’s 9-0-2 run. Still standing among the rubble is Predators forward Kevin Fiala, who extended his goal streak to five and point streak to nine Thursday against the Hurricanes.
To alcohol! The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.
I asked #Flyers Jake Voracek what helped the team turn it around following the 10-game skid:
“We got drunk, that helped. We sat down together, we talked about some stuff we wanted to do better. We had some heart-to-hearts and it worked out so it was good.”
— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) December 22, 2017
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