(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 like Connor McDavid needs a big game to prove anything, but we’re nearly three months into the season and he’s still not leading the league in scoring. Come on, man. Get it together!
Well, that might not last long. McDavid had one of those dominant McDavid nights against the Blue Jackets this week with a goal and three assists (all primary) and now sits five points back of Nikita Kucherov in the scoring race.
Jack Eichel, on the other hand, kinda needed a big night to silence the naysayers. His performance on Friday should accomplish just that as Eichel was an absolute force against the Hurricanes. In his best game of the season, Eichel scored three times, including two 10 seconds apart in the third to tie the game, and added an assist to go along with a season-high 11 shots on goal.
Nicest Individual Goal
How about this little piece of business by Nathan MacKinnon. The dipsy-doodle on Michael Matheson is the pièce de résistance, but his ability to stay onside during the zone entry and evade Alex Petrovic and Micheal Haley was super impressive. The finish wasn’t too shabby, either.
Best Squad Goal
This power play goal by the Jets was picture perfect, but even strength goals carry more weight in this category, and this one by McDavid and the Oilers was a beauty. McDavid gets most of the credit for making this happen, but Jesse Puljujärvi deserve praise for that sneaky pass through Karl Alzner.
Where do you even start with this one by Filip Forsberg? The flip over the stick of Derrick Pouliot in full flight, or the fact he had the wherewithal to switch hand position on his stick before sliding the pass back (and through Alex Edler’s legs!) to Calle Jarnkrok? Off the charts display of skill by Prince Filip.
It’s getting tough to tell whether these are great saves or just routine stops by John Gibson. Because he seems to have at least one show-stopping save every week, including an almost identical save to the one below last week.
Corey Schneider was a close second with this desperation sprawling save on Jamie Benn.
Scott Darling has some company in the running for softest goal of the year. Anders Nilsson’s whiff on P.K. Subban’s center-ice clapper might be even uglier. The Darling goal looks worse, but you can at least chalk it up to him losing sight of the puck in the crowd. Nilsson doesn’t have that luxury — he just straight up missed.
When the week started, it seemed impossible that someone would be able to one-up Damon Severson’s horrendous turnover that led to this Mats Zuccarello goal. But that’s why we play the game. Because this one by Haydn Fleury was hilariously bad. In fairness, Severson’s is a much worse hockey play — Fleury essentially just got burned by a horrible bounce — but the optics are so awful it couldn’t not be No. 1.
Best Shootout Goal
Johnny, chill man. You’re making everybody look bad. It’s crazy this kind of play is borderline illegal — this is what makes shootouts worthwhile.
What is going on with Josh Bailey this season? He’s tied for second in the NHL in assists and after his first career hat trick on Thursday, he’s moved into a tie for fifth in points. Bailey has seven two-goal outings over his 671-game career, so I guess he was due. He’s now only eight goals back of his career high (16) and needs only 19 points over the final 50 games to set a new personal best. The only logical explanation? Body snatchers. That or playing with two of the NHL’s top goal-scorers in John Tavares and Anders Lee.
Hockey is new in Vegas, so there were bound to be a few growing pains. Like the penalty box officials not knowing how to do their jobs. You have to respect the middle official’s conviction here, leaning in heavy to make sure that door stayed shut. Gotta have your boy’s back.
Most Reckless Play
Given the assailant here, this probably doesn’t even qualify as reckless. It’s just part of Alexandre Burrows’ game at this point. But it’s still pretty reckless to smash somebody in the face with the butt end of your stick, so we’ll count it.
Classic Alex Burrows. With his team down 4-0, he just did this to Sharks Dylan DeMelo. pic.twitter.com/OjGrCyZ8X8
— Richard Lee-Sam (@RLeesam) December 10, 2017
You know it’s a big hit when you can hear the player make a sound like the one Bobby Ryan made after getting run over by Jordan Nolan.
Bobby Ryan got absolutely crushed by Jordan Nolan. Not a pleasant sound. pic.twitter.com/OrVufH8sMJ
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) December 13, 2017
Luke Glendening (5’11” 192 lbs.) gave up a lot of size to Aaron Ekblad (6’4″ 216 lbs.), but you would never know it. Given how well he handled himself, you also wouldn’t guess that this was only Glendening’s second NHL fight. Not that Ekblad has much experience himself, but still.
When good teams underperform, the first ones thrown under the bus by fans are usually those making the decisions. That was the case this week with the Penguins and Leafs, who have each lost three straight. In Pittsburgh, Jim Rutherford is taking it on the chin over his team’s fourth-line — anchored by first-round-pick worthy Ryan Reaves — and a general lack of forward depth. In Toronto, Mike Babcock is feeling the wrath over his nightly lineup decisions, particularly dressing Roman Polak and playing depreciating defensive specialist Leo Komarov on the second line and power play.
Monkey off the Back
How in the world did Henrik Zetterberg go 23 games without a goal? That’s pretty incredible for a player of his skill set, advanced age and all, who still plays close to 20 minutes a night.
It’s probably more impressive that Brian Elliott has backstopped the Flyers to five straight wins (a personal best), but David Pastrnak’s streak hit double digits on Thursday as he’s now recorded a point in 10 consecutive games.
It’s always refreshing to hear players rip other teams.
— Brian Blessing (@BrianBlessing) December 8, 2017