Happy New Year, hockey fans!
2022 wrapped up with another great week of NHL action, as teams returned to action following their Christmas Break. This past week, we saw slick mitts aplenty, a few not-so-great moments, and players spreading holiday cheer both on and off the ice. Here’s everything you’ve got to catch up on from this past week in NHL action.
Goal of the week
It may have taken him a few months, but Quinn Hughes' first goal of the season was one to remember on Tuesday night. The Canucks franchise defenseman put on a clinic in the offensive zone, seemingly willing this puck to go in with all his might after an outstanding and hard-working shift. The Canucks may be staring straight in the face of another lost season, but when you get to watch Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes go to work, surely it can’t all be that bad.
Save of the week
This save was gorgeous in every sense of the word, as Igor Shesterkin makes a larcenous stop on Marcus Johansson right on the doorstep. It’s been an up-and-down season at times for the reigning Vezina winner, however, he seems to have gotten his mojo back in recent weeks. His .927 save percentage last month was his best of the season to date, and while it wasn’t enough to beat the Capitals in this one, good fortune appears to be on the horizon for the Rangers if their netminder finds his groove again.
Player of the week
Despite an abbreviated week, Filip Forsberg was sensational in three games with the Predators last week, as Nashville looks to claw back into the postseason race in 2023. If their star forward can do more of this, then perhaps postseason hockey isn’t out of the question in the Music City after all. His five goals and seven points were tops across the NHL and was topped off with an epic hat trick against the Vegas Golden Knights on New Year's Eve that included the tying goal with seconds to spare. Not to mention, the mustache game remains as on point as ever for the Preds leading scorer.
Hands of the week
In case you forgot, Trevor Zegras has the most insane mitts in the National Hockey League, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. The NHL 23 cover athlete was sure to remind fans of that this week when his Ducks took down the Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout on Wednesday night. The slow-down dipsy doodle is reminiscent of a young Patrick Kane, as Zegras goes backhand shelf while Logan Thompson’s jockstrap ends up in the rafters.
If you can’t hit the Griddy after storming back from down 4-0, then when else can you? Jake Wallman saw an opportunity and took it against the Pittsburgh Penguins last week, as the Red Wings roared back to win it in OT, giving way to undoubtedly the most iconic moment of the NHL season thus far (no, we are not taking feedback).
Worst goal of the week
We’re calling this goal by Kirill Kaprizov the worst of the week, but you could probably make an equally compelling argument that it’s the best goal of the week and you might be right. Somehow, the Wild superstar puts this puck past Jake Oettinger from behind the goal line in one of the most insane goals of the season. How Oettinger lets this one in is beyond comprehension, but I also want to know what could’ve possibly compelled Kaprizov to shoot from this angle and actually score. So many questions, so few answers. What a weird goal.
With Vince Vaughn in the building, the Arizona Coyotes beat the Maple Leafs once again, marking four straight wins for the rebuilding club. Following the win, the Coyotes' social media admins had some fun at the Maple Leafs' expense, pulling from Vaughn’s catalogue for a gif that serves as a wonderful synopsis of how things went at Mullett Arena.
Teams often like to keep internal squabbling on the down low for obvious reasons, however, sometimes things spill onto the ice regardless of what management may hope for. That’s exactly what happened when J.T. Miller gave Colin Delia the business late in the Canucks game against the Winnipeg Jets, as Miller smashes his stick over the crossbar (wasting time in the process) trying to get his netminder to head to the bench. Not a great look.
Stat of the week
Connor McDavid’s 2022 was pretty darn good by all accounts. The NHL’s best player became the first player to cross the 140-point mark over back-to-back calendar years in nearly a generation and is currently pacing to put together his own historic season for the ages. We are truly witnessing one of the best to ever do it.
Giroux goes wild
Despite a slow start to their season, the Ottawa Senators have turned it on as of late and miraculously find themselves in the hunt for a wild card spot heading into the new year. While offseason trade acquisition Alex DeBrincat has been the most important figure for them this year, Claude Giroux has been every part of the impact acquisition he was paid to this summer as well. His 32 points in 36 games are fourth on the Senators, and this beauty from Ottawa’s game against Detroit may be his best work.
Hat tip hat trick
Alex Ovechkin has continued to chase history in recent weeks, with his prolific scoring seeing no end in sight. Perhaps what's most impressive, besides the impeccable longevity he’s shown in his chase, are the bunches that he seems to score in. Against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, the Great Eight once again punished the opposing netminder to the tune of three goals, an impressive feat that put him into yet another exclusive NHL tier.
Most wholesome moment
Who can resist a little goalie Christmas spirit? A few netminders from the Battle of New York crossed the trenches for a little dinner together, as the Rangers' Igor Shesterkin had Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin, as well as defenseman Alexander Romanov, over for a Christmas dinner during the break. The goalie fraternity remains undefeated as the best thing in the entire NHL.
You better not shout…
Speaking of the goalie fraternity, this adorable Boston Bruins content from Christmas fills the heart. Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman visited his tandem-mate Linus Ullmark’s home dressed as Santa as a surprise for Ullmark’s kids. By the looks of the adorable snaps, it seems like the kids enjoyed the visit just as much as we enjoyed seeing it.
Canes on cruise control
The Carolina Hurricanes were struggling ever so briefly to begin the season, battling some bad shooting luck while their process remained in its usual top-tier spot. After their win over the Florida Panthers on New Year's Eve, the Canes hit a new level, setting a franchise record winning streak with ten straight, and blowing past the upstart New Jersey Devils for sole possession of first in the Metropolitan Division. With the league’s best expected goals for percentage to boot, it’s not hard to envision the Stanley Cup finals looking a rosy shade of red, and North Carolina partying like it’s 2006 at the end of it.
Worst of the week
Sometimes, you’ve just got to laugh at the NHL, which is allegedly a big-four North American league. The Toronto Maple Leafs were fined $100,000 per the CBA (pocket change for MLSE if we’re being honest), for team activities during the Christmas break. In reality, however, the Maple Leafs took a flight to St. Louis for their first game back from the break that left a mere hour and a half ahead of Dec. 27, which ultimately led to the necessary troll toll. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.
The resurgence of Erik Karlsson as a legit star defenseman has easily been one of the most compelling stories of this past season. Once the heartbeat of the Ottawa Senators, Karlsson saw his career grind to a halt due to injuries, before finally getting his feet under him this season and returning to superstar status. His chase for the Norris Trophy is a legitimate one, especially if he finds a new home on a contending team, and this excellent stat from this past week only serves to amplify his Norris hopes. Truly an impeccable stat for a defenseman.
You heard it here first, folks, the Buffalo Sabres are #ActuallyGood. Led by Tage Thompson’s unbelievable breakout, the Sabres are in the hunt to return to the postseason for the first time since the days of Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller. It hasn’t only been the work of Thompson, however, that’s got the Sabres boasting a top-10 goal differential. Jeff Skinner, once long forgotten and cast aside as a cap anchor, has emerged as a legitimate right-hand man, and is on pace for his most productive season ever. Not bad for a guy that, according to this unbelievable stat, looked certifiably washed under former Buffalo head coach Ralph Krueger.
Walking it back
Last week, a hilarious comment from Max Domi on his new home in Chicago versus Columbus made the rounds on Twitter and had fans giggling at the shade sent the Blue Jackets way. Apparently, however, Jackets fans were none too pleased with the comments, prompting Domi to walk them back ahead of Saturday night's game between Chicago and Columbus. In our humble opinion, that’s the wrong move. It’s way more fun to lean into the heel. What you really should’ve told them is that you hope the Buckeyes lose by a million.
Singing the Bleus, (Blanc, et Rouge)
For a franchise as historic as the Montreal Canadiens, it’s pretty remarkable to see that this year’s iteration is one of, if not the absolute worst, of all time. The Canadiens' complete and utter ineptitude on the defensive side of the puck in 2022 helped them etch their name into the annals of Habs' history, as their historically terrible goal differential is unmatched in any era of Canadiens hockey. Felicitations, I guess?
Trending up: Buffalo Sabres
With wins in six straight, including an epic come-from-behind win over the league-leading Boston Bruins, it might be time to start thinking about what playoff hockey in Buffalo could look like. Sure, they’re still on the outside looking in, and they’re far from a perfect team in the toughest division in hockey, but it’s not hard to envision them making a push over the next few months and toying with a wild card spot.
Their exceptional goal scoring, which is tied for second in the entire league, is the biggest reason for their success, but don’t sleep on their defence and goaltending. Rasmus Dahlin has emerged as a legitimate superstar this year, while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s play of late could make him the saviour between the pipes they’ve needed since Miller’s departure. You never know…
Trending down: Seattle Kraken
Well, it was fun while it lasted. After an epic stretch earlier this season that had the Kraken chasing the Vegas Golden Knights for the Pacific Division’s top seed, Seattle has plummeted in recent weeks and is now on the outside looking in. Just as the case was last year, it’s been the goaltending, or lack thereof, that has sent these sea creatures to the bottom of the standings.
Both Martin Jones and Phillip Grubauer remain incapable of stopping pucks, as their .886 and .881 save percentages remain amongst the worst of any goalie with more than 12 games played. Perhaps Chris Driedger, whose seven-to-nine-month recovery from an ACL injury would have him returning this month at the earliest, could be the man to save the day. Or perhaps this team is once again set to find itself sinking like an anchor, nestled amongst the dregs of the league in Davy Jones’s locker.
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