December is finally upon us, and it truly is the most wonderful time of the year for NHL fans as we officially enter the thickest part of the schedule.
Here’s everything you need to see, hear and know from the past week of puck, starting with an absolute masterpiece from you know who. Let's dive in.
Goal of the week
Connor McDavid against the Chicago Blackhawks was always going to end this way. The Blackhawks are built to do one thing, and that is lose hockey games. McDavid, on the other hand, is a hockey-playing machine, able to pick even the best teams apart with his dazzling speed and unthinkable hands. Combine the two, especially when Jack Johnson is the last man back, and all you can do is laugh at the absolute lunacy that was this end-to-end beauty.
Save of the week
At 41 years old, Craig Anderson is the oldest player in hockey this season. The grizzled Sabres veteran is in the midst of his 20th NHL season but looks as spry as he did during his prime back in Ottawa. The netminder's .916 save percentage while splitting time with Eric Comrie has been a revelation for a Sabres team lacking many bright spots outside of their few young stars. This gorgeous stop on Dominik Kubalik last Wednesday might just be one of the slicker stops we’ll see all month.
Star of the week
With 10 points in just four games this week, Leon Draisaitl has been every bit as electric as always. On the year, the German superstar sits second in the entire NHL behind Connor McDavid in scoring and continues to be an absolute terror to go up against. At 3-on-3, there may be no player as destructive as the Oilers forward. Watch he and McDavid team up last Tuesday on this marker to punctuate a thrilling OT-winner against the Florida Panthers.
Mitts of the week
Tage Thompson has continued his ascension into stardom with the Sabres this year, building off a 38-goal, 68-point breakout last season with even more impressive numbers to begin 2022-23. The former first-round pick is living up to the hype and then some despite blooming late, making the power forward cool again and wreaking havoc on opposing defensemen with his enormous frame. He showed that size off and then some with this sensational goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning that left Erik Cernak and Brian Elliott in its wake.
Dish of the week
The New Jersey Devils continue to be an absolute force, even after they had their franchise-record winning streak snapped in late November. With an exceptional group of young emerging superstar talent, Devils fans will have a lot more plays like this one against the Nashville Predators to enjoy, as the trio of Hughes, Hischier and Bratt combine for some slick teamwork and a nifty goal.
Scrap of the week
There were a few great scraps this week, but this tilly between Jacob Trouba and Brady Tkachuk, each club’s respective captain, is just awesome. Tkachuk in particular was an absolute force during this hockey game, as he eventually collected a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and the game-winner, behind a beautiful breakaway goal that gave signs of a pulse for a team that has slumped of late.
Worst of the week/Quote of the week
Things are going very poorly in Calgary at the moment, and a big part of that has been the play of Jacob Markstrom of late, whose save percentage has dipped to critically poor levels. Following a brutal loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday that saw Markstrom give up one of the most bizarre first-minute goals in NHL history, his assessment of his game was succinct, brash, and to the point.
Light 'em up
Clubs around the NHL have jumped head-first into their Reverse Retro 2.0 jerseys this month, with some looking better than others. As far as introductions go, no team can top the electric on-ice reveal of the Vegas Golden Knights jersey this week. That glow-in-the-dark aesthetic is perfectly matched to the nightlife look of Sin City. No notes, 10/10.
Let's go Buffalo!
How ‘bout them Bills? During the intermission of the Sabres vs. Avalanche game on Thursday, fans were treated to a unique viewing experience, as Josh Allen connected with Diggs for the TD while checking in on the game from the jumbotron. A big props also goes to whoever runs the horn at Sabres games, nice touch.
Milestone of the week
The face of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steven Stamkos hit the 1000-point mark this week on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers, becoming the first to do so in a Bolts uniform. The iconic sniper is easily one of the most underrated players of his era, and with a pair of cups to his name already, he should be a lock for the Hall Of Fame after he hangs them up. Just look at this list of accomplishments. A well-deserved occasion for a tremendous hockey player.
Stat of the week
While everybody was busy gushing over Connor McDavid’s hot start to the season, Jason Robertson has seemingly come out of nowhere and elevated himself into the NHL’s upper echelon of talented snipers. The talented Dallas Stars forward tallied a hat trick earlier this week against the Anaheim Ducks, which vaulted him into some pretty exceptional company. Perhaps St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube put it best when looking at the tear that Robertson is on right now.
The worst of bounces
There’s not much more you could do on this one if you’re Carter Hart. An exceptionally bad bounce off the boards here on an Ian Cole shot seemingly had eyes of its own, ricocheting off the back boards, off Hart’s skate, and into the net. If this one doesn’t sum up the hard luck that the Philadelphia Flyers have dealt with this season, then nothing will.
Hit of the week
Jordan Binnington has been right in the middle of it all this week, getting into it with Jason Zucker, hearing from his coach, and generally getting up to lots of Binnington-esque tomfoolery. This moment from the Blues game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday might just be the best moment of the week anyway, as Binnington tries to make his presence known, only to get smoked in the process.
Matty Beniers and the Seattle Kraken keep flyin’ and the kid has been a huge part of it so far. This spectacular OT-winner against the Washington Capitals took just seven seconds, and it was an absolute doozy. The 20-year-old is on a torrid pace and is tracking to be the first rookie to crack the 70-point mark since Mathew Barzal did so in 2017-18. The Kraken could be cooking down the middle for years to come, as Shane Wright is getting hot after finally receiving an opportunity to find his mojo with some solid playing time in the AHL.
Torts being Torts
In this weekly edition of “Torts does something silly at a press conference because the Flyers are a disaster,” here’s the former Jack Adams winner having a classic meltdown after a loss to New Jersey on Saturday.
Since their hot start to the season, the New York Rangers have tumbled down the standings and currently sit on the outside looking into the playoff picture. Meanwhile, it’s been upstart teams like their rival New Jersey Devils that have blown past the Blueshirts and left them in the dust, flat on their butts wondering what the heck happened. Anyway, here’s a visual representation of that playing out exactly as Jacob Trouba goes to lay the thunder on Nico Hischier, but very quickly regrets it.
You don’t see this very often, but this absolute breakaway bomb by Claude Giroux is one of the most exciting goals of the year, especially given the full sequence that preceded it. Giroux’s legendary response to the goal itself is equally awesome, as the Senators stomped their former star Erik Karlsson on Saturday night to cap a thrilling week for Sens fans.
Trending up: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs have found their way after a slow start to the campaign, setting a franchise record during November by notching 25 points and going 11-1-3. A win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, combined with an overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, put them at 7-0-3 over their last ten games, making them the only club in the NHL without a regulation loss over that stretch.
The biggest reason for their success has been their solid goaltending, which has been a huge strength after coming into the year as a big question mark. Despite battling injuries, both Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray boast save percentages over .920, while the team in front of them has tightened up defensively in the wake of some key injuries. Things are going extremely well in Toronto at the moment.
Trending down: Arizona Coyotes
Listen, it’s not like the Arizona Coyotes were supposed to do anything but trend down this season, but an acknowledgement is in order given that they’re still somehow now the worst team in their division. At just 2-5-3 in their last 10, and losers of four straight, it seems like the only NHL team playing at a college arena still has plenty of learning to do. Heck, they aren’t even the most exciting attraction in their own barn.
On a more pleasant note, however, there has been some good news for the Coyotes in recent days. The city of Tempe voted 7-0 last Tuesday to build a new arena in the city, which will hopefully provide one of the NHL’s most nomadic franchises a home to call their own once and for all.
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