The first couple weeks of NHL action have come and gone and there’s been plenty of solid games to consume so far. It’s tough to keep tabs on everything going on in the world of puck, so we’ve got you covered with this week’s edition of The Best and Worst.
Back in January 2010, Nick Suzuki would have been just 10 years old when Pavel Datsyuk pulled off one of the most epic shootout goals in NHL history. Last Thursday night, it would seem that Suzuki was feeling a bit nostalgic during the Canadiens’ game against the Arizona Coyotes as the Habs captain pulled off the throwback beauty with this delightfully cheeky goal reminiscent of Datsyuk’s shootout wizardry after being awarded a penalty shot. Poor Connor Ingram.
Spencer Knight is still finding his footing early on in his NHL career, but if the former Boston College product is going to continue robbing shooters blind as he did here, there’s no telling what his ceiling could be. Check out the epic stretch Knight has to make on this save, going from post to post to rob Sabres winger Jeff Skinner of a sure goal.
Star of the week
Despite his team stumbling out of the gate, Kirill Kaprizov is looking just like the potential Hart candidate some had him pegged as to start the season. Kaprizov’s seven points since October 15 is pacing the entire NHL alongside linemate Mats Zuccarello (prior to this weekend’s games). His four goals over that span include this beauty overtime winner last Thursday against the Canucks.
There are a lot of gifted stick handlers in the NHL today, but when you think of the man with the niftiest mitts, Danton Heinen surely isn’t the first name to come to mind. Despite that moniker, Heinen’s exceptional puck pursuit and quick thinking had Lightning defenders twisted inside-out before he blasted home his first goal of the season. Heinen has been one of several Pittsburgh Penguins off to a hot start, with the Pens winger boasting four points in four games to open his campaign.
Best passing play
The reigning Stanley Cup champions are once again looking like a juggernaut, and it’s no surprise why they’re once again off to a strong start. This time, it was the telepathic-like connection between Mikko Rantanen and Valeri Nichushkin that had us in awe.
Ilya Lyubushkin is a man of many hats. First, he’ll make his goal song the intoxicatingly catchy I am a Gummy Bear by Gummibärthen he’ll run you over like a freight train in what will no doubt be one of the most breathtakingly huge hits of the season. Boosh Smash!
This past offseason, the Washington Capitals signed Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25-million contract in hopes of stabilizing their goaltending situation. This week, however, the 32-year-old netminder made an absolute mess of this dump-in, which is comfortably the worst (and perhaps funniest) play of the week.
Stat of the week
In case you weren’t sure if Cole Caufield was producing well under Martin St. Louis, check out this ludicrous stat from earlier this week. After this tweet was published, both snipers added another tally to their total Thursday night, keeping them all square with 26 goals since February 10th heading into Saturday night’s games.
Fun fact of the week
I suppose this fact being “fun” depends entirely on who you ask, but following a stunning win by the Arizona Coyotes over the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this week, helped by a controversial callthe Coyotes shared one of the most astonishing facts in modern NHL history. What can you say, the Coyotes own Scotiabank Arena.
Quote of the week
Following their shocking loss on Monday, plenty of quotes from Maple Leafs brass made the rounds, making this feel like a team on the brink of collapse. Perhaps the best quote from the Leafs’ catastrophic loss, however, came from Morgan Rielly during his postgame.
“Now that’s creative!”
This exchange speaks for itself in a lot of respects. Eric Engels with the hard-hitting journalism that fans across the NHL need. Additionally, a special shoutout to Chris Widemanwho apparently coined what is immediately the league’s best nickname.
Best defensive play
Dylan Larkin has got to be one of the league’s most underrated players at this point. Since flying onto the scene as a rookie, literally, Larkin has quietly been a productive member of a Detroit team perpetually rebuilding in one form or another since his arrival. Despite the team around him, however, Larkin has remained a consistent presence as one of the league’s most effective two-way players, scoring at a high pace while serving as a top-line pivot for the Red Wings. This play here, however, has to be among the finest he’s ever made, saving an empty netter and single-handedly salvaging a point for the Wings. Following the epic defensive stick, Oskar Sundqvist would tie the game with just 40.9 ticks on the clock. Talk about coming up clutch.
Wholesome moment of the week
On the ice, Matthew Tkachuk is likely Brad Marchand’s heir apparent to the title of “League’s Top Rat.” Off the ice though, the newest Florida Panther is busy making fans for life, evidenced by this outstanding mic’d up moment between him and a few youngsters that got to sit on the Cats bench pre-game.
Something cool you missed
While the Arizona Coyotes are starting their season with a tough six-game road trip, that doesn’t mean that school isn’t in session at the club’s new home of Mullet Arena. While away, the Arizona State Sun Devils have done a nice job babysitting the Coyotes’ new home barn, including this super cool moment from the Sun Devils’ home opener. None other than Josh Doan, Coyotes draft pick and son of franchise legend Shane Doan, potted the first goal in the building’s history. Perhaps after he’s concluded his time in college and moved on to the Coyotes, Mullet Arena will be known as “The House That Josh Built”.
Anything you can do I can do better
While these big saves from Jordan Binnington and Martin Jones ultimately didn’t make the cut as our save of the week, they certainly deserve a special shoutout. The ‘tenders did their best to one-up each other on this sequence, as following Binnington’s great cross-crease stop, Martin Jones responded with his own flashy two-pad stack. That save by Jones would prove important, as the Kraken would claw their way back from down 3-1 to push the game to overtime, ultimately salvaging a point before falling 4-3 to St. Louis.
Funniest moment of the week
Speaking of the Blues vs. Kraken game, this moment from before puck drop between former St. Louis linemates Jaden Schwartz and Vlad Tarasenko got a nice chuckle out of Hockey Twitter. Even though Schwartz was normally the distributor, the Kraken veteran had a small suggestion for his pal. It seems like it worked, too, as Tarasenko collected a trio of assists during the contest.
Scrap of the week
Arber Xhekaj clearly felt it was time to put his brand-new alias to good use on Thursday night. The Habs rookie didn’t back down from a challenge by grizzled veteran Zack Kassian, taking it to the Coyotes power forward in a heavyweight bout. The always fun hockeyfights.com had this one as a landslide victory for Xhekaj. Looks like the Wifi is strong in Montreal.
If you’re a goaltender…
Frederik Andersen, where are you going? Most weeks, it would be pretty hard to not call this one the biggest gaffe of the week, but Andersen puts up a valiant effort anyways on a turnover that even the finest French baker would be proud of.
Much has been made over the years of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and his bowling acumen, but don’t sleep on one of the NHL’s brightest stars in Kirill Kaprizov. At a season-ticket holder event last week, the Minnesota Wild superstar was mowing ‘em down on the hardwood.
Crosby’s in his kitchen
Not only is Sidney Crosby cooking on the scoresheet to start his season, it looks like the Penguins star also knows his way around his baking utensils. Bringing in banana bread for the whole team to enjoy? Now that is captain material.
Winners of three straight after a tough start to the season that had fans calling for their coach’s head, the New Jersey Devils are clicking on all cylinders at the moment. The team was first in the NHL heading into Saturday’s slate with a sparkling 69.8 expected goals percentage according to Evolving Hockey. The production has also come via the Devils’ brightest stars. Jesper Bratt has especially taken his game to another level to start his season, leading the way with 8 points, all assists, through five games. Now if only they could get a save…
Heading into the year, it wasn’t clear if the San Jose Sharks would be bad enough to be in the mix for Connor Bedard. At this point, however, seven games into their season and with just one win on their ledger, it looks like ‘Dishonour for Connor’ is back on the menu in the Bay Area. Despite half-decent goaltending from starter James Reimer to start their season, the team has had all sorts of trouble putting the puck in the net, ranking dead last in goals per game with just 1.71 per contest as of Saturday. That mark is almost a full goal less than 31st-ranked Nashville. Here lies the San Jose Sharks. They never scored.
Putting it in reverse
The NHL announced their reverse retro 2.0 jerseys this week, and while there are too many to go through each jersey, a few of the new threads are definitely worth acknowledging. The Florida Panthers seem like the early favourite amongst fans for the cleanest jersey, sporting a baby blue South Florida look that only they could truly pull off.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings seemingly came together to create nearly identical looking, equally bland reverse retros that are decidedly lacking what the kids like to call “drip.” You can also check out this great thread from Kyle Cushman that outlines what each jersey is based on.
See a highlight worthy of the spotlight? Tag @JNeginShecter on Twitter using the hashtag #BestAndWorst and it may be featured in the following week’s edition of NHL Best and Worst.
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