(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 feels like the Ryan Pulock breakout party has been in the works for years, and boy was it worth the wait.
The 2013 first-rounder, who has been marinating in the AHL for the past three years, exploded for a goal and four assists against the Blackhawks, including a beauty top-shelf snipe.
Granted, one assist came off a dump in and two more were of the secondary variety, but still — points are points. Only three other defenseman have had a five-point game in the last 10 years, so it’s a significant accomplishment.
Hopefully this is enough to keep him in the lineup for good, but not banking on it.
Nicest Individual Goal
Ryan Callahan doesn’t score anymore, so when he does it’s pretty noteworthy — especially when it’s legit one of the nicest goals of his career.
That’s a filthy goal no matter who scores it, but particularly for a guy whose only other goal this year was an empty-netter back in October.
Best Squad Goal
There were a handful of quality options to choose from, but this give-and-go between Sean Monahan and Johhny Gaudreau — and the drop pass that made it all possible — was a cut above.
The Calgary Flames really couldn’t ask for more from Mike Smith. The 35-year-old is sitting at a sparkling .926 on the season, is heading to the all-star game and has been nearly unbeatable of late, allowing two goals or fewer in his last seven starts.
And as always, he does it with a lot of flair. This week, Smith made a pair of sensational stops — robbing Zemgus Girgenson with a great pad save, and flashing the leather on Alex Iafallo.
This just about sums up how things have gone for Craig Anderson and the Senators this season.
Jake Virtanen’s drop pass to nobody was pretty ugly, but there were a bunch of moving parts there. This one by Viktor Arvidsson was just a piping hot pizza — right on the tape of Chris Kunitz and into the back of the net. Arvidsson smashing his stick before the puck even goes in and then finishing it off on the back bar was a nice touch, too.
Best Shootout Goal
Only three games went to the shootout this week, which is great, but that makes finding a standout goal kinda difficult. Fortunately, Connor McDavid was involved and showed off his ridiculously fast hands on his winner against Calgary.
The Vegas Golden Knights have had no problem filling the net this season. Well, for everyone not named Brad Hunt. The journeyman defenseman was the only Vegas semi-regular (he’s played 25 of the team’s 48 games) without a goal this season coming into Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets. Not only did he pick up his first goal on an absolute rocket of a shot, he also added two helpers for the first multi-point game of his career.
This isn’t so much strange as it is awesome, but it’s always great to see a player successfully pull off the fake dump-in.
Strangely enough, this is the second time the Predators have allowed a goal on the fake dump this year. That’s wild.
Also, the organ player in Chicago totally should have started playing The Undertaker’s music when the lights went out at the United Center.
Most Reckless Play
You gotta hand it to Marchand, the guy is finding creative new ways to be dirty. It’s one thing to play on the edge, but this is just stupid and unnecessary.
When it comes to big hits, this one by Ivan Provorov on Tom Wilson was a dandy.
But this high-flying collision between Travis Dermott and Patrick Sharp was something else.
Dermott was so close to hitting his WWE finisher, but Sharp reversed it. pic.twitter.com/SphcSqrKbW
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) January 25, 2018
If you thought the Kings and Ducks dropping the gloves three times in three seconds last week was peak old time hockey, the Stars-Panthers game on Monday was Homer atop the Murderhorn.
The two teams combined for six scraps, including four in the first period, three game misconducts and 138 penalty minutes.
Vilifying referees is nothing new — hell, it’s as old as hockey itself. But the zebras really took it on the chin this week over some pretty suspect goalie interference calls. Even soft spoken stars like Auston Matthews (see below) and Connor McDavid, who received an abuse of official call after letting the refs have it for calling off his OT goal, are throwing shade at them. It’s hard to blame them, or anybody else really, for getting frustrated when there’s no consistency from one call to another.
Goalie interference challenges overturned from "goal" to "no goal"
This season: 33
All of last season: 35
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) January 26, 2018
Monkey off the Back
Vlad Namestnikov put an end to his 13-game goalless drought and five-game pointless slump, which isn’t too crazy (he had a 14-gamer last season) but also kinda crazy considering he lines up next to Steven Stamkos and gets time on the top power-play unit.
The Buffalo Sabres have won three games in a row. I repeat, the Buffalo Sabres have won three games in a row. It’s the first time they’ve done that this season, so they’re officially on a heater. As expected, Jack Eichel has been driving the bus. Although his seven-game point streak ended on Thursday, Eichel has 14 points in the team’s last eight games.
The only player hotter is Sidney Crosby, who has 19 points during his current nine-game point streak.
The Drew Doughty-Matthew Tkachuk rivalry has to be the best blood feud in the game today. They were at it again this week, with Doughty getting the last laugh after setting up the OT winner in Calgary and then taunting the fans. Good stuff. After the game, this is what Doughty had to offer when asked whether his rival is the most hated player in the NHL:
“I’m pretty sure he might be. I have lots of friends on other teams and they don’t love him either. But whatever, that’s how he plays. All it does is fire guys up and guys take over games when that happens. Like tonight.”