NHL 2018-19 Recap Week 20 – Blackhawks mostly turn it around, Kucherov reaches 100, Blue Jackets make trades, Gritty and Flyers dazzle outdoors
The Chicago Blackhawks are having one of the strangest seasons ever. They started out terribly and then they fired their three time Stanley Cup winning coach as a result. Then they continued to play terribly only to find a spark of life in the third quarter of the season. Patrick Kane was on a 21 game scoring rampage. Jonathan Toews is stilling have his beast season in years. Alex DeBrincat (more on him later) continues to defy expectations. The Blackhawks don’t have problems scoring goals, they are in sixth in that department, but they really aren’t a very good defensive team. They are dead last in goals against and dead last in penalty kill. It’s as shame Corey Crawford isn’t healthy this season both from a personal and team perspective. Because he would certainly makes things a little better. Although they are last in the division, they are only five points out of a playoff spot. As long as the Blues don’t falter, the Avalanche and Stars should be the wildcard teams. They have the most talent of all the teams left competing for the spots. But both are prone to losing streaks. And I wouldn’t count out the Blackhawks and their experience just yet.
Things I like
1. Monday night was a thrilling night of hockey action. 15 goals scored by the Blackhawks and Senators (more on that later). Nikita Kuchrov scored five points (more on him later). But the best game was the San Jose Sharks vs the Boston Bruins. Two teams that will definitely be in the playoffs. There was an early no goal call against Chris Wagner and the Bruins when the puck clearly crossed the goal line. The puck being on edge made it a little difficult to see but there was clearly white in between the puck and the goal line. But as so often happens, these things usually end up balancing out later. This time was no different. Later on Wagner scored a goal when he played the puck after a high stick. The refs ruled it wasn’t a high stick and they were pretty adamant about it. I firmly believe it was a makeup call. Even though they lost, the Sharks had their own moments. Mostly from Joe Thornton who had his first hat trick in eight years and the boyish enthusiasm to match.
2. Nikita Kucherov is the fastest player to reach 100 points in 22 years. And he now has a nice round 30 goals to go with his league leading 70 assists. 100 points was his total for all of last season. His current scoring pace is a blistering 1.61 points per game. That wouldn’t even crack the top 50 all time but none of those records are from the modern era. Only one season by Mario Lemieux happened after the year 2000. Still, it doesn’t seem like anything will slow him down. We should have our first 120 plus point season since 2006-2007 by Sidney Crosby.
3. The Columbus Blue Jackets made two things abundantly clear when they acquired Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Ottawa Senators. One, they really want to make the playoffs. Two, they really don’t think Artemi Panarin will be back. They can say otherwise and they can try and sign him but he won’t be back. In fact, I’d be shocked if he did resign with them. Duchene has paid dividends already with two points in their win over the Sharks. As for their playoff chances, they are starting to look real good. But they will be in a dog fight down the stretch for the final spots.
4. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers played an outdoor game in Lincoln Financial Field in front of a crowd of 67,000. They also played most of the game in the rain. It didn’t seem to affect their play though. In a somewhat related note, I have to say when they first unveiled Gritty my initial reaction was why? Who actually came up with that? But he’s certainly grown on me. From his hair to his gyrating belly, it all just works in a weird and wonderful way. As for the game, it was highly entertaining. The stars came out ot play too. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jakub Voracek all had great games. When the Flyers were down 3-1 with about four minutes left, I thought it was over. But credit to them for fighting back and winning in overtime. Matt Murray really needs to learn to close his five hole faster/better. I know from personal experience it’s not easy but he does this for a living. I really love the trend of the majority of outdoor games going into, at least, overtime. This was the last outdoor game of this season.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Brett Ritchie vs Colton Parayko
This was a great fight with a lot of great punches thrown by both.
Goat of the Week
Gustav Forsling – Chicago Blackhawks
This was a double whammy of badness by Forsling. First he hits his teammate with the clearing pass and then he is slowing in covering Alexander Radulov. The Blackhawks lost to the Stars by one.
Stat Line of the Week
2/18/19 Chicago 8 vs Ottawa 7
In a wild and crazy game that saw 15 goals scored overall and nine scored in the first period, two by the Senators in the first three minutes within 34 seconds of each other, 5’ 7” Alex DeBrincat amassed the most points with a hat trick and two assists. He assisted on what ended up being the game winning goal. Now in his second season, DeBrincat has exceeded all expectations and surpassed his first season. He is now a point per game player too. Picked late in the second round, I’m sure there are a lot of teams kicking themselves right now for passing on him. Other honorable mentions in the game include Mark Stone, Colin White, Brady Tkachuk, Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome.
6 – Unanswered goals by the Maple Leafs in their comeback win over the Canadiens
1 – Games before Mats Zuccarello became injured playing for his new team, the Dallas Stars
118 – Penalty minutes for Evander Kane, first in the NHL and quite a lot for an important player
1 – Point separating four teams in the Eastern Conference, three in the playoffs and one not
15 – Game goalless streak snapped by Patrik Laine
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
February 18, 1936 Americans’ Nels Stewart scored a hat trick and added an assist and Sweeney Schriner had two goals and two assists as New York tied 8-8 with the visiting Maroons. Montreal’s Reginald “Hooley” Smith scored two goals and three assists.
February 19, 1992 Los Angeles Kings acquired Paul Coffey from the Pittsburgh Penguins, in exchange for Brian Benning, Jeff Chychrun and a 1st round draft pick in 1992. The Penguins later traded the pick to Philadelphia (who used the pick to select Jason Bowen).
February 20, 1983 Philadelphia Flyers’ rookie goalie Bob Froese extended his record to 12-0-1 in his first 13 NHL games, with a 3-0 shutout over New Jersey. The win lowered Froese’s GAA to 1.85. Froese’s streak ended with a loss three days later.
February 21, 1942 Toronto’s Syl Apps scored his 100th NHL goal in the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 win against the visiting Brooklyn Americans.
February 22, 1959 Ted Lindsay scored his 6th and final career hat trick (and his only one with Chicago) in the Black Hawks’ 5-1 win against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
February 23, 1993 Al MacInnis played in his 706th career game with the Calgary Flames, to become the team’s all-time leader, as the Flames won 6-3 at San Jose. MacInnis picked up three assists in the game.
February 24, 1982 Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky beat Don Edwards for his 77th goal of the season, to break the NHL record of 76 held by Phil Esposito. Gretzky had a hat trick this night, and went on to score 92 goals for the season. Oilers won 6-3 at Buffalo.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. Tampa Bay
2. St. Louis
30. Los Angeles