NHL 2019-20 Recap Week 15 – Golden Knights fire Gallant, Crosby is back, Kubalik and Ovechkin are hot
The firing of Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerad Gallant was a bit of shocker. It was also unwarranted. Here’s a coach who has won division titles, taken this team to the Stanley Cup Finals and then the playoffs and more than likely another playoff appearance. I know the team isn’t in a playoff spot currently but just a few wins can take you to first in the division. Is the team underachieving? Sure. But they had a slow start last season too. Every season can’t be like their first one. I think that’s part of the problem. They got spoiled by their inaugural season. It was even more puzzling with who they picked to replace him, Pete Deboer. Apparently, he’s regarded as one of the best coaches in the NHL. I’m not sure where they are getting that from. He’s never won anything. Is he terrible coach? Of course not. He’s made it to two Stanley Cup Finals with two different teams. But there’s better coaches than him. He isn’t an upgrade over Gallant. Barry Trotz, Joel Quenneville and Mike Sullivan are all upgrades. But of course none of them are available. If they had replaced Gallant with Peter Laviolette, who is available, that would have been better. He’s made it to three Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams and he actually won one of them. But Deboer? Just no. Sometimes these coaching changes aren’t really about the coaches though. It’s about sending a message to the players. Perform better or you’re next. I’m pretty sure that is what this was about and I think they got the message. Whether it ignites them or not is another matter.
Things I like
1. Sidney Crosby made his return from a two month absence and man was his presence missed. He came back even stronger than when he left. Scoring four points in his return against the Minnesota Wild. And everyone one of those was a thing of beauty. My favorite was when he lost his man by making a move and passing it to himself off the back of the net and then assisting on a goal.
He then had a point against the Boston Bruins and the game-winning goal off a deflection in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings. He then had two more assists when they played the Bruins again. Crosby had no points in his last four games before he was injured but he has eight points in his first four games back.
2. If you’ve never heard of Dominik Kubalik, you aren’t alone. Kubalik is a 7th round draft pick… from 2013. Yet he’s just now in his rookie season. Primarily because he played in the Czech league since he was drafted. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings but he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. And what a rookie season he is having for them. In his last nine games, Kubalik has 14 points. He has ten goals in his last eight games. His teammate Jonathan Toews has also been hot lately with 13 points in his last six games. The Blackhawks have also won five straight.
3. Alex Ovechkin had a busy week. He scored back to back hat tricks to give him eight goals in his past three games. He notched his 15th straight 30 goal season and he now has 692 career NHL goals. Ovechkin is now 9th in the NHL in all time goals, tied with Steve Yzerman. He now only needs 202 goals to tie Wayne Gretzky. If he can play another five seasons, he has a great chance to do it. They would make him 39 at the point. It won’t be easy but he has a chance to do it.
Things I don’t
1. Even though it is only January, my two favorites to win the Stanley Cup have already finished their season series. Despite the fact that they play in the same division, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars won’t meet again. They seems like bad scheduling to me. What’s more interesting is the Stars swept the Avalanche in the series. Not what one would expect. They weren’t blowouts. All but one game was of the one goal variety. But it’s still an impressive feat nonetheless. The other depressing thing is it’s looking more and more likely they will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Just another reason why I hate the current format.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Ross Johnston vs Micheal Haley
Johnston used Haley as his personal punching bag until Haley mounts a little comeback. But he did pretty good considering the six inch difference.
Jamie Benn vs Matt Calvert
This one was funny because Calvert dropped the gloves to fight Benn but Benn just skated away. They ended up fighting the very next face-off. Calvert didn’t do that great considering how badly he wanted to fight.
Goat of the Week
Almost all of them – Boston Bruins
Like the beginning of most of these bad plays, this one starts with the goalie poorly playing the puck. But Jaroslav Halak gets back into the net. Only he stops paying attention. Charlie McAvoy retrieves the puck but doesn’t pass it for some reason. The other Bruins don’t do anything as they wait for the puck to passed. This is fine. Except once you notice a Penguin is now on McAvoy, you really ought to try doing something. The Bruins don’t. Evgeni Malkin passes to Bryan Rust who beats a napping Halak for the game-winning goal.
Stat Line of the Week
01/13/20 NY Rangers 6 vs NY Islanders 2
In the battle of New York City, Artemi Panarin was a one man wrecking crew against the Islanders. After falling behind 1-0, Panarin figured into the next five Ranger goals. He dished three assists in a row and then scored two breakaway goals. Panarin has been on fire lately with 13 points in his last six games. He’s currently on pace to break all his offensive season highs. I was skeptical when Panarin went to the Rangers. But he’s become an even better player. But I’d hate to see him never make the playoffs while in his prime. Something that’s a strong possibility due to his choice in teams.
1 – Whiff of the puck by Brad Marchand in the Bruins shootout loss to the Flyers
0 – Wins in seven shootouts for the Bruins this season
11 – Seconds into the game when Patrice Bergeron scores against the Penguins on Sunday
12 – Seconds between goals by the Colorado Avalanche against the Blues
3 – Shutouts on 102 shots total in his past four starts for Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
January 13, 1987 Washington’s Larry Murphy recorded his 300th career NHL assist as the Capitals lost 3-2 to the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
January 14, 1993 Don Beaupre became the first goaltender to record 10 shutouts in a Washington Capitals’ uniform, in a 3-0 win against the Islanders at Long Island.
January 15, 2004 Edmonton’s Adam Oates played in his 1,300th career NHL game, and Tommy Salo recorded his 36th career shutout in a 1-0 win over the visiting Anaheim. It was the Oiler’s 9th straight home win over the Mighty Ducks (Dating back to February, 1999).
January 16, 1991 New Jersey’s Kirk Muller scored a goal to become first player in Devils’ franchise history to score 500 points, in a 2-2 tie against Chicago.
January 17, 1987 Detroit’s Steve Yzerman scored his 100th NHL career goal, and added an assist in the Red Wings’ 3-2 win over the visiting Quebec Nordiques.
January 18, 1975 St. Louis goalie Ed Johnston recorded his 200th NHL career victory as the Blues won 5-4 over the visiting Minnesota North Stars. Johnston became the 16th goaltender in the NHL to get 200 wins.
January 19, 1972 Goaltender Tony Esposito recorded his 27th career shutout to lead the Black Hawks to a 2-0 win over the Oakland Seals at Chicago Stadium. Bobby Hull scored both goals.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. Tampa Bay
29. Los Angeles
27. New Jersey