NHL 2019-20 Recap Week 18 – Auston Matthews scores 40, Canucks, Blue Jackets and Merzlikins biggest surprises, , Coyotes tumble
Auston Matthews scored his 40th goal this season. He’s been a pillar of consistency since he entered the NHL. He’s achieved 40 goals in his four year career twice already and he’s scored at least 34 goals in every season. But it got me thinking about all the young stars in the NHL right now that were taken fairly recently with high draft picks. Matthews, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jack Eichel, Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Mitchell Marner, Patrik Laine, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. They all have one thing in common. None of them have gotten past the second round of the playoffs, besides Laine who did it once. Seguin did play in the finals on the Boston Bruins but he was wasn’t an integral part of the team then. I don’t count it. Eichel hasn’t even made the playoffs. Nothing is guaranteed even when you draft someone lauded as much as Matthews and McDavid were. It’s inevitable, one would think, they will both make a Stanley Cup Final at some point in their career. There’s a good chance it might finally happen for MacKinnon, Seguin or Matthews this season.
Things I like
1. The two biggest surprises thus far this season for me are the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have a lot of young talent but that’s just the thing. They’re young. I thought it would be another season or two before they made the playoffs. But here they are leading their division despite the fact that they’ve lost four in a row. Jacob Markstrom has played better than anyone could have envisioned in goal. But now it gets complicated because both Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson are banged up. The Blue Jackets have got to be the biggest surprise. After losing Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, making the playoffs seemed like quite a stretch. But who needs Bobrovsky when you have rookie Elvis Merzlikins tearing it up? Merzlikins just notched his 5th shutout of the season. In fact, he has five shutouts in his last nine games. Something that’s basically unheard of. The Blue Jackets don’t have any other stars on their team. It’s just a very balanced team. That’s not a bad thing but it’ll be hard to win without anyone stepping up. The New York Islanders can attest to that. But the St. Louis Blues did win it all last year so it’s not impossible.
Things I don’t
1. The Arizona Coyotes have tumbled from first to fifth in the Pacific Division and it won’t be getting an easier. Darcy Kuemper still hasn’t returned from injury and now backup goalie Antti Raanta is also injured. Adin Hill is the starting goalie for now. Although it looks like Kuemper could be back any day now. Taylor Hall has fit in nicely but the Coyotes are still struggling to score goals. Phil Kessel has an ugly -24. He’s generally been a minus player throughout his career but this is his second worst showing. The Coyotes are in the mix for a playoff spot but it wouldn’t surprise me if they just miss out for the second straight season.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Zack MacEwen vs Marcus Foligno
A couple of big boys throwing some big punches.
Nick Seeler vs Nathan Beaulieu
This fight featured two of my favorite things. Fists of fury and players going around and around like a carousel.
Goat of the Week
Kyle Palmieri – New Jersey Devils
The Devils, bless their hearts, were up 3-0 more than halfway through the second period and on a power play. And then it all started going to hell. The Devils were bringing the puck up the ice until Palmieri tried to pass the puck through a defender. That defender, Joel Armia, took it the other way for the break away goal. The Devils ended up losing in the shootout.
Stat Line of the Week
02/03/20 Florida 5 vs Toronto 3
This was a wild game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers. If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of Mark Pysyk. Pysyk was a late first round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 2010. He has 83 points in 402 NHL games. That’s pretty bad for a first round pick. And it makes the Sabres look even worse for drafting him where they did. He scored five goals for the Sabres in his four year career there. Although in his defense none of them were full seasons. But in this game, Pysyk delivered. He scores the first goal of the game by parking himself in front of the net and receiving a great pass. The Panthers then found themselves trailing 3-1 in the third. The Maple Leafs get a little sloppy in their own end and turn it over courtesy of great pressure by Mike Hoffman. Pysyk ends up in front of the net again and bats home the rebound. Down by one in the final minute of the game, Pysyk forces a turnover at center ice and goes in for the empty net goal to finish his hat trick. Pysyk may be a bust but he worked hard for his three goals in this game and he has great hockey sense. Makes you wonder why he hasn’t produced more.
1502 – Career NHL points for Joe Thornon, only the 14th player to pass that milestone
800 – Career NHL points for Claude Giroux
1 – Shot in the third period by the Toronto Maple Leafs in their loss to the Canadiens
14 – Goals for Alex Ovechkin in his last 8 games, including 3 hat tricks
3 – Shutouts in Tuesday nights games
5 – Points for Mark Stone in the Vegas Golden Knights win over the Florida Panthers
46 – Saves by MacKenzie Blackwood in the New Jersey Devils shutout win over the Philadelphia Flyers
37 – Saves by MacKenzie Blackwood in the New Jersey Devils shutout win over the Los Angeles Kings the very next game
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
February 03, 1952 Detroit’s Gordie Howe began a team-record 8 game goal scoring streak in the Red Wings’ 4-3 win over the visiting New York Rangers.
February 04, 1989 Guy Lafleur returned to Montreal for the first time since 1984. Playing for the NY Rangers, Lafleur had two goals and an assist, but the Canadiens won 7-5. Shayne Corson scored his first career hat trick for Montreal.
February 05, 1944 Toronto rookie Ted Kennedy set an NHL record with three power play goals (his first career hat trick), as the Maple Leafs won 3-1 over Detroit.
February 06, 2002 Paul Kariya celebrated his 500th NHL game with his 7th career hat trick, as the Mighty Ducks won 5-4 against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.
February 07, 1976 Boston’s Jean Ratelle scored twice to give him 350 career NHL goals, and added two assists when the Bruins lost 11-4 at Toronto. In the same game John Bucyk scored his 1,283rd career point to move into second place all-time behind Gordie Howe.
February 08, 1958 Boston’s Harry Lumley became the second goaltender in NHL history to record 300 career victories. The milestone win came in a Bruins’ 7-3 win at Toronto.
February 09, 2001 Paul Kariya scored twice to become the first player to get 500 points as a member of the Mighty Ducks, in Anaheim’s 4-3 loss to the visiting Washington Capitals.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. Tampa Bay
28. Los Angeles
26. St. Louis