NHL 2020-21 Recap Week 6 – Claude Julien is fired, Minnesota Wild are hot, Rittich’s bad day, Knyzhov’s bloody head
In a head-scratching move, Claude Julien was fired as coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Coaching the hottest team to start the season doesn’t get you very far in a what have you done for me lately world. But firing anybody during a bizarre pandemic season doesn’t make much sense. Teams didn’t have a preseason or much of a training camp. They’ll also have to deal with games being canceled at any time, losing players at any time, and repeatedly playing the same teams will undoubtedly make playing you easier. There’s a reason why it’s hard for NFL teams to beat the same team three times in a season.
Sure losing to the Ottawa Senators is never good, but the Senators have come a long way since their abysmal start. And they only lost in overtime and the shootout. The Senators beat the Calgary Flames 6-1 the next game, so it could have been worse. The Canadiens are still in a playoff spot. I find it hard to believe they thought they could contain their hot start. It seems like they wanted to get rid of Julien during the off-season but felt they couldn’t due to COVID. Then they got off to a hot start. I’m sure they saw this as the opening they needed. Unless they lose ten in a row, there’s no reason to fire anyone now. Especially, a coach who took the lowest-seeded and least talented team in the 2020 NHL playoffs beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round and played better than expected against the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. Then they got off to a hot start during the following season that was never going to be normal due to COVID. Claude Julien deserved better. The Canadiens have lost two straight since the firing, so naturally, it didn’t help.
Things I like
1. Don’t look now, but one of the hottest teams in the NHL are the Minnesota Wild. There needs to be a fourth team making the playoffs in that division so why not the Wild. The Wild are one of the strangest teams. Their starting goalies are Cam Talbot, who looks like he’ll end up on every team at this rate, and Kaapo Kahkonen, a rookie who was drafted in 2014. Their leading scorer, Kirill Kaprizov, isn’t averaging a point per game, is a rookie, and was drafted in the 5th round in 2015. Their second-leading scorer was also drafted in 2015. Their third-leading scorer, you guessed it, was also drafted in 2015. He also has the most Swedish name ever, Joel Eriksson Ek. Zach Parise is still on the team, but no, he will never be great again. It’s doubtful they can sustain this level of play. It wouldn’t surprise me if they made the playoffs, though. There are only three good teams in this division. I thought the Arizona Coyotes would get the last spot, but the Wild may just do it instead. Matt Dumba continued the Minnesota magic by scoring the overtime winner against the Los Angeles Kings with one second left in overtime. Bad defense by the Kings helped too.
Things I don’t
1. Marcus Foligno decided to use rookie Nikolai Knyzhov’s head as a punching bag. He begged the refs to stop the fight. But he could also have, o I don’t know, stopped punching him. If you’re clearly better than someone else, there’s no reason to keep fighting them. I’m not one of those people who wants to eliminate fighting from hockey, but I do like it reduced. Knyzhov tried to make a name for himself by taking a beating. His teammates were impressed and said he had courage. I have another word for it, dumb. I can stand there and get punched in the face by someone much bigger than me, but I don’t because it’s, well, stupid. It’s a good way to get a concussion too. Speaking of which…
2. David Rittich had a bad day. He gave a goal from center ice and then got pulled and promptly smashed his head against the wall while heading to the locker room. I’ve given up one of those bad goals before in a pickup game. They look bad, but honestly, they’re way tougher than dealing with a breakaway. The combination of it being unexpected, from such a large distance, having it bounce funny and be way slower than a normal shot makes it difficult because it’s so much different than what you are used to. In his case, it took a funny deflection, and he was positioned properly. Not the worse goal. I don’t approve of his head-bashing, though, even with your helmet on. Take your stick and break it against something like a normal person.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Jamie Oleksiak vs Patrick Maroon
A long hoss fight but it was dominated by Oleksiak.
Goat of the Week
San Jose Sharks
The St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks played a wild 7-6 game. There were bound to be some turnovers with that many goals, and there were. Most Blues’ goals were scored from Sharks turnovers in their own end. But almost all of those were forced from really great forechecking by the Blues. Below is the worst one. At least four different Srkas players had a chance to clear, and none of them did. Rudolfs Balcers makes a blind pass backward to no one in particular, and Marco Scandella takes advantage of that. The Blues won by a goal.
Stat Line of the Week
02/24/21 Dallas 3 vs. Florida 0
Anton Khudobin was a workhorse against the Florida Panthers. He made a lot of saves. He gave up two goals on 51 shots in the first game and in this game, he stopped all 43 shots. The Dallas Stars didn’t have the greatest February. A quarter of their games were canceled and they only produced two wins. This shutout was one of them.
4:33 – Time elapsed between the first and last of the only three goals scored by the Maple Leafs and Flames during the final minutes of the third period and overtime.
4 – Games decided in overtime on Saturday Night, a fifth was decided in the shootout
1 – Shutout by the Islanders against the Penguins the first since 1986.
5 – Players with 30 or more points
1 – Team in the top five in goals for and against. Yup, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nope, I still don’t think they’ll repeat.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
February 22, 1993 Toronto’s Glenn Anderson scored a goal and three assists to become the 36th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000 career point mark. The Maple Leafs won 8-1 over the in Vancouver.
February 23, 1991 Quebec rookie Mats Sundin scored his second career hat trick as the Nordiques lost 10-8 at Calgary.
February 24, 1935 Boston goalie Tiny Thompson became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to record 50 career shutouts, when the Bruins tied 0-0 with the Rangers, at New York. Davey Kerr got his 15th career shutout for New York.
February 25, 1998 Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock recorded his 100th career win when the Stars beat the Islanders, 4-1 at Long Island. Hitchcock reached 100 wins in 183 games (100-62-21), the 12th fastest in NHL history.
February 26, 1981 Dave Taylor scored his 92nd point of the year to set a Kings record for most points by a right wing in one season. It came in a 4-3 win against the Canucks.
February 27, 1984 Paul Coffey became the first defenseman in Oilers’ history to score 100 NHL goals, and added two assists as Edmonton tied a team record with its 8th consecutive win, a 6-5 overtime win against the Jets at Winnipeg.
February 28, 2002 Mike Modano became the first player in Dallas Stars’ franchise history to get nine 30-goal seasons, when he scored a power-play goal with just one second remaining in overtime for a 4-3 win over the Canucks at Vancouver.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
3. Tampa Bay