NHL 2020-21 Recap Week 11 – Carter Hart returns, Nashville Predators hot, Mathew Barzal’s big day
The Buffalo Sabres finally won a game. Hooray! They still stink. They’ll have to settle for a tie of the longest losing steak in NHL history at 18. The win is more problematic for the team they beat, the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have now hit rock bottom. Between losing this game 6-1 and having to crawl back from a 0-3 deficit to be in the Sabres on the previous game, things aren’t looking good. Even more problematic is the handling of Carter Hart.
Hart is the goalie under the most scrutiny since Carey Price. Price wasn’t very good his first three seasons. To say Hart’s third season has not gone well would be an understatement. But having your coach say publicly you need to work harder and then benching you for a couple of games against the worst team isn’t good. Although considering how those games went, maybe it was good he was benched. I don’t know Hart, but some people don’t react well to negativity. His teammates were a little more positive. At least general manager Chuck Fletcher is realistic. He noted other notable goalies who had their ups and downs when they started.
Hart found his way back as a starter against an excellent New York Islanders team. The Islanders won in the shootout, but Hart was excellent and made some crucial saves late. I hope this is a start of a turnaround for him.
Things I like
1. One of the hotter teams right now are the Nashville Predators, who have surprisingly nabbed the last playoff spot in the Central. 9-2 in their last eleven games, they are slowly starting to pull away from the Chicago Blackhawks. Juuse Saros has been on fire in those games. Two shutouts and a blistering .967 SV% in his last eight games. The Predators’ first-round pick in 2017, Eeli Tolvanen, seems to have found a groove lately in his first full season, scoring ten points in his last eight games. I had thought and hoped The Blackhawks or Dallas Stars would get the last playoff spot in the Central, but it looks like it could be the Predators. Although they aren’t better than the three teams above them, you never know what may happen if Saros is hot in the playoffs.
2. The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins played a highly entertaining and odd game on Saturday. The Bruins received all seven of their goals from either Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, or David Pastrnak. That tells you just how top-heavy this team is, only you already knew that. But when they are on, they are on fire. They scored one goal 11 seconds into the second period and another 34 seconds later. Seven goals were scored in the second period. Both teams had some pretty passing too. Then it got weird at the end of the game. Kris Letang hooked David Pastrnak on his way to an empty net. Only the refs didn’t award the goal, only a penalty. Sidney Crosby ended up scoring a short-handed goal about fifty seconds later to draw within one. On the ensuing face-off, Bergeron hit Crosby in the face with the butt of his stick. Crosby sold it like the worst thing ever, and after reviewing it, the refs gave Bergeron four minutes, something that is deeply puzzling. It wasn’t that bad, and there was no blood. You give him two minutes, and you might call one on Crosby for a flop. Marchand ended up completing his hat trick with an empty-net goal a few seconds later but many questionable calls by the refs down the stretch.
Things I don’t
1. The Los Angeles Kings have traded a fourth-round pick for bottom-six forward Brendan Lemieux. Shoring up the bottom six is something teams who plan on going deep in the playoffs do. The Kings aren’t making the playoffs this season. And they sure as hell aren’t next season when things go back to normal. Unless they think Lemieux has potential, something I doubt, this is an extremely stupid trade. However, it is right on par with what the Kings have been doing. Keep your draft pick.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Givani Smith vs Riley Stillman
A long hoss fight.
Luke Johnson vs Jeffrey Viel
Some haymakers in this one.
Samuel Morin vs Ross Johnston
Like a boxing match, complete with a knockout.
Robert Bortuzzo vs Liam O’Brien
Short and sweet. Preceded by a line brawl.
Goat of the Week
The most egregious error came early when Haydn Fleury passed it right to the Stars. Several failed clearing attempts later, Tanner Kero scored the game-winning goal.
Stat Line of the Week
04/01/21 New York 8 vs. Washington 4
One of the negatives of the New York Islanders is they don’t score enough goals. But against the Washington Capitals, they showed they could hang. They doubled up the Capitals, and Mathew Barzal looked like a superstar. Brazal came back for the puck in the defensive zone, weaved through half the ice before setting up a goal with his secondary assist. His first goal was unassisted. He took the puck from behind his own net and skated into the offensive zone, where he skated around four Capitals and scored. The next goal, he picked up the loose puck, did a one-eighty, and sniped it into the net. Then he dishes to Jordan Eberle on a 2 on 1 for a goal. To finish his third career hat trick, he skated to where he thought the puck would go and batted it out of the air and into the net. If he can play like this in the playoffs, the Islanders can win the Stanley Cup.
1 – Hat trick in the first period by Joonas Donskoi
13 – Game unbeaten streak for the Colorado Avalanche
6 – Goals by Phil Kessel in his last five games
10 – Game active point streak for Adam Fox
20 – Players and coaches, at least, on the Vancouver Canucks with COVID, some of whom are very ill
265 – Power-play goals by Alex Ovechkin tying him with Bret Hull for second all-time
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
March 29, 1997 Ron Francis scored his 400th and 401st career NHL goals and added an assist, and Ken Wreggett appeared in his 500th game in goal, in the Penguins’ 4-1 win over the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
March 30, 1944 Doug Bentley scored a hat trick for the second consecutive game to lead the Black Hawks to a 5-2 win over the Wings, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals, at Detroit. Two nights earlier he scored the first hat trick in Chicago playoff history.
March 31, 1990 John Tanner made his NHL debut in goal for the Nordiques (in a 3-2 loss to the Hartford Whalers) to make Quebec the first team in NHL history to use 7 goalies in one season. The ’34 Americans and ’80 Oilers had each used 6 goalies in one season.
April 01, 1976 Flyers extended their team-record home winning streak to 19 straight games, Bobby Clarke set a team record with five assists, and the Flyers set a team record with 62 shots in an 11-2 win over Washington, at the Spectrum.
April 02, 1985 Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky set an NHL record with his 34th career hat trick (and added an assist) as the Oilers beat the Kings 6-4 at Los Angeles. Gretzky broke the record of 33 career hat tricks, set by Mike Bossy two months earlier.
April 03, 1983 Boston’s Brad Park became just the second defenseman in NHL history to score 600 career assists. The milestone came in a 4-4 Bruins tie against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
April 04, 2003 Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Marc Denis set an NHL record for most minutes played in one season (with 4,451) in a 5-5 tie against the visiting Detroit Red Wings. He broke the mark of 4,443 set by Martin Brodeur in 1995-96.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
4. Tampa Bay
28. St Louis
27. Los Angeles