NHL 2016-17 Recap Week 6 – Maple Leafs rising sort of, Capitals make Statement, Injury Bug part 2, Oilers Slump but rebound with McDavid and more
About a quarter of way through the NHL season what can we make of the league’s most perplexing team, the Toronto Maple Leafs? Let’s look at a handful of their most recent games. In their last six games, before the game against Montreal on Saturday night, they had four wins in which they scored six goals every time, which is really impressive. But the also got creamed 7-0 by the Kings and lost 4-1 to the Penguins. So score six goals a game in four wins and in two losses give up eleven goals and score only one. That’s quite different. They did almost tie the Canadiens in Montreal, which is impressive. They played them very tight.
Of course a young team will be inconsistent and despite its downs, this team seems like it’s on the rise. Of course we though this a few seasons ago, when they finally made the playoffs and then we never heard from them again. But James van Riemsdyk, Mitchell Marner, Tyler Bozak, William Nylander, Nazem Kadri, and Auston Matthews form a formidable top six forwards. Marner has especially impressed. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are coming along on the backend. Frederik Andersen has been a disappointment so far but it’s still early. Goalies take awhile to get into a groove, especially with a new team. The Maple Leafs will contend for a bottom playoff spot but, if I was them, I’d rather nab one more high pick. Marner and Matthews show you just how valuable a top 5 pick can be. One more used on a defenseman or a goalie would really set them up for the long run.
Things I like
1. The Washington Capitals had a statement game with the Pittsburgh penguins. And boy did they make a statement. The thrashed the Penguins in both ends, frustrated Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and knocked out Matt Murray, even if was Penguin’s’ player who actually hit him. But 7-1 is a pretty good thumping, especially since the Penguins didn’t score until three minutes left in the game and the Capitals never relented and scored three in the 3rd period. This is a good blueprint of how to beat them in the playoffs. Whether they can sustain it for seven games is another story. The Rangers, Penguins and Capitals will finish one through three in the division so it’s possible they won’t meet in the playoffs but unlikely. Whoever wins the division will definitely have an advantage.
2. Alex Galchenyuk was drafted with the 3rd overall pick in 2012 and, naturally, that comes with high expectations. For the most part, he has not meet them. Although he did have 30 goals last season, that was his only season with a high goal output, and he had only 56 points, which was also a career high. This season he is actually delivering. He had a six game point streak, he is averaging a point a game and he had the game winner just seconds into the second period in the Canadiens win against the Maple Leafs. The only downside is his face-off percentage is under .400 and he’s way down over his previous two seasons. Can’t win them all I guess.
Things I don’t
1. After having a lot of injuries to begin the season, we now have the second wave of injuries. And man did the stars go down. Steven Stamkos, Johnny Gaudreau, Anze Kopitar, Taylor Hall, Tomas Hertl, and T.J Oshie. Add that to a list that already included Marian Gaborik, Jonathan Quick, Jack Eichel and half the Dallas Stars’ roster, among others. The injury to Gaudreau was the most troubling. SB Nation (link below) broke down at least 21 instances were he was slashed or contacted in some way. Some of them are a part of hockey but I think if you are purposely targeting a smaller star player over and over again, the refs should, occasionally, call a penalty. Otherwise this type of thing will be encouraged. And it will be harder for smaller players to get into the NHL. Not to mention if he was Wayne Gretzky, he would be getting at least some of those calls.
2. The Oilers had lost five in a row heading into Dallas. Having given up almost four goals a game and scoring under two. Connor McDavid hadn’t scored a goal in ten games either. Not surprisingly, the Oilers were only 2-8 in that stretch. And their coach Todd McLellan said the team relies on McDavid too much. Which is somewhat true, given that they are undefeated (5-0) when he scores at least one goal. Against the Stars, McDavid recorded his first career hat trick. It’s hard to imagine it took until his second season to get his first hat trick, even with missing almost half of his first season. But it’s the remarkable way he got the hat trick that needs mention. A lot of it was aided by the Stars defense, unintentionally, but it still required McDavid’s exceptional hockey sense. In his first goal McDavid looks to pass but with no options available, he just directs it on net and scores. Granted that goal doesn’t happen without John Klingberg knocking it in but it’s the mind presence of David to just through it at the net if all else fails. For his second goal, after passing it to the point McDavid just kinds of floats to where he thinks a rebound might be likely. Sure enough, it goes right to him and he scores an easy one. The third goal is the best one for me though. He tries to make something happen in the Stars end but loses control of the puck off a Stars player’s skate but rather than trying to regain it, he senses his teammate streaking down so he leaves the puck for him and goes to the opposite side of where a rebound might happen. And sure enough with a long rebound and his long reach, he scores another easy one. He has a hockey mind like Gretzky. The skill to always be where the puck will end up.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a lot easier to do.
Zack Kassian vs Josh Manson
A couple of big boys going at it, in a no balance fight.
J.T. Brown vs Scott Mayfield
A decent fight with contrasting styles.
Micheal Haley vs Ryan White
More big boys going at it, with helmets popping off.
Goat of the Week
Brad Richardson – Arizona Coyotes
Richardson commits a double whammy of ultra carelessness. First he whacks the puck off a Flames player with a pass attempt and then he completely fans trying to clear it. Which even if he made contact with it, I’m not sure it would have ended up any better. Frolik pounces on the puck to score the overtime game winner. Tough way to lose a game.
Stat Line of the Week
11/15/16 Tampa Bay 4 vs. Detroit 3
In the second game of a back to back for the Lightning, Nikita Kucherov scored the opening and closing goal and assisted on the 2nd goal. Kucherov has been huge for the Lightning and now with Stamkos out will need to come up even bigger. Kucherov is leading the NHL in scoring and is also on pace to have his first over a point per game season.
1 – Broken stick winner by Ekblad of the Panthers against the Canadiens on a 3 on 2 advantage caused by, you guessed it, a broken stick
6 – Goalies with GAA under 2.00
.948 – SV% for Devan Dubnyk
.950 – SV% for Carey Price
.953 – SV% for Andrei Vasilevskiy
601 – Career points for Jeff Carter
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
November 14, 1971 Boston’s Bobby Orr scored his second career hat trick and added three assists for a six point night, in an 11-2 win over the visiting Los Angeles Kings.
November 15, 1992 Philadelphia rookie Eric Lindros scored three goals for his first career NHL hat trick, and added an assist, and Mark Recchi had a goal and four assists to lead the Flyers to a 7-2 win over Ottawa at the Spectrum.
November 16, 1969 Boston’s Bobby Orr had the first four assist game of his NHL career, as the Bruins beat the Kings, 7-4.
November 17, 1992 Arturs Irbe made 39 saves to record the first shutout in the San Jose Sharks team history, a 6-0 win over the Kings, at the Cow Palace in Oakland, California. It came in the Sharks’ 99th all-time NHL game. It was also Irbe’s first career shutout.
November 18, 1979 Buffalo Sabres faced Edmonton for the first time in team history, and beat the Oilers, 9-7 in Buffalo. Larry Playfair scored his first NHL goal, while Gilbert Perreault added two goals and two assists.
November 19, 1983 Wayne Gretzky scored his 21st career hat trick and added five assists to lead the Oilers to a 13-4 win over New Jersey, in Edmonton.
November 20, 1951 Terry Sawchuk recorded his fourth shutout of the season (and the 16th of his career) as the Red Wings extended their team-record road undefeated streak to 9 straight games (6-0-3) with a 2-0 win at Boston.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
3. NY Rangers
4. Tampa Bay
29. NY Islanders
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.