NHL 2019-20 Recap Week 7 – Maple Leafs move on from Babcock, Andre Burkovsky rolls, Devils and Bobby Ryan hit rock bottom
The Toronto Maple Leafs fired coach Mike Babcock this week and I can’t say I’m all that surprised. I know they wanted to fire him after last season’s playoff exit. But they waited to see how the Bruins would do and since they almost won the Stanley Cup, they knew they couldn’t do it. But they finally did it and they replaced him with their AHL coach, Sheldon Keefe, because that’s the new thing to do in the NHL. It’s also a great way to get your next coach. I know the Maple Leafs aren’t happy with three first round playoff exits in a row and they shouldn’t be but they just aren’t a lucky team. During the regular season last year they had the holdout with William Nylander and right before Babcock was fired, they lost to the Golden Knights because of a save of the year candidate from Marc-Andre Fleury. Their playoff luck is even worse. In their first playoffs in the Auston Matthews era they finished with the same points as the third place division winner Boston Bruins. But lost the tiebreaker. Had they managed to just get one more point they would have probably beaten the Ottawa Senators in the first round. Instead, they drew the Capitals and we know how that ended. The next season they finished with 105 points, tied for the third most points in the Eastern Conference. But the had to play the team with second most points, Bruins, because of the screwy playoff format. They lost in seven. And of course the lost to the same Bruins in seven last season. And had Nazem Kadri not gotten himself suspended for the series, it might have ended differently. A new coach won’t change your luck. It might change your playing style though. And so far, the new wide open style is producing wins. But Babcock didn’t want to play the team that way because he knows how to win championships and that isn’t the way. He wanted a more defensive and checking approach. Their roster is better built to play the new way and you should play to your strengths. But you can’t ignore the other parts of the game. They might be able to blend in both. But how they do in the playoffs is all that matters. It looks like their luck might finally be changing because it looks like they’ll avoid playing the Bruins in the first round this time.
Things I like
1. Sometimes a change of scenery does wonders for a player. And nowhere is that more evident than with Andre Burkovsky. Burkovsky was buried down the depth chart while playing for the Washington Capitals, he’s had a chance to shine for the Colorado Avalanche with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen injured. And he’s taken advantage of it. On his five game point streak he’s racked up six goals and nine points. He already has 21 points and he should easily obliterate his previous career highs of 17 goals and 38 points. The Avalanche should be fully healthy in a week. I like their chances to go on a roll after that like the Dallas Stars are currently doing.
Things I don’t
1. The New Jersey Devils were one of those teams that had a lot of changes that you were hoping would pan out. So far, they haven’t and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better. Jack Hughes really struggled at the start of his NHL career. Taylor Hall isn’t scoring that much. P.K. Subban hasn’t really fit in. Nico Hischier isn’t really progressing. The icing on the cake was former number one goalie Cory Schneider being waived and then going unclaimed. His season has been a disaster. What’s really a shame is Schneider wasted his best seasons when he first got to New Jersey and the Devils weren’t very good. Now at 33, it’s doubtful he has much left to give. On the positive side, they had a really pretty goal last Saturday on the power play against the Canadiens. Taylor Hall and Jack Hughes had really nice passes to set up Wayne Simmonds. It’ll be a long season but it might lead to something better down the road.
2. Bobby Ryan’s weird and downward NHL career just hit rock bottom. After feeling sick, Bobby Ryan entered into the NHL assistance program and he hasn’t been heard from since. Clearly he’s going through something, which might explain his exceptionally poor performance this season. Just one goal so far, a far cry from his 30 goal seasons. It might also explain his poor performance the last three years too. Whatever it is, I hope he gets the help he needs.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Tom Wilson vs Brendan Lemieux
The fight was a bit unorthodox but it was still great. Both men landed punches that connected. Lemieux ended up with a black eye.
Derek Grant vs Garnet Hathaway
This fight featured a goal, a great hit and the spitting incident among other things.
Goat of the Week
Elvis Merzlikins – Columbus Blue Jackets
If you could think of some of the worst ways to lose a game, this would definitely be one of them. Merzlikins gives it right to Andrew Copp on his attempted clear and then he does a terrible job blocking the shot, mostly because he’s out of position from his clearing attempt. This happened with about two minutes left in a tie game and it was the game-winning goal.
Saves of the Week
It’s time for the goalies to get their due. We had some marvelous goaltending this week. Here are three of the best saves.
Marc-Andre Fluery – Pittsburgh Penguins
Tuukka Rask – Boston Bruins
Anton Khudobin – Dallas Stars
Stat Line of the Week
11/19/19 NY Islanders 5 vs Pittsburgh 4
Brock Nelson has been playing pretty well lately and recently he has the Penguins number. He had a three point night in this game but his overtime winner was a thing of beauty. Anthony Beauvillier did a great job forcing a turnover in the Penguins’ end and then he passed it to Nelson, who shot it. Murray thought he had it but Nelson did a great job of following the shot up and tapping home the lose puck. Beauvillier was also right there to hit. This sequence exemplifies they way the Islanders play. Focus on the little things and stay with it. The Islanders are currently on a 17 game point streak and they don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. They give up the fewest goals in the NHL and they excel at one score games.
450 – Career NHL wins for Marc-Andre Fleury
200 – Career NHL goals for Jakub Voracek, a disappointing number for him
4 – Unanswered goals by the Anaheim Ducks against the Florida Panthers, followed by
5 – Unanswered goals by the Panthers, capping it off with the game-winner in overtime
13 – Game point streak by Leon Draisaitl snapped
11 – Game point streak by Connor McDavid ongoing
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
November 18, 2001 Patrick Roy recorded his third consecutive shutout (the 56th of his career) and Rob Blake ended a 12-game goal-less streak with two goals as the Avalanche won 2-0 against the Devils at New Jersey.
November 19, 1983 Bruce Hood became the first referee to officiate 1,000 NHL games, when Toronto beat Detroit 5-4, at Maple Leaf Gardens.
November 20, 2001 Tommy Salo recorded his 28th career shutout, including his 14th with the Oilers to tie a franchise record for shutouts set by Curtis Joseph as Edmonton won 2-0 against the visiting St. Louis Blues.
November 21, 1942 Turk Broda became the first goaltender to record 150 wins as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The milestone came in an 8-0 win against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
November 22, 1927 The Olympia in Detroit hosted its first NHL game. Ottawa defeated the Detroit Cougars 2-1, before 14,000 fans.
November 23, 2002 Ed Belfour recorded his second consecutive shutout (the 61st of his career) to tie with Colorado’s Patrick Roy for the most among active goaltenders in the Maple Leafs 6-0 win over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.
November 24, 1999 Dallas Stars recorded their 1,000th victory in franchise history, with a 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Los Angeles Kings. The Stars became the 11th NHL franchise to win 1,000 games.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. NY Islanders
3. San Jose