NHL 2020-21 Recap Week 3 – Atlantic Division teams excel, COVID spreading, scrappy Blackhawks
A few weeks into the season, the most interesting thing to me is the top three teams are the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs. These three teams are normally in the same division. But now, they are each leading their divisions. And they’ve been playing some very quality hockey.
The Maple Leafs look like they may finally be putting it all together, and they will be the biggest benefactor of the realignment. They should make it to the Conference Finals at the very least. They are fourth in scoring, and their big boys are stepping up. Auston Matthews leads the NHL in goals with ten and game-winning goals with four. Mitchell Marner is third in the NHL in scoring with 20 points. Even Jason Spezza is contributing, recording his 8th career hat trick. Wayne Simmonds has finally started to gain traction, scoring in four of his last six games. Unfortunately, he could now be out up to six weeks after a puck to his hand.
The Bruins look as dangerous as they have the past few seasons. Coming back from late deficits, scoring goals in bunches, and have their top line players deliver when needed. David Pastrnak has been on a tear since coming back with eight points in four games. Patrice Bergeron is 6th in scoring with 15 points, tied with teammate Brad Marchand.
I figured the Lightning would take a step back with their long-run playoff run and losing Nikita Kucherov. But they’ve taken advantage of playing in a weaker division. They’re doing it with a very balanced scoring attack. Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing exceptionally well as always, but my one worry is he’s been a workhorse. I believe he’s the only goalie to start all of his team’s games so far. That can’t continue.
There’s no way to know for sure how good any of these teams are only playing the same handful of teams. But this does give credence to those teams saying the playoff format is unfair because one of these three teams would have gone out in the first round if there was no COVID, which is grossly unfair.
Things I like
1. The Chicago Blackhawks continue to battle through all their injury issues. Patrick Kane is still Mr. Reliable leading the teams with 17 points. Alex DeBrincat has rebounded from a down year and isn’t far behind with 12 points. The two connected on the game-winner in overtime against the Dallas Stars. One thing that Blackhawks have done is what they always seem to do. Stumble upon a number one goalie. I had a feeling Malcolm Subban wasn’t going to be that guy, and he sure isn’t. But Kevin Lankinen looks like he will be that guy.
2. Goalies don’t really get much fanfare, but a few are putting up some boffo numbers. Petr Mrazek, MacKenzie Blackwood, Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Driedger, and Jake Allen. I’m still surprised by Allen because he was so bad on the Blues. Perhaps a change of scenery was all he needed. Driedger is the one name that isn’t familiar. He played in a dozen games last year for the Panthers and was great. This year, he’s even better, and it’s significant because Sergei Bobrovsky continues to struggle as a member of the Panthers. It’s even more meaningful because Driedger is in the final year of his contract, while Bobrovsky has four more years of his massive deal. I don’t see how they can trade Bobrovsky but they can’t lose Driedger either.
Things I don’t
1.Not even a month into the season and COVID cancellations are starting to pile up. We are now up to 27 games be canceled after the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, and Minnesota Wild have all postponed games this week. The New Jersey Devils also postponed when a whopping 17 players were added to the COVID list. It’s amazing to me the NFL even finished their season. Thankfully, the NHL decided to make some changes. Among them are virtual meetings, arriving later to the rink, removing the glass panes around the bench, and installing portable air filters with HEPA filters. Most of these sound like things they should have already been doing. Shockingly, there weren’t already HEPA filters. I had some in my house even before COVID, and they were honestly bought so I could dust less. But a major sports league doesn’t think to have any when playing during a global pandemic. I highly doubt this season will end on time. I hope they go back into a bubble for the playoffs.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Nicolas Deslauriers vs Kurtis MacDermid
A wild, decent and long fight. Most didn’t connect but it was still fun to watch.
Johan Larsson vs Brayden Schenn
A good back and forth scrap with a lot of punches.
Goat of the Week
Adam Henrique – Anaheim Ducks
You can’t see it on the clip but Adam Henrique makes a weak pass off the boards that leads to a short-handed goal by Evander Kane. The Ducks lost in the shootout.
Honorable mention to Braden Holtby passing it right to Auston Matthews for a goal. But the Canucks were already down 3-0 before that so it didn’t matter.
Stat Line of the Week
02/04/21 Nashville 6 vs. Florida 5
Filip Forsberg had a five-point night against the Florida Panthers, including the game-winning goal in overtime. The goal was a bit controversial as the Predators were almost called for too many men on the ice. I thought the puck hit a player’s skate, but I guess it didn’t. Viktor Arvidsson did an excellent job of poking the puck away and setting up Forsberg. Not to be outdone, Jonathan Huberdeau had his own five-point night in a losing effort. Forsberg has yet to average a point a game per season. He’s barely doing that now.
6000 – Regular season goals scored by the Tampa Bay Li�htning franchise
9 – Game point streaks currently for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl
709 – Career goals for Alex Ovechkin, passing Mike Gartner for 7th all time
200 – Career goals by Cam Atkinson
1 – Regulation loss finally for the Florida Panthers and it was against the Detroit Red Wings, eww
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
February 01, 1980 Rookie Wayne Gretzky scored his first career hat trick and added an assist to lead the Oilers to a 9-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. It came in Gretzky’s 50th NHL game.
February 02, 2003 Atlanta’s Dany Heatley tied an All-Star Game record with 4 goals, then added one more in a shootout as the Western Conference beat the East 6-5 in the NHL All Star game in Sunrise, Florida, that ended in a shootout.
February 03, 1968 Boston’s Phil Esposito scored his 100th career NHL goal. It came against the Rangers’ Eddie Giacomin, in a 3-3 tie in Boston.
February 04, 1988 Montreal’s Bobby Smith had a goal and an assist to collect his 800th career NHL point as the Canadiens lost 7-3 at Boston. It was also Smith’s 350th point as a member of the Canadiens.
February 05, 1933 Detroit’s John Roach became the sixth goaltender in NHL history to record 50 career shutouts when the Red Wings won 1-0 over the visiting Chicago Black Hawks. It was Roach’s seventh shutout of the season.
February 06, 1993 Mike Gartner scored four goals and an assist (including a first period hat trick) to lead the Wales Conference to a 16-6 win over the Campbells, at the All Star Game in Montreal. Pierre Turgeon had three goals & two assists in the game.
February 07, 1980 Don Edwards became the Sabres’ all-time leader with his 11th career shutout, and Danny Gare scored his 8th career hat trick, as the Sabres beat Pittsburgh 9-0 at the Aud. Edwards broke the record of 10 shutouts set by Roger Crozier.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
3. Tampa Bay
28. Los Angeles