March Madness may be right around the corner in College Hoops, but with the home stretch reaching a crescendo, the NHL’s got its own pre-playoff excitement worth keeping tabs on this month.
This week, we’ve got lots of slick hands, improvised saves, some old friends reuniting, a meal plan you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, and everything else worth catching up on from the past seven days in hockey.
Goal of the week
Amid what’s been a somewhat quiet year for Trevor Zegras while toiling on one of the league’s worst teams, the American phenom got back to his old tricks last week, cashing in maybe the nicest goal of the season Tuesday night against the Seattle Kraken. The tally had the hockey world buzzing and even made its way over to the crew on TNT, which led to this hilarious mishap from Jen Botterill.
Save of the week
Oh my goodness Casey DeSmith. With the Philadelphia Flyers buzzing for an equalizer on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, DeSmith pulled this doozy out of his bag of tricks, robbing Owen Tippett blind. That save would prove crucial for the Pens, as they’d follow it up just a few minutes later with an important insurance marker, eventually winning the game 5-1 and staying hot in the thick of a tight Eastern Conference wild-card race.
Nikita Kucherov might be having the quietest comeback season of all time. The 29-year-old has battled injuries at times over the past number of seasons — in some cases very publicly — but has remained healthy for the first time since 2018-19 and is dominating once again. On pace for 118 points, just shy of his career high of 128, there’s a parallel non-McDavid universe where Kucherov has Hart Trophy written all over him, serving as the engine of one of hockey’s best teams yet again — even if he’s had the odd hiccup this year. Want proof of just how dominant Kucherov has been? Look no further than last Thursday night, when he collected this gorgeous assist as part of his league-high seven points this past week.
Hands of the week
The Maple Leafs pulled off a gusty come-from-behind 4-3 win last Tuesday against an excellent New Jersey Devils squad, and Mitch Marner was a big part of it. While Toronto did end up blowing the lead this goal gave them, that shouldn’t diminish from the sweet shorthanded moves put on by the former London Knight on a helpless Vitek Vanecek. Marner eventually went on to pick up an assist on the game-winner as well — capping off a lengthy Maple Leafs road trip in style.
Most wholesome moment of the week
With the Ottawa Senators in the Windy City to take on the Blackhawks last Monday, two of the game’s bright young German stars met for the first time in Tim Stutzle and Lukas Reichel. Both members of the 2020 NHL draft, the pair eventually found themselves on the ice during a post-whistle scrum, leading to this adorable moment between two players with plenty of history dating back to their U16 days.
Worst of the week
To quote Lucille Bluth of Arrested Development: “I mean it’s one pack of Spaghetti Michael, what could it cost, ten dollars?” Needless to say, hopefully, the fan playing the game took the under.
Dish of the week
With his newly-inked $70-million contract in tow, Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin has his sights squarely set on the remainder of the regular season. While Detroit’s slim playoff hopes had faded in recent weeks, that doesn’t mean Motown hasn’t had its share of highlights this season as they emerge from their rebuild. On this one, Larkin winds up the benefactor, as Alex Chiasson makes a slick move between the legs to feed the Wings star, as they combine for a beautiful powerplay tally.
After the Buffalo Sabers sent defenseman Chase Priskie to the Anaheim Ducks on trade deadline day, the 26-year-old did what any other young professional would do after a career change: update his LinkedIn profile. Hey, you never know who might come calling when stumbling upon your digital resume.
Bucket, chuck it
After taking a stick to the face, Erik Karlsson was livid on Tuesday night as the referees swallowed their whistles and failed to make a call. In response, the Swedish defenseman, known more for his even temperament and slick footwork, showed off his arm in protest at the officials, giving his helmet the heave-ho as he headed down the tunnel.
Tony DeAngelo being in the middle of things is certainly nothing new. The often controversial figure has made his fair share of enemies over the years, both on and off the ice, but this one might be a new low. While multiple Lightning players took exception to DeAngelo, it wasn’t initially clear what exactly had occurred. That was until another replay angle showed the not-so-pretty flashpoint of this dogpile.
What’s on the menu?
Jakob Chychrun apparently has the diet of a prehistoric caveman. Whatever gets you results, I suppose.
Following the trade deadline, James Reimer made his thoughts known after San Jose failed to find him a new home to chase a Stanley Cup one last time. If the always optimistic Reimer finds it in himself to make a couple more saves like this larcenous one on Morgan Barron, however, the 34-year-old could find himself another home this summer. Here’s hoping hockey’s most wholesome goaltender gets at least one more shot.
Let the kids play
Carolina’s Storm Surge celebration may not get the headlines once it did, but the tradition is still alive and well and as cute as ever. After picking up a dominant 6-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, the Canes celebrated family day at the rink in the most Hurricanes way possible: bringing out the kids for the game-winning Storm Surge.
Loose Looch blade
Since the removable skate blade phenomenon made its way over to the NHL, it’s hard to imagine any player’s struggles being as funny as the always-imposing Milan Lucic. The hulking Flames grinder got caught with his proverbial pants down — or should we say skate blades out — leaving the veteran tough guy to meekly stumble his way over to the Calgary bench to the delight of every fan giggling along.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are struggling at the moment. Winners of just three of their last ten games, it would be easy for the Bolts to allow frustrations within the room to boil over and create a negative atmosphere around the team. When you’ve won two of the last three Stanley Cups, and made the finals three years running, it’s probably a lot easier for cooler heads to prevail.
Those good vibes around the team also shone through from the always demanding Jon Cooper, as he graciously waited behind for this young reporter to get his questions in before concluding Saturday’s presser.
Stat of the week
Have you heard the Boston Bruins are good? Well, as it turns out, they’re actually historically good. No team has reached the 50-win plateau faster than Boston has this season, as they picked up the marker on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. The Eastern Conference might be loaded, but it sure is hard seeing anyone top the Bruins in a seven-game series.
No team in the NHL is hotter than the Minnesota Wild right now, as the State of Hockey has picked up at least a point in their last 12 games, rocketing them up the Central standings. They sit just two points behind the Dallas Stars for pole position in the division and three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the top spot in the West.
You would think the biggest culprit has been the team’s superstar combo of Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello — and they have been great — but it’s actually been the defense and goaltending, highlighted by a dazzling .970 team save percentage since March 1st that leads the NHL. by a wide margin. Slowly, yet surely, it looks like Bill Guerin has built a contender in Minnesota, and they could do some damage come playoff time if things keep trending in this direction.
Trending down: Montreal Canadiens
No team in the NHL is as battered and bruised as the Montreal Canadiens are, who have accumulated six straight losses and plummeted firmly into the depths of the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. There’s not a whole lot to look forward to in La Belle Province outside of this spring’s draft lottery given all the injuries, but there have been flashes of a foundation being built. A pair of slick goals this week, in fact, from two of the team’s building blocks Nick Suzuki and Kaiden Guhlemight help ease the pain for Habs fans, and provide an oasis in a desert of unwatchable hockey games.
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