With the New Year's festivities wrapping up and everybody getting back to the real world for good, the unofficial second half of the NHL season is here. As teams begin to seal their fate in the weeks to come, we’ve got everything you need to see from last week after another stellar slate of NHL action.
Goal of the week
With the Colorado Avalanche losing 2-0 and staring down a sixth straight loss, Nathan MacKinnon decided it was time for the reigning Stanley Cup champions to get their season back on track. The Cole Harbour, N.S., superstar goes end-to-end on this work of art, turning Darnell Nurse inside out and embarrassing the Edmonton Oilers with an absolute beauty. That goal proved to be exactly the spark Colorado needed, as it would come all the way back to force overtime before Cale Makar scored his own beauty to secure the win.
Save of the week
Folks, the Buffalo Sabres may not be in a playoff spot right now, but it’s about time we all admit they are #ActuallyGood. As the league’s most lethal offence, the only thing that’s held them back this year has been some goaltending and a few untimely bounces. If young netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen can string together a few more dazzling stops like this one on Connor Sheary, there’s no telling what kind of damage Buffalo could do come April.
Player of the week: Jusse Saros
Don’t let Saros’s 3.00 GAA this week fool you, the Finnish netminder looks like he’s locked in. The Predators' diminutive netminder put on the performance of a lifetime against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, making a franchise record 64 stops to give the surging Predators a big win over one of the NHL’s best teams. Don’t look now, but Saros might just drag the Predators to a playoff spot on his own merit. Having picked up points in eight of their last 10 games, the Preds are just three points back of the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference and hold three games in hand over the Oilers.
Hands of the week
It has been a season to forget for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who look like a certified juggernaut in the NHL’s race to the bottom for Connor Bedard. On the bright side, however, there have been some bright spots in Ohio, including Johnny Gaudreau’s continued excellence, as well as the growth of youngster duo Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger. Johnson in particular has been great during his rookie campaign, thanks in no small part to a nifty set of mitts that made him the 2021 fifth-overall pick. He showed those hands off in dazzling fashion on Saturday in the shootout, when he sent Antii Raanta’s jockstrap to the rafters with a stellar winner.
Dish of the week
Since being dealt by the New York Rangers to the St. Louis Blues for scraps back in 2021, Pavel Buchnevich has put the league on notice as one of the game’s most underrated players. This past week against the loaded New Jersey Devils, Buchnevich once again reminded fans that he is a star, absolutely dumbfounding Jonas Siegenthaler with a cartoonish no-look, spin-o-rama feed to Jordan Kyrou for a highlight reel goal.
Quote of the week
The Vancouver Canucks are undeniably the funniest team in the NHL this year. After months of coaching drama that somehow concluded with Bruce Boudreau retaining his spot as bench boss, Canucks fans have found a new target in J.T. Miller. Fresh off a significant contract extension this summer, Miller’s start to the year has been anything but ideal, as the soon-to-be highest-paid Canuck has just 32 points in 38 games after finishing with 99 points last year. With pressure mounting and fans calling for a trade, Miller decided the best course of action would be to double down, rather than take accountability for his play, with this all-timer quote.
Worst of the week
This pair of Worst of the Week nods go to a pair of dudes that showed some real cajones, literally. First, there’s Blake Wheeler, who upon his return from injury this week revealed he had been dealing with a gruesome lower-body injury that we’ll let you read about at your own discretion. If you're wondering exactly went wrong for Wheeler last month against the Predators, here’s a hint courtesy of NHL linesman Kilian McNamara. I call this one “man getting hit by football hockey puck”.
Wholesome moment of the week
Despite chasing NHL history, Alex Ovechkin has seemingly found the time to show some love to his family while on the ice. This amazing moment courtesy of The Great Eight was simply magical as Ovi cashed his 808th all-time marker, then made his way over to his son Sergei to celebrate yet another goal in his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky.
Funniest moment of the week
Known as one of the league’s most creative players, Trevor Zegras certainly made good on that moniker against the Dallas Stars during a hilarious sequence. After the Ducks star has his stick explode on him, Zegras decides the next best option is to simply take Joel Kiviranta’s twig and try to get involved. Unfortunately for Zegras, that move is decidedly against the rules, leading to one of the easiest penalty calls we’re sure any ref has ever had to make.
With North American hockey supremacy on the line, Kraken forwards Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle decided to lay it on the line when Canada and the USA faced off in the semis of the World Juniors last week. The punishment? Loser decks out in opposing garb for the team’s practice the next day.
Speaking of the World Juniors, while Connor Bedard stole the show, Coyotes forward Dylan Guenther wound up the hero for Canada, scoring the overtime winner to secure back-to-back Canadian golds. Upon his return to the NHL, Guenther and the Coyotes welcomed the Pittsburgh Penguins to Mullett Arena, where Penguins team photographers snapped this awesome picture featuring a pair of golden-goal scorers.
Scrap of the week
This tilt between Brendan Lemieux and Trent Frederic was a heck of a tilt, with both gritty forwards landing several heavy blows. After the game, Frederic, who’s gone against Lemieux more than any other opponent with three fights, let it be known loud and clear that he is no fan of Brendan’s, and there’s little doubt the feelings are mutual.
Dahlin and Ballin’
Rasmus Dahlin’s ascent into stardom has been a joy to watch this season, as the former first-overall selection has put himself squarely into Norris Trophy contention heading into the new year. If he wasn’t the frontrunner before Saturday night, his five-point explosion should certainly help the cause, as he was an absolute menace against the Minnesota Wild en route to a 6-5 OT win. With a pair of goals and three assists, Dahlin was dancing all night long, including this gorgeous toe drag that left Jacob Middleton sprawled on his stomach and searching for answers.
What are those!?
Connor McDavid is a transcendent superstar. He is the most impressive player in the NHL night in and night out and seems poised to waltz his way to his third Hart Trophy. Because of that success, McDavid is the league’s highest-paid player by a wide margin, earning an average of $12 million per year, plus many millions more in endorsement deals. All of that begs the question: Connor, what the hell is going on with these socks?
The Great One’s Touch
This hilarious viral clip from the Winter Classic last Monday is a doozy. After an unnamed Bruins fan snags a high five from Wayne Gretzky, his proclamation to the heavens that his life is only going up from here is immediately answered.
No Flash Photography Please
Brad Marchand was not having it after being sent to the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct following a missed call against the Los Angeles Kings. Rather than letting his rage get the best of him upon taking a seat in the sin bin, Marchand came to a much calmer — and much funnier — conclusion. As the red light turned on for the penalty box camera, the NHL’s top pest decided there would be no close-ups tonight, as he seemingly reaches for the off switch in a hilarious clip.
Making Big Bro Proud
After losing his brother in August of 2021, Kevin Hayes has continued to play at a high level that would no doubt fill big brother Jimmy with immense pride. That exceptional play, which includes sitting second on the Flyers in scoring this season, earned Hayes his first career trip to the All-Star game, something he’d had high on his priority list following his brother’s passing.
With the Winter Classic taking place at Fenway Park, you knew the teams would have to pay homage in some capacity to their respective cities' ball clubs. While some figured a small token may be in order, both the Bruins and the Penguins went all out, showing up decked out in some outstanding throwback Red Sox and Pirates attire. We’ve seen some goofy looks for outdoor games in years past, but this one is an all-timer in terms of showing up in a fit to match the occasion.
Trending Up: Boston Bruins
Can you really be trending up when you’re the best team in the NHL by a mile and a half? The Bruins are on an absolute tear, with an 8-0-2 record in their last 10 games, and still without a regulation loss at TD Garden. It’s all pretty mind-boggling how good the Bruins have been, playing at a 138-point pace that would shatter the 1976-77 Canadiens for the best season of all time.
Trending Down: Pittsburgh Penguins
The same cannot be said for the team that lined up on the other side of the dots for the NHL’s Winter Classic. That loss to the Bruins was the fifth of what has stretched into a six-game losing streak that has seen Crosby and the Penguins tumble down to the Metro Division’s sixth seed. The Penguins have been brutal since their first loss of the streak, sitting bottom five in the NHL in both goals for and allowed during that stretch, while getting outplayed like crazy with a bottom-10 expected goals-for percentage. Things are going off the rails right now in Steeltown, and they’ll need to figure things out quickly while playing in the NHL’s toughest division.
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