(Life’s busy — it’s not always easy to stay on top of everything happening around the NHL. So in case you missed it, here are some of the best and worst highlights of the week.)
The Thomas Vanek signing continues to pay dividends for the Vancouver Canucks.
After a five-point effort against the Blackhawks on Thursday, the 33-year-old veteran is now second on the team in goals (12) and points (28) and is on pace for his first 60-point season since 2011-12. It’s the second time in the last four games Vanek has filled up the score sheet, having collected four points against the Canadiens last week. He’s also proven to be a good mentor for stud rookie Brock Boeser.
You really can’t ask for more from a rental, who went for a third-rounder last year and should be able to bring back at least that at the 2018 deadline.
Nicest Individual Goal
Leon Draisaitl said Patrick Kane “made him look like a junior player” after getting danced in OT, but he shouldn’t be too hard on himself. Kane makes a lot of players look out of their league, especially when given extra space at 3-on-3.
Best Squad Goal
If you give the Lightning room to operate, they’re going to make you pay. Sean Couturier made that mistake with an abysmal defensive effort, and the Lightning dissected the Flyers with some precision passing.
Might as well rename this the John Gibson Award, because he’s done it again. It’s not as outrageous as his previous work, but it’s an incredibly athletic save on Sidney Crosby. There were some other good stops this week, like this one by Connor Hellebuyck, but it’s gotta be decisive if you’re gonna take the belt from the champ.
Even the best goalies have their moments. This week it was Sergei Bobrovsky, who gifted Ottawa’s Nick Paul one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score.
This was a pretty ugly giveaway by Josh Manson, same goes for this one by Jamie Benn, but Kris Letang takes the cake this week. He just straight up misses his man on a simple D-to-D pass and the puck ends up in the back of the net, albeit thanks to a nice finish by Ondrej Kase.
Best Shootout Goal
Joonas Donskoi is the new Jussi Jokinen — he’s perfected his shootout move and he hasn’t missed on three chances this season, including his latest against Calgary on Thursday.
Another player who has mastered the craft is Mats Zuccarello. There’s just something so satisfying about his patient approach, which he pulled off again this week against Washington.
It took 13 years, but Jeff Glass finally made it.
A third-round pick of the Senators back in 2004, the 32-year-old netminder made his long-awaited NHL debut for the Blackhawks on Friday. Glass not only picked up the win, but he played a starring role making 42 saves, including a big stop on Connor McDavid and shutting down Draisaitl on a breakaway.
Nothing too bizarre this week, but this double clothesline by Dale Weise was different.
Dale Weise skates between two players with a high stick and knocks them over. The ultimate description of Dale Weise the hockey player. pic.twitter.com/hZ58KzRD4n
— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) December 30, 2017
Most Reckless Play
It’s really not worth defending a player like Zac Rinaldo — the NHL would be better off if he never laced up the skates again. But Samuel Girard has to know he’s taking a risk by skating towards a dangerous and unpredictable player like Rinaldo after that hit, even if he had no intention of dropping the gloves.
Why pick one hit when you can have an entire shift of them! Bless you, California hockey.
A quality fight between two guys most people don’t mind seeing taking a few off the chin. Ryan Kesler clearly got the better of Matthew Tkachuk, but things didn’t go as well when he fought his dad, Keith, 12 years ago. Brady, you’re up next.
Max Pacioretty hasn’t scored in 11 games, and he hasn’t really done much else either, with only four assists over that span. It’s a pretty jarring drop for one of the NHL’s top goal-scorers over the last six seasons. And when you’re the captain and top offensive player for a proud franchise, you better believe you’re going to hear about it.
Max Pacioretty 20 games without a goal. A quarter of a season. For your captain and premier goal-scorer.
— Jack Todd (@jacktodd46) December 29, 2017
Monkey off the Back
A 24-game goal drought isn’t a big deal for most defensemen, but most defensemen don’t score as much as Justin Faulk. The Hurricanes blue-liner came into this week with one goal on the season despite scoring more goals than all but five defensemen over the previous three seasons, including 17 in 2016-17.
Nothing like a match against the Sabres to change your fortunes, as Faulk scored twice, including this laser in Carolina’s 4-2 win over Buffalo last Saturday.
James Reimer has been on some kind of run, but no two players have been more dominant of late than John Tavares and Josh Bailey. That line’s been a juggernaut all season, but their recent production has been absurd. Tavares has 18 points during his nine-game point streak, including four in three games this week, while Bailey has the same amount of points over his 10-game streak. Also, the Golden freakin’ Knights, man. Just when you think the dam is going to break, they reel off six straight wins and push their points streak to 11 games. What a ride.
Somebody get Robin Lehner a tinfoil hat. After his incredible diving save against the Islanders was called a goal after video review, Lehner had some theories on what transpired.
“I guess it’s something in Buffalo waters, you know,” Lehner said after the game, referring to the Bills’ overturned TD against the Patriots a few days prior.
“Everything is predetermined against us.”
“I know Toronto already made up their mind it was a goal before they shot the puck,” Lehner said. “It’s just how it works in this league.”
Rest in peace, Johnny Bower.