NHL best and worst: Elias Pettersson finally finding his groove

Jordan Eberle turned back the clock for a trademark show of elite skill in the NHL's goal of the week.

Elias Pettersson exploded for a five-point night to headline this holiday edition of the NHL's best and worst of the week. (Getty Images)
Elias Pettersson exploded for a five-point night to headline this holiday edition of the NHL's best and worst of the week. (Getty Images)

Merry Christmas, hockey fans!

The NHL may be on pause as the players head home for the holidays, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of action to keep tabs on over the last week. Here’s the very best, and worst, of everything in an (abbreviated) week of hockey action.

Goal of the week

In honour of the World Juniors coming right around the corner, Jordan Eberle turned back the clock with this beauty of a goal against the Winnipeg Jets. The oft under-utilized but always beautiful spin-o-rama backhand beats David Rittich over the shoulder on an absolute snipe.

Don’t look now, but Eberle has come on in a big way this year with the Kraken. After posting just 44 points in 79 contests last season, the Regina native has bounced back in a big way, with 25 points in 32 games this season.

Save of the week

Whoever in the Capitals front office insisted on picking up Charlie Lindgren in free agency this year deserves a hearty raise. In the wake of an upper-body injury to Darcy Kuemper, Lindgren has come on like a house on fire in December, posting a pristine 8-1 record in games started this month with a .927 save percentage. Lindgren put an exclamation mark on his stellar play in the Caps final game ahead of the break against the Winnipeg Jets, when he made this stellar shorthanded stop on Adam Lowry.

Player of the week

The bright spots have been few and far between during a forgettable start to the Vancouver Canucks' season, however, the emergence of Elias Pettersson has certainly been a joy to watch. The 23-year-old put together a career night against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday, scoring two goals and adding three assists. Then, after neither team had claimed victory following a fast-paced 3-on-3 OT, it was none other than Pettersson himself that notched the shootout winner. Canucks fans are surely thrilled to have another emerging Swedish superstar in their ranks as potentially embark on another long rebuild.

Gentlemanly conduct

In one of the strangest turn of events that you may ever see, Cale Makar took his Lady Byng chase to a whole new level after he declined a penalty on Matthew Barzal and the New York Islanders. Makar did eventually issue an apology to his teammates for the gaffe, if you can even call it that, but this one was just a tremendously wholesome, and frankly bizarre, play that you have to see to believe.

Controller unplugged

Full marks to Juuse Saros on this one, as he refuses to get out of the way of a forechecking Klim Kostin to create one of the funniest hockey highlights of the year. Kostin, as a result, repeatedly lifts his stick over the statuesque Saros, and even checks the bench as if to make sure he’s not going crazy. It seems like Saros’ mind games worked as well, as the Predators eventually topped the Oilers 4-3 in overtime.

Hit of the week

If NHL players weren’t keeping their heads up for Keegan Kolesar before this week, they probably should now. The Vegas Golden Knights forward laid one of the wildest hits of the season, sending all 6-foot-2, 200-pounds of Ilya Lyubushkin hurtling several feet into the air like something out of a video game. Tumbling head over heels, Lyubushkin would ultimately be okay, though we’re sure he’s got a bruised ego to match his bruised backside following this one.

Quote of the week

This past summer, following two seasons in Columbus, Max Domi signed with the Chicago Blackhawks to rebuild his value following a pair of down seasons. Through the first three months of this season, the 27-year-old has done exactly that, tallying a solid 23 points through 32 games thus far, while playing top-six minutes for the rebuilding club. Whether or not the change of scenery is the reason for the improved numbers may be up for debate, but it sure sounds like Domi’s pretty happy in ChiTown, at least based on this hilarious quote on the winger’s winter plans with his family.

Make a save Challenge

The goaltending position in today’s game has never been in a more dire state, as players are more skilled than ever, leaving goalies flailing and allowing more goals than we’ve seen in decades. That’s made handing out big deals to netminders a particularly troubling proposition, evidenced nowhere better than in the NHL’s Pacific Division. Maybe it’s just Connor McDavid making these dudes look silly, but it might be worthwhile for every NHL GM to staple this tweet to their forehead the next time they want to drop a wad of cash on a goalie.

Mr. Predator

On a franchise with a long history of graduating accomplished defensemen, no blueliner has surpassed the exploits of Roman Josi in the music city. This past week, the Swiss-native solidified his place in the Predators history books, passing David Legwand for top scorer in franchise history. Perhaps even more interestingly, Josi joins Ray Bourque as the only defenseman to lead their franchise in point scoring.

Winter Wonderland

For a team in the desert, the Coyotes sure do know how to celebrate the holidays. Check out this fantastic sweater the Desert Dogs wore in warmups last week, complete with the Kachina snowman that looks far too angry to be in the Christmas spirit. Maybe he’s just seen one too many Coyotes games.

Magic Messier

One of the NHL’s greatest leaders has an interesting origin story. While on the That's Hockey Talk podcast featuring former NHLer Mike Rupp, Mark Messier revealed the magical place where he learned what it took to become one of the most influential captains in NHL history.

Ovechkin makes history

Alex Ovechkin’s empty net goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday made NHL history, as he finally passed Gordie Howe for second all-time in goals with 802. The greatest sniper of his generation got to celebrate in front of the home fans on the occasion and even took the time to savour the moment with his opponents, shaking hands with the Jets following the game. The best moment of the night, however, was pos-game, when a reporter asked the Great 8 how he planned to celebrate the big milestone. NHL players, they’re just like you and me!

Ayy, Vinny!

Nothing quite beats a home-cooked meal at this time of the year, especially when it’s nonna’s cooking. Vincent Trochek clearly got the memo, as the Rangers forward brought his entire club home with him the evening before their game against the Penguins early last week for some delicious Italian cuisine. Molto bene!

Statistically improbable

Rasmus Ristolainen has long been a divisive figure. Hockey analytics nerds see him as a defensive liability, while traditional fans and general managers tend to value his safe, hard-nosed play. Where you stand on the Ristolainen discourse is ultimately up to you, however, there’s no denying what he’s accomplished this year is simply remarkable. Despite playing significant minutes for the Flyers this year, the right-handed defenseman went an eternity without tallying a single point. It took until his final game before the break to snap that streak, as an assist on a Nick Seeler third-period goal gave the Finnish blueliner his first point of the season.

He sees you when you’re sleeping

Santa is always checking in this time of year, making his lists and checking them twice to see who’s naughty (and nice). Clayton Keller, for all his excellent play on the ice, almost got himself into the bad books this last week after he was called for a penalty against the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday. Thankfully, one of Santa’s wonderful little helpers, NHL referee Garrett Rank, got Keller all straightened out with an important warning during a crucial time of the year.

Scrap of the week

We’ve got a good old-fashioned rock ‘em, sock ‘em tilly here, as Jonah Gadjovich and Dennis Gilbert drop the mitts in a spirited scrap on Tuesday. Gadjovich gets out to the early lead, but in the end, there were plenty of haymakers to go around in this one, as the division foes got their teams and the fans riled up after one of the best fights of the season.

Trending up: Carolina Hurricanes

It’s hard to feel much better than the Carolina Hurricanes are right now heading into the break. Winners of eight straight, and nine of their last ten, Carolina is firing on all cylinders. Combined with a slumping New Jersey Devils club, the Canes have made a mad rush to the top of the Metropolitan Division, and look poised to make some noise once again during the back half of the NHL season. Their streak has been driven by a few factors, but the most obvious one has been some dramatically better scoring luck. After an abysmal 6.8 shooting percentage at 5v5 to start the year — ranked second last league-wide — the club has found their stroke, and sit top-10 by the metric since December 1st.

Trending Down: Columbus Blue Jackets

Things have gone from bad to worse in Columbus, as Johnny Gaudreau alone hasn’t been able to salvage what has become a pathetic showing for a Columbus team that hoped to take a leap this season. Credit where it is due, however, as Johnny Hockey has done everything he can to make the Blue Jackets relevant. His 34 points are first on the team by a healthy margin, and his strong underlying metrics have largely remained intact from his outstanding year in Calgary last year. Unfortunately, a lack of a supporting cast, plus some abysmal goaltending, has sunk the Blue Jackets to the basement of the Metropolitan Division, losers of their last six and eight of ten overall. On the bright side, Connor Bedard would look very nice finishing passes beside Johnny Gaudreau next season.

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