NHL best and worst: Jack Hughes is red hot, McAvoy goes end-to-end for stunner

With a few end-to-end goals, a save-of-the-year candidate, and one very large hat, here’s everything you need to see from this past week of NHL action.

Jack Hughes has lit the league on fire lately, registering 25 points in his last 14 games. (Reuters)
Jack Hughes has lit the NHL on fire lately, registering 25 points in his last 14 games. (Reuters)

January may be coming to a close, with the NHL’s dog days creeping into view, but that doesn’t mean things have gotten any less exciting on the ice. With a few end-to-end goals, a save-of-the-year candidate, and one very large hat, here’s everything you need to see from this past week of NHL action.

Goal of the week: Charlie McAvoy

Despite missing the start of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery, Charlie McAvoy’s name is once again amongst the cream of the crop of NHL defenders. The superstar Bruins blueliner may be known for his staunch defensive instincts and bone-crushing hits, but don’t be fooled, there’s offensive flair to boot with the Long Beach, New York native. The 25-year-old showed off his skills, and then some, last Sunday as he danced through Timo Meier to score this nasty goal.

Save of the week: Semyon Varlamov

The New York Islanders goaltending is flat-out insane. It is nothing short of wild that Ilya Sorokin, almost certainly the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy this spring, somehow won’t even make the nicest save in an Islanders jersey. That distinction, after this wicked paddle save from Saturday night, belongs to Semyon Varlamov, the Islanders oft-forgotten backup that finished fifth in Vezina voting a year and a half ago. That duo may just be the standard bearers for netminding excellence across the league, and for good reason.

Player of the week: Jack Hughes

With eight points in four games last week, including an insane assist on Dougie Hamilton's OT winner against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, it’s safe to say that we are entering the age of Hughes. While younger brother Luke is busy torching the NCAA, and older brother Quinn making waves despite Vancouver’s rocky waters, Jack has taken his game to new heights and is quickly putting his name into consideration as one of the best players in the entire NHL.

EBUG alert!

Ok, while he technically wasn't an EBUG, Matt Berlin and the Edmonton Oilers are still most certainly the talk of the town after he made a cameo to end the Oilers-Blackhawks game Saturday night. The University of Alberta product even made a save against Caleb Jones to bring his career save percentage to a pristine 1.000. Brought in last minute after Stuart Skinnera former teammate of Berlin's back in U15 AAA hockey — was ruled out with an illness, the awesome moment is surely one the 25-year-old will remember for a long time. Bonus points also go out to Connor McDavid, who supposedly made the suggestion to head coach Jay Woodcroft.

Worst of the week

The Canucks finally dropped the hammer on Bruce Boudreau on Sunday, bringing one of the most outlandish coach-firing circuses in NHL history to a conclusion. Among those to share the news included one D.C.-based news station, who most certainly could have used some phonetics as the anchor butchers just about every pronunciation in her voice-over.

Most wholesome moment

It was an emotional scene in the Ottawa Senators dressing room on Wednesday following their 2-1 win over the New York Islanders. In addition to head coach Bob Jones sharing his ALS diagnosis with the world the day prior, Senators forward Austin Watson celebrated a milestone in his journey with sobriety. The Senators shared a video of the team’s postgame ritual in the dressing room via Twitter in a clip you’re going to want to see.

A warm welcome

Everybody knew that Johnny Gaudreau wasn’t going to be returning to Calgary to a parade of flowers and cheers, but this funny moment captured during the Blue Jackets morning skate takes things to the next level. In preparation for that night’s hostility, Gaudreau’s own Blue Jackets teammates took it upon themselves to amp their star up, booing the winger every time he touched the puck that morning.

Big hat

It’s a big hat. It’s Cole Caufield. It’s Cole Caufield in a big hat. Exactly as promised. What more could you want?

Tough luck

Sometimes, the bounces just don’t go your way, and the Florida Panthers definitely know that well. The Cats are one of the league’s unluckiest teams to date, sitting outside the playoff picture despite coming off a President's Trophy. Sam Bennett may have just encapsulated the Panthers season as he unbelievably bats an own-goal past Alex Lyon off a middling shot from Charlie Coyle to give Boston the lead.

All-Star timing

Alexander Barkov improbably played the hero on a buzzer-beater, scoring with less than two seconds left, to send the game into overtime and saving Bennett from complete embarrassment. The newest NHL All-Star had himself a night to remember, as in OT, he also picked up an assist on Sam Reinhart’s winner, giving the Panthers the win and handing the Bruins their first back-to-back losses this season.

Time of Your Life

With former TNT analyst Rick Tocchet off for greener pastures behind the bench in Vancouver, the perpetually entertaining Paul Bissonnette teamed up with Henrik Lundqvist for one final send-off that pulls at your heartstrings and grates on your eardrums.

Stat of the week

Every fan feels as though their team has the propensity to play down to their competition, but the Maple Leafs and their fans may just take the cake when it comes down to the numbers. According to Sportsnet Stats, the Maple Leafs are staggeringly worse in almost every statistical category when facing one of the bottom eight teams in the league, including losses to the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens in the last ten days. Against everybody else? They’re amongst the NHL’s class. Truly a bizarre stat and an even more bizarre hockey team.


John Gibson may not be the Vezina-calibre netminder he once was, but Anaheim’s number one can still play the hero with the best of them. Gibson was electric on this one, as during the extra frame, the 29-year-old pulled off his best Gumby impersonation by robbing Jakob Chychrun blind on a point-blank breakaway, reaching back to stone the Coyotes defenceman.

His spot

A lot of jokes get made about Alex Ovechkin’s power play tendencies, but when you’ve got a good thing going, it’s hard not to stick with it. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, The Great Eight added to his chase for Gretzky with goal number 812 on a tally that may as well play on loop on his future Hall of Fame plaque. And, of course, there were plenty of obvious "controller disconnected" jokes that came along with this one as well.

On one condition

Klim Kostin has become a fan favourite in Edmonton since being acquired via trade toward the end of the NHL preseason. With his gritty play on the ice and fun demeanour off it, Oilers fans seem to have latched onto the 2017 first round pick in a really fun way. That’s what made this moment at a fan meet-and-greet earlier this week so funny. Kostin knows his role in the Battle of Alberta, and while this fan was hoping to put a fast one past the big-bodied Russian, an eventual truce was reached on a very particular condition.


The hot mic strikes again, as Avalanche broadcaster Marc Moser was caught red-handed prior to the Avalanche game against the Washington Capitals. Instead of an unfortunate Thom Brennaman situation, however, we got a much more wholesome and philosophical ponderance over where the seagulls in landlocked Colorado come from.

Cardiac Canes

Following an empty net goal by Mario Ferraro with just under two minutes left, the San Jose Sharks appeared to have sealed the deal in a surprise win over the electric Carolina Hurricanes. Martin Necas and the rest of the storm surge crew, however, had different plans. First, Sebastian Aho slashed the Sharks' lead in half just fifteen seconds later on a beauty. Then, with 11 seconds left, Necas scored his first of the night to force overtime, getting PNC Arena buzzing in the process. The Sharks and Canes followed that end with a spectacular overtime period, which concluded with a stunning dagger, helping the Sharks make history in the process.

Binnington being Binnington

Jordan Binnington is perpetually one of the NHL’s characters, often finding himself in the middle of conflict despite the fact his crease only extends to about 6'x8’. His beef with the Colorado Avalanche dating back to last postseason was well documented, and when the two clubs met once again on Saturday night, none other than the Binnington himself was right in the middle of it all as things got testy.

Trending up: Tampa Bay Lightning (8-2-0, W3)

Reports of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s death have been greatly exaggerated, and following an 8-2-0 stretch over their last ten games, including three straight wins to cap this week, it’s safe to assume the three-time Eastern Conference representatives aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Led by a resurgent Nikita Kucherov who is quietly on pace for a whopping 123 points — his highest since his Hart-winning 2019 — the Bolts are red hot, and on the verge of stealing away home ice from the Maple Leafs after a Game 1 date in Toronto seemed all but decided. With a victory over the juggernaut Boston Bruins in their back pocket, the Lightning once again look like they are going to be a problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, and should again be considered a threat to make a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Trending down: Vegas Golden Knights (2-6-2, L4)

What in the world is happening in Sin City? The Vegas Golden Knights looked like their expansion selves to start the year, as Jack Eichel came out of the gate flying and the rest of the Golden Knights followed suit. A recent stretch of poor play across the board, including head coach Bruce Cassidy calling out his number one centre, has sent Vegas tumbling out of pole position in the Pacific Division, and potentially at risk of tumbling out of the playoff picture altogether. The Golden Knights will need to get things going soon, or it could be another year on the outside looking in for the one-time Golden Misfits.

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