NHL best and worst: Karlsson rolling back the years

Erik Karlsson's resurgence leads this week's edition of the NHL's Best and Worst. (Getty Images)
Erik Karlsson's resurgence leads this week's edition of the NHL's Best and Worst. (Getty Images)

November is here which means that teams are starting to find their identity, and the league's best players are setting themselves apart from the rest with outstanding performances. As November rolls around, we’ve got everything you need to catch up on the week that was in this edition of the NHL’s Best and Worst.

Goal of the week

For a team that was supposed to be tanking into the earth’s crust, the Chicago Blackhawks sure look like a team that has found a few hidden gems that could fetch a nice haul at the deadline. Amongst those solid complimentary pieces has been Andreas Athanasiou, who’s found himself on the top line alongside Max Domi and Patrick Kane following a good start to his campaign. Combining some extra minutes with these nifty moves, and there’s no doubt the 28-year-old could garner a nice trade return down the line this season.

Save of the week

Alexandar Georgiev had his growing pains early on with the Colorado Avalanche as he acclimated to a new team, boasting a middling .907 save percentage in his first four games with the club. After a couple of strong games in response, however, including a pair of big showings across the pond in Finland, the Bulgarian netminder looks like he has found his groove for the reigning champs. This seeing-eye stick save, just keeping the trickling puck over the goal line, was easily his best work this week, as he somehow stopped this one en route to a 6-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks.

Star of the week: Erik Karlsson

With six goals and nine points in just three games, fans have been treated to some vintage Erik Karlsson this week, the likes of which we haven’t seen since his epic playoff run in 2017. Looking as engaged as he’s been in some time, Karlsson is playing like a man possessed, as he continues dragging around the corpse of the San Jose Sharks to a modicum of respectability. The highlight of the 32-year-old Swede's week definitely came last Wednesday, when he cashed in this clutch marker for his first career hat trick against the Ducks.

Hands of the week

Speaking of old guys that still ‘got it’, check out John Tavares' epic dangles here against the Philadelphia Flyers, as he turns Travis Sanheim inside out and beats Felix Sandstrom far post. Since dealing with discussion over the summer that his days as a star were numbered, Tavares has done nothing but produce to open up the season. Toronto’s captain is leading the club in scoring through 12 games with 14 points, punctuated this week by this slick goal, one of three tallies for him in the evening.

Worst goal of the week

It has been that kind of season for Anaheim, who currently sits dead last in the Pacific Division and third last in the entire NHL. Jakob Silfverberg is one of several Ducks that has struggled to put the puck in the net, with just three goals so far on the season. This absolute snipe on the year would be his fourth…except that’s not where you’re supposed to be shooting the puck.  

Quote of the week

Darryl Sutter is certainly one of the funnier coaches in the National Hockey League nowadays, with his blunt attitude and brash sense of humour. Last weekend, following the Calgary Flames' loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the reigning Jack Adams winner had an interesting answer as to why one of his stars briefly left the bench early in the game.

Funniest moment of the week

Sometimes, you’ve just got to know when to pick your battles. For this Avalanche reporter, he certainly got his money’s worth after teasing Avs defenseman Bowen Byram about his attire. Needless to say, I think it’s pretty clear who wins this back and forth.

Hit of the week

The New York Rangers have built themselves quite the group of young guns on the back end, with Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller leading a talented core that doesn’t feature a single player over 28 years old. With plenty of speed and skill already flush at the top, the Rangers look like they’ve got themselves one heck of a bruiser in second-year defenseman Braden Schneider. The 2020 first-round selection played 43 games last year and looks like he’ll be a mainstay for the Blueshirts this year on the right side. A big part of what’ll keep him in the lineup? More bone-crushing hits like this one, which saw him absolutely lay out Bruins winger Trent Frederic.

Milestone watch

Any time your name is up in lights with the Great One, you know you’ve done something special. This past Halloween, after dressing up as hockey’s G.O.A.T., Thompson decided to etch his name right beside him as a spooky season hockey legend, tying Wayne Gretzky's record for most points in a game on Halloween with six.

Premature celebration

Listen, it’s perfectly natural. Sometimes, we all get a little excited, and accidentally let loose a little too early. Just ask Alex Kerfoot, who was sure this one was going to slip right past the netminder, raising his arms in celebration, only for the puck to trickle just wide of the cage. Even worse, the Ducks would go on to score just moments later, eventually going on to beat the Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime to cap off a California road swing the Maple Leafs would surely like to forget.

Coolest moment of the week

Normally, it’s the rookie players that get all the love, but how about the first-time officials? NHL linesman Ryan Jackson got to take part in his own rookie lap last Sunday, ahead of the Blackhawks' game against the Minnesota Wild. Jackson, son of longtime NHL referee turned ESPN analyst Dave Jackson, had a special night, as plenty of other officials that made an imprint on the 27-year-old’s path made their way to the game to watch the rookie zebra’s special night.

Most wholesome moment of the week

Two of the most personable players in the entire National Hockey League, it’s no surprise that when James Reimer and Trevor Zegras crossed paths, heart-melting was bound to ensue. Check out the silly banter between these Pacific Division rivals, though you wouldn’t know they were rivals based on how this kibitz went down.

Celly of the week

Rocking the old Robo-Pen jerseys as their reverse retros, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jason Zucker had some fun after he hammered home a one-timer against the Buffalo Sabres last Wednesday. In homage to the great Jaromir Jagr, with the attire to match the celly, Zucker pulled a blast from the past out of his bag of tricks, which caught everybody's attention. Most notably, the man behind the move himself had nothing but gracious words for Zucker and the Penguins, except for some hilarious feedback on Zucker’s clapper.

A fitting sponsorship

I know we piled on the Arizona Coyotes and their visitors' room setup last week, but this one’s a little bit too on the nose. The Coyotes announced their home helmet sponsorship last week, and for a club that’s had its share of struggles, this one seems like too perfect a match not to at least have a chuckle at.

Whoopsy daisy

Speaking of the Coyotes, this unfortunate giveaway by Karel Vejmelka is certainly one of the uglier goaltender mishaps we might see this season. Listen Coyotes fans, I know it’s ugly, but look at it this way. At least there’s an ~18.5 percent chance that Connor Bedard is waiting at the end of this very dreary tunnel.

Phony friend

Jamie Benn has always had a knack for being a pain in the backside to play against, so at first glance, it certainly seemed surprising to see him get friendly with Zach Hyman. Not a moment too soon, however, the Stars captain reminded everybody why he’s one of the league’s most underrated villains after a little bit of tomfoolery led to a good tussle between the two power forwards. As the old saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Trending up: Vegas Golden Knights

After missing the postseason last year, the Vegas Golden Knights were a team that looked to be facing plenty of questions ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season. With their starting goaltender set to miss the year, Jack Eichel coming off a disappointing first season with the Golden Knights, and a rapidly thinning depth chart, some pundits even had the team missing the playoffs altogether.

Instead, Vegas has been the league’s top team through Saturday night, boasting a pristine 11-2-0 record with strong underlying metrics and having won seven straight. Behind a bounce-back start to the season for Eichel, resurgent years from secondary scorers like Reilly Smith and William Karlsson, and a surprise breakout from netminder Logan Thompson, the Golden Knights look like a wagon and have immediately put themselves in the early discussion for top contenders this season.

Oh, and their social media also remains amongst the league’s best.

Trending down: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have been a staple as one of the league’s preeminent franchises since the mid-2000s, but after an abysmal seven-game losing streak, the Penguins look like they could finally be approaching the end of an era of dominance.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team’s under-the-hood numbers like expected goals and Corsi For percentage remain amongst the league’s best, but the club cannot buy a save. With Tristan Jarry’s .903 save percentage and Casey DeSmith's .904, the club has struggled to stay in games. The Penguins are averaging 3.67 goals against per game, which ranks 26th in the league, and are in a tough spot when it comes to their contract situation, with little in the way of assets to go out and improve their netminding. They’ll need one of their goaltenders to step up soon, or things could continue to spiral out of control and quickly.

See a highlight worthy of the spotlight? Tag @JNeginShecter on Twitter using the hashtag #BestAndWorst and it may be featured in the following week's edition of NHL Best and Worst.

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