Welcome back to the NHL’s Best and Worst. This week, we have a circus in Vancouver, some sage financial advice, and a touchdown pass in Buffalo in honour of the NFL playoffs.
Goal of the week: Elias ‘Forsberg’ Pettersson
While discussions surrounding Jim Rutherford’s bizarre press conference focused on the major surgery needed for a faulty Vancouver Canucks roster, there’s little doubt the heart and soul is alive and present in Elias Pettersson. The Swedish phenom is back to producing at an elite level and looks to be the guy moving forward for Vancouver. His goal-scoring on a lousy team speaks for itself as to why the Canucks are likely to build around him as their future captain, but it’s also his undeniable skill and swagger while on the ice, evidenced by this beauty of a shootout winner against the Carolina Hurricanes last Sunday.
Save of the week: Shesterkin robbery
Are the New York Rangers Stanley Cup contenders? The Rangers are a perplexing team, having stormed back from an underwhelming 11-9-4 start heading into December to a much more robust 25-14-7, good for third in a stacked Metropolitan Division. If they’re more like the December/January Rangers than the October/November version, especially with regards to Igor Shesterkin and his rejuvenated play, then there’s no telling just how good the Rangers might be.
Player of the week: Zach Hyman
Once upon a time, Zach Hyman was a hard-nosed, shotgun-riding, complementary player that helped elevate his superstar teammates. Working alongside Auston Matthews during his days in Toronto, and even last year beside Connor McDavid, Hyman served as his line's worker bee, digging pucks out of corners and creating space for his all-world linemates to do damage.
Those days, it seems, are well in the rearview mirror now, as Hyman is scoring at a career-best rate and has been among the NHL's most dangerous players by several advanced metrics. Even by plain old point scoring, just take a look at some of the names he's leapfrogged this season.
With nine points in his last three games, it looks like those discussions of whether or not he belonged on an Olympic roster may not have been so far-fetched after all.
Dish of the week: Rasmus Dahlin or Josh Allen?
While the Buffalo Bills squared off with the Cincinnati Bengals down the road at Highmark Stadium, Rasmus Dahlin was busy chucking his touchdown passes with the Sabres last Thursday. Check out this unbelievable aerial stretch pass from the former No. 1 overall selection in 2018 to start 3-on-3 OT against the New York Islanders, feeding Dylan Cozens who buries this doozy to seal the Sabres win.
Hit of the week: The Dach will see you now
Holy smokes, Kirby Dach. The Canadiens pivot appears to be lined up by Islanders heavyweight Cal Clutterbuck here, but Dach is the one who winds up doling out the punishment. Check out the impact on this epic collision, with Clutterbuck getting the worst of it and cartwheeling head over heels in response to Dach’s 6-foot-4, 212-pound frame running him over.
Worst of the week: “Was that you?”
Things have smelled off for a while now in Vancouver, given the state of their hockey team and the whole Bruce Boudreau saga, but things may have literally stunk in the broadcast booth against the Tampa Bay Lightning when a mysterious noise made its way over the airwaves. There still hasn’t been any confirmation if anybody cut the cheese, but that doesn’t make this clip from the Canucks broadcast any less funny.
The Bruins' netminding tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have a very cute post-game tradition of emphatically hugging each other after wins, but Nick Foligno clearly hasn’t gotten the memo. The Bruins vet stepped between the star-crossed lovers and stole his own embrace with Swayman following a 3-1 win over the Rangers, leaving Ullmark betrayed in an act of Shakespearean tragedy. Thankfully, all would eventually be rectified, as the red-hot Bruins netminders would have their moment after all.
Noted accountant Paul Maurice
Benjamin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” and while he’s certainly no founding father, Paul Maurice sought to share his own financial advice with the Florida media after the NHL left his wallet feeling a little lighter last week.
Hands of the week: Auston Matthews
Matthews looked as dominant as he’s been all season amidst a relatively quiet campaign by his standards against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. His night had all sorts of big moments, from a crucial shot block to scoring the game-winning goal. Matthews’ first goal of the night, however, probably takes the cake as his nicest marker of his season. The Arizona native turned Mark Scheifele inside-out on the opening draw of the second period, dipsy-doodling past the Winnipeg pivot before blasting one past Connor Hellebuyck.
Meet the Family
While Mathieu Joseph missed the first of a pair of games against his younger brother last week after a cryptic scratching due to an internal issue, he and his brother Pierre-Olivier more than made up for lost time during the second leg of the home-and-home on Thursday. While heading into the corner, the Joseph brothers somehow managed to get dinged with high sticking penalties at the same time in a wacky twist of fate from the hockey gods. Kudos to the parents as well, whose reaction is equally hilarious.
We’ve all waited for this day and it finally arrived. The Sebastian Aho bowl took place on Saturday as Sebastian Aho (the Hurricane) took Sebastian Aho (the Islander) head-on and beat him twice. First, the Canes sniper banked a shot off his name twin, then later, he swiped a puck off his stick to cash in his second. Aho (the Finnish one) would eventually add an empty-netter, sealing the game and securing the natural hat trick.
Zone exit machine
If you can believe it, A.J. Greer primarily plays on the Bruins' bottom line, averaging about nine minutes of ice time per game. Don’t tell him that though, as he makes an unbelievable maneuver here to get out of the Bruins' zone with control of the puck. Welcome to the 2020s, where a league-average fourth-liner can do crazy stuff like this.
When you’re struggling as mightily as Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, you need to pull every move out of your bag of tricks to steady the ship. While things haven’t stabilized for the Swedish netminder as of yet, he certainly seems to be doing all he can, evidenced by this wicked stop on Predators forward Mikael Granlund.
Oh, hello Morgan Frost. The one-time junior phenom may not have translated his scoring ways to the NHL level, but it seems as though the Flyers youngster still boasts all those skills that made him a star with the Soo Greyhounds all those years ago. Stealing a page out of teammate James van Riemsdyk’s book, Frost goes between the legs for a nifty goal.
His birthday may still be about two months away, but Trevor Zegras was certainly feeling "22" against the Buffalo Sabres last night. The skilled-up Ducks star was caught "Red" handed, belting out some Taylor Swift lyrics from the bench and looking "Fearless" while doing so. While the camera caught him in a candid moment, there’s no doubt Zegras was "Ready For It" given his "Reputation" as one of the league’s most marketable stars. As for the Ducks and their continued struggles, they’re just hoping for a little bit of lottery luck come springtime, though a few bad ping-pong bounces could leave fans thinking "This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things."
Pride Night done right
Ivan Provorov’s homophobic position has been well-documented this past week after he refused to take part in Pride Night warmups, so it seemed like it might be nice to give credit where it’s due to a few other Flyers doing their part to stop hate. A special shoutout goes to Scott Laughton and van Riemsdyk for their efforts in the LGBTQ+ community.
NHL legend Teemu Selanne isn’t the most active former player on social media, largely reserving his comments for an assortment of emoji-reaction quote tweets. That means when the Finnish hockey legend does speak up, you’ve got to listen. Over the past week, Selanne decided to stick up for a fellow Finn, throwing his support behind Jesse Puljujärvi, who desperately needs a fresh start following a disappointing few seasons in Edmonton.
Trending up: Florida Panthers
The Panthers looked down and out just a couple of short weeks ago, drunk on a Presidents' Trophy hangover that had them outside the playoff picture and heading in the wrong direction. Despite those struggles, there was plenty of reason for optimism in the Sunshine State.
For starters, Florida's underlying metrics had largely remained strong year-over-year, with their expected goals for percentage dipping marginally, but remaining among the class of the league. Additionally, the play of newly acquired star Matthew Tkachuk had him firmly in the discussion for the Hart Trophy, or at least as much of a discussion as there can be behind Connor McDavid.
As such, the past few weeks, and especially this past stretch, has seen Florida turn the tides on its campaign, as it is once again on the cusp of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Winners of seven of 10, things seem to be looking up for Florida, which could make things very interesting in an already extremely top-heavy Atlantic Division.
Trending down: Vancouver Canucks
There has been all sorts of digital ink spilled over the Canucks and their gross mishandling of the Boudreau situation. From tearful press conferences to a heartfelt sendoff by the fans, with Boudreau keeping his sense of humour all the while, this entire week has been like watching a car crash in slow motion. Oh, and by the way, the Canucks have won just two of their last 10, including losing three straight.
Things are looking very dire out west, and while Rick Tocchet should bring some stability, helped in part by a paper-soft upcoming schedule, the whole organization is clearly a ticking time bomb with its current core.
There’s very little you can say about the Canucks that hasn’t been said already. From afar, the environment seems nothing if not toxic, and it seems like things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Shame on them for what they did to Boudreau. Here’s hoping the longtime veteran NHL coach lands on his feet.
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