April has arrived, meaning there’s now less than two weeks remaining in the NHL regular season.
With plenty of teams gearing up for the postseason and others still playing meaningful hockey, it’s time to take another peek around the league and catch up on everything you need to see, hear and know in this week’s edition of NHL Best and Worst.
Goal of the week
Jordan Greenway’s deadline move to the Buffalo Sabres has been a mixed bag at times, with the gritty forward providing depth but mostly failing to contribute on the scoresheet. Heading into Friday night’s game, Greenway had just one goal to his name in Buffalo and was a minus-five. That narrative was flipped on its head against the New York Rangers, though, as he scored this beauty, picking up the second of his three goals since his move.
Save of the week
Another deadline acquisition, Jonathan Quick, has been a godsend for the Golden Knights as they continue to battle injuries between the pipes. The future Hall of Famer has been rock solid in Sin City and had a .916 save percentage heading into last Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers. While that game decidedly did not go well for him, allowing 6 goals on 34 shots in a tough loss, he did come through with one enormous save on one of hockey’s premier snipers.
Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl
Speaking of Leon Draisaitl, nobody in the NHL landscape is rolling quite like the German superstar right now. The league’s best second-option has been white hot this past week, picking up eight points in four games, including a hat trick to secure 50 goals for the third time in his career. Draisaitl has especially been a menace on the powerplay, where he just passed Ilya Kovalchuk for the most single-season powerplay goals of the salary cap era and is just six behind Tim Kerr for the most of all time.
Hit of the week
When Ovi lays the body, you’ve always got to see it. The man in his crosshairs this time was Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech, who found himself flat on his wallet thanks to Ovi’s thunderous hit near the offensive blue line. Pelech and his Isles would get the last laugh in this one, however, picking up a big 2-1 shootout win over the Capitals to keep pace in a tight Eastern Conference wildcard race.
Hands of the week
Valeri Nichushkin has come a long way since his days as a snakebitten draft flameout with the Dallas Stars. Known at one point for his complete lack of finishing ability, things bottomed out for Nuke in 2019 after he failed to register a single goal in 57 games, as the Stars eventually let him walk. Nowadays, with hands like these, it’s no wonder he’s blossomed into one of the most integral cogs on a Colorado Avalanche squad looking ripe for a potential Stanley Cup repeat.
“Forsberg went to the backhand, but the forehand’s just as sexy” 😂
Nichushkin wins it in the 7th round of the shootout for Colorado 🚨 pic.twitter.com/w7MJShX9W2
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) March 26, 2023
Dish of the week
There’s been a few vintage Crosby goals over the past few weeks, but how about a throwback Sid the Kid assist against the Boston Bruins from Saturday? This doozy of a dangle sees Crosby burn both Bruins defenders — one of whom is notably Charlie McAvoy — before laying up a beautiful centring feed to Bryan Rust who makes no mistake. The Penguins are right in the thick of things in the East and will need Sid to make more magic like this if they’re to be postseason-bound for the 17th straight year.
The Montreal Canadiens haven’t had a whole lot to celebrate this season given their spot near the bottom of the standings, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Michael Pezzetta, for instance, went all-out on Thursday night, whipping out the Tiger Williams-inspired move after knocking off the Buffalo Sabres in the shootout.
The Isobel Cup was awarded on Wednesday night after the Toronto Six knocked off the Minnesota Whitecaps in a thrilling overtime finish. Check out the golden goal in this one, as Czech national Tereza Vanisova makes a fantastic play to strip the defender, before driving to the net with a beauty to win Toronto its first-ever PHF title.
The Bruins have wailed on nearly every opponent they’ve faced this year, an unstoppable juggernaut that seems destined to waltz their way to the Stanley Cup this spring. It’s hard to envision anything going wrong for a club that’s as dominant from top-to-bottom as the Bruins, and it shows based on their enormous lead over the rest of the NHL in the standings.
In fact, it seems like the only thing they can’t figure out is how to celebrate after wins, as Jakub Lauko and Jeremy Swayman got their signals crossed in this hilarious moment following the Bruins’ win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
300 and counting
So, Connor McDavid…pretty good at hockey, right? The NHL’s best player became the third fastest active player to hit the 300-goal mark this week on a beautiful shorthanded goal against Kings goalie Joonas Korpisalo. Among those in attendance to celebrate the milestone: Connor’s brother Cameron, who’s apparently a spitting image of No. 97 and had some fun with it on the broadcast on Thursday.
Finally, to top it all off, McDavid became just the seventh player ever to hit the 60-goal, 80-assist mark in a single season, putting him in some pretty exclusive territory. It’s Connor’s world, and we’re all just living in it.
Despite rumours swirling about his career possibly being over, Jonathan Toews made his triumphant return to the ice on Saturday night. While the outcome didn’t go the Blackhawks’ way, with the Devils thrashing Chicago 6-3, it was still a special night. Toews was honoured by the fans with a loud ovation as he was announced in the starting lineup, then later picked up a point on an Andreas Athanasiou goal for his first assist since January 19. In all, a special night for a Blackhawks legend as he appears to wind down his career.
May the force be with you
Devon Levi made his much anticipated Sabres debut this week in a 3-2 overtime win over the Rangers on Friday, but more notably, the whole world got a glimpse of his outstanding TV timeout routine. Based on his shared love of The Phantom Menace with his father, Levi’s whole routine was quite the spectacle.
Scrap of the week
Trent Frederic has never been one to shy away from physicality, but during his scrap with Lane Pederson, the gritty Bruins forward took that to a different level after he one-punched the Blue Jackets pivot in a decisive scrap.
Wholesome moment of the week
David Perron has fit in nicely with the Detroit Red Wings this season, as the 34-year-old picked up a hat trick against the Penguins — one of his former squads— on Tuesday. Even better than that, however, was this Instagram story the veteran winger posted the morning after, as he got to share the moment with his three kids before they went off to school.
Milestone of the week
As mentioned before, the Boston Bruins are a certified wagon. In case you needed any further proof of that, this past week Jim Montgomery broke the record for wins by a coach in his first year with a new team. What a story.
For the first time in his career, Jack Eichel is headed to the postseason. It’s been a long road for the former second overall pick, from toiling with the Buffalo Sabres to his injury scare and holdout the last two seasons, to finally earning his stripes with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Massachusetts native looks as strong as ever with the Golden Knights, bouncing back from an uneven 2022 campaign to lead his club in goals and points despite playing only 63 games this season.
Stat of the week
At long last, our national nightmare is over. The Calgary Flames have made a comeback and won a hockey game. Knocking off the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, the Flames kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a come-from-behind, 5-4 overtime win, including a late tying goal from none other than Calgary’s favourite anti-hero in Jonathan Huberdeau. The win moves Calgary to an astonishing 1-18-3 when trailing after two periods this season. Yeesh.
#Flames earn their first win this season when trailing after 2 periods
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 1, 2023
It isn’t often you get an empty net goal worth highlighting, but this bar-down snipe from Mikko Rantanen certainly fits the bill. Check out the pinpoint accuracy as he fires the puck from his blueline at the Dallas Stars net, only to have the puck ping off the crossbar and in with a satisfying clang. His name doesn’t get brought up often in the “best sniper in the NHL” conversation, but when you’re firing laser beams like this one, maybe it’s time Rantanen got his due.
Trending up: Edmonton Oilers (9-0-1 in last 10)
Winner of nine of ten and four straight, the Edmonton Oilers are hotter than a firecracker heading into the home stretch of the NHL season. They have been dominant in every sense of the word since the calendar flipped to March, finishing the month with their best record in franchise history and dominating opponents in the process.
Once unable to ice a passable team with 97 and 29 on the bench, the Oilers have built out a deep squad with plenty of secondary scoring punch and even some strong defensive presence. For years, the phrase was used to mock them, but now it may just be for real: Here come the Oilers.
Trending down: Anaheim Ducks (1-8-1 in last 10)
The Anaheim Ducks have one mission for the remainder of the season. Lose hockey games. They’re off to a flying start over the latest stretch, having gone 1-8-1 in their last ten games, including seven straight losses. The scoring has evaporated, including both Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras scoring at under a point-per-game pace since March 1st, which is one part of the equation as to why things have gone haywire.
The other reason, however, seems to be John Gibson, who is a shadow of his former self in every sense of the word. With a career-worst .899 save percentage, including an .891 mark last month, the 29-year-old has gone from stonewalled superstar to albatross extraordinaire, with him and his bloated contract taking up nearly $6.5-million of cap space until 2027. Buckle up Ducks fans, this one is going to get ugly (or beautiful?)