Hello, beautiful Bench-Lifers. It has been a while. Yes, I Raymond Harrison have been a bit of a degenerate lately when it comes to producing content for this blog… BUT THAT CHANGES TODAY. I am motivated, I am keen, I am three coffees deep, and I am excited to bring you my new weekly feature where I go over the big storylines from the past week in the NHL.
This week has been a doozy with a ton of topics to address so without further ado, let’s do that hockey *insert Chance The Rapper gif here*.
Elias Pettersson And The Cardiac Canucks
I mean, sure, Elias Pettersson was one of the Calder Trophy favourites coming into the season, but my goodness, this guy is going straight for the MVP. Pettersson was downright dominant during Friday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The 19-year-old set several Canucks franchise records during the wild win. He is the youngest Canucks player to ever tally five points in a game, the first Canucks rookie to ever have five points in a game, and the first Canucks player to ever make people forget that this team signed Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to multi-year deals this summer.
Pettersson has been a massive success story as he leads all NHL rookies in scoring despite missing six games due to injury. He has nine goals and six assists through nine games this season, and most of his points have come via a highlight-reel play. A further point that should be made is that he has formed a formidable duo with Brock Boeser on the top line. Boeser had a four-point game during the back-and-forth affair versus the Avalanche and the two connected on a goal that would have made the Sedin twins proud.
All of this has led to a surprising surge from the Canucks that has them sitting at second place in the Pacific Division with a 9-6-0 record. They have won three games in a row heading into a six-game road trip. The team was expected to finish at the bottom of the standings, and while it is still early in the season, there is a definite reason to be optimistic about the future of this team. Jim Benning’s faults aside, the Canucks have drafted quite well over the past half decade and are amassing an impressive collection of young talent. In the wise words of Dimitri Filipovic, you cannot spell elite without Elias Pete™.
Desert Dogs Dashing Up The Standings
The Arizona Coyotes are actually good folks!!! No, pigs are not flying, hell has not frozen over, and Joe Thornton has not won a Stanley Cup (yet). The Coyotes are rolling on a five-game winning streak right now where they have outscored opponents 24-7. They have held a 3-0 first-period lead in each of the past three games. The team had one of the most offensively inept starts in NHL history to begin the season, but they have completely turned things around and sit with a 7-5-0 record.
While the offense has been producing, the defense has been even better. They are the stingiest team in the NHL as their 2.00 goals-against per game is the lowest mark in the league. They have the second-best penalty kill percentage in the NHL at 92.1% and they have scored a remarkable SEVEN shorthanded goals through their first 12 games of the season.
Perhaps the biggest reason for their success has been the play of goaltender Antti Raanta. The Finnish netminder has won four of his last five starts, posting a 2.01 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in the process. Raanta was fantastic during the second half of last season once returning from an injury. Clearly, he has continued that success into 2018-19.
The 6-5-0 record the Coyotes posted in October was their best October record since the 2013-14 season. The win streak has allowed them to quickly gain ground in a shaky Pacific Division. The Ducks have lost seven of their last eight after a 5-1-1 start, the Kings just fired their head coach, and the Golden Knights are missing key contributors. Skeptics have wondered for years when the Coyotes would start to perform at a higher level. They have an offensive attack spearheaded by Clayton Keller and Alex Galchenyuk, a defensive core headlined by All-Star Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and a reliable goaltender with a career .922 save percentage. This is not a claim saying the Coyotes will steamroll opponents en route to a Stanley Cup, but they are actually going to be playing meaningful hockey in the second half of the season for the first time in a long time. Must be the power of the Kachina.
The NHL Goes Global and Patrik Laine Goes Off
The Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers played a two-game set in Helsinki, Finland this week as part of the NHL Global Series. It was the seventh time in league history that the NHL has played regular-season games in Europe. Both games were sold out and international fans were treated to some exciting hockey.
In the first game, the Jets arose victorious on the back of Patrik Laine. The Finnish sniper had a hat trick in front of droves of roaring fans, pacing the Jets to a 4-2 win. Laine’s wicked release was on full display throughout the contest.
The Panthers responded in the second game with a 4-2 win of their own. Roberto Luongo returned from an MCL sprain and made 32 saves in his first game action since October 6. The Panthers had stumbled out of the gate without their starting netminder so his return will be a massive boost for their playoffs aspirations. The power-play also continued to dominate as the Panthers were three-for-five with the man advantage in the game. Evgenii Dadonov and Keith Yandle both had a goal and an assist in the victory while Patrik Laine scored again for the Jets. Mike Hoffman also extended his nine-game point streak with this filthy wrister.
Anytime the NHL goes overseas it is always an enjoyable experience. Seeing other countries celebrate hockey as much as us Canadians is a heartwarming spectacle. They plan to visit several new countries in future years which has me wondering when the Norwegian series pits Mats Zuccarello against Andreas Martinsen in a BATTLE OF THE AGES.
These players scored the first NHL goal of their careers this week: Rourke Chartier (SJS), Michael Rasmussen (DET), Alex Formenton (OTT), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (MTL), Vladislav Kamenev (COL), Sheldon Dries (COL), Nick Seeler (MIN), Mathieu Joseph (TBL).
The Buffalo Sabres (9-2 win over the Ottawa Senators, 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers) outscored the Buffalo Bills (41-9 loss to the Chicago Bears) this weekend.
The Sabres also have the new best line in the NHL. The top combination of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Jason Pominville have more points than any other trio in the league since October 20.
Slava Voynov is thinking about an NHL comeback as he applied for reinstatement by the league this week. In case you forgot, Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL after he pleaded no contest to a domestic violence incident in 2015. He reportedly choked and beat his wife with regularity, including a situation that required her to get eight stitches above her eye. I’ll keep things blunt. Fuck Slava Voynov and I pray the NHL’s moral compass is intact because he should never be able to play in the league again.
New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider made his first start of the 2018-19 season and subsequently lost 4-3 to the Detroit Red Wings. Schneider is currently riding a ridiculous 13-game winless streak when making a start in the regular season. He is 0-11-2 in that span and has allowed three or more goals in every single game. The futility is honestly kind of impressive.
The New York Islanders have produced a five-game winning streak out of nowhere. The team lost John Tavares in the offseason, but they look no worse for wear as they sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division. All five of the games were against fellow Metropolitan teams which make the streak even more important. Thomas Greiss has been remarkable with a 4-2-0 record, 1.85 goals-against average, and .944 save percentage this season. Josh Bailey has also quietly put together an eight-game point streak. The Islanders were expected to be basement-dwellers in the East, but the addition of Barry Trotz behind the bench has done wonders for the team.
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen has been magnificent in his return to the NHL. After a six-season hiatus, Koskinen has won his first three starts of 2018-19. He has produced a 2.02 goals-against average, .935 save percentage, and one shutout. Cam Talbot has been mediocre to start the campaign which should lead to more appearances for the Finnish netminder.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the 50th shutout of his career on Saturday night during a 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal scored the 400th goal of his career on Saturday night during a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
Jason Pominville (BUF), Ron Hainsey (TOR), and Jason Spezza (DAL) all played in their 1000th career regular season game this week.
The Montreal Canadiens set an NHL record by scoring two goals in two seconds (!!) during a 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals. The second goal was an empty-netter, but impressive nonetheless.
See ya next week and god bless Dennis Cholowski!