It didn’t have the world record breaking attendance of “The Big Chill” between Michigan and Michigan State nor did it feature a contest between hockey’s two biggest stars like the 2011 Winter Classic, but the WHL put on an outdoor game of its own tonight. They even attracted an energy drink sponsor, as the event was titled the Rockstar Oudoor Hockey Classic.
Sure, the sold out crowd of 7,075 fans who watched the Spokane Chiefs dominate the Kootenay Ice 11-2 would be a mere drop in the bucket for those aforementioned outdoor games, but if everyone enjoyed it* then why not?
* – People associated with the Kootenay Ice might be the exception judging from the score of that game, though.
The event took place at Spokane’s Avista Stadium, included appearances from former minor league hockey players and featured typical attractions for big events including a fireworks display. Here are some more details.
Former Allan Cup Champions Don Schereza and Dwight Carruthers, who played for the Spokane Jets and Flyers respectivley in the 1970’s, were joined by former Chief Joe Cardarelli at center ice. The pre-game was atmosphere was puncuated by a flyover from the 92 Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base.
Near perfect weather and the scoring output by the home club kept the capacity crowd involved through all 60 minutes. A fireworks spectacular presented by TicketsWest highlighted the post game ceremonies.
Following the game, fans were treated to three different giveaways, a commerative ticket, a poster of the opening ceremonies presented by Washington Trust Bank and The Rypien Foundation, and a coupon for a Chalupa at Taco Bell thanks to Spokane scoring more than five goals.
Nothing says “crowd pleaser” quite like a nine-goal win and some free artery-clogging fast food, right?
When you talk about the best lines in the NHL, don’t sleep on the trio Johnny Gaudreau is leading for the Calgary Flames.
With his 10th goal of the season coming early in a Flames – Washington Capitals game that is ongoing, Gaudreau collected his 30th point of 2017-18. As of this writing, only two other players have hit that mark so far: Steven Stamkos (35 points) and Nikita Kucherov (33), the headliners of a Tampa Bay Lightning trio that’s grabbing a lot of, well, headlines.
Here’s the goal Gaudreau scored against the Caps, keeping in mind that he has plenty of time to add to his lofty totals:
This Gaudreau guy is pretty good at hockey. Holtby doesn't let many players beat him on clean looks like that.
To an extent, it feels like Gaudreau’s fantastic work has been sneaking under the radar, at least compared to the likes of Stamkos – Kucherov. Then again, maybe some of it has to do with the fact that his hot streak is at least somewhat concentrated in the last few weeks?
Johnny Gaudreau in the past 10 games: 8 goals, 10 assists. He good.
Gaudreau, no doubt, is the catalyst. His playmaking ability is often spellbinding, and he’s well beyond questions about being a flash in the pan at this point in his career. The 24-year-old came into tonight’s game with 233 points in 251 career regular-season games; he’s scored more than the likes of Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Malkin since becoming a full-time player in 2014-15, according to Hockey Reference. (He ranks 12th overall during that span.)
There remains a debate about how much Sean Monahan can accomplish without Gaudreau, yet the counterpoint would be to wonder if it’s really that wise to mess with such a good thing. Such an argument is especially tough to make on the heels of his first career hat trick:
While Gaudreau has eight goals and 10 assists for a whopping 18 points (and possibly counting) during a 10-game point streak, Monahan collected his 21st point of this season on the primary assist. He added a helper to that hat trick the other night, so even if he’s stopped for the rest of Monday, Monahan has five points in two games. He also generated a six-game point streak (three goals, five assists) from Oct. 27 – Nov. 9.
When people haven’t been discussing Monahan’s dependence upon Gaudreau, they’ve wondered who might be the right winger for that dynamic duo.
The big 25-year-old currently has 12 points in 18 games, but he’s really been revving up his production as of late. The Flyers snapped his five-game goal streak on Nov. 18, yet he extended his point streak to six contests with an assist (5G, 3A).
Logically, Ferland makes some sense for Gaudreau – Monahan. Neither of those forwards bring a lot of beef to the table, and Ferland has also shown some signs that he possesses the ability to finish the chances they can set up. As fun as it is to watch Jaromir Jagr with those two, Ferland might end up being the best fit for them since Jiri Hudler’s better Flames days.
(Ferland didn’t get an assist on Gaudreau’s goal, so he’ll need to generate some offense as this game goes along to keep his impressive streak going.)
Stamkos, Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov probably carry the championship belts as the best scoring line in hockey, at least right now. One of the delightful things about this relatively high-scoring start to the season is that there are plenty of contenders for that imaginary title, and Gaudreau’s group shouldn’t be shortchanged in such debates.
Update: Monahan added a goal of his own (the eventual game-winner, with a primary assist by Gaudreau) as the Flames ran away with this one by a score of 4-1. Matthew Tkachuk made his presence felt as well with two assists.
About the only bummer was that Ferland’s point streak ended.
So, Gaudreau finishes the night with 31 points on the season, including 19 during this 10-game streak. Monahan now has 22 points (with six in the last two contests).
The above concerns of all parties involved were genuine, of course, Hurricanes management, too, were likely chomping at the bit as they awaited the Finn’s scoring touch around the net.
Perhaps Aho just doesn’t like running with the big pack out of the gate. Slow and steady, as the old saying goes. Despite the lack of pucks behind goalies, Aho has been a strong possession player this season and his expected goal numbers are equally as good.
Aho also has his brief history in pro hockey on his side.
Indeed, Aho’s rookie season didn’t start much different. Last season, it took the Finn 13 games to score his first NHL goal, but he managed to finish the season with 24, an impressive number from a new commodity.
He was only off that pace by two games this season.
It took him 15 games (over four-and-a-half hours of ice time) to register his name and number in the goal section of the scoresheet.
“Before, I never used my stick in any way like that,” he said. “It was unfortunate.”
Despite the ugliness of the slash, Perreault was fine and hasn’t missed any games for the Winnipeg Jets. He was well-aware of Gudas’ rap sheet and while he said the defenseman apologized, he was weary at the thought it wasn’t intentional.
“He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay, it looks like he did it on purpose,” Perreault said last week. “It wasn’t an accident. He’s been known for doing stuff like that, so I certainly don’t appreciate it. I’m sure the league will take care of it.”
Gudas won’t be able to return to the Flyers’ lineup until Dec. 12 and it doesn’t look like he’s going to appeal. It will be interesting to see what happens the next time he runs afoul of the NHL rulebook given this latest suspension.
“I don’t agree with it, but I accept their decision,” Gudas said. “There’s not much else I can say.”
A Montreal Canadiens team struggling for answers in the early going this season got a bit of a boost on Monday.
Goaltender Carey Price returned to practice on Monday morning in Montreal, a welcome sign for a team struggling to stop pucks and desperate to start winning as they wallow in the depths of the Eastern Conference.
Truth be told, the Canadiens weren’t very good with Price in the lineup before he went down with a lower-body injury, forcing him to miss the past eight games.
In 11 starts, Price has been above a .900 save percentage in just three of them and owns a 3-7-1 record. His save percentage sits at .877 with an equally unhealthy 3.77 goals-against average.
Montreal has the second-worst team save percentage in the league at .886 and have several other issues to contend with, including being 29th in goals for, 30th in goals against, 27th in power-play efficiency, 28th killing penalties and dead last in shooting percentage.
Indeed, the Canadiens will take any positives that come their way at the moment.