The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!
Niklas Backstrom, G, Minnesota Wild
Key stats: 1-6-2 in last eight games played.
Cap hit: $6 million annually
Most have pinned Minnesota’s recent slide — the Wild have lost 11 of their last 13 — on a lack of scoring. The 29th-ranked offense in the NHL is averaging just over two goals per game and has gone in the tank of late…but that’s not the only reason Minnesota has dropped from first in the Western Conference into a dogfight for eighth.
The other reason: Niklas Backstrom hasn’t been very good.
After dropping a 2-1 shootout decision to the Islanders back on Dec. 17, the Finnish netminder has struggled to keep pucks out of the net. After the loss to New York, Backstrom allowed four goals in three consecutive contests — against Vancouver, Edmonton and Colorado — before allowing three in each of his next three against Edmonton, Phoenix and Calgary. Five of those six games ended up in defeat with the last one, a 3-1 loss in Calgary, being especially troublesome as Backstrom allowed three goals in a 9:13 span in the final period.
The Wild need Backstrom to be at his best for a variety of reasons. One, they’ve sunk $6 million bucks into his services this season, a fair chunk of change for a team that’s not spending to the cap. Two, the health of backup Josh Harding has been dicey — he missed all of last year with a knee injury and part of this season with a head injury — and he’s yet to prove capable of handling the starting load.
Bottom line: To avoid an embarrassing collapse, Minnesota needs its No. 1 netminder to show the form that made him a former Vezina nominee.
So wake up, Niklas Backstrom. Your team needs you.
The Buzzer: Celebrating genius of McDavid, Bergeron, Karlsson
There were great choices for player of the night, but ultimately, Bergeron’s return to the Bruins lineup stands tallest. He scored a goal and three assists, soothing injury-bummed Bruins fans as part of Boston’s victory against Vancouver.
Bergeron didn’t ease right in. He won half of his draws, fired six shots on goal, and almost logged 21 minutes of ice time. Maybe he can hold things together for Boston?
Update: The Edmonton Oilers ended up needing every bit of Connor McDavid‘s brilliance, as goals weren’t coming easily against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
(Even though, as you can see with that highlight-reel assist, McDavid often makes it look easy.)
McDavid also managed a secondary assist on Mark Letestu‘s overtime-winner, ending the Edmonton Oilers’ losing streak at four games. The Blackhawks continue to be resourceful in getting standings points, in this case falling 2-1 in OT.
Anton Forsberg made 40 of 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough against a driven group led by number 97.
If you haven’t seen the more amazing of McDavid’s two helpers, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.
Connor McDavid’s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.
To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.
You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.
If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:
The roller coaster isn’t slowing down for the Boston Bruins.
With Tuukka Rask‘s concussion looming over the proceedings, the Bruins gave fans some reason to celebrate; Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and three assists in an impressive 6-3 output by the B’s top guns against the overmatched Vancouver Canucks.
Even Anders Bjork enjoyed some measure of redemption after bowling over Rask in practice, as the young player scored two goals and an assist despite being limited to 12:29 TOI.
Other big guns like Brad Marchand did their increasingly reliable damage, with David Pastrnak probably providing the most exhilarating goal of the contest:
Yeah, that might get some attention from Canucks coach Travis Green in film sessions, assuming he doesn’t just burn the tape.
Bergeron broke down his night to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game:
The Bruins really made Erik Gudbranson and the Canucks pay for boarding Frank Vatrano, as they scored three power-play goals on the major penalty. Vatrano’s another health situation to watch, although it’s heartening that he returned during the game.
So … solid stuff overall, as the Bruins provided ample evidence that they might have the weapons to scrap through all this bad luck.
Then again, if opponents can slow the top-end guys, you wonder what kind of supporting cast the Bruins will have left through this run of attrition. David Krejci is the latest name to land on Boston’s troubling list of walking wounded.
Update: David Krejci will not return with an upper-body injury.