There’s no discussion about it: Martin Jones is the unquestioned man in the San Jose Sharks’ net. After nights like Friday, it’s reasonable to wonder if Aaron Dell might be a diamond in the rough, though.
Much has been made of Dell cracking the NHL at the advanced age of 27, but he’s quietly been excelling when given opportunities … which are sometimes pretty rare.
Dell only needed to make 21 saves to grab his first career shutout in a 2-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers last night, yet it’s interesting to note that he’s been putting up nice numbers in small sample sizes for a while now.
2013-14: 19-7-3, .920 save percentage in 29 ECHL games
12-0, .922 save percentage in six AHL games 2014-15: 8-1-2, .902 save percentage in 12 ECHL games
15-8-2, .927 save percentage in 26 AHL games 2015-16: 17-16-6, .922 save percentage in 40 AHL games 2016-17: 4-1-0, .936 save percentage, one shutout in six games with Sharks
If nothing else, Dell is accustomed to paying his dues. Jones has been pretty impressive in his own right (19-11-1 with a .920 save percentage over a much larger sample size of 31 games this season), yet Dell could provide valuable insurance if injuries strike or Jones experiences a slump.
With four straight wins and victories in eight of their last nine games, San Jose might just build up enough of a buffer in the Pacific to get an idea of what they have in Dell by giving him an extra look or two down the stretch.
Matt Puempel collected his first career hat trick on Thursday
Maybe Matt Puempel really will flourish now that he’s with the New York Rangers after struggling to accomplish much of anything with the Ottawa Senators.
He indicated as much upon his departure from Ottawa, and Thursday served as his creative peak; the 23-year-old generated his first hat trick as the Rangers beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3.
Remarkably, all three of Puempel’s goals came on the power play. Here’s video of the trio:
In 13 games with the Senators this season, he couldn’t generated a point. Last night represented his 12th game with the Rangers, where things are going much better, especially lately. He has four goals and one assist in his last four games despite limited ice time.
(Speaking of that, 4:05 of his 12:20 in ice time came on the man advantage. Perhaps Alain Vigneault sees Puempel as a Sam Gagner-type specialist?)
It’s still unclear if Puempel will be able to make good on his potential as the 24th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, but the Rangers look pretty bright for giving him a chance.
Patrick Kane’s 700th point makes difference for Blackhawks vs. Predators
In case you’re wondering, Kane hit 700 points in the 696th regular season game of his outstanding NHL career. He also has 121 points in 123 career postseason games. Number 88 now has 37 points in 38 games this season.
New Year’s Eve showdown set: Blue Jackets win 14th in a row, Wild get 12th
If you love sports, how could you root against this scenario?
It was slowly dawning on many in the hockey world that, with wins in their respective Thursday games, the Minnesota Wild could very well host the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game between teams on ridiculous winning streaks. Hockey fans will indeed enjoy that rare treat on New Year’s Eve.
The Blue Jackets draw the loudest headlines, and that seems fair since they’ve won more games (now 14 in a row) and they’ve often blown out their opponents to an almost shocking degree.
The Winnipeg Jets avoided getting blown out tonight, but with two different three-goal leads, Columbus clearly had the edge in an eventual 5-3 win.
With that, the Blue Jackets have won every game in December; their winning streak began on Nov. 29. You could say that Columbus is putting up some real eye-popping numbers.
Wild fans have been grumbling “What about us?” for a while, although they’re no longer under the radar by any stretch. They won their 12th game in a row by edging the New York Islanders in a pretty (cough) wild 6-4 win.
You usually need some bounces and plot twists to go your way to win 10+ wins; in today’s case, the Wild won in part thanks to scoring three goals in 80 seconds.
You don’t often see two teams this hot face off like this, and things fall into place nicely being that it’s happening on the weekend.
If you love the sport (or really even merely occasionally enjoy a little hockey, honestly), you’d be wise to work that game into your schedule on that holiday night. It could be a memorable evening, as two astounding, unexpected streaks will be on the line.
Matthews scored the opening goal and assisted on another Kadri overtime game-winner as the Maple Leafs edged the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in OT.
With that, the Maple Leafs won all four games of their just-concluded road trip. In doing so, they took a point from a Bolts squad that needs to make the most of their home dates.
Matthews’ goal was one of those displays that prompts people to wonder how, in the world, he’s only a rookie:
William Nylander factored into Kadri’s overtime-winner, too, continuing the theme of young and almost-as-young players coming through:
The Leafs edged the Lightning in shots on goal by a margin of 35-27, so it’s not like this was a matter of timely scoring alone.
This is a real confidence-boosting run for the Leafs with a challenging start to 2017 looming. They face the hype and distractions of the 2017 Centennial Classic as a “home game” and then follow that with four of five on the road.
That isn’t easy, but Toronto has immediate evidence that they can keep rolling even with a tough stretch of scheduling breaks. That’s the sort of confidence that can make you, well, dangerous.