When you’re a dazzling goal-scorer on Alex Ovechkin’s level, it’s not often that a goalie has your “number,” so it’s easy to make note of the guys who defy you.
It’s likely that Jaroslav Halak ranks high on Ovechkin’s list. The Slovakian goalie was the main reason that the Montreal Canadiens topped Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals in the 2010 playoffs and Halak also spoiled Dale Hunter’s coaching debut as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
“Actually, it’s funny story,” Ovechkin said. “Last night I was with my friend in my home and we play video game and Halak stopped [everything]. Halak was the first star of the day. And my friend just told me, ‘Jesus Christ, this guy just destroy in playoffs.’ I don’t want to talk about it.”
(Hopefully Halak’s performance didn’t force Ovechkin to chuck a controller in frustration, like a certain well-adjusted and totally mature hockey blogger.)
In case you’re wondering, Halak’s current NHL 12 rating is an 88 out of 100, ranking him high among polygonal puck-stoppers – and first place among Ovi irritants.
Hats off to Tavares’ fantastic first season in Toronto
However you feel about John Tavares joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, you can’t deny how great he’s been during his first season with the team he rooted for as a child.
It’s possible that Monday represented his best game yet with the Maple Leafs.
For the 10th time in his already fantastic NHL career – and already the second time since joining the Maple Leafs – Tavares generated a hat trick. He did so through two periods of Monday’s game against the Florida Panthers, and actually added a fourth goal during the final frame as Toronto outgunned the Panthers 7-5. With that, Tavares enjoyed his first-ever four-goal game.
As you can see from the highlights of his hat trick above and the fourth goal below, the goals were very much of Tavares’ trademark: “greasy” goals in the dirty areas in front of the net. If you combined the distance of all four goals, they might only match that single center-ice goal by Sam Reinhart.
Tavares has already crossed the 40-goal barrier for the first time in his career, and the milestones are piling up from there, as this performance pushes him to 45 goals and 86 points in 76 games. Consider the following:
Again, this is a career-high for goals, and his first-ever four-goal game.
Tavares tied his career-high of 86 points, matching his peak from 2014-15. There’s a solid chance Tavares might reach 90 points for the first time in his career, too.
There’s a lot of angst in the air in Toronto right now, and a win might only do so much to soothe concerns, as a 7-5 win isn’t exactly “pretty.” At least if you’re wanting to tighten things up, as Mike Babcock surely hopes to do heading into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But imagine if Tavares was a flop, instead of a slam-dunk success, during his first season with the Maple Leafs? Instead, he’s playing at such a level that he might just help Toronto to simply “outscore its mistakes.”
Either way, it certainly doesn’t seem like signing Tavares was a mistake.
The lows have been far, far more frequent for Cory Schneider during the last few seasons, to the point that it was fair to wonder if he’d ever restore his NHL career. Monday represented one of the lowest lows, even if center-ice goals happen to just about all goalies – from the elite to the going obsolete.
Schneider could do little but shake his head after Sam Reinhart‘s bouncing attempt beat him from center ice. You can watch that unfortunate moment in the video above this post’s headline.
That lucky/sneaky goal marks the 20th of the season for Reinhart, who’s quietly been one of the more promising stories of a disappointing finish for the Buffalo Sabres.
It isn’t lost on Hockey Twitter that the New Jersey Devils are probably better off losing, so at least there’s that?
This unfortunate gaffe actually does inspire a look at Schneider’s recent stats, and that’s where there’s at least some muted optimism.
A couple promising months don’t erase a couple very discouraging years for Schneider, but it’s telling that, despite all of these tough recent times, Schneider’s career save percentage is still stellar at .919. The 33-year-old hasn’t been that goalie since 2015-16, but if he could even become a decent 1A/1B goalie, that could give the Devils a considerable boost.
He’ll need to shake off moments like these, though.
Update: That ended up being the only goal Schneider allowed, as he stopped 45 shots in New Jersey’s 3-1 win against Buffalo.
NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday night’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Predators and Wild wrap up their season series to start the penultimate week of the regular season. Both teams come in off blowout losses on Saturday that had major impacts on their respective playoff races.
Nashville lost 5-0 in Winnipeg, putting a major dent into the Predators’ quest to win a second straight Central Division title. A win would have moved the Preds even on points with the Jets atop the division, but instead Nashville suffered one of their worst losses of the season.
The Wild were handed a much more crucial defeat, falling 5-1 at Carolina. Minnesota came into Saturday’s game on a high after winning 2-1 at Washington the day prior. Devan Dubnyk started a second straight night as the Wild looked to take control of the second Wild Card spot in the West.
The Predators’ loss to the Jets on Saturday not only hampered their hopes to win the division, but it also allowed the Blues to pull closer to Nashville for second in the Central. What was a six-point lead just over a week ago has now dwindled to a two-point advantage, with St. Louis having a game in hand.
Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jones and Patrick Sharp.
The Los Angeles Kings are in Calgary on Monday night and that means it is time for defenseman Drew Doughty to continue what has become a longstanding feud with Matthew Tkachuk.
The 21-year-old Tkachuk has only been in the league for three years but has already earned himself quite the reputation as being one of the NHL’s most irritating players to play against, and no one seems to share that opinion more (publicly, anyway) than Doughty.
On Monday, he was asked about the “rivalry” that currently exists between the Flames and Kings only to downplay it as nothing more than Tkachuk going after him all the time.
“Our rivalry is not even close with this team compared to other teams,” said Doughty. “I think most of it is just because of Tkachuk going after me is why the rivalry kind of started. We never really had a playoff series against this team, never really had any big games against this team, so I think the rivalry just kind of started with all that [expletive].”
He did not stop there.
Doughty also said, via Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, that he has “no respect” for the Flames’ forward and that he will never talk to him off the ice, while also adding that Tkachuk is not respected by most players in the league.
This is not the first time Doughty has publicly sounded off on Tkachuk or cited other players in the league not respecting the Flames’ forward.
A lot of this started during Tkachuk’s rookie season when he earned a two-game suspension for elbowing Doughty in the head, sparking this reaction from the Kings’ defender.
“He’s a pretty dirty player, that kid. To be a rookie and play like that is a little surprising. I don’t know exactly what happened because I got hit in the head, but I thought he elbowed me. I can’t tell you for sure, so I’m not going to say if I think anything should happen, but whatever it was, it hurt pretty bad, and it’s going to hurt for a little bit.”
This is the play that resulted in the two-game suspension.
The feud has only continued to escalate from there, including this little exchange in the penalty boxes early in the 2017-18 season…
If nothing else, this might add some heat to what would be an otherwise dull game between a team (Calgary) that is rolling toward a division title and another team (Los Angeles) that is rolling toward the draft lottery.
It is also worth keeping in mind this fact about Tkachuk: For all of the talk about him as a pest and agitator, he is also one heck of a hockey player that has developed into a top-line player. His production has consistently improved across the board every year he has been in the league and he enters Monday’s game with 76 points (34 goals, 42 assists) in 75 games and is one of the league’s leading scorers.
He is one of four Flames players in the top-25 in the points race, joining Johnny Gaudreau (7th), Elias Lindholm (21st), and Sean Monahan (25th). Together they are a big part of why the Flames have emerged as a surprising Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference.
Doughty, meanwhile, is having what might one of his worst seasons in the NHL and enters Monday’s game with five goals, 36 assists, and a minus-30 rating that is among the league’s worst.