1. Oliver Bjorkstrand, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bjorkstrand played a big role in the Blue Jackets’ fifth consecutive win. The Rangers carried a 1-0 lead into the third period, where Bjorkstrand scored both of Columbus’ goals for a 2-1 win. The first one was unassisted, while Bjorkstrand generated the game-winner with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Blue Jackets sit in the East’s first wild-card spot … for the time being.
Bjorkstrand now has 14 goals, putting him in range of last season’s career-high of 23. He finished Sunday at 25 points in 37 games this season.
2. Matiss Kivlenieks, also Columbus Blue Jackets
Don’t blame hockey fans if they say, “OK, now the Blue Jackets are just inventing European goalies.” At least we can latch onto the funny name and prolonged hot streak of Elvis Merzlikins.
Kivlenieks, 23, made a splash during his NHL debut on Sunday. The Latvia native stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced against the Rangers, nabbing a win. Here are a few facts about Matiss, who might draw a few Henri Matisse references from an extremely select group of hockey fans:
- Kivlenieks wend undrafted.
- He didn’t exactly set the AHL on fire so far in 2019-20, going 7-7-2 with a weak .896 save percentage.
- Kivlenieks didn’t really put up very good stats in the AHL in 2018-19 or 2017-18, either. He fared better during eight ECHL appearances in 2018-19, though, managing a .923 save percentage.
- The “Joker” mask indicates that there’s a chance he is corny.
Numbers at lower levels guarantee little, but they’re better than nothing. Kivlenieks doesn’t really check that box, but then again, neither did Andrew Hammond. So who knows? Goalies: they’re odd.
3. Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks
Much like the Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks have won five in a row. To some degree, that boils down to hot play from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (who reached 1,000 points on Sunday).
Don’t discount Lehner’s role in helping Chicago persist in the playoff bubble, though. Despite a significant drop-off in defensive play around him compared to his Islanders run, Lehner continues to look strong in net. He made 36 saves on Sunday to improve to 15-7-4 with a strong .924 save percentage. That’s really not far off from last season’s outstanding .930 mark, which helped Lehner become a Vezina finalist.
Sunday presented some solid honorable mentions. Sidney Crosby collected two assists during the Penguins’ surprising comeback against the Bruins. (Check out Crosby’s no-look pass.) Lehner’s teammate Alex Nylander collected a goal and an assist, and so on.
Highlights of the Night
Justin Williams did more than just return to the Hurricanes and NHL on Sunday. He also scored the shootout-deciding goal and led a “Storm Surge.” (Read this for more on Williams’ triumphant return.)
Patrick Kane didn’t just reach 1,000 points. He did so in style:
- Kane became the youngest U.S.-born player to reach 1,000 points. Consider this post to be its own factoids section on Kane’s milestone.
- The Penguins joined the Panthers in generated three comeback wins from down three goals or more, according to NHL PR. (Pittsburgh also pulled that off in 2008-09.) The league notes that only three teams have generated more comeback wins from such deficits, all at four: the Red Wings in 1989-90, and both the 1983-84 Oilers and 1983-84 North Stars.
- Uh oh. Connor Hellebuyck sports a troubling .897 save percentage over his last 16 games after managing a .933 mark during his first 16, according to TSN’s Statscentre. Hellebuyck grabs my current hypothetical Vezina vote in part because he’s carried such a burden for the Jets. Maybe he’s starting to wear down?
PIT 4 – BOS 3
CAR 2 – NYI 1 (SO)
CBJ 2 – NYR 1
CHI 5 – WPG 2
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.