1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Hopefully all of the violence didn’t overshadow Rask’s return too much. If anything, it should highlight how Rask’s strong play maintained control.
Rask stopped 37 out of 38 shots on goal to win on Friday. He ranked as the biggest reason the Jets couldn’t take advantage of a plethora of power-play opportunities. Winnipeg went 0-for-6 on the PP, with Rask stopping all 12 PP SOG he saw.
Rask improved to 18-4-6 with a sparkling .927 save percentage in 2019-20. The Bruins should be overturning every stone to make sure he’s healthy for the playoffs.
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby vs. Rask is a matter of taste. For the Flyers, that taste was bitter. Crosby clearly loves tormenting his team’s in-state rivals, as this was a chapter in a bursting book (maybe a shelf-full of books) of Crosby thumping the Flyers.
He scored the overtime game-winning goal and added two assists — both primary. A lengthy injury absence derailed Crosby’s chances of back-to-back 100+ point seasons, but he’s been dominant when healthy, now at 28 points in 23 games.
Evgeni Malkin managed a one-goal, two-assist night as well. Crosby gets the edge because he scored the game-winner, and also Malkin’s assists were secondary helpers.
3. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers
Now, if you consider Malkin’s night better than a comparable one for Zibanejad, that’s fine.
Wherever you rank it, Zibanejad impressed again with a goal and two assists of his own. Zibanejad poses “What if?” injury questions of his own for this season, as he now has 42 points over 36 games. That’s an even better pace than last season, but Zibanejad managed to play in 82 games (collecting a career-high 74 points).
As much as it feels like the Rangers have quite a long way to go, maybe they’re closer than people think. Healthy Zibanejad + healthy Artemi Panarin could comprise most of a winning formula, honestly.
Highlight of the Night
Speaking of Panarin, he scored a beautiful goal against the Red Wings on Friday. The kicking celebration really clinches it:
Ovechkin passes Messier
As you likely heard, Alex Ovechkin passed Mark Messier for eighth all-time in goals with his 695th. It feels appropriate to give that achievement its own “factoids” section. First, enjoy the two goals that pushed Ovechkin beyond another icon this week.
To start, here are some ifs:
Alex Ovechkin is now on pace for 59 goals this season. If he does it, he would tie Phil Esposito for the 6th most in NHL history (717) & if he gets 1 more than that, he'd also pass Esposito (61 at age 33 in 1974-75) as the oldest player ever to have a 60+ G season
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) February 1, 2020
Now, let’s consider some milestones Ovechkin already reached.
- Remarkably, this was the first time Ovechkin reached 10 goals over five appearances, and he actually hit 11 with the empty-netter. NHL PR notes that Ovechkin joined Joe Mullen as the only player aged 34+ to generate at least 11 goals over five games.
- Ovechkin has now scored 30+ goals against 12 different teams. Yes, that’s rare.
- The red-hot Capitals’ accomplishments weren’t limited to ogling Ovechkin. The Capitals improved to 20-6-1 on the road this season, matching a mark the franchise already set for the fewest road games (27) to 20 away wins.
- NHL PR points out that rookie Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov is one of only four goalies to win 16+ of their first 20 games, and only the third rookie goalie to manage 11+ wins in consecutive decisions. Capitals PR notes that Samsonov joined Brent Johnson as the only two rookie goalies to win their first 10 road decisions (Johnson managed 11).
- One more Capitals bit: John Carlsson now owns the franchise defenseman assists record at 362, passing Calle Johansson. Johansson’s franchise defenseman points record (474) isn’t far from Carlsson’s grasp, as he’s at 464.
- Remember that bit about Crosby owning the Flyers? Crosby is one of five players with at least 100 points against the Flyers (105), via NHL PR. Mario Lemieux ranks first with 124. Crosby is also now tied for third all-time in overtime goals with 16, via Sportsnet stats.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy reached 150 wins in 246 games. According to NHL PR, Vasilevskiy is one of only four goalies to manage that feat in 246 GP or less.
NYR 4 – DET 2
PIT 4 – PHI 3 (OT)
WSH 5 – OTT 3
VGK 4 – CAR 3
BOS 2 – WPG 1
EDM 4 – STL 2
TBL 4 – ANA 3
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.