NHL upsets on Friday
It’s not every day (Fri-or-otherwise) where the Red Wings and Devils both win. Not in 2020, at least. Upsets were close to a theme on Friday, though, highlighted by the Devils ending the Blues’ eight-game winning streak.
Also, the Red Wings squeaked by the Blackhawks. Maple Leafs fans were left steaming mad (especially at Mitch Marner) after the Ducks frustrated them. While they count as milder upsets, the Canucks beat the Avalanche, and the Jets shut out the Golden Knights. Finally, the Flames beat the Coyotes, which was at least upsetting in the sense that the loss really, really hurts Arizona’s dwindling chances.
One knock against the upset angle: all six home teams won.
1. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Tkachuk generated an assist on all three goals in Calgary’s narrow, regulation win against the Coyotes.
Really, it’s not surprising that the pesky star thrived in a playoff-type game. Two of Tkachuk’s three assists were of the primary variety, including the game-winner by T.J. Brodie. Tkachuk improved his 2019-20 totals to 38 assists and 60 points in 68 games. It doesn’t look likely that Tkachuk will match his career-high of 77 points from last season, but he might be able to set a new mark for helpers, as he generated 43 in 2018-19.
Taylor Hall was involved in all of Arizona’s scoring, generating a goal and an assist. Being traded from New Jersey made for more relevant hockey, but Hall will need draft lottery-level luck to appear in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
The pattern generally continues: when the Jets succeed, Hellebuyck is usually leading (blocking?) the way. Hellebuyck stopped all 29 of Vegas’ shots for his league-leading sixth shutout of the season. Reaching six shutouts also ties a career-high for the 26-year-old.
It’s unclear if Hellebuyck will win the Vezina for 2019-20, but if another goalie’s been more important to his team, it’s not by much.
There were other strong goalie performances on Friday, which shouldn’t be surprising since upsets and strong netminding often go together. Cory Schneider made 31 saves, Jonathan Bernier generated 32, Cam Talbot had 32, and John Gibson produced 26 — just to mention the standout winners.
Only Hellebuyck finished with a shutout, however.
3. Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings
Bernier deserves a nod as the best goalie behind Hellebuyck from a Friday of NHL upsets … probably. (Again, there was some sharp goaltending.)
Despite playing well in his past two appearances, Bernier took the “L” each time. In fact, he’s been in the loss column quite a bit lately, with Friday’s win being merely his second since Feb. 11. Only Patrick Kane could score against Bernier on Friday.
The Blackhawks’ already slim playoff hopes took a big hit thanks to Bernier’s brilliance.
Highlight of the Night
Speaking of Bernier, he flummoxed Alex DeBrincat during this exchange:
The Push for the Playoffs after Friday heavy in NHL upsets
NJD 4 – STL 2
DET 2 – CHI 1
WIN 4 – VGK 0
CGY 3 – ARI 2
VAN 6 – COL 3
ANA 2 – TOR 1
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.