Pro Hockey Talk is taking a look back at the year in hockey. We’ll be presenting you with the best goals, saves, moments, NHL players and more as we remember 2020.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The Tampa-Columbus five overtime game for sure. First, I just simply loved Columbus’ presence in this game. The fact it beat Toronto in the play-in round in five games, and then got a rematch against Tampa after the previous season’s sweep, and then tried to spoil the party again was just so intriguing to me. Then you had an all-time goaltending performance from Joonas Korpisalo to stop 85 shots to keep the game close and tied, and then the whole bubble aspect and what it did to the schedule. It was just magnificent theatre. Then any time you have a multiple overtime goal it is memorable, especially when it is one of the longest games ever.
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Lightning – Blue Jackets Game 1: I’m for the chaos, and starting off bubble hockey with the fourth longest game in NHL history has to be the definition of it.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Stars vs Avalanche, Game 7. This was the sixth-highest scoring series in NHL history, and it produced an epic finale that featured the first Game 7 hat trick since Wayne Gretzky in 1993. The hero was Joel Kiviranta, who somehow scored more goals in that game (3) than Tyler Seguin did during Dallas’ entire playoff run (2).
James O’Brien, NHL writer: The Stars’ wild 5-4 OT Game 7 win against the Avalanche takes the cake. While it didn’t make the epic OT history of Lightning – Blue Jackets, it featured an unlikely hero (Joel Kiviranta), Game 7 drama, Game 7 overtime drama, lead changes, and a bucket of goals. The Stars and Avalanche scored a goal apiece less than four minutes into that Game 7, while what looked like a series-clinching Vladislav Namestnikov goal instead only gave Colorado a lead for 10 seconds. A wild game to close a wild series.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Mika Zibanejad owned the final month and a half of the regular season with 17 goals in the Rangers’ last 13 games. In arguably the game of the season, New York and the Capitals exchanged goals through three periods that saw a 5-5 scoreline need overtime. The forward continued his red-hot scoring streak with four goals, including two on the power play. During the extra period, he had one more in his pocket to seal the win.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: It was a non-descript game on a Saturday night in late February between Carolina and Toronto when both Hurricane goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek went down with injuries. The Canes were forced to use the reserve goalie in Toronto, a 42-year-old practice goalie with the Maple Leafs, Dave Ayres. Carolina was up 3-1 at the time but there was still 8:41 left in the second period. Carolina quickly made it 4-1 but the Leafs, who managed only two shots the rest of the way in the second period, scored on both attempts to make it 4-3 heading into the third.
It was a different story in the third as Carolina managed a couple of quick goals to make it 6-3 and then Ayres went to work, stopping all eight Toronto shots.
Ayres picked up the win and his amazing story was the biggest thing in sports that weekend around the world.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Steven Stamkos was on the ice for just 2:47 during the 2020 playoffs, but he made it count. The Lightning captain played only five shifts in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final and took one shot, but that shot ended up behind Anton Khudobin. Tampa would win the game and the next time Stamkos was seen on the ice he was accepting the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. It was an incredible moment, one that the collective hockey world reacted to, after he’d been out following core muscle surgery in the spring.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The David Ayres game. Yes. That happened in 2020, even though it seemed like it was four decades ago. It is simply one of the most improbable moments in modern NHL history. When he first came into the game and gave up a couple of quick goals you had to think this game was going to turn into a laugher and something of a mockery. In a way it kind of did. Just not in the way anybody expected. It was amazing.
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: David Ayres: I’m sorry but I cannot think of any point watching hockey this calendar year that I enjoyed more than the Maple Leafs own zamboni driver beating them. It’s too good.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: I struggled with naming Mathew Dumba‘s speech as my favorite moment for reasons far outside of Dumba’s control. He shouldn’t have been out there alone, and the NHL shouldn’t have dragged its feet in response to a movement others responded quickly to. But Dumba’s courage was powerful, and will stick with me — and I’d wager, many others — for a long time.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer last December, and at the time, his prognosis was uncertain. But the good news began over the summer. He rang the bell in early July, signed a three-year contract extension, and made an emotional return to game action in Philly’s Second Round playoff series. Earlier this month, we received another positive update: that Lindblom remains cancer-free after his most recent checkup.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: It was simple but the opening faceoff between Carolina and the New York Rangers on August 1 in the Return to Play was the first time since March 11 that there was NHL action. Hockey finally came back.
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Filip Forsberg lacrosse goal. Yes Andrei Svechnikov had two of them at the end of 2019 but in 2020 alone, we got that sick Forsberg box lacrosse behind the net tally and I am all for more lacrosse-over.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Steven Stamkos, Stanley Cup Final Game 3. This was one of those sports moments you couldn’t script any better. Even though Stamkos could only manage 2 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time that night, he sure made the most of it.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: When you end a playoff game in a fifth overtime, people will remember your name. For Blue Jackets fans, they may grumble at Brayden Point‘s name as much as Penguins fans grimace upon hearing the words “Keith Primeau.” It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it kicked off Point’s clutch run that fell just short of a Conn Smythe.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: It turned out to not really be a goal of any significant consequence, but I thought Nazem Kadri‘s buzzer-beating goal in the Round Robin phase of the bubble was an incredible moment. How many times do you get to see something like that in a game? If that had happened in an actual playoff game instead of the Round Robin we would be talking about it for 100 years.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Blake Coleman gets credit for the goal, but Zach Bogosian did a lot of the heavy lifting to make this happen. Coleman should get credit for the diving shot, but the Lightning defenseman cut through the Bruins like he was playing on easy mode.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: My favorite goal had to be the one Connor McDavid scored against Toronto on January 6. It was the prettiest goal of the season and possibly of all-time as McDavid came down the left side, looked to pass, suddenly shifted and went around Morgan Rielly like he was a pylon and then nicely put the puck pass a bewildered Michael Hutchinson.
TEAM ON THE RISE IN 2021
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: There’s still work to do on the roster, but the Canucks have a strong core that can be the backbone of a playoff contender. Brock Boeser, captain Bo Horvat, J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, and Thatcher Demko will be able to guide this team first through a tough all-Canadian division this season and the Pacific Division when things get back to normal.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Usually, it feels like a stretch to exert too much energy talking about rivalries. But, with teams only playing in-division for the 2020-21 season, matchups are going to be huge. So, on paper, it feels like the Toronto Maple Leafs are on a gravy train with biscuit wheels. Then again, if the Maple Leafs end up a wreck, the fall would be that much more severe.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The obvious answer here, for me, is the New York Rangers. They have a superstar in Artemi Panarin, back-to-back top-two picks, two outstanding young goalies, and a young No. 1 defenseman in Adam Fox. Are there some flaws still? For sure. That defense still needs a lot of work. But this could be a really exciting team, really fast. If the two goalies develop as hoped that team could be a problem for people.
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: I feel like I’ve been on the Blue Jackets bandwagon for a while now but I like everything they have going and Max Domi adds another element.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: The Kings had won their final seven games before the pause and have arguably the deepest prospect pool in the NHL. Is this a surefire playoff team? No. But I also don’t see them as cellar dwellers again.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: I love the Rangers this season. They were competitive this past season, added the first overall pick in Alexis Lafreniere and will have Igor Shesterkin in goal for the entire season, rather than relying on the aging veteran Henrik Lundqvist as they did in 2019-20. Add in stars like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad and it is easy to be rooting for the Rangers this season.
PLAYER ON THE RISE IN 2021
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Anthony Cirelli is going to win a Selke Trophy someday. The 23-year-old forward was just rewarded with a three-year deal after scoring 35 goals over the last two seasons and helping the Lightning win the Stanley Cup. He drives possession, plays tough minutes and is slowly gaining on the radars of hockey observers.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Look, Andrei Svechnikov was no slouch in 2019-20. He scored 24 goals and 61 points in 68 games, and helped revive “The Michigan” lacrosse goal. But one key I look for with rising players is the feeling that they haven’t been fully unleashed. I could still see Svechnikov getting more ice time (16:44 TOI last season), and injuries robbed him of some breakout playoff opportunities. If those two things go his way, he also has the potential motivation of a contract year, so expect people who think Svechnikov is good to instead think he’s truly great.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Am going to go with Carter Hart here. The Philadelphia Flyers finally have their goalie, and while I am still not really sure what to make of the Flyers as a team, I do love the dynamic that Hart brings to the roster. He just seems like a player on the verge of a major breakout and if it happens that team is going to be a toughout.
Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Nick Suzuki: He was a stud in the playoffs and had a tremendous rookie campaign in a year overshadowed by an incredible rookie class. Could see him making a pretty big leap with a season under his belt.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Patrik Laine. It feels weird to say that a 22-year-old is approaching a career crossroads, but that’s not far from the case for the Jets’ Finnish sharp shooter whose name is all over the trade rumor mill. Laine went ice cold during the 2019 calendar year, but was starting to pick it up in 2020 before the pandemic – and then an injury in the playoffs – slowed him down. Let’s not forget Laine has 138 career goals and is entering a contract year. My sleeper Rocket Richard pick – no matter which team he plays for.
Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Miro Heiskanen was unbelievable in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs with six goals and 26 points in 27 games. The experience he gained as a 21-year-old going all the way to the Stanley Cup Final will be invaluable. For all the talk of Cale Makar, Rasmus Dahlin and Quinn Hughes being young studs on the blueline, it is Heiskanen I look forward to watching the most.