1. John Gibson
Despite leaky systems behind Randy Carlyle, John Gibson was building a strong case as best goalie in the world. Say what you will about Frederik Andersen‘s ups and downs in Toronto, but it says a lot about a netminder that he can prove so resolutely that he was the top guy. Gibson did that, with gusto.
And then last season happened. The 2019-20 campaign was rough for the Anaheim Ducks, and John Gibson was not immune to those struggles. There was at least some concern if Gibson could be all-world again. Could it be that Dallas Eakins’ defense didn’t mesh well with Gibson’s style? Was Gibson somehow not putting in the work? Maybe the Ducks ran Gibson into the ground by relying on him so much, so often?
Well, it’s early, but the 2021 edition of John Gibson looks a lot more like the Gibson who wow’d us before.
Gibson made 31 saves against the Golden Knights, but Vegas snatched victory from him. This time, Gibson shut out the Wild after stopping all 34 saves. Could he be “back?”
2. Semyon Varlamov
Sure, Barry Trotz’s system insulates Islanders goalies. Those netminders still need to make key stops, though, and Semyon Varlamov’s begun the season red-hot.
Semyon Varlamov is the first goaltender in @NYIslanders history to record a shutout in each of his first two appearances of a season and the 14th goaltender in NHL history to do so. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/1gJ0bst9mP
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 19, 2021
After an injury scare suffered during warm-ups before the Islanders’ lone loss of this young season, it looks like Varlamov is A-OK.
There were other strong goalie performances on Monday, including Carey Price once again outdueling the Oilers. But John Gibson and Semyon Varlamov stood out the most.
3. Logan Couture
Hey, if you might not be a particularly good team, you might as well be fun, right? OK, considering the money the Sharks are spending on this squad, they’re probably not that excited about going through a series of explicit coin-tosses. But, if this is the alternative to … whatever happened last season, it could be fun. At least for their forwards, and maybe Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.
So, the Sharks didn’t win, but Logan Couture helped San Jose stay in the game. Couture scored two goals and one assist as San Jose tried to run-and-gun against the Blues.
With six points in three games, Tomas Hertl is the hottest-starting Shark, under the radar or not. Couture was the most explosive of the Sharks on Monday, though.
NHL highlights from Monday
Shea Weber scored one funky goal that thrived through the review process:
Still gushing over this William Karlsson pass:
The best NHL highlights from Monday revolved around Hockey Culture, though. NBC and the NHL celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the anniversary of Willie O’Ree breaking the color barrier. You can see a great video regarding Dampy Brar being named the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award in the clip above this post’s headline.
The NHL announced the following COVID-related absences for Monday. Note that the Anaheim Ducks are listed as “TBA.” (Teams without absences are not listed.)
Anaheim – TBA
Carolina – Jordan Staal
Columbus – Mikko Koivu
Dallas – will be released prior to its first game
Detroit – Adam Erne; Robby Fabbri
Florida – Juho Lammikko; Markus Nutivaara
Minnesota – Alex Stalock
Nashville – Mikael Granlund
New Jersey – Eric Comrie
Philadelphia – Shayne Gostisbehere
Tampa Bay – Blake Coleman; Curtis McElhinney
Vancouver – Jordie Benn
Winnipeg – Anton Forsberg, Tucker Poolman
NHL scores from Monday
Blue Jackets 3, Red Wings 2
Islanders 1, Bruins 0
Maple Leafs 3, Jets 1
Sabres 6, Flyers 1
Hurricanes 4, Predators 2
Blues 5, Sharks 4
Flames 5, Canucks 2
Ducks 1, Wild 0
Canadiens 3, Oilers 1
Golden Knights 4, Coyotes 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.