1. Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars
Despite dealing with injuries and COVID-19, the Dallas Stars raced off to an impressive start to their season. Maybe the lack of games and a top-heavy Central Division obscures it a bit, but the 5-1-1 Stars have generated a resounding +12 goal differential though a mere seven games this season.
In Tuesday’s case, Joe Pavelski and the Stars stole the spotlight from Patrik Laine in his Blue Jackets debut. After Pavelski scored the only goal of the first period, the Stars rampaged through the middle frame, building their lead to 5-1. The Blue Jackets managed to save a little face in the third, but Pavelski assisted on an Alexander Radulov 6-3 goal to remove any lingering doubt.
Overall, Pavelski finished with two goals and two assists, while Laine couldn’t score a point and ended up with a -2 rating in the Blue Jackets’ loss.
With seven goals and seven assists, Pavelski’s generated an impressive 14 points in just seven games. Considering that Pavelski peaked with 11 points in his strongest month during his first season with the Stars, you can say that he’s settled in now.
(The long COVID-precautionary Laine layoff and the up-and-down start for Columbus only adds to the intrigue surrounding his future. Talking about that kinda beats actually drilling too deep on anything else Blue Jackets-related right now, though, honestly.)
Among other Stars performers, Jamie Benn also had a strong night with a goal and two assists.
2. Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens
After the Canadiens signed Tyler Toffoli to a surprisingly team-friendly deal, the feeling was that there might be a bit of a redundant mix. During recent seasons, the Canadiens created a lot of chances, but couldn’t finish. The book on Toffoli was largely the same: a great offense-driver, aside from worries about whether his shot was a detriment.
While Toffoli and the Habs probably won’t retain their blistering Midas touch all of this season, neither the team nor the player have had any trouble finishing this season. You can see that most obviously by scrolling down for the slam-dunk highlight of Tuesday night in the NHL.
On Tuesday night, Toffoli scored two goals and an assist to push his 2020-21 totals to nine goals and four assists for 13 points in 10 games. Hilariously, and almost cruelly, Toffoli’s scored eight of his nine goals (plus two assists) against the Canucks. That included a hat trick in his first game against the team that briefly “rented” him.
It’s hard to believe that Toffoli played a full 82 games in 2019-20, yet finished with 13 goals (and an acceptable-but-likely-frustrating 34 points). His shooting percentage then: 5.8. So far this season, Toffoli’s connected at a ludicrous 25 percent.
The “real” Toffoli likely stands somewhere in between, but it’s pretty fun to see the bounces finally go his way. He’s been an underappreciated player for some time now.
(And the Canucks must be glad that they won’t need to face Toffoli and the Canadiens until March 8.)
Toffoli wasn’t the only Hab who stayed hot, as Josh Anderson scored two goals.
3. Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers
Speaking of feel-good stories (and two-goal scorers), it’s tough not to root for Jesse Puljujarvi. While the Blue Jackets ended up being right in picking Pierre-Luc Dubois instead of him, and Patrik Laine likely couldn’t even imagine his struggles, Puljujarvi’s had some rough luck.
With that in mind, it would be great if Puljujarvi can flourish with the Oilers. He showed flashes already, but Tuesday was big, as he collected two goals. Considering his size and skill, the Oilers could profit considerably if Puljujarvi gains confidence. There are worse options for Connor McDavid‘s even-strength linemates, especially if Edmonton wants to vary its offense.
(Beyond Jamie Benn and various Canadiens, Matthew Tkachuk‘s two goals put him in the Three Stars conversation, too. Naturally, Connor McDavid collected two assists. Yep, really slacked on Tuesday.)
NWHL update: 2021 Isobel Cup Semifinals air on NBCSN on Thursday
Want a rundown of the best players, moments, and rivalries from the NWHL bubble? Check out this great piece from PHT’s Marisa Ingemi.
NWHL STANDINGS: Four playoff teams determined
1. Toronto Six
2. Minnesota Whitecaps
3. Boston Pride
4. Buffalo Beauts
The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. ET (Toronto Six vs. Buffalo Beauts) and 8:30 p.m. ET (Minnesota Whitecaps vs. Boston Pride). The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Friday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Toffoli torments Canucks for NHL highlight of Tuesday
Um, what? Excuse me, Tyler Toffoli?
Almost feels vindictive.
NHL scores from Tuesday
Stars 6, Blue Jackets 3
Canadiens 5, Canucks 3
Hurricanes 4, Blackhawks 3 (SO)
Blues 4, Coyotes 3
Jets 3, Flames 2
Avalanche 2, Wild 1
Ducks 3, Kings 1
Oilers 4, Senators 2