1. Nicolas Hague, Vegas Golden Knights
When Nicolas Hague scored just 50 seconds into the Golden Knights’ dominant win over the Kings, some fans probably thought: “Who is Nicolas Hague?”
Fair, but it’s not as though Hague is a total random. The Golden Knights picked Hague 34th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, making him an almost-first-rounder. In Corey Pronman’s list of the top 155 players under 23 (sub required), Hague ranked 87th, in the “very good NHL player” tier. That ranking came as recently as October. Not a total jobber, in rasslin’ parlance.
All of that aside, it was stunning that Hague collected his goal and two assists during Vegas’ surge to 4-0 just 1:35 into the second period. So far this season, Hague generated a single assist in four games, averaging a modest 13:34 TOI. Back in 2019-20, Hague produced one goal and 11 points over 38 regular-season games, logging 16:05 per appearance.
In Friday’s game, Hague understandably received 20:41 time on ice. It will be interesting to see if Hague receives at least a temporary boost in ice time from the Vegas Golden Knights after this performance. (With Alex Pietrangelo out of commission, why not?)
Either way, if all 6-foot-6 of Hague could ever slip under the radar, the Golden Knights defenseman got some attention from the NHL after this performance.
2. Max Pacioretty/William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
OK, let’s consolidate Friday’s dominant Golden Knights not named Nicolas Hague into one star to make it fair to the rest of the night’s featured acts.
Really, with Pacioretty or Karlsson, it’s a matter of taste (and some might rank one or both of them as the superior Golden Knights star over Hague*).
In most instances when a player racks up seven shots on goal but doesn’t score a single goal, you’d call it a frustrating night. Maybe Max Pacioretty wished one of his three points ended up being a tally, but three assists is quite the effort. After collecting a hat trick before the Golden Knights’ COVID delay on Jan. 26, “Patches” pushed his streak of three-point nights to two games. Impressive stuff.
Again, some might be more impressed with William “Wild Bill” Karlsson, instead. Karlsson also collected three points (1G, 2A) off of four SOG, and managed to go 13-6 on faceoffs. All three Golden Knights listed (Hague, Karlsson, and Pacioretty) finished with +2 ratings on Friday.
* – To that, I ask: where’s your sense of novelty? Sheesh.
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy
After cruising in their last win over the Red Wings, the Lightning had to bite their nails a bit more on Friday. Sure, the final score was 3-1, but that deficit was inflated by a Barclay Goodrow empty-netter (his second goal of the night).
In particular, the Lightning called upon Vasilevskiy to be sharp early on. The Red Wings fired 24 of their 28 SOG against the Lightning during the first two periods (a neat 12 SOG per 20 minutes). Vasilevskiy made 27 of 28 stops, improving to 7-1-1 on the season. Vasilevskiy’s managed an impressive .931 save percentage so far in 2020-21.
NHL Highlight of Friday night
Wins aren’t going to be easy for Thomas Greiss to come by. Not after he left the nurturing cocoon of the Islanders’ system for the rebuilding structure of the Red Wings. He might help them stay in games here and there, though, and saves like these remind us why.
(Underrated subcategory of save highlights: the “leg or legs up like a teenager talking to their crush on the phone while laying on their belly” stops. Admit it, that’s what that save was.)
Friday night NHL fight
Connor Clifton vs. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, for your violent viewing pleasure:
Bruins 2, Flyers 1
Lightning 3, Red Wings 1
Panthers 2, Predators 1
Golden Knights 5, Kings 2
Sharks 5, Ducks 4 (SO)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.