NHL Three Stars from Thursday
1. Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers
Not bad for a goalie who probably wasn’t certain his team would play, and likely didn’t have a lot of lead-in time to expect to get the start. (Mikko Koskinen was kept out of the game for precautionary reasons. Check out this post for more about the NHL’s expanded COVID protocols, by the way.)
Smith made all 38 saves to earn the 40th shutout of his NHL career.
The 38-year-old goalie is off to a sharp start now that he’s actually playing in this truncated NHL season. In his last appearance, Smith stopped 27 of 28 shots to help Edmonton beat Ottawa.
On a Thursday night that was kind to NHL goalies, Mike Smith stood out.
2. Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Clearly, Atkinson standing up for his coach John Tortorella amid the latest Torts drama (the first bit [?] with Patrik Laine) helped Atkinson heat up.
Atkinson unloaded with a four-point night as the Blue Jackets traded blows with the Blackhawks, with Columbus winning 6-5. During that high-scoring game, Atkinson scored a shorthanded goal and added three assists. (As a bonus, all three of those assists were primary ones.)
For all the attention Laine garners (one assist on Thursday), Jack Roslovic is the new Blue Jackets addition who’s red hot. Roslovic scored two goals in this one, extended his point streak to six games. During that span, Roslovic scored four goals and five assists for nine points.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
While the Jets have been hit-or-miss — miss example: Paul Maurice having to defend Blake Wheeler — Hellebuyck continues to save their bacon. Sure, improving his record to 6-3-1 won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but Hellebuyck pushed his save percentage to .920 on the season. That’s only a breath or two behind his Vezina-winning mark of .922 from last season
In Thursday’s case, Hellebuyck stopped 41 out of 42 shots, adding to the night of strong performances from goalies.
Don’t be surprised if Hellebuyck makes the difference between the Jets making or missing the playoffs. Again.
Other strong NHL performances from Thursday
- Want more NHL goalies locking it down on Thursday? Jacob Markstrom spurned his former Canucks teammates by making 33 out of 34 saves. Vancouver pushed Calgary early, in particular, firing 14 shots on goal during the first period. Unfortunately for the Canucks, they can’t simply chalk all of their struggles up to goaltending alone — but Markstrom’s likely missed right now.
- While Calvin Petersen was another solid NHL goalie for Thursday (29 saves), Drew Doughty was the standout Kings player with three assists.
- Those who’d hear that the Ducks beat the Golden Knights would probably expect a goalie duel. To that extent, that was true. John Gibson pitched a 21-save shutout, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27 out of 28 shots. It’s a little surprising that Anaheim contained Vegas enough to keep those shot totals so low, though.
Yay or nay of the day
Speaking of the Golden Knights, they wore these shiny, polarizing helmets.
if you look closely you can see your future in our helmet
…and it's looking gold 😉 pic.twitter.com/h6Bay3act9
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 12, 2021
My take? Ow, my eyes.
Islanders own the highlights of the night
When you think Barry Trotz-era New York Islanders, you don’t necessarily think of highlight reel goals. They flipped the script against the Penguins, though, providing both of the best clips of the evening. Trotz won’t be impressed, as the Penguins ended up winning via a shootout.
But, that said, which Islanders highlight was better? Do you prefer this I-didn’t-think-he-could-do-that goal from Casey Cizikas? It’s sort of his version of that Alex Ovechkin goal, if you squint hard enough.
In the other corner, we have Mathew Barzal. He scored … well, a goal you’d probably expect from Mathew Barzal, to be honest.
Latest dazzling Fleury save
OK, there is a non-Islanders contender for save of the night. Say what you will about Marc-Andre Fleury, there’s no denying that he often makes saves with a ton of flair.
Thursday’s NHL scores
Penguins 4, Islanders 3 (SO)
Panthers 5, Lightning 2
Blue Jackets 6, Blackhawks 5
Predators 3, Red Wings 2
Oilers 3, Canadiens 0
Jets 5, Senators 1
Hurricanes 5, Stars 3
Ducks 1, Golden Knights 0
Flames 3, Canucks 1
Kings 6, Sharks 2
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.