Players of the Night
Sam Bennett, Panthers
Was Sam Bennett playing over his head after joining the Panthers in a trade? After all, Bennett scored more goals (six) and points (15) in 10 Panthers games than he managed in 38 games with the Flames last season (4G, 8A for 12 points). He couldn’t possibly match that pace over a full campaign, could he?
Probably not. But it’s still impressive that Bennett notced a hat trick, and did so against the normally-stingy Islanders.
Connor McDavid, Oilers
McDavid recorded his first three goals of the season during Edmonton’s 5-2 win over Calgary in this season’s first Battle of Alberta. The hat trick was the Oilers captain’s 10th of his career. Three of those 10 tricks have come versus the Flames.
Highlights from Saturday in the NHL
Brandon Tanev made moves with this goal …
… worthy of dusting off that Brandon Tanev face from his mugshot.
Some doofus predicted a rebound season for Patrik Laine. Calling 40 goals for Laine was especially excessive, but maybe he can find his smile again? After starting the season with two assists, Laine generated the overtime game-winner as the Blue Jackets beat the Coyotes:
It's a Laine Laser to end things in @EASPORTSNHL OT‼️ #NHLFaceOff pic.twitter.com/09GevsyTiO
— NHL (@NHL) October 17, 2021
Alex Ovechkin once again doing Alex Ovechkin things:
Alex Ovechkin of the @Capitals scored his 804th career NHL goal (regular season & playoffs) and passed Mark Messier (803) for sole possession of the fifth-highest combined total in League history. #NHLFaceOff#NHLStats: https://t.co/npIuroWidG pic.twitter.com/UgG9X7aP7D
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 17, 2021
Congrats to Katie Guay for becoming the first woman to ref an American Hockey League game. Guay wore the stripes for Saturday’s tilt between Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
Katie Guay's first American Hockey League puck drop 👏 #breakingbarriers pic.twitter.com/J2k22PVSvK
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) October 16, 2021
Three Takeaways from NHL on Saturday
The Canadiens’ offense looks awful
Heading into the 2021-22 season, people focused on some of the losses the Canadiens endured possibly dooming them after that Cinderella run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. Yet, most of those losses were about losing defense. Shea Weber may never play again. Carey Price entered the player assistance program.
Even some of the departed forwards bring much of their value in limiting offense. (See: Phillip Danault.)
After going winless (and pointless) in their first three games, Montreal’s biggest offense is a lack of offense.
Three games, three goals scored, three losses.
— Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) October 17, 2021
Before their deep playoff run, the story of the Canadiens was often about a team that could hog the puck, but not put that puck in the net. Maybe that’s an issue that will carry over to this season? Honestly, even during their playoff wins, it was often about suffocating opponents. They rarely lit up scoreboards.
With Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, the Canadiens have a duo that’s likely to start clicking. And even though Mike Hoffman looks lab-made to get in the doghouse and get scratched, he at least can shoot.
Overall, it’s best not to get too concerned. That said, the Canadiens have been one of those teams especially vulnerable to scoring slumps. This is at least a cause for some alarm.
Blunders aplenty for Blackhawks blueline
Imagine the frightful monster you’d get if you crossed the Canadiens’ offense with the Blackhawks’ defense.
(Sorry, but Halloween is near.)
Through three games, the Blackhawks have allowed a terrifying 13 goals, scoring six themselves. At times, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen carried some blame for those goals. Big-picture, though? The Blackhawks’ defense has been absolutely porous.
Connor Murphy: "Poor Flower. … He deserves a lot better from us."
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 17, 2021
Consider their 5-on-5 high-danger chance results so far, via Natural Stat Trick:
- In a 4-2 loss to the Avalanche, the Blackhawks lost the high-danger chance battle 11-3.
- On the bright side, the Blackhawks salvaged a “charity point” while losing to Jack Hughes and the Devils 4-3 in OT. The Devils notched a 12-8 high-danger chance advantage there.
- On Saturday night, the Blackhawks lost the high-danger chance battle to the Penguins (8-4), as Pittsburgh won 5-2.
No, the Blackhawks don’t have to play perfect defense to improve. Several NHL teams accept a certain number of mistakes, believing that they’ll create more than they allow.
But there’s not much defending how the Blackhawks are playing. That’s because they’re not doing much defending at all.
The Panthers sure look like a powerful scoring machine again
If you watched enough Panthers games last season, you likely ended up dazzled by their relentless attacking style. That said, some might downplay Florida’s success after a first-round exit (even if it came against the eventual, repeat Stanley Cup champ Lightning). Others might just wonder if the Panthers couldn’t repeat those results.
Drop that “it’s early caveat” in here, and throughout other takeaways. Nonetheless, the early signs are promising.
The Panthers didn’t just beat the Islanders, they hammered them 5-1. Speaking of high-danger chances, the Panthers generated an 8-3 edge in that department. (The volume was there, too, but the Islanders emphasize those Grade-A opportunities.)
Things weren’t as lopsided vs. the Penguins, but the Panthers created a ton of chances there too, scoring five goals as well.
Sometimes depth is overrated in the NHL. With the Panthers, an approach that emphasizes waves of offense — with some standouts, like Aleksander Barkov — could work a lot more often than it falls short.
Sunday’s big story
Stars vs. Senators
On Saturday in the NHL, hockey-lovers had to pick and choose. During especially busy hours, that even went for those who set up more screens than Batman did to catch the Joker. It can be a bit much. Even those with fortress-like bladders will need a rewind.
On Sunday, NHL fans have one choice: Stars at Senators, at 5 p.m. ET.
There, you can get a look at where the Stars might be pointed. Will this team be more like last season’s disappointment, or the surprise 2020 Stanley Cup Finalist?
And, you get a look at the upstart Senators. When’s that unparalleled success going to kick in, again?
Saturday’s NHL scores
Hurricanes 3, Predators 2
Blue Jackets 2, Kraken 1 (OT)
Lightning 2, Capitals 1 (OT)
Penguins 5, Blackhawks 2
Red Wings 3, Canucks 1
Maple Leafs 3, Senators 1
Bruins 3, Stars 1
Rangers 3, Canadiens 1
Panthers 5, Islanders 1
Sabres 2, Coyotes 1 (SO)
Wild 2, Kings 2
Oilers 5, Flames 2
Sharks 4, Jets 3
Blues 5, Avalanche 3
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.