NHL Rink Wrap: Canadiens finally win, Kraken lose home opener

NHL Rink Wrap: Canadiens finally win, Kraken home opener
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Top player from Saturday in the NHL

David Perron, Blues

With three points (2G, 1A) in as many games, David Perron was already off to a solid start to 2021-22. He really broke through to become the top star in the NHL on Saturday, though. Perron generated a hat trick and an assist as the Blues improved to 4-0-0 this season.

Quietly, Perron just keeps humming along as one of the league’s most underrated scorers. He collected 60 points in 2019-20, and then almost reached 60 again in 2020-21 (58 points) despite being limited to 56 games.

Other NHL players generated hat tricks (Elias Lindholm, Mathieu Perreault), but Perron’s additional assist puts him over the top.

NHL injury, COVID news

Highlights from Saturday in the NHL

Check out footage of Perreault’s hat trick:

Lindholm notched his second career hat trick.

 

Then there’s David Perron’s hat trick (plus an assist).

 

Great ovation for Vince Dunn‘s goal, the first tally during a Kraken home game. The crowd reacted accordingly.

Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Maybe the Maple Leafs can’t take regular season success for granted?

After another playoff debacle, people wondered if another strong Maple Leafs regular season would even mean anything. Uh … about that.

At 2-3-1, the Maple Leafs aren’t in such a deep hole that they need to hit the panic button. (Even if people are talking about Mike Babcock and generally very-much-panicking in Toronto.)

Early in the season or not, getting blown out by the Penguins at least needs to raise an alarm bell or two. Again, the Penguins were without Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and others, yet they handed the Maple Leafs one of the worst losses in the NHL on Saturday.

Grant Sheldon Keefe this much. He captured many Maple Leafs fans’ spirits with this comment.

Canadiens make no mistake with much-needed win

When Dylan Larkin made it 1-0 just 5:25 in, the Habs could have sulked. Instead, the Canadiens scored six unanswered goals to get their first win of the season.

In many ways, this was a showcase for new faces. Again, Perreault notched a hat trick. Christian Dvorak collected a goal and an assist. Mike Hoffman found the back of the net, and David Savard added an assist. Jonathan Drouin isn’t a new face, yet he was tending to personal needs during the playoff run. It had to feel good for him to collect two assists.

As tough as the Atlantic Division looks on paper, the Canadiens can gain some comfort in others struggling. (Although the Panthers are red-hot, and the Bruins haven’t played enough to give a clear read, either way. But … hey, small victories.)

Who looked more like an expansion team: Kraken or Canucks?

Heading into their first season, the Seattle Kraken looked like they could be an analytics darling. The belief was that they’d look fancy by the fancy stats, but lack the finish to look as good in the standings.

So far … that hasn’t really been the case. Maybe a shabby offense isn’t shocking, but the Kraken have been more vulnerable in their own zone lately. Consider this chart from Hockey Viz:

NHL Rink Wrap: Canadiens finally win, Kraken home opener defense viz
via Hockey Viz

Not great. Not shocking for an expansion team. But not ideal considering the Kraken’s fixation on (seemingly stout) defense.

Yet, in the Kraken’s first home game, the Canucks looked more like a hapless, new team. Through 40 minutes, it was tied 1-1, but Vancouver needed luck and Thatcher Demko to get there.

The game-winner told some of the story. The Kraken pushed for the 3-2 goal with a lengthy sequence in the Canucks’ zone. They couldn’t score, though, and then Conor Garland burned Philipp Grubauer for a pretty game-winner.

In their first taste of home hockey, Kraken fans tasted a particularly acidic type of defeat: when it sure felt like your team “deserved” to win. Still, if the Kraken play like this often — even if it’s mostly in Seattle — they have something to build on. Meanwhile, the Canucks won, but really need to improve their process.

Sunday’s big story

Can the Blackhawks finally win a game?

Heading into Saturday’s NHL action, the question was whether the Canadiens could finally win a game. After all, it’s against a beatable opponent in the Red Wings.

Rewind that, and play it back. The Blackhawks are searching for their first win of the season, and they face the Red Wings on Sunday.

On one hand, as you saw in the NHL injury/COVID update section, the Blackhawks might be without Patrick Kane. On the other hand, the Red Wings are not juggernauts. Chicago also has the rest advantage, as the Habs just humbled Detroit.

So, it would behoove the Blackhawks to make like the Canadiens. Don’t just get that first win; do it with authority.

(But, seriously, get that win. People are basking in your defeats.)

Saturday’s NHL scores

Flames 4, Capitals 3 (OT)
Rangers 3, Senators 2
Wild 4, Ducks 3 (OT)
Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (SO)
Devils 2, Sabres 1 (OT)
Panthers 4, Flyers 2
Penguins 7, Maple Leafs 1
Hurricanes 5, Blue Jackets 1
Jets 6, Predators 4
Canadiens 6, Red Wings 1
Blues 7, Kings 3
Islanders 3, Coyotes 0
Canucks 4, Kraken 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.