NHL Rink Wrap: Blackhawks still winless; Undefeated Panthers, Hurricanes

NHL Rink Wrap: No Blackhawks wins; Undefeated Panthers, Hurricanes
Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Friday in the NHL

Igor Shesterkin, Rangers

In the Rangers’ 4-0 win over the Blue Jackets, you could observe plenty of player of the night candidates. With three assists, should Adam Fox earn the title of NHL player of the night for Friday? Should it be Artemi Panarin and his trio of helpers, instead?

Let’s go with Igor Shesterkin. He pitched a 31-save shutout against the Blue Jackets. After earning his first shutout of the season, Shesterkin’s now 4-1-1 with a sparkling .944 save percentage.

Merely 53 games into his NHL career, we still don’t know just how good the 25-year-old truly is. Credit Shesterkin with passing just about all of his tests so far, though. Often with flying colors.

NHL injury, COVID news

Highlights from Friday in the NHL

There’s something almost soothing about how calm and surgically precise a star player can be in 3-on-3 OT. Did Aleksander Barkov have “ice water in his veins” here?

This Sportsnet video headline makes me wonder: do Rangers fans call him Fantastic Mr. Adam Fox? Perhaps they should. (That movie holds up remarkably well, by the way.)

Then we had Braden Holtby turning back the clock here with this pad save:

Friday’s NHL takeaways

Baby steps, but still some stumbles as NHL handles Blackhawks allegations

Sometimes, the NHL feels like a creaky old battleship made obsolete during World War II. A more graceful vessel might, say, be more forceful in making sure Joel Quenneville didn’t coach the Panthers one day before he resigned. Frankly, there was more than enough time for the league and/or Panthers to tell Quenneville to sit that game out before his meeting with Gary Bettman.

And it’s not like that was the only strike against a league (and teams, such as the Blackhawks, Panthers, and Jets) that often failed to look proactive.

Why, exactly, was Stan Bowman even in the position to make offseason moves such as the Seth Jones trade once the Blackhawks lawsuit went public? Were there members of the Panthers who thought it was a bad idea for Quenneville to go behind the bench on Wednesday? Did no one really object to Brad Aldrich’s name being etched on the Stanley Cup. And why did it take so long to discuss removing it from “the most hallowed trophy in sports?”

Over and over again, the NHL, teams, and even players stumble in handling this situation. In a vacuum, maybe there’s indeed an argument that Kevin Cheveldayoff wasn’t in enough of a “senior position” to help Kyle Beach in 2010. Yet, when you combine Beach’s allegations with what Akim Aliu went through, it’s tougher to feel great about Cheveldayoff avoiding any sort of punishment.

[Details on Cheveldayoff – Bettman meeting.]

Yes, you could argue the NHL and its teams did the bare minimum. Bowman and other Blackhawks officials needed to be held accountable. Quenneville too. But it’s difficult to shake the feeling that people are either learning the wrong lessons, or refusing to open their textbooks at all.

As Kyle Beach noted, he’s not the only survivor, and the hope is that others won’t suffer in similar ways. The NHL and USA Hockey both may face another test with Bill Guerin.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic’s Michael Russo the following in an email about U.S. SafeSport’s investigation of Bill Guerin.

“Based on what we know — and the facts have been investigated multiple times already — this is not a Chicago situation,” Daly emailed The Athletic. “There is no indication that Bill Guerin (or any other member of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ organization) at any time neglected his reporting duties or failed to follow-up appropriately on (the) reported concerns. I am completely confident that when all is said and done, the US Center for Safe Sport will conclude the same.”

(You can read more about that investigation in this Oct. 22 report from TSN’s Rick Westhead.)

[Stan Bowman steps down as 2022 U.S. men’s Olympic team GM; Guerin currently still considered assistant.]

Maybe the allegations regarding the way Guerin handled things is indeed “not a Chicago situation,” as Daly said.

What if, increasingly, it looks more and more like a “Chicago situation?” Will the NHL and USA Hockey do the right thing. Otherwise, people may come to the same conclusion Kyle Beach did about how he believes the NHL viewed his allegations.

” …They continue to try and protect their name over the health and the well-being of the people who put their lives on the line every day to make the NHL what it is,” Beach told TSN.

Again, the NHL hasn’t exactly passed every test in handling these recent situations. Hopefully they prove they’ve learned a lesson if something close to a “Chicago situation” happens again.

Panthers remain undefeated in first game post-Quenneville

It took that overtime game-winner from Barkov, but the Panthers improved to 8-0-0 on the season. During those first seven games, Quenneville was behind their bench. On Friday, the Panthers remained one of the NHL’s hottest teams as former winger Andrew Brunette took over in the interim.

(If you need a smile, recall Brunette scoring a series-winner for the Wild, thus shocking Patrick Roy and the Avs. OK, Colorado Avalanche fans might not smile.)

Uneasily, there’s been some implication that teams can’t win because of “distractions.” That you can’t hold people accountable for their actions and win.

Maybe the Panthers can dispel some of those notions by thriving without Quenneville? If nothing else, it would be nice to cheer for the Panthers finally being truly relevant, without the feeling that you might be cheering for the villains.

Hurricanes also stay undefeated, Blackhawks without a win, Coyotes also goose-egged

After Friday’s NHL action, there are still two winless teams, and they’re both in the Central Division. At least, with the Coyotes, tanking is the point.

But the Blackhawks? Any talk about them still rebuilding sure reeks of spinning some on-ice failure to go with the off-ice disgrace.

By winning on Friday, the Hurricanes didn’t just keep the Blackhawks winless; Carolina also remained alongside Florida as the league’s two undefeated teams.

Amusingly, the Hurricanes hold the most power when it comes to keeping teams winless and/or undefeated. On Sunday (Oct. 31), the Hurricanes host the winless Coyotes. Perhaps the Blackhawks will before then, but if not, they’ll host the potentially-still-undefeated Hurricanes.

If we’re all really lucky, both the Panthers and Hurricanes will remain undefeated for their matchup on Saturday, Nov. 6 — Carolina’s next game after Chicago.

Saturday’s big story

How far along are the Flames, Flyers?

Heading into Saturday’s game in Calgary, both the Flyers (4-1-1) and Flames (5-1-1) are off to promising starts.

They’re also teams in fairly similar positions. Each GM must be feeling some heat, especially after the letdown of missing the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the Flyers, they’re testing some big changes. In the case of the Flames, the bolder stance was not blowing things up.

(Heck, some people probably penciled Johnny Gaudreau in as a Flyer.)

Which team is for real? Both? Neither? One game won’t answer those questions, but could at least give us more to work with for each team.

Friday’s NHL scores

Hurricanes 6, Blackhawks 3
Golden Knights 5, Ducks 4 (SO)
Senators 4, Stars 1
Panthers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
Rangers 4, Blue Jackets 0
Capitals 2, Coyotes 0

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.

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