NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers lose, Blackhawks remain winless

NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers lose, Blackhawks remain winless
Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Saturday in the NHL

Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche

Did the NHL get a long look at the return of the “real” Avalanche on Saturday night?

In some ways, maybe not. They weren’t a total juggernaut when it came to drowning the Wild in a torrent of high-danger chances, for instance. At least not after a strong start.

But, with wins in three of their last four games (after dropping three of their first four), we’re getting glimpses of the Avs powerhouse we expected. Gabriel Landeskog was very much a powerhouse to himself, scoring two goals and two assists to earn NHL player of the night consideration for Saturday.

After sitting out his latest suspension, Landeskog now has eight points in six games. It’s been all-or-nothing for Colorado’s gritty captain. Landeskog amassed all of his production in three multi-point games: Saturday’s four-pointer, plus two games where he collected one goal and one assist. In his other three games, he’s been held off the scoreboard.

As things settle down, the Avalanche likely will hope for steadier production from Landeskog and that blistering top line. They’ll probably hope for steadier play overall, too.

NHL injury, COVID news

Highlights from Saturday in the NHL

An undermanned Sharks team beat the Jets after Timo Meier scored this OT game-winner:

If you ask me, the NHL needs to err on the side of calling penalty shots. Why not lean toward something that will get crowds off their feet, rather than a two-minute minor that might never get off the ground? The NHL’s in the entertainment business, after all.

Anyway, it would be nice if there were more exciting penalty shots. Until then, enjoy penalty shot goals like the one Jesper Bratt provided when you can:

Not long after scoring one of the strangest first NHL goals you’ll see, Brandon Duhaime was part of another rare moment. Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t happy with Duhaime’s dangerous hit on Bowen Byram, so MacKinnon and Duhaime engaged in a fight:

Kudos to MacKinnon for standing up for his teammate. That said, I’m sure the Avs would prefer if someone else risked their mits in a fight next time around.

Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Panthers suffer first loss of the season — barely

It would be understandable if the Panthers don’t totally feel like they lost during Saturday’s NHL action. Losing in 3-on-3 OT must already feel more like a half-loss. Falling in a shootout? Another layer removed from feeling deeper defeat.

But, hey, the Bruins did win, so the Panthers are no longer undefeated. The often-chatty Carolina Hurricanes social media team took a victory lap regarding the team standing as the lone NHL team still undefeated after Saturday.

Now, if you extend your view to teams with a zero in the second column (vanilla losses), you’ll see three teams:

  • Panthers (8-0-1, 17 points in the Atlantic Division).
  • Hurricanes (7-0-0, 14 points, first in the Metropolitan Division).
  • Capitals (5-0-3, 13 points, second in Metro).

Probably not too surprisingly, the Hurricanes (+20) and Panthers (+18) also stand out with the most robust positive goal margins in the NHL this season.

The Hurricanes and Panthers meet in Florida next Saturday (Nov. 6). Even with the Panthers no longer undefeated, that game should serve as an intriguing temperature check. (Now, it would definitely be more fun if the Hurricanes end up putting their undefeated record on the line against the Panthers. Is that too greedy?)

Still no wins for Blackhawks, and they lost in a fairly new way vs. Blues

No, the Blackhawks didn’t play incredibly well in search of their first win of the 2021-22 season. Yet, considering how often they’ve looked awful (on and off the ice, actually), the Blackhawks’ loss to the Blues presented a change of pace.

A team that set a dubious NHL record regarding a lack of leads wasn’t playing from behind for most of Saturday’s game. Despite the Blues outshooting the Blackhawks 29-16, the two teams entered the third period tied 0-0.

Ultimately, Torey Krug‘s power-play goal was the game’s lone tally. Marc-Andre Fleury (36 saves) put up the sort of performance that felt more like last year’s Vezina run, but it wasn’t enough. The Blackhawks couldn’t muster a single goal, and thus remain without a win. (Overall, they’ve wrangled two standings points from nine games.)

While SOG totals can be misleading, the Blackhawks still lost noteworthy battles, such as high-danger chances (12-9). They just didn’t get obliterated like they had been lately. Considering that they faced a hot Blues team (St. Louis is now 6-1-0).

Maybe it’s something to build on. Beyond fans, players, and staff, few will shed a tear for this frustrated team.

Sunday’s big story

A scary upset on Halloween, or Hurricanes remaining undefeated?

This early in the 2021-22 NHL season, you couldn’t ask for a bigger underdog – favorite matchup. Not only are the 0-7-1 Coyotes winless; they’re also miserable. And they’re doing this on purpose (though maybe they’d like to show a little bit more potential, tanking or not). Those toothless Coyotes figure to get chewed up by the undefeated Hurricanes (7-0-0).

Could it be a “trap game,” though? The two teams square off in Carolina at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. There’s the risk that the Hurricanes might yawn through this one. Maybe Halloween parties would be on their minds. (Perhaps a player or two might have enjoyed quite a Halloween party on Saturday.)

It would be quite the story if the winless Coyotes upset the undefeated Hurricanes. Those long odds only make the possibility more intriguing.

(Don’t bet on it, though.)

Saturday’s NHL scores

Sharks 2, Jets 1 (OT)
Bruins 3, Panthers 2 (SO)
Maple Leafs 5, Red Wings 4
Devils 4, Penguins 2
Blues 1, Blackhawks 0
Avalanche 4, Wild 1
Oilers 2, Canucks 1
Flames 4, Flyers 0
Predators 3, Islanders 2 (SO)
Kings 5, Canadiens 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.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.