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
- Several Sharks players are unavailable due to the NHL’s COVID protocol, including Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Sharks head coach Bob Boughner also reportedly tested positive for COVID and was unavailable for Saturday’s game vs. the Jets. That context certainly makes the Sharks’ OT win more impressive.
- Sidney Crosby and Jeff Carter played for the Penguins on Saturday. Crosby had a quiet season debut in a Penguins loss, so not a perfect return, but he’s been needed.
Highlights from Saturday in the NHL
An undermanned Sharks team beat the Jets after Timo Meier scored this OT game-winner:
GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! Our friend @jesuszarate87 with the OT call.@meiertime | #LosTiburones pic.twitter.com/sFzjrPpPnf
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) October 31, 2021
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:
Looks like Bratt dressed up as a game-winner for Halloween. pic.twitter.com/NoRvnp1UgH
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 31, 2021
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.
RT if your hockey team is still undefeated 😏
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) October 31, 2021
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.