Top players from Thursday in the NHL
Kirill Kaprizov, Wild
By Kirill Kaprizov’s lofty standards, he’d been off to a mildly underwhelming start. (At least if you can set standards in a runaway Calder Trophy-winning season that was, nonetheless, truncated.)
Heading into Thursday’s NHL action, Kaprizov was limited to three goals and 11 points in 15 games. Strong by most players’ standards, but then again, there’s that “standards” business again. With his immense skill, Kaprizov already set expectations high. Haggling to get a $9M cap hit only raised the bar.
So, this must have been a heartening development. On a night with multiple blowouts, Kaprizov sparked a lopsided Wild win over the Stars by scoring a goal and three assists. Just like that, he’s a hair away from being a point-per-game player (15 in 16) this season.
Don’t count Kaprizov and the Wild out in the Central Division title race.
Highlights from NHL on Thursday
Really nice shots of Claude Giroux showing off his really great hands for a really nice goal. Giroux also scored a goal in the dying seconds of regulation to send this game to OT. The Lightning won, but Giroux helped the Flyers secure a point.
Lightning quick mitts. #TBLvsPHI | @Toyota pic.twitter.com/yMFAVvnL68
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 19, 2021
Nice bit of passing to set up Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the season. By the way, it makes sense to mush Crosby and Giroux highlights together, because they’re best friends.
Did you know Sidney Crosby has points in seven of his last eight games against Montreal (3G-10A)? 😁 pic.twitter.com/osQU3Ph9NV
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 19, 2021
Circling back to Flyers – Lightning, their overtime period included zero stoppages. (Gets out of breath just thinking about it.)
Might as well soak in that Kaprizov-fueled Wild win:
Thursday’s NHL takeaways
Hurricanes end Ducks’ winning streak at eight games
The Ducks came into Thursday’s NHL action with some impressive streaks: eight consecutive wins, and 10 games with at least a point. Both of the Ducks’ streaks ended against the Hurricanes, but that doesn’t mean Anaheim stopped turning some heads.
In particular, the Ducks impressed during the first period. That’s not just because Troy Terry scored his 12th goal of the season, pushing his point streak to a ridiculous 16 games. (Only Corey Perry [19 games] and Teemu Selanne  own longer streaks in Ducks history than Terry. Also, we barely missed Perry and Terry being a thing. For more than 57 minutes and 21 seconds.)
Anyway, the Ducks were right there with the dominant Hurricanes, and not just on the scoreboard. Through the first 20 minutes, the Ducks dominated high-danger chances, besting the Hurricanes 8-3 in the first period. As the game went along, that battle evened out, but managing a virtual draw as Carolina is a win in itself.
In defeat, the Ducks impressed almost as much as they did during that eight-game winning streak.
Plenty of blowouts, or at least one-sided NHL games, on Thursday
Sheesh, some teams weren’t messing around. The Flames clobbered the Sabres 5-0, and the Penguins were even harsher (6-0) to the Canadiens. Call it revenge for relocation, but either way, the Wild really handed it to the Stars (7-2). There were also some 4-1 games, though the Devils kept Spencer Knight busy enough that a blowout probably doesn’t apply there.
As we go deeper into the 2021-22 season, it’s possible we may see more “rich gets richer” nights. Some teams are really getting on the same page. Fatigue is setting in. Injuries and COVID can also widen the gaps between two opponents.
Of all the NHL teams that were blown out on Thursday, the Canadiens may feel the worst. The Penguins doubled the Canadiens in high-danger chances at even-strength (12-6). That disparity was a little worse if you count special teams (15-6). Just about every meaningful metric favored Pittsburgh. And, of course, there was that 6-0 final score.
It’s the sort of loss that gets your head coach trending for dubious reasons.
Consider Markstrom a leading Vezina candidate
On one hand, there were signs that the Flames were improving defensively under Darryl Sutter. On the other hand, that defense didn’t exactly look like a lockdown, elite group.
So, while Jacob Markstrom lingered as a potential Vezina Trophy dark horse, few penciled him in as a favorite. He’s undeniably on the radar as December approaches, however.
Granted, people who only look at records might not get it yet; Markstrom’s a pedestrian 6-3-4. All of the other numbers are glowing, though. In just 13 games played, Markstrom already boasts five of the Flames’ six shutouts.
That already easily marks Markstrom’s most shutouts in a single season. Last year’s three shutouts marked a previous career-high, and he came into this season with a mere eight.
At times with the Canucks, Markstrom looked elite. Voters love shiny objects like shutouts, so if he can get some wins and not let that save percentage (.942) droop too much, Markstrom may earn some hardware this season.
Friday’s big story
Another rough Canucks home game?
In a recent NHL Rink Wrap, we wondered if a home loss to the Avalanche would make the seats even hotter for Canucks GM Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green. For fans, the temperature boiled over more than once. During that loss to the Avs, there were indeed “Fire Benning” chants from Canucks fans.
Benning admitted he found that “upsetting,” but as of this writing, the Canucks’ GM and head coach remain installed. In speaking to the press on Thursday, Benning and Green acknowledged that the Canucks are frustrated, yet mostly pumped up staying the course.
This situation presents a tug-o-war.
On one side, you have the immediate pressure from fans, getting stronger with every loss — especially when they can voice their displeasure at home. Facing a Jets team closing off a back-to-back set, the Canucks only have so many excuses if they lose on Friday.
That said, there’s that other side pulling away. While Benning’s in his eighth year as GM, plenty have called for his ousting before. Time and time again, Benning dodged those bullets. If the Canucks keep losing and he stays put, we might need Benning to get a leather jacket, because this would be Neo-level stuff.
Thursday’s NHL scores
Flames 5, Sabres 0
Maple Leafs 2, Rangers 1
Penguins 6, Canadiens 0
Panthers 4, Devils 1
Blues 4, Sharks 1
Lightning 4, Flyers 3 (SO)
Wild 7, Stars 2
Oilers 2, Jets 1 (SO)
Blue Jackets 5, Coyotes 4 (SO)
Golden Knights 5, Red Wings 2
Hurricanes 2, Ducks 1
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.