Top players from Thursday in the NHL
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Maybe the key to getting more out of Jonathan Quick as a veteran starter was to threaten his status as a No. 1 goalie? Understandably, the Kings are working toward making Cal Petersen their top guy, especially of the future. (Also, the plan was, kind of the present, too.)
So far, Jonathan Quick is playing some of his best goalie in response. Quick stopped 41 shots on Thursday, narrowly beating Semyon Varlamov (40 saves, both allowed one goal) for NHL goalie of the night.
While Quick’s 8-5-4 record is modest (and likely obscures his strong play), the Kings goalie improved his save percentage to .935 for this season.
That’s quite the contrast from last season, when he languished with an abysmal .898 save percentage. During the previous three seasons, Quick was performing more like a backup. This .935 save percentage would mark a career-high, which is saying something when you recall his peak years. At minimum, this represents his best work since 2017-18, when Jonathan Quick went 33-28-3 with a .921 save percentage.
It makes you wonder. If a team called hoping to trade for Jonathan Quick, what kind of offers would they dangle? What would be an enticing trade package for Jonathan Quick, from the Kings’ perspective? Something to think about in the likely event that Los Angeles slips out of reasonable playoff position.
J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
What a difference a coaching change makes? The Canucks won their sixth straight game under Bruce Boudreau with a 5-2 win over the Sharks. Miller was one of the stars of the win with a goal and two assists.
Since replacing Travis Green with Boudreau, the Vancouver offense has surged. The Canucks are averaging 3.17 goals per game with a power play clicking at 31.3% and 32.2 shots per game. Miller (9 points), Brock Boeser (7), Bo Horvat (6), and Quinn Hughes (6) have led the way. Thatcher Demko has helped between the pipes with a .959 save percentage.
Highlights from NHL games on Thursday
Dustin Brown became an effective player by will as much as anything else. Sometimes, that translates to more boring things. In his case, that can mean annoying moments, like drawing penalties. But that desire can show up in pretty plays, as this goal might make you say “Wow, Dustin Brown, I didn’t know you still had that in you.”
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 17, 2021
Really nice way for Jack Drury to score his first NHL goal. Nice setup from Jesperi Kotkaniemi, too.
Jack Drury, ladies and gentlemen pic.twitter.com/S6fyvQv6xQ
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 17, 2021
That wasn’t the only first NHL goal (with a slick setup) from Thursday. Jonathan Huberdeau set up Max Kiersted for his first NHL goal, which he completed thanks to some bold backhand work.
— NHL (@NHL) December 17, 2021
Thomas Chabot scored the sort of goal that makes it easier to understand why he’s making $8M per year.
Steven Stamkos reached 900 career points in the Tampa win:
A salute to the Captain from tonight's home crowd. 💙 pic.twitter.com/lrkdYwIXaF
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 17, 2021
NHL takeaways from Thursday
COVID looms over NHL games on Thursday, and probably warrants a caveat
In upcoming sections, we’ll note the end or continuation of streaks good and bad. Sometimes, in discussing losing streaks in particular, there might be a vibe of condemnation.
That really shouldn’t be the feeling. But that impression is understandable enough.
Let’s throw an extra caveat blanket over this one, though. Truly, COVID has disrupted the NHL season again, in a way more extreme than we’ve seen so far during the 2021-22 season. Read about the latest NHL COVID updates from Thursday, including the Canadiens hosting the Flyers without fans in attendance, in this post.
Honestly, in most cases, athletes have other things going on in their lives that might make it more difficult to perform. Sometimes they’re dealing with a more typical flu, or a nagging injury. Perhaps there are off-the-ice concerns.
Yet, even considering those standards, this is a time when it can’t be easy to excel. Some teams are playing without key players. A few are depleted of stars and supporting cast members. The results still count in the standings, though, so we must at least note what happens.
Just be that much more cautious about using anything that happens to paint a player or team with a cruel brush.
Predators end Avalanche’s five-game winning streak, push own run to six straight wins
Heading into Thursday, the Predators and Avalanche ranked among the hottest teams in the NHL, riding matching five-game winning streaks.
As cool as it was to see two hot teams square off, it’s caveat time.
Uncomfortably, the Avalanche saw their winning streak end against the Predators while they were short-staffed. The Avs rolled out 11 forwards, five defensemen, and one NHL-ready goalie. The Athletic’s Peter Baugh reports that the Avalanche decided to play Thursday’s game against the Predators after a team vote.
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) December 17, 2021
Now, the Predators didn’t have it easy, either. They had zero NHL coaches on their bench, and plenty of players in COVID protocol. Under these circumstances, it wouldn’t have been shocking if Avalanche – Predators got postponed.
Check out PHT’s early picks for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game
The current NHL All-Star Game format just demands snubs. You’ll notice that in PHT’s staff picks for the 2022 NHL All-Star Games. You’ll also notice it if you try to make picks and actually follow the rules (picking All-Star Coyotes and Canadiens — not so easy this season).
Friday’s big story
Golden Knights face Gallant, Rangers at MSG
OK, you could argue that the Golden Knights make so many big changes so often, that maybe Gerard Gallant feels like this is only sort of the team he coached not that long ago. Especially if the roster is affected by a mixture of injuries and COVID absences.
Still, Gallant gets to coach his Rangers against the Golden Knights, hoping that he can achieve even bigger things in New York than he did with Vegas.
While the Golden Knights have been up-and-down this season, they’re heating up. Vegas has won three in a row, and six of their last seven contests. With the Rangers also looking sharp lately (7-3-0 in their last 10 games), this should be a good test for both teams. Maybe Ryan Reaves will fight a former teammate or two?
Thursday’s NHL scores
Canadiens 3, Flyers 2 (SO)
Lightning 2, Senators 1
Kings 4, Panthers 1
Golden Knights 5, Devils 3
Hurricanes 5, Red Wings 3
Islanders 3, Bruins 1
Predators 5, Avalanche 2
Sabres 3, Wild 2 (SO)
Oilers 5, Blue Jackets 2
Canucks 5, Sharks 2