Top players from Wednesday in the NHL
John Carlson, Capitals
Year in and year out, John Carlson just keeps scoring a metric ton of points.
When Carlson signed an eight-year, $64 million deal with the Capitals in 2018, the thought was that he might sink quickly. Instead, he’s only picking up steam. Maybe the Capitals will eventually cringe at Carlson’s $8M cap hit, but right now, the 31-year-old continues to deliver.
During the NHL action on Wednesday, Carlson generated a goal and three assists for a four-point night during a 5-3 Washington win, which snapped Nashville’s seven-game win streak. This pushes Carlson to an impressive 30 points in 32 games, good for third among NHL defensemen.
It’s still relatively early in the season (we think), but Carlson’s also quieting the knock on his all-around game. Consider his positive all-around impact, as you can see from his Evolving Hockey RAPM chart:
At times, awards voters can’t help but hand out the occasional “lifetime achievement” trophy. That logic might propel Carlson in a Norris Trophy debate, but at least this would be as good a year as ever for him to receive that recognition.
(If he keeps this up.)
J.T. Miller, Canucks
The Canucks extended their winning streak under Bruce Boudreau to seven games with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Ducks. Miller had a hand in both goals, setting up Tanner Pearson‘s opener early in the third period and then netting the deciding tally in the extra period.
Boudreau is now the third NHL coach (Geoff Ward, Calgary / Jacques Lemaire / New Jersey) to begin his start with a new team with seven consecutive wins.
ALL GAS, NO BRAKES 💨 pic.twitter.com/LsHb8jSCFX
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 30, 2021
Highlights from NHL games on Wednesday
An incredible bit of work from Rasmus Dahlin. First, Dahlin deftly pickpockets his opponent. Then he sends a tremendous breakout pass to Tage Thompson, who scored a goal with some great moves of his own:
No stopping this guy 😤#LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/fv1kleEcbh
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) December 30, 2021
Observe the Capitals achieving pure passing perfection. The Predators put up a fight, but the Capitals ended their winning streak at seven games. (More on that in the takeaways.)
.@Capitals are flying in the first as they take a 3-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/kGBRWh0ROO
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) December 30, 2021
Artemi Panarin pulled off some “only in video games” moves to beat Sergei Bobrovsky.
Alexa what's an NHL All-Star https://t.co/HF9ddY7hd5 pic.twitter.com/fAaycwX2qa
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) December 30, 2021
NHL takeaways from Wednesday
COVID prompts IIHF to cancel 2022 World Junior Championship
On Tuesday, things started to unravel for the 2022 World Junior Championship, with positive tests and a forfeit by the U.S. team. It looked like at least two other games would be canceled on Wednesday, and ultimately the IIHF pulled the plug on the remainder of the tournament.
NHL tweaks COVID protocols, at least in the U.S.
Before the NHL action began on Wednesday, the league announced tweaks to COVID protocol. Well, at least in the United States.
Like other sports leagues, the NHL cut down on isolation days (10 days to five) for players who test positive for COVID but are essentially asymptomatic. Here’s how that is phrased: “if symptoms are gone or resolving themselves with a negative PCR test or two negative rapid test results taken more than two hours apart.”
Click here for more on the COVID policy tweaks the NHL will follow for a couple weeks in the U.S. Do note that Canada has stricter policies (and also that the schedule has been changed in reaction to differing policies in the two countries).
Predators rally from down 3-0, but Capitals end Nashville’s winning streak
For a while, it seemed like the Capitals wouldn’t just end the Predators’ winning streak. After generating a 3-0 lead in the first period, there was potential for embarrassment.
Instead, the Predators roared back during the second period, answering with three goals. (They scored two of those goals in a span of 35 seconds.)
In the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s shorthanded goal ended up being the difference-maker, while the Capitals also scored an empty-netter to widen the gap vs. the Predators. Really, it’s interesting that a special teams play made the difference, as both teams were hapless on the power play. (Capitals went 0-for-6, Predators were 0-for-4 with that shorthanded goal allowed.)
The Predators might kick themselves mainly for seeing their winning streak end despite nearly stealing this one. Washington generated a 37-20 shots on goal advantage, including a 26-14 edge after that lopsided first period.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Capitals won, and now that winning streak is over for the Predators.
Thursday’s big story
Sunshine state showdown: Panthers vs. Lightning
Heading into the 2021-22 NHL season, plenty in the hockey world hoped that the Panthers might hold up their end of the bargain, and build on a potential rivalry with the Lightning.
It’s too early to tell if the Panthers can truly match the might of the defending repeat Stanley Cup champion Lightning, but they’ve done just about everything right so far. (Even considering an unexpected coaching change.)
With both teams playing at a high level, Panthers – Lightning on Thursday could end up being a playoff preview, and perhaps a taste of a legitimate, budding NHL rivalry.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the Hurricanes also face the Canadiens on Thursday, although he already made his return to Montreal earlier, and things will be less contentious for him in Carolina. Still, it’s a situation to watch now that Kotkaniemi is heating up.
Wednesday’s NHL scores
Panthers 4, Rangers 3
Devils 4, Sabres 3
Capitals 5, Predators 3
Blues 4, Oilers 2
Canucks 2, Ducks 1 (OT)
Flyers 3, Kraken 2 (OT)
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.