NHL Rink Wrap: Flames get best of Bennett, Panthers

NHL Rink Wrap: Flames get best of Bennett, Panthers
Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

Top players from Tuesday in the NHL

Johnny Gaudreau, Flames

The good news is that Johnny Gaudreau is the version of Gaudreau fans love seeing. He ranks among the NHL’s most electric playmakers, and that was on display in the Flames’ win against Sam Bennett and the Panthers.

Gaudreau collected an impressive four assists, pushing him to 43 points (15G, 28A) in 35 games this season. He’s dangerously close to topping last season, when he generated 49 points in 56 games. There was also a bit of a lull — by his standards — the previous season, as he was limited to 58 points in 70 games in 2019-20.

So far, Gaudreau’s comfortably on pace to average a point-per-game (and change). The last time he did that was 2018-19, when he finished just shy of 100 points with 99. In doing so, he may have set expectations too high.

But, this year, he’s living up to expectations. Which does bring us to the one bit of less-good news: Gaudreau still needs a new contract, and every big game provides another bullet point for a hefty raise.

NHL highlights from Tuesday

Phew, a close call for Semyon Varlamov, and the sort of break you don’t get when you’re on a nine-game losing streak like the Flyers.

A strange goal. Being that Mark Jankowski scored it, you may even be tempted to call it janky.

Tom Wilson has scored in three straight games for the Capitals, and this one was an overtime game-winner:

Congrats to Jets rookie Cole Perfetti for scoring his first NHL goal, likely one of many to come. Especially if he develops anywhere as well in real life as he does in Franchise Mode.

Tuesday NHL Takeaways

Watch the Bruins retire Willie O’Ree’s number 22

In a wonderful ceremony, the Bruins retired number 22 in honor of Willie O’Ree becoming the first Black NHL player on Jan. 18, 1958. You can read more about that here, but check out the ceremony inn the video below.

NHL, NHLPA announce that asymptomatic players will not be tested for COVID

Yes, this development carries a weary air of inevitability. For better or worse, it’s the direction many in the world — especially the sports world — are heading. But time will tell if the NHL and NHLPA relaxing COVID testing standards following the 2022 NHL All-Star break (asymptomatic players won’t be tested) ends up being a wise idea.

Although, with the way players fight off injuries, and teams refuse to provide much details on injuries, maybe we’ll be in the dark if tweaked NHL COVID policies end up ill-advised? (Like, say, if family members get ill?)

Anyway, read up on the details here.

Other NHL news: Canadiens name new GM, “Last Men In” revealed for All-Star Game

Two other bits of NHL news from Tuesday worth noting:

Things are getting “award press conference” bad for the Oilers

Yeesh, this exchange between Leon Draisaitl and Jim Matheson is profoundly uncomfortable. And thus entertaining.

Flopping Flyers see losing streak grow to nine games

Not that long ago, there were rumblings that the Flyers didn’t want to trade the likes of Claude Giroux because they still had playoff dreams (faint or not). Well, you might need a microscope to view how small the Flyers’ playoff chances are after seeing their losing streak grow to nine games after falling to the Islanders.

If the Flyers aren’t trading off pieces now, one half-wonders if Chuck Fletcher is just too preoccupied with worrying about his own job security.

Before the Flyers lost yet again on Monday, PHT’s Adam Gretz broke down how things have gone wrong for Philly.

Flames get the latest laugh, even if Sam Bennett scored a goal

Remember when the Flames traded Sam Bennett to the Panthers? Honestly, things were a lot grimmer for both the Flames and Bennett when that trade went down.

While Bennett exploded out the gate with Florida, Calgary suffered for the rest of last season. Although they’ve stumbled lately, it’s clear that Darryl Sutter is getting more out of the Flames in 2021-22. It almost makes you wonder if Bennett may have thrived in that scenario.

But Bennett’s thriving with the Cats. He came into the NHL action on Monday with a very MLB pitcher stat line (15G-8A for 23 points), and scored his 16th against the Flames in Calgary. That would end up being the Panthers’ lone goal against the Flames, as Calgary got the best of Bennett on this occasion.

Wednesday’s big story

Rangers vs. Maple Leafs: two premium NHL franchises who are currently riding high

Whenever outlets release NHL franchise value estimates, the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs tend to dominate the top ranks. Yet, when you look up at the standings, you rarely see both teams dominating at once. (Sadly for Rangers and Maple Leafs fans, it might be slightly more common to see both teams struggling.)

Yet, during the 2021-22 NHL season, both the Rangers and Maple Leafs can daydream about special things. Sure, some of those dreams might be less realistic than others, but then again, look at how many surprises happen in hockey postseasons.

Heading into the NHL action on Wednesday, the Rangers are 25-10-4, while the Maple Leafs sport a 24-9-3 record.

As you likely know, both the Rangers (Artemi Panarin) and Maple Leafs (Auston Matthews) boast big-money superstars. There’s a better than 50-50 chance you could see some amazing feats. But these are also teams who have been stingy so far this season. Ranking second, the Rangers have only allowed 2.44 goals per game, while the Maple Leafs entered Monday fourth in the NHL at a 2.56 goals allowed average.

Ideally, fans get to see where the Rangers and Maple Leafs might be a touch underrated without that sneaky-stingy play killing all the fun of watching stars trade goals.

NHL scores from Tuesday

Hurricanes 7, Bruins 1
Sabres 3, Senators 1
Capitals 4, Jets 3 (OT)
Islanders 4, Flyers 3 (SO)
Canucks 3, Predators 1
Canadiens 5, Stars 3
Flames 5, Panthers 1
Lightning 6, Kings 4

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.

Scroll Down For: