Top player in the NHL on Wednesday
Ryan Reaves, New York Rangers
If you are going to be a top-tier team and a Stanley Cup contender sometimes you need an unexpected player to have a big game or two to help you get a win. The New York Rangers got that on Wednesday night when Ryan Reaves scored two goals to help them erase a 3-1 deficit to win a 6-3 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Reaves entered the game with zero goals in his first 32 games this season, and had just 49 goals in 718 career games entering play on Wednesday. His two goals were the first two of the game for the Rangers and started the ball rolling on their comeback. It is only the second two goal game of his career and his first since the 2012-13 season when he was still a member of the St. Louis Blues in a game against the Calgary Flames.
Highlights from around the NHL on Wednesday
Mitch Marner had been on an extended power play goal drought that saw him go 101 games without a power play goal. The Maple Leafs power play was still rolling along as one of the best units in the league so it was not really hurting them, but that was still a lot of games without a power play goal. He snapped that drought on Wednesday thanks to an incredible no-look pass from William Nylander.
The Colorado Avalanche have one of the best defensive units in the NHL, and it is not just their defensive zone play that is elite. They are also the most prolific scoring blue line in the league and Sam Girard added to that goal total on Wednesday with this game-winning goal against the Anaheim Ducks.
Reaves with his two goals for the Rangers.
Great offensive zone shift here from the Arizona Coyotes in their win over the New Jersey Devils.
Three takeaways from the NHL on Wednesday
Maple Leafs let another lead get away
The two biggest criticisms of the Toronto Maple Leafs in recent years have always been about their defense and their lack of toughness and grit. Those criticisms are often times exaggerated or even unfounded. But when the head coach talks about how “soft” his team played and how they played without any purpose it is going to sound alarm bells for critics and, well, everybody else (read about all of that right here). You can understand head coach Sheldon Keefe’s frustration on Wednesday after he watched his team blow a multiple goal lead for the fourth time in the past five games. They had won two of the previous games but were unable to get even a point on Wednesday night against the Rangers. This is something they need to solve, and solve quickly.
Karel Vejmelka becoming bright spot for Coyotes
Not much has gone right for the Arizona Coyotes this season, but the play of first year goalie Karel Vejmelka has started to become a bright spot. He has had some incredible performances this season to steal a handful of games — especially recently — and he did it again on Wednesday night in a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. At one point the Coyotes were being outshot 27-8 early in the third period but they still had a two-goal lead thanks in large part to Vejmelka’s play in net.
Avalanche keep winning while Ducks lose again
Pavel Francouz gave the Avalanche an outstanding goaltending performance on Wednesday night in a 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks, while Sam Girard and Nazem Kadri provided the offense. The win helps the Avalanche increase their lead in the Western Conference as they remain one of the hottest teams in the league, owning a 22-3-1 record in their past 26 games. The Ducks, meanwhile, continue to struggle offensively without Troy Terry and Sonny Milano and have been shutout two games in a row while they have just two wins (and only one in regulation) over their past 11 games. They remain on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture by points percentage.
Thursday’s big story
The Philadelphia Flyers need a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets to avoid what will be their second 10-game losing streak of the season. The fact they have lost nine games in a row after losing 10 in a row just a few weeks ago is stunning enough. Having a second 10-game losing streak in the same season would be nearly unheard of. Read about their season so far right here. Other important games on Thursday feature the Washington Capitals trying to play out of their slump against the Boston Bruins, while Edmonton Oilers need to find a way to win against one of the league’s best teams, the Florida Panthers. The Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings also play a big game in the Western Conference playoff race, while the San Jose Sharks look to get two important points against the Seattle Kraken in their quest to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Wednesday’s NHL Scores
Arizona Coyotes 4, New Jersey Devils 1
New York Rangers 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 3
Colorado Avalanche 2, Anaheim Ducks 0