Saturday’s top NHL players
Nick Schmaltz, Coyotes
How could it be anyone other than Nick Schmaltz, who set a new Coyotes franchise record by scoring a whopping seven points (two goals, five assists)?
Sure, you can ding Schmaltz because he’s playing for a Coyotes team that felt spiritually (though not mathematically) eliminated from day one. And Schmaltz did collect his seven points against a Senators team that clearly still isn’t ready for primetime.
Read more about Schmaltz’s seven points in this post. You can watch the highlights below.
Saturday NHL highlights
As promised, here’s footage of all seven Nick Schmaltz points:
As impressive as the accomplishment is, Schmaltz’s Coyotes record feels like a quirky bit of trivia. (Sort of like Sam Gagner collecting eight points.) With Rick Nash and the Blue Jackets, there’s no mistaking his place atop the franchise’s most prominent skater records. During the NHL games on Saturday, the Blue Jackets retired Nash’s number 61. More of that here, but watch the ceremony in this clip:
Alex Ovechkin reached 764 goals with the type of goal most people picture when you say “Alex Ovechkin goal.”
For your viewing pleasure:
Alex Ovechkin’s SEVEN HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOURTH career goal!! pic.twitter.com/zSDaTAmCEZ
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 6, 2022
Going to counter the Predators’ social media crew. Matt Duchene‘s move was delicious. That 8-0 score was disgusting.
DUTCHY THAT WAS DISGUSTING pic.twitter.com/eVlNQ4FzOp
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 6, 2022
If you hear Flames – Avalanche, your ears might perk up. Calgary and Colorado delivered more often than not, including Nathan MacKinnon:
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 6, 2022
Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames got the last laugh with this overtime game-winner:
WHAT. A. GAME. 🔥
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 6, 2022
Playing 1,000 NHL games is already an impressive accomplishment. Doing it after not being drafted? Mark Giordano reached that 1,000-game plateau. Wonder how many more games he’ll play for the Kraken?
Nice gesture by Capitals to honor Mark Giordano for playing his 1,000th regular season NHL game. pic.twitter.com/ZpGd41ek63
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) March 6, 2022
Saturday NHL Takeaways
Nick Schmaltz, seriously
Read up, because that was quite the performance.
Blue Jackets retire Rick Nash’s number 61
You can also check that out, along with some context about his accomplishments. Asking again: if there’s a second Blue Jackets number retired, whose would it be?
It’s really only fitting that the Blue Jackets lost on the night they retired Rick Nash’s number, right?
Matthews takes Maurice Richard lead; Ovechkin scores 764th goal
The Saturday NHL action wasn’t just about Nick Schmaltz and points. Goals stole some headlines, too.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 764th goal from an area the ice he’s made his office. (Honestly, at this point, maybe the NHL should stamp an “8” on that spot whenever Ovechkin retires.)
At goal 764, Ovechkin is only two goals behind Jaromir Jagr (766) for third in NHL history. After Jagr, there’s Gordie Howe at 801, and Wayne Gretzky up top with 894.
As far as this season goes, Ovechkin extended a two-game goal streak, and now has 34 on the season. Stunning stuff, but only good enough for fourth-best.
With two goals during the NHL games on Saturday, Auston Matthews ended the night first in the Maurice Richard Trophy race with 39 tallies. Leon Draisaitl was limited to an assist, keeping him at 38 goals. Both Matthews and Draisaitl likely focused more on their teams’ losses than that trophy race.
Chris Kreider‘s Rangers were idle, so he remained in third place with 36 goals. Kyle Connor (33), David Pastrnak (31), and Alex DeBrincat (31) would need to heat up to make the Maurice Richard Trophy race more crowded.
Sharks should drop facade of playoff contention, sell at trade deadline
Most times, a blowout loss should tell you nothing. For the Sharks, an 8-0 loss to the Predators should be the last straw. Management cannot just ignore the obvious truth that this team isn’t good enough.
As painful as it might be, trading Tomas Hertl is the wisest, most honest thing to do. Frankly, they’d be wise to trade just about anyone beyond the occasional prospect. Timo Meier needs a new contract after next season, and the mature move would likely be to trade him soon.
Think of it this way: the Sharks are virtually certain to miss the playoffs even with a lot going their way. Hertl, Meier, and Logan Couture are playing at a high level. Erik Karlsson‘s enjoyed a redemptive year, but how likely will that maintain (and can he reliably stay healthy)? They’ve even enjoyed passable goaltending.
A desperate front office might dream of all of that happening next season, only with (insert hasty addition that sacrifices the future for the present).
Look up and down the Sharks’ salary structure, and you’ll see that this team keeps getting burned by such decisions. Pull off the Band-Aid, sell high, and bulk up so you have a better chance to win when you fight another day.
Sunday’s big story
Will Stars keep climbing and Wild keep slipping?
Considering the Stars’ lows and the bright highs of the Wild, it’s surprising to see Dallas and Minnesota a streak away from staring eye-to-eye.
On the strength of a three-game winning streak, the Stars have 65 points in 54 games played (31-20-3). Baffling or not, they keep hanging in there.
With the Wild, they’ve beaten expectations often enough, for long enough, that it was tempting to take those good times for granted. Maybe a few cracks are forming, however. With a bumping 3-7-0 mark in their last 10, the Wild have 67 points in 53 games played (32-18-3).
To be clear, two points and a game in hand is not an advantage to dismiss. But that gap could really shrink if Dallas wins in regulation. The Wild could also end up losing ground if the Predators heat up after their own swoon.
Beyond the juggernaut Avalanche, the Central Division retains some room for movement, and thus chaos. Stars – Wild could nudge things in a wilder direction, or Minnesota may instead push things back toward predictability.
Saturday NHL scores
Islanders 2, Blues 1
Flyers 4, Blackhawks 3
Coyotes 8, Senators 5
Panthers 6, Red Wings 2
Canucks 6, Maple Leafs 4
Capitals 5, Kraken 2
Bruins 5, Blue Jackets 4 (SO)
Canadiens 5, Oilers 2
Predators 8, Sharks 0
Flames 4, Avalanche 3 (OT)