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HomeFootballFIFANHL best and worst: Ovechkin has Gretzky in his sights

NHL best and worst: Ovechkin has Gretzky in his sights

Alex Ovechkin could catch Wayne Gretzky as the NHL's all-time goals king. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin could catch Wayne Gretzky as the NHL’s all-time goals king. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Another week of outstanding NHL action has wrapped up, with plenty of big saves, slippery goals, and a few moments that might not have gone as planned.

Goal of the week

The Colorado Avalanche are hurting big time right now, with several key contributors on the shelf for an extended period. That’s caused a slump for the Avalanche that’s been too much to handle of late, including a string of four straight losses leaving them clinging to a playoff spot for dear life.

That’s not to say that everybody in Denver is hurt, however. Mikko Rantanen is one of the few Avalanche stars that’s still clicking on all cylinders, and he’s done his absolute damnedest to keep them in the fight, especially with goals like these against the Philadelphia Flyers last Monday.

Save of the week

The Los Angeles Kings have been begging for somebody to stop pucks for them. Enter Pheonix Copley. The journeyman netminder, now 30 years old, has come in and looked outstanding, boasting a stellar .927 save percentage through his first two games in the black and silver. His best work came against the Ottawa Senators, as he made one of the finest desperation saves you’ll see, stretching his pad out and robbing Claude Giroux of a sure goal.

Tage Thompson’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was quite literally one for the history books. This season’s breakout NHL star went absolutely nuclear, potting five goals and adding an assist in a 9-4 thrashing. His historic night was remarkable in every sense of the word, as he’s now vaulted himself up to fourth in the NHL in points and third in goals. What an unbelievable year he’s having.

Hands of the week

Kudos to Marc-Andre Fleury for working with the element of surprise and trying to catch Jason Robertson off guard during the shootout, but there was no way you were fooling one of the NHL’s hottest scorers on this one. Robertson leaves Fleury in the dust here on a nifty move around the 38-year-old netminder, then tucks the puck into a yawning cage. Better luck next time, Flower.

Hit of the week

The NHL may be accelerating quickly towards a high-skill, fast-paced game, but that doesn’t mean guys can expect to barrel head down into the offensive zone moving forward. This absolute bone-crusher by Rasmus Dahlin is exhibit A-Z of that, as he destroys Matt Nieto. Dahlin is quickly evolving into one of the NHL’s elite two-way defenders, and could be among the NHL’s Norris Trophy finalists if he continues his exceptional season in Buffalo.

Worst of the week

Buffalo fans, this is clearly your week on the best and worst. This hilarious moment, however, was too funny not to share. Timo Meier got caught looking silly here, as he completely botched an attempted hit on Dahlin before flying into the boards. The satisfying “thud” he makes puts this one into the top tier of the funniest moments of the season.

Quote of the week

Cale Makar was none too pleased following the Avalanche’s 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Friday and wasn’t subtle about it postgame. Asked about a flashy glove save by Shesterkin, Makar gave reporters a piece of his mind on the Rangers netminder’s flamboyant style of play.

Most wholesome moment

To say the Calgary Flames‘ season hasn’t gone according to plan would be one heck of an understatement, however, it’s nice to know they’re at least still finding ways to have fun. Sophomore skater Adam Ruzicka, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Flames this year, had a little giggle at defenceman Nikita Zadorov’s expense during a scrum last week.

A dish best-served cold

We knew Shane Wright had this one circled on his calendar, and boy did he deliver for the Seattle Kraken. The draft pick spurned by the Montreal Canadiens looked every bit out to prove them wrong last Tuesday after he scored his first-ever NHL goal against them. The quick one-timer was a beauty, though it wouldn’t be enough as the Canadiens dropped a surging Kraken squad 4-2.

Kuch takes a tumble

This fleeting clip from last week may only be two seconds long, but it might just be the best two seconds of your week. Nikita Kucherov proves that NHL players are just like you and me when he accidentally steps on the puck, then falls flat on his face.

Dish of the week

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl remain as lethal as ever, showing no mercy during an 8-2 Edmonton Oilers beatdown over the lowly Arizona Coyotes. The duo combined for this magnificent goal off a scrumptious pass from Draisaitl, while McDavid’s wraparound magic left Connor Ingram looking for his jock strap in the rafters of Rogers Place.

Team on your back

Jack Hughes has become a different type of animal this season, and his epic showing at the end of the Devils’ 6-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday night might be his absolute best. The former first-overall selection put together an record-setting 6:02 shift to finish out the game and damn near dragged the Devils back into it in the process. Don’t look away ladies and gents, we’re witnessing the emergence of an NHL superstar.

Careless with the stick

NHL players have been known to get careless with their sticks every once and a while, but most of the time, those high-sticking infractions are committed against the other team. In Ottawa, however, boiling frustration from a season of missteps clearly had defenceman Thomas Chabot in no such mood for games, as he whacked his stick against what he thought was the side of the stanchion near the Senators bench. Unfortunately, teammate Travis Hamonic was sitting in exactly the wrong spot and took the brunt of Chabot’s heroic hack. Quite the microcosm of the Senators season to date.

Stat of the week

Generational goaltending performances don’t happen every night, but when the Maple Leafs played the Dallas Stars last week, fans were treated to exactly that. In a game with a pair of players coming in scorching hot, it was Matt Murray who stole the show, as the Leafs starting netminder put together the greatest goaltending performance of the analytics era, according to Moneypuck.com, en route to a dramatic Maple Leafs shutout victory.

Ninety-Nine

Alex Ovechkin continues to climb up the all-time scoring leaderboard, and after his pair of goals against the Philadelphia Flyers last Wednesday, The Great Eight moved into double-digit striking distance of The Great One. He’s still likely a few seasons from catching Gretzky, but it’s starting to feel a lot more like when, not if, Ovechkin’s name will be perched atop the NHL’s all-time goals leaderboard.

Finding common ground

As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Devils and Islanders fans seemingly got the memo last Friday. Despite only one team walking away with the two points, both of them surely felt like winners when they joined in to chant what might as well be the second national anthem in the Tri-state area.

One way to get outta town

The Vancouver Canucks‘ season has been one of ebbs and flows, to say the least, as the team sits just outside of a playoff spot following a brutal start and a surprising recent surge. One veteran defenceman’s days may be numbered on the West coast with the team once again sputtering. Luke Schenn’s agent took matters into his own hands and decided to let general managers know that his client was very much available to a loving home.

Everything’s coming up roses in Steeltown, as the Pittsburgh Penguins have caught fire after a slow start to their campaign. Winners of eight of their last 10, the Penguins got even more good news when Kris Letang returned to the lineup less than two weeks after suffering a stroke. While Letang didn’t get onto the scoresheet in their 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, a warm ovation awaited the future Hall of Famer, whose quick recovery is nothing short of remarkable.

As for the Penguins themselves, it has been the Sidney Crosby show as the Cole Harbour, N.S., native remains ageless, leading the league in even strength points through 28 games played.

Trending Down: Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks were supposed to be bad this year, so their spot at the basement of the NHL’s Central Division should be of no surprise. While there have been bright spots for the Blackhawks — the resurgence of Jonathan Toews and Max Domi’s good start — things are otherwise going tremendously poorly for Chicago. At 1-8-1 in their last 10 games, including four straight losses, the Blackhawks have their eyes peeled for a different type of prize set to take centre stage for Team Canada in just a few short weeks.

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