Once again, it is time to recap what went on in the NHL this week, including the return of Boston’s David Pastrnak, Maple Leaf Auston Matthews’s ridiculous scoring pace, dominance in both Sin City and Tampa Bay and the emergence of a Stanley Cup contender.
The Boston Bruins are a team that finds a way to win night after night and year after year. The reigning Presidents’ Trophy holders are back to their winning ways despite the exit of longtime emotional leader and extra-large captain, defenseman Zdeno Chara.
There were certainly doubts heading into this season, which saw the Bruins placed into the realigned and tougher East Division with their ancient core — 35-year-old center Patrice Bergeron, 32-year-old winger Brad Marchand and 34-year-old center David Krejci. Adding insult to injury, the team was playing without star forward David Pastrnak for a period of time.
None of that has seemed to matter to coach Bruce Cassidy’s squad, which has won eight of its first 11 tilts and sits at a familiar number one spot in the division.
After missing the team’s first eight matchups, Pastrnak scored five goals and added three apples in just four games. The 24-year-old Czech Republic native is going strong after a season that saw him share the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for having the most goals in the NHL. This is bad news for the rest of the East. I see a lot more Dunkin’ Donuts commercials and a lot more goals in Pastrnak’s future.
Auston “Mustachews” Matthews’ historic pace…
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is currently on pace to score 50 goals in 56 games. For context, if this were a regular 82-game season, he would be on pace for about 73 goals, which would be the most in a season since the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy was established in 1999.
The pro from Scottsdale, Arizona, is not actually going to reach 50 goals. That would be unheard of, and it would instantly become the greatest season in the modern era of the NHL. With that said, Matthews is looking to become the first American-born player to win the trophy, and he has a great opportunity to do it this year with 10 goals in 11 games so far.
Sin City and Tampa Bay both off to amazing starts…
Coming into the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights were among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, and they have not disappointed. At the start of week five, both teams sit at 7-1-1 and at the top of their respective divisions.
The defending champion Lightning is playing without its best player, winger Nikita Kucherov, but in return is finally getting a healthy season out of forward Steven Stamkos, who is one of the league’s best scorers. It is impressive what this team is able to do whilst dealing with injuries.
Meanwhile in Vegas, winger Mark Stone, the newly-named captain, is leading his team with 14 points in nine games. Coming off of their COVID-19 pause, they swept a two game series against the Kings and have a fairly easy schedule this week, playing the Anaheim Ducks twice before stopping in San Jose on Saturday. The real test comes on Sunday when they welcome the Colorado Avalanche to town in a battle of juggernauts.
Winning in Winnipeg…
The Winnipeg Jets have very quietly gone 7-3-1 in their first 11 games of the season. They are anchored by goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the reigning winner of the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s most outstanding goalie.
This is a team that features arguably the best one-two punch at center in the NHL, with two natural centers in Mark Schiefele and Pierre-Luc Dubois. With such depth in their top 12 forward group and an excellent goaltender, the Jets just might surprise people. This is also a team that features great size and plays a physical brand of hockey, which makes it well-equipped for the playoffs, should it be playing in them at the end of the 56-game regular season.
Hellebuyck has not yet elevated his game to the same level as last season and Dubois will likely take a few weeks to start feeling comfortable in a new system, but once those two things happen, this team will be tough to play against.
Peter’s Power Rankings: The Top 10 Teams Right Now.
Last week’s ranking in parentheses.
- Boston Bruins (4)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (6)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (2)
- Vegas Golden Knights (3)
- Montréal Canadiens (1)
- Philadelphia Flyers (Not ranked)
- Carolina Hurricanes (8)
- Colorado Avalanche (7)
- Winnipeg Jets (Not ranked)
- Washington Capitals (5)
What to watch this week…
Hockey fans can expect another action-packed Saturday this week, featuring the top two North division teams and a rematch between the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes.
Canadiens at Maple Leafs: Saturday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. PT
Hurricanes at Stars: Saturday, Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. PT
Contact Peter Knowles at pknowles ‘at’ stanford.edu.