It’s time to recap what went on in the NHL this week — including a heroic effort from the Canucks, a historic night for Patrick Marleau, the surging Dallas Stars and an excellent first week in the nation’s capital for Anthony Mantha.
Horvat, Holtby lift Canucks with heroic performances…
The Vancouver Canucks are coming off over three weeks between games, a span stretching from late March until Sunday night, when the team returned to play against the Maple Leafs. Almost every member of the Canucks team, including coaches and training staff, had COVID-19 during that time, and many team members reportedly struggled to regain their health.
In their time away from the rink, playing hockey was the last thing on the mind of the players, who in some cases also saw their family members contracting the virus. As recently as two weeks ago, some voices around the league were asking if the league would even try to have the Canucks play another game this season, seeing as though they are in no place to make a playoff run and are now out of game shape, which could lead to injuries.
When the league scheduled the Canucks to return to play against the Maple Leafs on Saturday, Canucks forward J.T. Miller was blunt in his press conference, saying that he didn’t feel ready to come back and play, and he didn’t even have the virus. Miller referred to how hard it is to get back into game shape, and how the guys on the team who had tough battles with COVID-19 were going to be put in a tough spot. In fact, he said some of his teammates were even “struggling to breathe going up and down steps.”
Despite all of that, the Canucks pieced together a scrappy performance led by goaltender Braden Holtby, who stood on his head, making 37 saves on 39 shots to keep the team within striking distance. Once down 2-0, Vancouver got a late second period tally from captain forward Bo Horvat, then a tying goal from rookie forward Nils Hoglander late in the third period. Then, in overtime, Horvat did it again, scoring his second of the game to win the game for the Canucks in stunning fashion.
Two days later, on Tuesday, the Canucks did it again, overcoming an early 1-0 deficit and eventually winning 6-3. Holtby was again up to the task, making 37 saves on 40 shots for the Canucks’ second win over the North’s best Toronto Maple Leafs in their first two games back from COVID-19, a true testament to the heart of this team.
Historic night for Patrick Marleau…
On Monday night, San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau played in his 1768th NHL game in Las Vegas, officially surpassing the great forward Gordie Howe for first all time in games played.
Marleau, the Saskatchewan native, started his career in the 1997-98 season as a member of the Sharks, where he has played all but two seasons, which he spent in Toronto, and an eight-game stretch he spent in Pittsburgh last year.
Over the course of his 24 years as an NHL player, Marleau has amassed 556 goals and 630 assists, and is commonly referred to in San Jose as Mr. Shark. His accomplishment is bewildering in many ways, considering many of the players around the league today were not even born when a young 18 year-old Marleau first played in an NHL game.
Unfortunately, Marleau was never able to add a Stanley Cup to his Hall of Fame resume, coming up short many times with the Sharks, including a 2016 run that saw the team fall to the Penguins in six games in the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite never reaching the pinnacle of the NHL, Marleau did win two gold medals at the Olympics with Canada in 2010 and 2014.
Dallas hunting down Nashville…
The Dallas Stars have won four straight games and are 6-0-2 in their last eight tilts to close the gap on the Predators, who currently hold onto the final playoff spot in the Central with a one-point lead over the Stars, but Dallas has two games in hand.
In the past month, the Predators and Stars have really found their games after experiencing slumps in the middle of the season. The Stars have been led by the outstanding play of rookie of the year candidate Jason Robertson, a forward who has more points-per-game than any other rookie this season, and trails Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov in points despite playing in four fewer games. Dallas is hoping to add forward Tyler Seguin in the coming week for the first time this season, which could be a huge boost, but the club just announced that forward Alexander Radulov and goaltender Ben Bishop are both out for the season.
For Nashville, the stellar play has come from netminder Juuse Saros and captain forward Roman Josi. Saros has posted a .930 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.22, while Josi leads the team with 22 assists on the year. Forward Matt Duchene has finally returned to the lineup after missing more than a month, which should give the Preds a boost heading into the final stretch.
With the injuries and brutal schedule that both teams face until the end of the season, it is hard to predict who will eventually claim that last spot, so buckle up, it should be a great race!
Anthony Mantha fitting in nicely…
Forward Anthony Mantha, who was sent to the Capitals in a blockbuster trade during the last hour of the trade deadline, has recorded four goals and an assist in four games with the team.
Trading for Mantha has looked nice so far for the Caps, who will benefit from his big frame and elite scoring ability come time for the playoffs.
Peter’s Power Rankings: The Top 10 Teams Right Now.
Last week’s ranking in parentheses.
- Colorado Avalanche (1)
- Vegas Golden Knights (5)
- Boston Bruins (Not ranked)
- New York Islanders (2)
- Carolina Hurricanes (8)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (6)
- Florida Panthers (Not ranked)
- Washington Capitals (4)
- Minnesota Wild (Not ranked)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (3)
What to watch this week…
Washington Capitals at New York Islanders: Thursday, April 22 at 4 p.m. PT
Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers: Saturday, April 24 at 4 p.m. PT