Nick Jehamy | December 22nd, 2019
The NHL Weekly Roundup is back again as we witnessed another amazing week in the NHL full of big performances, upsets, and sadly… injuries. If you took my advice for games of the week you saw David Perron score a hat trick in a 5-2 St Louis Blues win over the rival Colorado Avalanche. In the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames, we were treated to seeing Evgeni Malkin score his 400th goal. Finally, the New York Islanders vs. Boston Bruins didn’t disappoint as the match had to be settled with a shootout in which the Islanders took the victory. Now, let’s hit around the rest of the league, here are my three stars of the week.
Three Stars of the Week
Noel Acciari, Florida Panthers
Forward Noel Acciari of the Florida Panthers came into this week with five goals on the season. He decided this week that he wasn’t going to fall behind the rest of his team who already has five skaters with double-digit goals, Acciari went on and took over this week scoring for the Panthers. The Panthers scored 15 goals, with 10 different players scoring! Nine of those players scored one goal each, as Acciari went on to score more than double his current goal total and put up six goals for the Panthers. Acciari did this in style producing back-to-back hat tricks and bringing his total goal total up to 11 goals on the season, making him the sixth skater on the team with more than ten goals on the season. Acciari’s six goals were the most by any player this week, the Panthers put up 13 goals in the last two games alone, because of this we have another Panther who padded his stats having an amazing week and led the league in another category…
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau joins his counterpart on this list to be the first two players from the same team to be stars of the week in the same week, and both well deserved. Huberdeau came into this week leading the team in points by one, over teammate Aleksander Barkov, also tied with Barkov for the team lead in assists and ninth in the NHL. Huberdeau has widened his gap from teammate Barkov and jumped up in league scoring as he led the league with seven assists on the week! Huberdeau similar to his teammate Acciari, did all his work in the Panthers last two games, tallying four assists against the Ottawa Senators and adding a goal to his three other assists in their last game against the Dallas Stars. Huberdeau now leads the team with 33 assists and 45 points on the season, this also puts him tied for fourth in the whole league in assists as well as shooting up into the top ten in points. Keep an eye on Huberdeau to keep jumping up the statistical standings as the Panthers put up one big scoring match after the other.
James Reimer, Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes won all three of their games this week, two of which can be attributed to the work of goaltender James Reimer between the posts. Reimer took on the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche this week in net for the Hurricanes and no word can describe his performance better than dominant. The Avalanche are second in goals scored on the season and Reimer shut them down holding them to only one goal in the match, and the Calgary Flames just couldn’t place the puck into the net as Reimer and the Hurricanes shutout the Flames. Reimer picked up two wins tallying 59 saves in his effort. His 0.50 GAA and .983 save percentage both led the league this week. Reimer is being given more games in goal recently as he is statistically out-performing his counterpart as of late, Petr Mrazek.
Team on the Rise
Carolina Hurricanes (This Week: 3-0)
Well, after hearing about the dominant performance of Reimer in the goal you can understand my reasoning for putting the Hurricanes as my team on the rise for this past week. Carolina won all three games played this week and are 7-2-1 in their last ten games. The Hurricanes have been up in the hunt all season but as some teams show some inconsistencies the Hurricanes carry on consistently winning against strong teams. We talked about the goalie play already in the work of Reimer, and Mrazek isn’t doing badly himself posting a 2.00 GAA and .928 save percentage in the last two weeks. This goaltending duo has been the cornerstone of the Hurricanes success as the team ranks second in the league in goals-against on the season only behind the New York Islanders. Their offensive play isn’t anything to sleep on either, led by Sebastian Aho with 21 goals on the season which is tied for fourth in the league. The team also has nine skaters with double-digit assists, three of which have over twenty. This team is just that, a team, they work together and each individual part complements each other so well that it makes this Carolina team a scary one to play against.
Team on the Decline
Vancouver Canucks (This Week: 1-3)
The Vancouver Canucks ended their week with an overtime winner scored by Chris Tanev over the Vegas Golden Knights, but that wasn’t enough for me to bump another team into this “honor” as team on the decline. The Canucks lost their first three games of the week before playing the Golden Knights, one of which was a loss to that same team they beat. The Canucks have been slowly sliding over the past few weeks, they had a very bad ten-game stretch earlier in the season in which they went 2-8 but they seemed to pick it back up, but it was all just a fluke, this Canucks team is worse than their record shows.
Let’s start with their defense and goaltending. 4.25 goals-against per game this week, that was the worst in the league as they gave up 17 goals in four games. Jacob Markstrom did not have a great week, but overall on the season, he has been average at best. The issue comes when putting anyone else in the net, Thatcher Demko has started four games in the last month and has given up an average of four goals per game, as well as Michael DiPietro who made one appearance where he gave up a goal in just eight minutes of play and saving six. Markstrom is not a bad goaltender but he isn’t great and with no one reliable to put between the posts to give him any rest this team won’t be showing any significant improvement soon.
With that unreliability in goal, the offense needs to pull off heroic feats to win games. The Canucks are a solid team offensively but also inconsistent, they can score five to six goals every game or so and then they hit droughts where they average two goals per game and whenever they hit these droughts they never seem to snap out of it quick enough. Team leading scorer Elias Petterson picked it back up this week with three goals after being on a drought of his own, let’s see if the team as a whole can follow suit.
What to Watch for the Week Ahead!
The Bottom of the Barrel is Fighting Back, Teams Rising from the Ashes
No game is ever guaranteed in any professional sport, but when one of the top teams is playing against one of the bottom teams the chances are obviously against those bottom of the barrel teams. This week those teams at the bottom showed why every game counts and that not only anyone can win any given day but that teams may actually need to be cautious against some of the bottom feeders going into the new year. Some games can be taken as just one-off wins like the Red Wings victory against the Montreal Canadians this week. Then there are slightly more interesting cases like the New Jersey Devils taking two wins this week, one of which being against the Arizona Coyotes. Then we have some teams we thought were far gone, making moves to put themselves completely back in contention.
The Los Angeles Kings were sitting at the bottom of the standings not being able to string together multiple wins in a row more than twice on the season, and one of those was only back-to-back wins in the second week of the season. Well, the Kings have now won back-to-back games in each of the last two weeks and are on a six-game point streak. This streak has placed them only six points out of the wild card with a lot of the season left to go. These weren’t all against mediocre teams either, the Kings beat the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins, as well as taking a point from the Penguins in a hard-fought overtime loss. The Kings most recent game was an overtime loss to the next highlighted team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Even when the Blue Jackets were sliding in the standings, goaltender Joonas Korpisalo was having a decent season but has stepped up his game even more over the past two weeks tallying two shutouts and four wins during their three-game winning streak and six-game point streak in which he has given up 1.67 goals per game, bringing his GAA on the season down to a solid 2.35. The Blue Jackets streak is even more impressive than the Kings, beating the league-leading Washington Capitals twice, the Kings as mentioned before, and also taking Pittsburgh into overtime where they lost 1-0. Columbus is in the Metropolitan Division which is the best in the league currently and has put themselves seven points out of the wild card now. This week we will see just how real this run they are on is, as they take on the top two teams in their division, the New York Islanders, and the Washington Capitals for the third week in a row.
Key Injuries of the Past Week
This week we saw multiple players go down. Some of these injuries are day-to-day, others are more serious and long term. Let’s take a look at a few of the more significant ones where the player losing time will most likely impact their respective teams.
- The Buffalo Sabres Jack Eichel‘s point-streak comes to an end due to injury. We talked about the star last week and how amazing of a run he has been on. Eichel was scratched from the Sabres lineup Thursday where they went on to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1. Eichel is suffering from an upper back issue and is considered day-to-day, it doesn’t seem too serious though as he can potentially be back this weekend, if not we will see how the Sabres can perform without him.
- Darcy Kuemper‘s season has been miraculous. The Arizona Coyotes goalie went down during the team’s match against the Minnesota Wild this week with a lower-body injury. Kuemper is currently considered week-to-week which will be a big blow as Kuemper was sporting a solid 2.17 GAA and .930 save percentage. Thankfully Antti Raanta has been having a good season himself, but the Coyotes will still be hopefully anticipating the return of their star goaltender.
- Dallas Stars forward Alexander Radulov was scratched from Friday’s match against Florida where the Stars went on to lose. Radulov has a lower-body injury and is currently considered day-to-day, he will be reevaluated before Sunday’s matchup. Radulov has been a key piece of the Stars season currently third in the Central Division, he is second on the team in goals, assists, and points. We will keep an eye on Radulov’s injury and the Stars going forward.
- The Minnesota Wild will be without winger Jason Zucker for at least four to six weeks as he is undergoing surgery for a broken fibula. Zucker has had a solid season so far scoring 12 goals and tallying 12 assists on the season. Through eight games in December Zucker has tallied seven points, scoring three goals and four assists. The Wild have been one of the most inconsistent teams this season and will miss Zucker’s recent offensive production going forward.
- First-line winger Brandon Saad will be out multiple weeks with an ankle injury. The Chicago Blackhawks have not had the best scoring production this season, and Saad is the only one aside from veteran Patrick Kane who has double-digit goals for Chicago on the season. This is going to be a tough blow for the Blackhawks who already aren’t having a great season.
- Another Penguin goes down. This time Justin Schultz is ruled out for at least a week maybe more with a knee injury. Schultz is added to the long list of Penguins injured this season and will carry on without the defenseman most likely as they have all season with their other injuries, with surprising ease.
- Kevin Labanc of the San Jose Sharks will be out at least through the holidays with an upper-body injury. The Sharks have had issues with depth at the forward position already, so without their second line left winger this is just another hit to their current problem. San Jose will try to work with what they have, they just promoted multiple forwards from the AHL as well as claiming veteran Stefan Noesen off of waivers.
Games of the Week
With no games scheduled from Tuesday the 24th to Thursday the 26th, we will have two action-packed days of NHL games on Monday and Friday filled with great games to watch, here are a few to keep an eye on.
Washington Capitals @ Boston Bruins – Monday, December 23rd
This matchup was my game of the week two weeks ago and it didn’t disappoint. This time around the Bruins look to return the favor after losing twice to the Capitals so far in what will be this pairing’s final matchup of the regular season. As the top two teams in the league, this may be a precursor for what to expect come playoff time with a potential Eastern Conference final matchup.
Carolina Hurricanes @ Toronto Maple Leafs – Monday, December 23rd
Both of these Eastern Conference teams are on three-game winning streaks and are looking to hold their third-place spots in their respective divisions. The Toronto Maple Leafs will be putting the third highest-scoring offense in the league against Carolina’s second-lowest goals against. This will be the first of three matches these two teams play this season.
Columbus Blue Jackets @ Washington Capitals – Friday, December 27th
Yes, I have the Capitals here twice this week. After their Monday match, they will play on Friday against the Blue Jackets in what will be a rematch from this past week where Columbus shut out Washington 3-0. This will be the third of four matches between these two this season, surprisingly the Blue Jackets have won both previous matchups by a three-goal margin, representing one-third of the Capitals regulation time losses (two out of six).
NHL Power Rankings
- Washington Capitals (1)
- Boston Bruins (3)
- Colorado Avalanche (2)
- St Louis Blues (5)
- New York Islanders (4)
- Carolina Hurricanes (8)
- Pittsburg Penguins (7)
- Arizona Coyotes (6)
- Vegas Golden Knights (15)
- Dallas Stars (12)
- Philadelphia Flyers (10)
- Winnipeg Jets (11)
- Edmonton Oilers (9)
- Florida Panthers (17)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (20)
- Calgary Flames (13)
- Montreal Canadiens (19)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (16)
- Buffalo Sabres (18)
- Nashville Predators (23)
- Minnesota Wild (22)
- Vancouver Canucks (14)
- New York Rangers (21)
- San Jose Sharks (24)
- Colombus Blue Jackets (28)
- Anaheim Ducks (25)
- Chicago Blackhawks (26)
- Los Angeles Kings (29)
- Ottawa Senators (27)
- New Jersey Devils (30)
- Detroit Red Wings (31)
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