April 1 — Short of a Century & First-Year Forays

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ONE IN, ONE OUT: In addressing his team’s embattled and ever-changing goaltending situation on Thursday, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe announced that Petr Mrázek would miss the next six weeks with a groin injury. However, Keefe also noted that Jack Campbell medically is cleared to play after his injury—a rib ailment—but the club will not rush him back to the crease. 

MATTHEWS REACHES 50: Auston Matthews found the back of the net for the 50th time this year, his first career 50-goal season. Matthews joins Rick Vaive (three times), Gary Leeman, and Dave Andreychuk as the only Maple Leafs players to score 50 and is the 10th United States-born player to accomplish the feat. 

TOEWS TOUCHES ONE THOUSAND: Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated long-time captain Johnathan Toews’ 1,000th game in the NHL in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers. While the official festivities will happen when the team is back in Chicago this Saturday, teammate Alex DeBrincat made sure his captain felt acknowledged, creating a homemade sign to honor his accomplishment. 

INJURY UPDATES: This week saw two forwards leave games late due to lower-body injuries. On Monday, Jesperi Kotkaniemi got injured when the Carolina Hurricanes center was hit late by Washington Capitals center Lars Eller and will miss two to three weeks. Meanwhile, Clayton Keller had surgery on Thursday and will be out for four to six months while recovering. Keller went awkward into the boards against the San Jose Sharks, breaking his leg and needing to be stretchered off the ice in the Arizona Coyotes’ 5-3 victory on Wednesday. 

MAKING HOCKEY MORE INCLUSIVE: Paige Dowd and Kodette LaBarbera are attempting to make NHL games more accessible for fans with sensory processing disorders. Paige, wife of Capitals forward Nic Dowd, and Kodette, wife of Calgary Flames goaltending coach Jason LaBarbera, teamed up to create The Assist, a sensory kit designed for fans with autism and other special needs. Their goal was to partner with five NHL teams this season with the hopes to grow to all 32 arenas shortly. They have exceeded that goal by working alongside the Flames, Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL already this year. 

Friday Favorites

Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.

McDavid Reaches 100

For the fifth time in his young career, Connor McDavid has reached the 100-point mark for the Edmonton Oilers. It is no surprise that he has once again hit this milestone, considering he won the Hart Trophy after his first full season in the NHL. While the Edmonton Oilers have not had any consistency as an organization over the past seven seasons, McDavid has provided fans with constant entertainment, and he does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. 

Dropping the Gloves

The cutest moment of the week came to us courtesy of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian and his son. A video went viral of his young son asking his dad to fight him on the ice. During an interview, the Stanley Cup champion said his son wants to be a hockey player just like him. Talk about a proud dad moment. 

Penguins Score 11

Lights burned out on the jumbotron in Pittsburgh as the Penguins scored 11 goals against the Detroit Red Wings Sunday. The Penguins became the first team of the salary-cap era to record 11 goals in a single game and the first to do so since the Washington Capitals tallied 12 against the Florida Panthers in 2003. Every single forward earned a least a point in the victory, with Evgeni Malkin finishing the game with a hat trick and four points. 

Editor’s Addition: Wild Goes Viral

Monday was Women in Hockey night at the Capitals game against the Carolina Hurricanes, and the organization I coach, the Washington Pride, got to take part in the intermission shootout. Pride under-19 forward Grace Wildberger went viral with her skate-to-stick move and pushup celebration. Although the Caps lost to the Hurricanes 6-1, Wild won the internet! 

The “Not Quite a Century” Club

Wednesday night saw Connor McDavid reach the 100-point mark for the season as part of a 4-3 Edmonton Oilers shootout win during which he also potted the shootout winner. The reaction from fans across the league: meh. By now, the NHL has grown accustomed to McDavid’s brilliance, as the 25-year-old has already hit triple digits on four other occasions during his young career. Heck, he did the same thing a year ago, in 56 games!!

McDavid’s other-worldly talent aside, let’s not shrug off the incredible achievement of scoring 100 points in an NHL season. Over the past 10 years, just six players not named McDavid (Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand, and Claude Giroux) have achieved the feat. To put into comparison, the list of those who never managed to hit the century mark includes celebrated Hall of Famers and all-time greats. Let’s check out some of those names:

Ray Bourque

Raymond Bourque, Boston Bruins (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

It might seem unfair to include a defenseman on this list, but Ray Bourque also ranks first all-time in scoring among blueliners and 11th overall. Still, the long-time Boston Bruin never could hit 100 points despite registering more than 90 on four occasions. Paul Coffey, the second highest-scoring D-man of all time, rode the 1980s Oilers to a wild 385 points over one three-year stretch.

Dave Andreychuk

Dave Andreychuk (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)

Sure, there are more decorated names on this list (Jarome Iginla, Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Modano, etc.), but Dave Andreychuk—a Hall of Famer in his own right—stands out for how agonizingly close he came. Over the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, Andreychuk finished with exactly 99 points. It wasn’t for lack of trying on his part, as those seasons ended with two- and four-assist games, respectively. Sadly, it just wasn’t enough.

The Current Crop

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

For whatever reason, this generation of NHLers has a disproportionate amount of star players who, for whatever reason, haven’t quite hit the mark——at least not yet. Auston Matthews and Nathan Mackinnon still very well could, but guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Steven Stamkos, Anže Kopitar, Jonathan Toews, and Patrice Bergeron may have already missed their opportunity.

Beginner’s Luck

On Wednesday night, following a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Seattle Kraken have been officially eliminated from playoff contention. Seattle is 21-40-6 in their inaugural season, following a path that many expansion teams take in their first season.

In 1967, the NHL added six expansion teams, doubling the number of teams in the league to 12. Four of them made the postseason (they were all put in the same division, and the top four in each of the two divisions made the playoffs), including the St, Louis Blues, who made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

Since then, just three NHL expansion teams have made the playoffs in their inaugural season, and only one ended its first year with a winning record. Here is a look at the three cases of “beginner’s luck” for NHL expansion teams.

Edmonton Oilers (1979-80)

Before the 1979-80 season, four teams from the now-defunct World Hockey Association (WHA) joined the NHL, bringing the number of teams to 21. The four new teams were the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, and Edmonton Oilers.

Wayne Gretzky #99 (Photo by B Bennett/Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The Oilers, who had lost to the Jets in the WHA championship the year prior, featured future Hall of Famers Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, and Wayne Gretzky. The Great One won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player with 137 points (51 goals, 86 assists) in his first year in the league.

On Gretzky’s back, the Oilers snuck into the postseason with a record of 28-39-13, good enough for a fourth-place finish in the Smythe Division. He couldn’t lead them any further, as they lost three games to none to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.

Hartford Whalers (1979-80)

Hartford, who also joined the NHL in 1979, featured three Hall of Famers in Dave Keon, Mark Howe, and 41-year-old Bobby Hull, who was in his final professional season. That team also included Hall of Famer and 51-year-old Gordie Howe, after being inducted in 1972.

Gordie Howe of the Hartford Whalers. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Whalers finished their first season with a 27-34-19 record, outperforming the Oilers by four points and getting into the playoffs with a fourth-place finish in the Norris Division. However, their postseason fate was the same as Edmonton’s, getting swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round.

Vegas Golden Knights (2017-18)

The best expansion team in NHL history was the 2017-18 Golden Knights. They’re the only expansion team to finish their inaugural season with a winning record (the next closest is the 1993-94 Florida Panthers, who were one game below .500 and one point out of a playoff spot). Not only in the NHL, however, as they had one of the best inaugural seasons in sports history.

Vegas Golden Knights Mark Stone (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Vegas went 51-24-7 during that regular season, good enough for first place in the Pacific Division. In the playoffs, the Golden Knights swept the Los Angeles Kings 4-0 in the first round, beat the San Jose Sharks 4-2 in Round 2, and rolled Winnipeg 4-1 in the Western Conference Final.

The Golden Knights faced the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final, trying to become the only expansion team to win a championship in its first year. Unfortunately, the Capitals were too much for Vegas, winning the series in five games.

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