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Last Night’s News 📰
TANEV OUT FOR SEASON: Yesterday, the Seattle Kraken announced forward Brandon Tanev will be out for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Tanev, who is currently third in goals on the Kraken, was injured in a Dec. 18 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
RETURNING KEY PIECES: Multiple teams found themselves on Santa’s nice list, as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Pittsburgh Penguins saw vital players return from injury after the holiday break. Brayden Point will make his return after being sidelined for 14 games for the Lightning, while Toronto welcomed Mitch Marner back to practice; both are coming off lower-body injuries. Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust rejoined the Penguins practice for the first time since knee surgery and a lower-body injury, respectively.
SLOVAKIA HITS A WALLSTEDT: Slovakia continued to build off the momentum it created in the third period of Sunday’s game against the United States, firing 13, 17, and 18 shots in the three periods against Sweden on Monday. However, goaltender Jesper Wallstedt was up to the task, turning aside all 48 shots in Sweden’s 3-0 win.
POINT BLANK SNIPE: Alexander Blank went end-to-end to score his second goal of the game, as Germany defeated Czechia 2-1 in overtime. Blank opened and closed the scoring in a game that saw goaltender Florian Bugl stop 39 of 40 shots in the German victory.
How well do you know the NHL at the Olympic Games?
- Which player won the Most Valuable Player during the men’s hockey tournament in 2010?
- Sidney Crosby
- Zach Parise
- Roberto Luongo
- Ryan Miller
- How many times did T.J. Oshie score in the USA’s shootout win against Russia during the 2014 Games in Sochi?
- Who passed Sidney Crosby the puck to score the overtime goal against Team USA in the 2010 gold medal game?
- Scott Niedermayer
- Shea Weber
- Jarome Iginla
- Jonathan Toews
Answers can be found at the bottom of the email.
Storylines to Watch: The Show Goes On
NHL hockey is back!! Okay, so it’s only been like a week, but doesn’t this somehow feel like a reset of sorts? Even as the league stumbled to the pre-Christmas holiday finish line, many teams were waylaid by COVID as others had enough personnel in protocols that the games seemed almost secondary.
COVID certainly isn’t gone, but the league is ready to forge ahead nevertheless. That means checking back in on what’s going on as we near mid-season. Since “Tampa = good, Arizona = bad” is only so helpful, here are three storylines that will bear watching the rest of the way:
Ovechkin Chases History
Alex Ovechkin spent the first portion of the 2021-22 NHL season combining historic greatness with a head-turning age-36 campaign. The result has been a thrilling chase of both this year’s scoring leaders and the league’s most prolific goal scorers of all time. Ovie’s 22 goals already this season have moved him past Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull and helped him hit the 750-goal plateau. Next up: Jaromír Jágr sits in the No. 3 all-time slot, 14 goals ahead.
Battle for the Presidents’ Trophy
Who will finish the season with the most points isn’t nearly as compelling as some of the down-to-the-wire divisional and playoff battles to come. But there are some pretty fascinating stories to watch atop the league standings that will shape who reigns as top dog heading into the postseason. Nikita Kucherov’s return for the Lightning, where Jack Eichel fits into the Vegas lineup, and how the possible Vezina showdown between ex-teammates Jack Campbell and Frederik Andersen plays out could determine who wins the Presidents’ Trophy. All of these teams have a shot.
Scoring Race Runs Through Edmonton
Apologies to those getting tired of seeing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl lord over so many NHL statistical categories, but I’ve got bad news: the Oilers duo has shown no signs of slowing down. This year, they might be better than ever. With matching 49 points in 29 games, McDavid and Draisaitl are both on pace for just under 140 points this season, bringing to mind the 1995-96 season in which Pittsburgh teammates Mario Lemieux and Jágr paced the league with 161 and 149 points, respectively.
Winners & Losers: Taxi Squad Confessions
The NHL has a plan to navigate its way through the rest of the 2021-22 season and yes, it involves the return of the taxi squad. The league and the Players’ Association agreed to allow teams unable to field a full, 20-man roster to carry a maximum of six players on their taxi squad for immediate support on the ice.
For a league firmly in the “show must go on” mode while hoping desperately to limit any further postponements, going the taxi route is the only option. It is an easy decision to provide teams with added insurance. However, the act benefits some while also being a detriment to others. Here are the winners and losers coming out of the taxi squad’s return:
Winner: Short-Handed Clubs
The re-introduction of the taxi squad is like manna from heaven for some woefully undermanned franchises. Depleted teams like the Anaheim Ducks and Arizona Coyotes have already added five players to taxi duty, as one figures COVID-battered teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators will soon follow.
Loser: AHL Clubs
The NHL isn’t the only hockey league to be feeling the effects of the Omicron variant, as the American Hockey League (AHL) is also struggling to complete its season amidst no shortage of players in COVID protocol. Losing up to six players per club to their parent clubs’ taxi squads only further impedes those teams’ ability to ice full lineups. No one will argue the NHL roster has to be the priority for any organization, but it does suck for their AHL affiliates.
Winner: The NHL
I mean, duh. Part of the no-brainer nature of this move boils down to how it benefits everyone involved in the league, from owners to players down to arena employees. Amidst a bleak barrage of postponements before the holiday break, it’s nice to be back in a position where the completion of full, 82-game schedules appears to be the most likely outcome.
Loser: The Fans
That may be a little harsh, especially since it’s obviously in the fans’ best interest to see the season through. But doesn’t the taxi squad threaten to dilute the notion of NHL-caliber hockey? As with the NBA’s new hardship exception, the NHL announced no subsequent break in ticket prices if a team’s biggest stars aren’t available to play. Yes, player absences have always been possible, but we’ve witnessed COVID’s potential to knock out a significant swath of regular roster members.
2022 Men’s World Junior Championship – Preliminary Round
Austria 1 – 7 Finland | Russia 4 – 2 Switzerland
Germany 2 – 1 Czechia | Sweden 3 – 0 Slovakia
NHL’s Leading Scorers
- Today’s newsletter was edited by Kyle Knopp, with contributions by Ben Fisher and Kristy Flannery.
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