December 29 — The NHL Returns From Pause

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

CANADIAN CANCELLATIONS: On Tuesday, the NHL announced nine games in Canadian cities will be postponed until arena attendance restrictions are relaxed. All nine games were scheduled through Jan. 10, while the Boston Bruins game at the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 12 has been moved to Boston. 

AMERICANS IN QUARANTINE: Team USA had two players test positive for COVID, causing the team to go into quarantine and forfeit its game against Switzerland on Tuesday. Team Switzerland earned a 1-0 victory thanks to the forfeiture, while the American’s game against Sweden on Wednesday is still undecided. 

THE GREAT BEDARD: For only the second time in Canadian history, someone recorded a hat trick at the World Junior Championship as a 16-year-old. However, unlike Wayne Gretzky, who scored a hat trick against Czechoslovakia on Christmas Day 1977, Connor Bedard became the only 16-year-old to notch four tallies in a game, as Canada beat Austria 11-2. Bedard joins other Canadians to score four goals at the World Juniors—Mario Lemieux (1983), Simon Gagné (1999), Brayden Schenn (2011), Taylor Raddysh (2017), and Maxime Comtois (2019).

A NIGHT OF FIRSTS: In the NHL’s opening game back from its six-day break, “first” was the theme of the night in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime victory over the Canadiens. All four Montreal goals were the first of the season, with Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Kale Clague picking up the first of their NHL careers. Brayden Point had two goals and an assist on the game-tying goal with 20 seconds remaining in the third period in his first game back since his injury. 

SHARKS SURVIVE COYOTES COMEBACK: San Jose scored seven goals by seven different players on 24 even-strength shots yet had to survive a late push by the Arizona Coyotes to force overtime. Lawson Crouse and Phil Kessel led the way with four points each, as the Sharks earned the extra point in the shootout.

AN APPLE FOR ANŽE: Jonathan Marchessault had a goal and two assists yesterday, as the Vegas Golden Knights extended their road winning streak to six games. Although, it was the Los Angeles Kings’ first goal that provided the game’s top highlight. Anže Kopitar picked up the secondary assist on Adrian Kempe’s first-period goal, moving him ahead of Gretzky for second place for assists in Kings’ history behind Marcel Dionne.

Wild Card Wednesday

As the NHL starts back up, let’s take a look at the teams that would barely make the playoffs if they were to start today.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins

Before the COVID pause, the Penguins were on a seven-game winning streak. Along with the Nashville Predators, they are one of the hottest teams in the league. The team has battled through diversity all season long and has had multiple players step up when needed. Star Sidney Crosby has been in and out of the lineup, while Evgeni Malkin has yet to make his season debut. The league needs to watch out when this team gets healthy.

Detroit Red Wings

Thanks to Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, the Red Wings have been an absolute joy to watch. However, one could argue Detroit wouldn’t be anywhere near the playoffs if it weren’t for these two rookies. The Wings have some inconsistencies to be solved to solidify themselves as a true playoff team. While they are an excellent home team, Detroit boasts a dismal 4-10-1 record on the road.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche

It is a surprise that the Avalanche are battling for a playoff spot, as this team has been a Stanley Cup favorite for the past few seasons. Nathan MacKinnon has been battling a lower-body injury that saw him miss 10 games, and so far, Nazem Kadri has been able to step up in the all-star’s absence. Expect the Avalanche to climb up the standings and battle the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators for a top-three spot in the Central Division.

Edmonton Oilers

Connor McDavid and company currently hold the second wild-card spot in the West. Before the pause, the Oilers lost six of the nine games played in December. Both the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks are performing better than expected, and it will require more than McDavid’s magic to get this team into a top-three spot in the Pacific Division.

By The Numbers – Fight to the Finish

With three games played—and completed—on Tuesday night, the NHL is officially off and running on seeing through the 2021-22 season. Taxi squads and further emergency measures are being ushered in to push to the finish line and, hopefully, put an end to the ongoing wave of postponements plaguing the league on account of teams that can’t get 20 healthy roster members onto the ice.

Even in the face of the still-growing cases of the Omicron variant, there is a renewed optimism of things working out for the NHL as the post-holiday break comes to an end. So, what are we looking at as we carry on along the bumpy road to a full 82-game schedule? Let’s go inside the numbers:

80: Postponed games to be made up (to date). Hello, Olympic break!

6: The maximum number of players now allowed on each team’s taxi squad, a returning wrinkle intended to prevent a team from being significantly short-handed.

20: Days in February that can now be used to make up postponed games, owing to the league opting out of Olympic participation.

900+: Approximate number of games remaining across the league between now and the start of the playoffs on May 2. 

140: Players and team personnel that remain in COVID protocols even as the season gets back underway (approximately).*

1: Stanley Cup to reward, which is what this is all about. Well, that and money.

*Note: this has probably changed several times since last night.

2022 Men’s World Junior Championship – Preliminary Round

 Austria 2 – 11  Canada |  Switzerland 1 – 0  United States*

*Game forfeited due to COVID

Learn more about the IIHF Men’s World Junior Championship here

NHL Standings

NHL’s Leading Scorers

Today’s NHL Schedule