December 31 — Auld Lang Syne

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Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

MINNESOTA MONEY MEN: Dean Evason and his staff agreed to multi-year extensions with the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. Evason took over for Bruce Boudreau in Feb. 2020, leading the Wild to back-to-back playoff appearances. Minnesota battles the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division in the Winter Classic on Saturday.

MAX-IMUM DISAPPOINTMENT: Yesterday, the Vegas Golden Knights announced Max Pacioretty is out indefinitely after having wrist surgery. Pacioretty has 21 points in 16 games this season, although missing 17 games due to a lower-body injury. 

FIELD GOALS IN FLORIDA: In honor of bowl season in the Sunshine State, the Florida Panthers put three field goals on the scoreboard Thursday night. Although the Tampa Bay Lightning answered with their own field goal, Anthony Duclair and Jonathan Huberdeau led the Panthers en route to a 9-3 win. 

BUMMER FOR BRUCE: For the first time under Bruce Boudreau, the Vancouver Canucks lost a game. Although Bo Horvat tied the game late to earn a point for Vancouver, the Los Angeles Kings spoiled a chance at history for Boudreau. Had the Canucks pulled out the win, Boudreau would have become the first coach in NHL history to win his first eight games with a new team.

Friday Favorites

Today is the final day of the calendar year, so let’s look back at some of our favorite moments of 2021.

McDavid Magic

Picture it, Rogers Place in the autumn of 2021. Star forward Connor McDavid picks up the puck near the blue line, smoothly skates past four Rangers players, and puts the puck past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev to score the goal of the season. Fans within the arena jumped out of their seats in celebration, and even McDavid had a look of shock on his face that he pulled it off. 

NHL Games at Lake Tahoe

Everyone loves an outdoor game, and over the years, fans have become accustomed to seeing the players hit the ice with a city skyline as the backdrop. This year, we saw teams battle at Lake Tahoe, harking back to the days of skating on a pond. The aesthetic was stunning, leaving fans wanting to see more outdoor games in unique locations, like Lake Louise and Grand Teton National Park. 

Lightning Fans Witness Victory

It’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Lightning won back-to-back Stanley Cups, but in 2020, they won in the bubble without family, friends, or fans. We can all agree it was strange to see a team celebrate over Facetime with their loved ones. So, when the team managed to win the Cup for a second consecutive time, it was touching to see it happen in a packed arena surrounded by their supporters.

Resilient Returns

It was an emotional year for Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom. On April 18, 2021, the Flyers honored Lindblom at their annual Hockey Fights Cancer game, his first since returning to play after an Ewing’s sarcoma diagnosis, and won the Masterton Trophy on June 15. 

Brian Boyle sat out last season, and after a year off, he earned a professional tryout and eventual contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins this fall. The same day he signed his contract, he scored a goal in his first NHL game since Aug. 7, 2020. 

Brotherly Love

The NHL Draft is always an exciting time for players and their families. Although the 2021 Draft was virtual, like most events the past couple of seasons, the circumstances led to one of the best moments of the night. Jack Hughes sat with his family, hoping the New Jersey Devils would draft his younger brother Luke with their fourth-overall pick. With the announcement that New Jersey selected Luke, Jack freaked out, and well, you need to see it. 

2022 Wish List

2021 began with some NHL teams playing in front of empty arenas while the league embarked upon a shortened 56-game season. It’s ending with an ongoing spate of postponed games, the withdrawal of NHL participation at the Olympics, and the cancellation of the World Junior Championship. While there were highlights to celebrate, hockey fans haven’t exactly gotten everything they wanted out of the year.

So, what do we want as we look ahead to 2022? Trying to keep COVID focus to a minimum, here are some things we’d love to see during the coming year:

Leon Draisaitl Wins the Scoring Race

It’s not that we don’t want to see Connor McDavid remain a must-see attraction every night, but let’s give his equally dynamic Edmonton Oilers teammate some love here. Leon Draisaitl hasn’t lagged far behind McDavid’s pace over the past four years (268 points to 249) and even won a scoring race, but how many people outside of Edmonton could even pick him out of a lineup?

Rookies Keep It Up

Before 2022 comes to a close, the current rookie class will have given way to a group that may include Shane Wright, Owen Power, Matty Beniers, and others. Until that happens, though, we’re jonesing for more Trevor Zegras, Lucas Raymond, and Moritz Seider. Yeah, we know that the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings could be on borrowed time after rookie-driven surprising starts, but we’re not ready to say goodbye to this exciting early-season story yet.

Another Playoff Cinderella

The Montreal Canadiens may not feel much like reigning Stanley Cup finalists these days, but the 2021 postseason run was the type of remarkable underdog story that can happen in the parity-driven NHL. And there’s no reason to think it couldn’t happen again. Could Marc-André Fleury do the impossible again by bringing the Chicago Blackhawks back from the brink? Or maybe the Bruce Boudreau train in Vancouver rolls right along to a deep playoff run.

World Cup, Please!

We aren’t getting a best-on-best Olympic tournament or seeing how high Connor Bedard can fly at World Juniors. So, come on, NHL! If there comes a time when a World Cup can run safely, then it would serve as a satisfying reward for so many hockey fans short-changed by COVID. The 2016 event was gimmicky (remember the 23-and-under Team North America?), but it was also fun and featured great hockey!

MSk8 Debate 💬

Today is the final day of 2021, and what a year it has been! Thank you for your continued support of the Morning Skate newsletter. Our team weighs in on what we hope will be the biggest storyline in the hockey world during the 2022 calendar year.

BF: Will Lightning strike thrice? Picking the two-time defending champs to hoist the Stanley Cup again may seem boring and safe, but it’s worth noting that no team has three-peated since the 1980’s powerhouse New York Islanders—a stretch that includes Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers and the 90s-era Detroit Red Wings. Last night’s embarrassment at the hands of the Florida Panthers aside, the loaded Tampa Bay Lightning are playing well minus Nikita Kucherov (although they miss Andrei Vasilevskiy) and are nicely positioned for another deep run this spring.

KF: Looking ahead at all the potential storylines for 2022, I can’t help but think about the upcoming playoffs and if fans will see Connor McDavid and the Oilers make a run. It is truly crazy to think McDavid has only appeared in the playoffs twice in his career. He scored what might be the goal of the decade earlier this season against the New York Rangers and already has 50 points on the season. It’s ridiculous that Pat Maroon has three Cup rings while McDavid only has two playoff appearances. Will 2022 finally be the year we see McDavid play meaningful postseason games?

KK: I was most looking forward to having NHL players at the Olympics and the first actual best-on-best tournament since 2014 in Sochi. However, with the recent announcement that the NHL pulled out of the Olympic Games, I hope that the NHL finds a way to host another World Cup of Hockey-type tournament. Although the health and safety of players and team personnel are critical, having these types of competitions is the best way to grow the game internationally.

One thing that all three of us do agree on, we look forward to providing you with Morning Skate content each week!

NHL Standings

NHL Leading Scorers

Today’s NHL Schedule