January 4 — A Chat With Nadia Popovici & Winter Classic Trivia

Yesterday’s NHL Scores

Last Night’s News 📰

OIL LEAK: For the fourth time in the last 12 games, both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held off the scoresheet as the New York Rangers defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Ryan Strome recorded three points, Chris Kreider notched his 20th goal of the season, and Alexandar Georgiev made 33 saves for his first win in almost a month. 

A CONSTELLATION OF STARS: On Monday, 10 Dallas Stars players returned from COVID protocol. Six forwards and four defensemen—along with two support staff members—returned to practice yesterday and could be available for the Stars’ game on Thursday against the Florida Panthers. 

LAST WEEK TO VOTE: It’s the final week to vote for the NHL All-Star Game captains. Alex Ovechkin, McDavid, Auston Matthews, and Nathan MacKinnon lead their perspective divisions, with Ovechkin leading the overall vote total heading into the home stretch.

Trivia Tuesday

2022 Discover Winter Classic Target Field (Photo by Evan Frost/NHLI via Getty Images)

How well do you know the NHL Winter Classic?

  1. Which home team was the first to win a Winter Classic?
    • Detroit Red Wings
    • Philadelphia Flyers
    • Boston Bruins
    • Chicago Blackhawks

  2. Which team has made four Winter Classic appearances?
    • Pittsburgh Penguins
    • New York Rangers
    • Boston Bruins
    • Chicago Blackhawks

  3. Which year was the Winter Classic not played on New Year’s Day?
    • 2020
    • 2018
    • 2017
    • 2019

Answers can be found at the bottom of the email.

Questions With Nadia Popovici

On New Year’s Day, Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena hosted the type of feel-good story we need right now. Nadia Popovici’s keen awareness while taking in the Seattle Kraken’s home opener enabled early detection of a cancerous mole on the neck of Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton. As a result, Hamilton engineered a search to identify and thank his Seattle-based guardian angel, culminating in an emotional meeting with Popovici at a game where she was honored with a $10,000 scholarship.

Morning Skate had the privilege of speaking with this remarkable 22-year-old certified nursing assistant and future med student about her medical background and love of hockey:

Ben Fisher: So many people have remarked on your incredible awareness in detecting Red’s mole amidst so much chaos and excitement. Are you always on high alert when it comes to helping others?

Nadia Popovici: As a crisis intervention specialist at a crisis hotline, I’m in the unique position of constantly being surrounded by stories of tragedy, sadness, and mental and physical pain. I often need to be the one making difficult decisions and having hard conversations amongst the chaos, a skill I’ve built up over time. The energy that night was palpable, and things were very hectic on both the rink and amongst the crowd.

Rather than being on high alert throughout the game, I would describe it more as being able to shut everything else out and focus on the decision at hand. My difficult decisions here were 1) should I trust my split-second observation and believe that this is a concerning mole, 2) how can I bring this up to a stranger in a private and sensitive way, and 3) should I even be bringing this up in the first place? I thank my job for giving me the skills I needed to finally act upon these questions.

BF: It seemed like an emotional night for you and Red on Jan. 1. Does any moment stand out in particular?

NP: As much as I could talk about the scholarship, and getting a private tour of the arena, and countless other moments from that night, the most impactful moment for me was being able to FaceTime Red’s partner and 13-year-old daughter. Red requested this to happen without cameras or recordings, and I’m so glad he said that because it was such an intimate, emotional moment that I will cherish. 

I got to hear what an incredible father and man Red is and hear how this scary but relieving news felt to his closest family. Everything up to that moment felt like a daze of interviews and questions, but that FaceTime brought me back to reality. Our families are now connected and planning future dinners and meet-ups once COVID protocols lift. It’s baffling how in one day, Red went from a stranger to family to me.

BF: Thanks to Red, you’ve now got a special connection with the Canucks. Are there any torn allegiances between your teams?

NP: I’ve been a Canucks fan from birth, thanks to my mom, who is the most hardcore fan I know. She’d road-trip for hours up to Vancouver in college with her two friends to watch games and then drive back to America the same day. She passed down her Canucks love to me, and so we were emotionally torn when we heard Seattle was getting a team.

That first game, we sat in her room and debated which jersey to wear but ultimately decided to support the Kraken in their inaugural game. After this story, I don’t feel torn; I feel very unified. This story has brought both teams together, and it has made me love both of them even more. How could I pick now?

BF: We love the Kraken headwear! Any story behind it? Also, why Brandon Tanev’s jersey?

NP: Thank you! People love the crocheted hat as much as I do! It’s my mother’s hat that she found on Etsy specifically to show her Kraken pride! Brandon Tanev is easily my favorite player not only for his on-ice skills but his electric spirit. I think the fans naturally gravitate towards him and his personality, and I fell into his trap as well!

BF: During the home opener, you got a stick from the Canucks. Where is that stick now?

NP: That hockey stick broke during that first game! It was from J.T. Miller. I got it because I’m also a Canucks fan, being Canadian-American, so I was smiling at the Canucks bench the entire game. I ended up making eye contact several times with a staff member (not Red) and was offered the stick at the end of the game. Of course, I was freaking out and was SO excited as he handed it to me! It’s hanging up in my room attached to the wall; what an unforgettable moment.

The Quest for 100

Anyone that has ever seen the improv television show, “Whose Line is it Anyway,” has probably heard the tagline, “Where everything is made up, and the points don’t matter.” Well, that’s not the case in hockey. A player records a point by scoring or assisting on a goal, indicating that a player is proficient at making plays and creating scoring chances. As we approach the halfway point of the 2021-22 NHL campaign, let’s take a look at some players who have the opportunity to reach 100 points by the end of the season, a feat that has been accomplished 276 times by 109 players.

No Doubt About It

Leon Draisaitl

On Dec. 9, the Edmonton Oilers center became the first player this season to reach the 50-point mark with a first-period goal against the St. Louis Blues. The 26-year-old registered back-to-back 100-point seasons in 2018-19 (105) and 2019-20 (110), the latter of which won him the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Had the entire season been played in 2020-21, he probably would have made it three in a row, as he tallied 84 points in 56 games. He’s on pace to post his third triple-digit season in four years.

Connor McDavid

Edmonton’s superstar center hit 50 points shortly after his teammate, notching a second-period assist against St. Louis on Dec. 9. He currently leads the NHL with 53 points (19 goals and 34 assists), as the 24-year-old is no stranger to 100-point seasons. In his first six NHL seasons, he’s reached triple-digit points four times, including last year, when he registered 105 points (33 goals and 72 assists) on his way to winning the Hart Trophy and is likely to make it five-of-seven this season.

Alex Ovechkin

The Washington Capitals legend, who is climbing the NHL career goals list (he currently has 754, which ranks fourth all-time and is 140 away from Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record), became the third player to reach 50 points this season with two goals against the Detroit Red Wings on New Year’s Eve. He has 24 goals and 26 assists through 34 games, as the 36-year-old is on pace for his fifth career 100-point season.

Jonathan Huberdeau

The Florida Panthers’ playmaking forward has 41 points (11 goals and 30 assists) through 32 games. Although the 28-year-old ranks second in the league in assists behind McDavid, he has never reached the 100-point mark. Huberdeau has registered more than 60 points in each of the last four seasons, including 92 (30 goals and 62 assists) in 2018-19.

He Has a Chance

Kirill Kaprizov

Minnesota’s 24-year-old winger won the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie last season, tallying 51 points (27 goals and 24 assists) in 55 games. He has 39 points (13 goals and 26 assists) through 31 games in 2021-22, and while he may fall short of 100 points this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him accomplish the feat at some point.

Nazem Kadri

At 31 years old, the Colorado Avalanche center has 39 points (11 goals and 28 assists) through 25 games and is on pace for a career year. Kadri’s best season points-wise was in 2016-17 when he registered 61 (32 goals and 29 assists). He has already sailed past his point total from last season (32) in fewer than half as many games. If teammates Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon continue to score at their current pace, the Avs could have multiple players hit the century mark. 

Trivia Answers

  1. Boston Bruins
  2. Chicago Blackhawks
  3. 2017

Click here for more Winter Classic news and trivia!

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