WHAT DA PUCK

2023-02-23 · 4 min read · NHL/Hockey
Ryan O'Rielly, Connor McDavid and Jordan Staal

Michael Chisholm/NHLI | Elsa/Getty Images | Homer McFanboy

Hello dear readers sorry for the delay with this week's What Da Puck. I was away for the long weekend, I hope it was not a bother. Now as per usual let's get into the biggest stories in hockey since our last check-in.
1.
This year's NHL stadium series was played this past week on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. The game was played in Raleigh, North Carolina at the Carter-Finley stadium (Home of NC State Football) between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals. The game started fast, especially for the home team Hurricanes, who scored on the opening shot of the game; a beauty set up by Teuvo Teravainen leading to a Jesperi Kotkaniemi finish. It only got better for the Hurricanes who controlled the pace of play throughout much of the game. The Canes demonstrated their high-quality defence and impressive ability to turn sound defence play into quick offensive rushes without taking chances; this is why they are widely considered one of the top Stanley Cup contenders. Carolina ended up winning the game 4-1 with the only goal against them coming after they were up 4-0 in the third period. The turnout was impressive with just under 57,000 people in the announced attendance, many of whom turned up early to the game. Perhaps the best way to put it is that the number of people who turned up to Carter-Finley stadium for the game would have ranked as the 17th biggest city out of 773 in North Carolina. Safe to say the Hurricanes and the NHL have got to chalk this one up as a rousing success.
2.
Connor McDavid added another impressive milestone to the marvellous season he is having. As the 26-year-old notched his 100th (and 101st) points of the season in Friday's game against the New York Rangers. This made McDavid the first player to cross the 100-point barrier this season, with it only taking him 56 games. McDavid is now the fastest and second-fastest active player to get to 100 since he accomplished the feat in 53 games in the shortened 2020-21 campaign. Only Sidney Crosby has as many 100-point seasons as McDavid’s six among active players in the NHL, and Crosby’s been in the league for 18 seasons compared to McDavid’s 8. If Crosby isn’t a big enough name to be compared to, let's mention how McDavid joined Phil Esposito, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky as the only ones to be the first players to 100 points at least five times (Lemieux and Esposito with six and the Gretzky with nine). McDavid has already hit a career-high in power-play points, reaching 50 on Friday against the Rangers. He’s on pace for 73 power-play points, which would be the most all-time for any NHL player not named Mario Lemieux, who holds the top four spots in power-play points in a season, with 80 (1987-88), 79 (’88-89 and ’95-96) and 66 (’85-86). Teammate Leon Draisaitl was second in NHL scoring with 81 points at the time, well third place Nikita Kuchrov had not yet hit 80 when McDavid passed 100; McDavid’s excellence is hard to comprehend, I am sure we will talk more about it soon (maybe in the next WDP where we will look at him hitting 800 career points).
3.
The Leafs' move for Ryan O’Reilly is off to a great start albeit with a small sample size so far (three games to be exact). I don't want to go full Leafs fanatic here and say we are looking at a team ready for a deep run, especially as this team still has issues on defence and questions in net. Yet it's hard to deny how impressive the O'Reilly addition is looking to an already high-end Leafs forward group. Only about 96 hours after he and Noel Acciari had been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs from the St. Louis Blues, and O’Reilly already had five points (three goals, two assists) in his first three games in blue and white. Highlighted by his fourth career NHL hat trick in a 6-3 Maple Leafs victory at the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, O'Reilly (three goals, one assist) playing alongside Mitch Marner (five assists) and Captain John Tavares (one goal, three assists) combined for 13 points against the Sabres. Even with Auston Matthews having a quiet night the Leafs scored half a dozen goals. O'Reilly's role as center on the line has pushed Tavares to the left wing. If he so chooses, Keefe can move the captain back to center and put O'Reilly at the center on the third line, replacing David Kampf. Alex Kerfoot and William Nylander can also play center, giving Toronto the type of depth it hasn't had since the 1-2-3 punch of Matthews, Tavares and Nazem Kadri, before the latter was traded to Colorado on July 1, 2019. Given the fact, there is a very high chance the Maple Leafs will once again face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup First Round, the battle down the middle will be key. The Lightning boast one of the best center groups in the League in Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli, so the addition of O'Reilly has Toronto in a better position to offset what was a distinct Tampa Bay advantage in their seven-game victory in the first-round last year. Suddenly, Toronto has the type of versatility in its lineup that coach Sheldon Keefe hasn't had since replacing Mike Babcock as a coach on Nov. 20, 2019. The only question is how best to play them, Keefe has 24 games remaining before the postseason to tinker; this is definitely a situation and a team to watch.
Quick Wristers
  • While we are on the Leafs, Toronto announced Jake Muzzin will miss the rest of the season as he continues to recover from cervical spine surgery. Muzzin, who turned 34 on Tuesday (happy birthday Muzzy), last played on Oct. 27th when he left a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Muzzin, who has one assist in four games this season, has sustained several major injuries the past few seasons and missed part of training camp this season due to back discomfort. The Maple Leafs will have a further update on Muzzin's status at training camp in September; here's hoping he gets well soon.
  • Unfortunately to continue this sour note Washington Capitals Alex Ovechkin has been out since Feb 14th, due to the passing of his father Mikhail last Wednesday. Ovie has been on leave since Tuesday the 14th to be with his family in this difficult time. Earlier in Ovie’s career, Mikhail, a former professional soccer player, often travelled from Russia to see his son play, despite a heart condition. Mikhail was well known and loved around the Capitals locker room, being a frequent presence early in Ovechkin's career. Ovie is reportedly back from visiting his family and his return to the ice is believed to be imminent. Here's wishing the best to him and his family in this difficult time.
  • Closing off with a trade front update Nikita Zaitsev was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks by the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, where the Blackhawks will also receive a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and a fourth-round selection in the 2026 NHL Draft for future considerations. Zaitsev, a 31-year-old defenseman, had five assists in 28 games for Ottawa this season. He has 108 points (19 goals, 89 assists) in 426 regular-season games with the Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, and two assists in 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Ottawa acquired Zaitsev from Toronto in 2019. He has one more season remaining on the seven-year, $31.5 million contract ($4.5 million average annual value) he signed with the Maple Leafs back on May 2, 2017.
Highlights of the Week
Sorokin swat team captain
Passing to Pasternak often a good move
You will know his Name(stnikov) after this
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By: Chase Howard

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