The NHL had another big week, and so did I. This week I focused on my trip to Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit to see the Red Wings, and a few big goal scorers.
1. The Bruins Like Dirty WorkI was able to attend my first game of the season this past Wednesday when I saw the Boston Bruins take on the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit. The action started slow but the game ended in thrilling fashion. The Bruins took a one-goal lead twice throughout the game, but the Wings answered both times. The game went to OT and the Red Wings were able to win with a goal from Andreas Athanasiou.
One of the best parts about going to a live game is being able to watch the action from another perspective and see everyone on the ice, especially when you sit as high up as I did. Two things struck me as I watched the action. The first is that David Pastrnak is one of the most skilled players in the league. I haven’t watched the Bruins a ton so I was blown away with the moves he made. The second is the Bruins are REALLY good at doing dirty work. They were especially good at blocking shots or at least forcing difficult ones. They only blocked six shots during the game, but they were in crucial situations. They were able to prevent the Wings from scoring on wide open nets a few times in the first period. Boston is definitely one of the teams I would be scared to play in the playoffs with their potent offense and willingness to do the dirty work.
2. LCA Mac and Cheese
Another one of my favorite parts of going to games is the food! Yes, it’s almost always overpriced, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. The BBQ mac and cheese you can buy in the upper level concourse at Little Caesar’s Arena is quickly becoming my favorite arena food. You can order it with pulled pork or brisket, both of which are slathered in BBQ sauce. I’m a big fan of the brisket but to each their own. If you do make it over to LCA this year, I can’t recommend the BBQ mac and cheese enough.
3. Patrik Laine Deserves More AttentionPatrik Laine was drafted second overall in the 2016 draft, It’s always hard to be drafted second overall, especially when the guy drafted in front of you is a superstar like Auston Matthews. Matthews quickly blossomed into an offensive force in Toronto, the league’s biggest television market and Hockey Mecca; the complete opposite to Laine, who plays in the league’s smallest market. However, it is Laine that has achieved more team success through his two-plus years in the NHL. With his help, the Jets made it all the way to the conference finals last year, which is more than Matthews can say. Laine has also has scored eight more points than Matthews throughout their careers, albeit in 22 fewer games.
I’m not trying to discredit anything Matthews has done. I would argue that he is a better player and a much better facilitator than Laine, and can score just as well. But, Laine deserves more credit for his success. No, he didn’t score four goals in his first career game, but he did score five goals in Saturday night’s game, which is one more than Matthews has ever scored in a single game. I am excited about the potential rivalry that could be created between the two players. It could be the next edition of the Crosby/Ovechkin debate.
4. Great 8’s Quest to Catch The Great OneAlex Ovechkin is off to another great year where he could lead the league in goal scoring. He is currently tied for third in goals with David Pastrnak, with 17. He is on pace to score 61 goals this year, which would be his second-highest total in his career. Chances are he won’t get to 61, but what if he gets to 50? That would give him 657 career goals at the end of the season, where he would rank one spot ahead of Brendan Shanahan for 13th all-time. And if he scores another 50 next year? He would rank one behind Mike Gartner for 8th all-time with 707 goals. If he were to score another 50 goals, he would pass Brett Hull for 4th all-time with 757 goals.
Ovechkin has a REAL shot to pass Wayne Gretzky for the all-time leader in goals. He is 33-years-old right now. If he can keep up his current pace and score 50 goals this season and for the next two seasons, he will have scored 757 goals and rank behind Hull, as I mentioned before. That means he would only be 137 goals from tying Wayne Gretzky for the all-time lead, and he would only be 35-years-old. If he plays until he’s 40, he would have to average 27.4 goals over five seasons to tie Gretzky. That doesn’t seem impossible. And after last year’s Stanley Cup run, Ovechkin looks just as spry as ever to pursue the Great One’s goal-scoring record.
5. Standings Surprises
It’s not uncommon for teams overperform or underperform in the NHL. There are always surprises, like the Las Vegas Golden Knights last year. This year, there seems to be more surprises than usual. I’ll split them into categories, the overperforming and the underperforming.
New York Islanders
Las Vegas Golden Knights
Los Angeles Kings
New Jersey Devils
These are the most obvious cases. Each of this year’s overperforming teams did not make the playoffs last year. And each of this year’s underperforming teams did make the playoffs last year. As I’ve said before, there is a ton of parity in the NHL, but it’s uncommon to see almost one-third of the teams in the league have such drastic turnarounds. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.