This week marks my 52nd week writing this column. Although I’ve been writing Blake’s Takes for a bit over a year, this felt like the perfect time to celebrate. I want to thank everyone who reads this column each week. I appreciate all of your support and I have really enjoyed the experience. A special thanks to my number-one fan, Aaron Walters, for all of the kind words. Here’s to another 52 weeks!
The NHL is buzzing right now and takes are easy to come by. For this week’s Blake’s Takes, you can expect a Jack Hughes update and additional Devils’ news. Also, I’ll feature one of the best rivalries in the sport that flared up over the weekend and highlight what could be this year’s best goal.
1. Jack Hughes Nets Goal #1
After an underwhelming start to his career, Jack Hughes finally tallied his first goal. The goal couldn’t have come in a better game, Jack and his Devils faced off against older brother Quinn and his Canucks. The entire Hughes family was in attendance and all got to witness Jack’s powerplay goal.
The goal was all the Devils needed as they topped the Canucks 1-0. Hopefully, this goal can jumpstart the Devils as they currently sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. I hope they turn it around because they have a lot of exciting players, including Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. Congrats to Hughes on his first career goal and best of luck to him going forward.
2. Nico Hischier Scores Extension
Speaking of Nico Hischier, he may have been the only Devil to have a better weekend than Hughes. Hischier and the Devils agreed to a seven-year extension with an AAV of $7.25 million. Hischier would have been an RFA after this season, and this deal prevents a potential hold-out in free agency. Hischier is still only 20 years old and will hit free agency again at 26.
This is a great deal for the Devils. Obviously, the biggest cloud of mystery surrounding New Jersey is Taylor Hall’s impending free agency. The Devils made significant moves in the offseason to add talent around Hall to convince him to stay. That included trading for P.K. Subban and drafting Hughes. Now, the team has solidified a core that should entice Hall to stay in New Jersey.
As much as extending Hischier could help Hall stay put, it obviously ensures the former first-overall pick will be in New Jersey for the next eight seasons. Hischier has been very good in his first two-plus seasons with the Devils. He posted 99 points in his first two seasons with the team. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but let’s remember that Hischier did it as a teenager. Contributing at that level at a young age is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. There’s no doubt in my mind that Hischier could become the Devils’ franchise cornerstone regardless of Hall’s future with the team. This is a wonderful move for New Jersey and could help them become Stanley Cup contenders in the next few seasons.
3. Boyle Lands in Florida
On Sunday, the Florida Panthers announced that they have signed veteran Brian Boyle to a one-year contract. The financial terms have not been officially announced, but the deal is expected to be worth less than $1 million. Boyle scored 18 goals and tallied 24 points last season with the Devils and Nashville Predators. The 34-year-old was the Masterton Trophy winner for the 2017-18 season after winning his battle with cancer.
This deal isn’t going to make or break the Panthers’ season. Still, Boyle provides size and physicality that is hard to find. He also quietly scored 18 goals last year, which is huge for a bottom-six player. I’m happy to see Boyle is still a valued player in the NHL and I wish him the best in Florida this season.
4. Drew Doughty is an All-Time HeelOn Saturday, one of the best rivalries in the NHL took center stage. There is zero love lost between Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty and Flames’ forward Matthew Tkachuk. The feud started when Tkachuk elbowed Doughty in the face during Tkachuk’s rookie season in 2016-17. Since then, the two have thrown shots at the other on the ice and in the press.
The two teams faced off for the first time this season on October 8, with the Kings beating the Flames 4-3 in OT. Doughty netted the winner in that game and spoke about the feud to the press. Surprisingly, Doughty expressed his desire to end the feud. Saying…
“As you can see we both thrive under emotional games,” he said. “I think he had three points. I think I had three points. I want to put that to rest. He’s going to run me. That’s his job. He’s going to hit me many times a game. I’m just going to not talk back and just let it kind of be.”
That surely wasn’t the case on Saturday when the two teams matched up. During the third period of a game, the Kings were winning 4-0, Tkachuk drove down the left side and let the puck go. It looked like he let it go intentionally so he could engage with Doughty. Doughty countered and took out Tkachuk’s legs. This started a line-brawl between the two teams. Doughty eventually emerged from the bottom of the pile with a cut on his face and Tkachuk left with a misconduct penalty.
I’m a huge fan of this rivalry. Now that the Kings seem to be good again, a matchup between these two teams will be must-see TV. Doughty is the most fun to watch when he’s playing well and shit-talking on the side. He’s one of the best chirpers in the NHL and I’m excited to see him return to form. Here are some of his best heel moments that I recommend everyone watch.
5. Sonny Milano Scores the Goal of October
I had never heard of Sonny Milano before Wednesday night. That changed quickly after the goal he scored against the Sharks. Whenever someone goes between the legs, it’s noteworthy. Not only was the finish exceptional, but so was the entire play. Milano got the puck just after crossing the red line, deked the defender, and then finished. It also put the Blue Jackets up 3-1 over the Stars.
As of right now, this is the goal of the year. That is until Connor McDavid can do something more amazing next week. ■