Happy Monday and welcome back to my takes. The NHL was buzzing this weekend with big stories and exciting plays. I’ll obviously write about Hurricanes instant superstar, David Ayres, and Ovechkin finally reaching another milestone. You’ll want to read all five takes for a few other fun stories I highlighted this week.
1. Nate Pummels Palat
Next to flashy goals, there is almost nothing as exciting as a big, clean hit in hockey. This one by Nathan MacKinnon is one of the best I’ve seen recently. It’s one of the reasons I think MacKinnon is the most exciting player in the show to watch. He plays fast and hard, scoring rocket goals and dropping big hits.
That’s one hell of an overreaction to a clean hit lmao https://t.co/I1drwAft0w
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 18, 2020
As far as I’m concerned, this is not a dirty hit. No, Palat doesn’t have the puck, but his momentum is carrying him toward MacKinnon and there is nowhere for him to go. MacKinnon could have moved, but he did not throw an elbow or lunge into Palat. He only leaned into Palat.
One of my big pet peeves in the NHL is when players jump an opposing player for a clean hit like they did for MacKinnon here. Yes, I understand that there is a code and you have to stand up for skill players. I get that. But, sometimes you just get got. And as long as a hit is clean, I disagree that retaliation is necessary.
It really bothers me when officials stop play for retaliation on a clean hit. I remember watching the Red Wings a few years ago and it happened. Niklas Kronwall hit someone in Detroit’s end. The hit resulted in a rush up ice and the Wings had a three on one rush. Because of the hit, an opposing player jumped Kronwall and the official blew the whistle, negating the Wings odd-man rush. If an opponent wants to jump another player, fine, but it should come at the cost of allowing your opponent to have an advantage at the other end.
Like I said, sometimes you just get got, and Palat got his on this hit.
2. Pavelski is a Wizard Tipping Pucks
Joe Pavelski (@jpav8), tip-in machine. 💪
— NHL (@NHL) February 20, 2020
I’ve heard countless stories and see enough highlights to know Joe Pavelski is an expert at tipping pucks. It’s a totally different story to see it first-hand on video. I saw this clip circulating on Twitter and I knew I had to share it.
Pavelski’s hand-eye coordination to tip every puck is insane. Not only does he get his stick on every puck, but each of them is deflected into the opposite side of the net. I’m sure the Stars’ social media employee cherry-picked the video they posted, but this is still amazing.
This video is a nice little reminder that guys like Pavelski are in the NHL for a reason. And it’s because they’re far better at playing hockey than the rest of us.
Back in 2016, St. Louis Blue’s captain, David Backes, left the only franchise he had ever played for a new opportunity, joining the Boston Bruins. Backes signed a five-year, $30 million ticket with the Bs, a nice payday.
Since then, things haven’t gone great for Backes. His former team, the St. Louis Blues, beat his Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Not only did he lose the Stanley Cup at the hands of his former franchise, but his talent diminished significantly. In parts of four seasons with the Bruins, Backes only contributed 39 goals and 55 assists in 217 games. That’s brutal. So brutal that the Bruins waived him back in January and finally found a willing trade partner, the Anaheim Ducks.
Boston agreed to shop Backes, a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and defensive prospect Axel Andersson to the Ducks for Ondrej Kase. Backes said he was happy to waive his no-trade clause to get out of Boston so he could get back on the ice.
The Bruins gave up a lot in this trade, but it’s Stanley Cup or bust for them. They have plenty of young talent, especially on defense. So, Andersson and a first-round pick were expendable if it means they could dump Backes, who has another year left on his contract. Kase is a solid, young winger who should provide some secondary scoring for Boston.
For Anaheim, this is a great trade to accelerate their rebuild. They received a prospect and first-round pick for Kase and a year plus of Backes’ $6 million cap hit. The Ducks have no shot to compete for the playoffs in the next year or two so playing Backes won’t hurt them. It helps that Kase has struggled this season. After scoring 20 goals in his second season, he’s regressed and has only scored seven goals in 49 games this season.
This was a fair trade for both teams and they both got what they wanted out of it.
4. Ovi Nets Number 700
Alex Ovechkin scores his 700th career NHL goal pic.twitter.com/dU9aMpKeWr
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 22, 2020
It took him a little while, but after scoring his 698th career goal on February 4th with a hat-trick against the Kings, Ovechkin finally scored his 700th goal against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, February 22nd. Ovechkin is the eighth player to reach the milestone.
Ovechkin now sits 194 goals from Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals. What once seemed insurmountable is now attainable for Ovechkin. He still has a long way to go, but the 34-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down at his age. He’s on pace to score 57 goals this year. If he stays on that pace, he will finish the year with 715 goals. If he plays for another five years, retiring at age 39, he must average 35.8 goals each season to reach Gretzky. That’s not out of the question.
If he does indeed pass the Great One, he should be hailed as one of, if not the greatest player to ever lace up the skates. Scoring goals has only got harder since Gretzky broke into the league. Goalies are far better than they were in the 1980s and it’s much harder to score in this era.
I don’t want to focus too much on the record because I want to continue to enjoy watching one of the greatest players to ever play in the NHL while I still can.
5. Canes’ EBUG Lights Hockey World on Fire
I’m sure you have all heard about David Ayres by now. The 42-year-old Zamboni driver was forced to suit up as an emergency goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many outlets have already covered Ayres’ story in full, so I’ll just cover the basics. You can read his full story here.
In short, Ayres is a Toronto native who is the building operations manager at Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto and regularly practices with the Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies. So, he’s pretty familiar with the Maple Leafs roster. He’s been their emergency goalie for many games this season. On Saturday, he was available as an emergency goalie for both the Leafs and the Canes. James Reimer was Carolina’s starting goalie and was injured early in the game. Ayres was on the move after that just in case something happened to the Hurricanes’ other goalie, Petr Mrazek. Mrazek was injured during the second period and Ayres was thrust into action.
John Tavares fired the first shot against Ayres and scored through his five-hole. Less than two minutes later, Pierre Engvall poked in a shot that had deflected off of a ‘Canes defender. Ayres settled in after that, stopping the third shot he faced in the second period, and all seven shots fired at him in the third. He was named the first star of the game and achieved internet superstardom quickly after.
Ayres will probably never log another minute in the NHL, but his story will last forever. We saw it two years ago with Scott Foster, fans eat this shit up. I’ve since learned that Ayres had a kidney transplant in 2004 and doubted he would ever be able to play hockey again. This story is a reminder that life takes twists and turns and sometimes really works out. I love hockey because where else could this type of thing happen? Where a Zamboni driver who practices with the goliath Maple Leafs gets the win against them for a team he’s never played for. This is the story of the year as far as I’m concerned. ■