There were hockey storylines last week, but they weren’t positive. I’ll report on firings, injuries, and sadly, a tragic loss in the hockey community. There’s no way to sugarcoat this week’s takes. The one glimmer of light is a great highlight from this week.
1. Krueger Ousted In Buffalo
Head coach Ralph Krueger has been relieved of his duties. pic.twitter.com/IymNcxg7B3
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 17, 2021
The Buffalo Sabres franchise just can’t catch a break. Last week, the organization announced they had fired head coach Ralph Krueger. Don Granato was named as the interim. As of Sunday afternoon, Buffalo is the worst team in the league, sitting seven points behind the next-closest team, Ottawa. The Sabres are so bad they fired their coach 28 games into the season.
There’s nothing positive to write for Buffalo. They’re supposed to be on an upward trajectory right now with a core of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin, Eric Staal, Taylor Hall, and company. Not a single one of those guys has lived up to the bill this season. Eichel does have a 0.86 PPG, which isn’t on par with his usual level of play, but he’s also missed games due to injury.
The future in Buffalo isn’t looking much brighter. Skinner has produced nothing and is under contract for six more seasons, Kyle Okposo for two more. Let’s not forget Hall only signed a one-year deal. To top it off, rumors have been swirling that Eichel wants out. If Eichel is traded, Buffalo will be back at square one. Not what you want when you’re expecting to compete in a tough division and are paying top dollar to do so.
2. Islanders’ Lee Out for Season
View this post on Instagram
GM Lou Lamoriello announced that Islanders’ captain, Anders Lee, will miss the remainder of the season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL. Through 27 games, Lee scored 12 goals and added seven assists. As of Sunday afternoon, Lee is tied for the team lead in goals with Brock Nelson. The Islanders are also tied for first place in the MassMutual East Division with the Washington Capitals.
This is a big loss for the Islanders. Losing Lee’s leadership and intangibles is big, without question. But losing one of your most consistent scorers will loom large for a defense-first team like the Isles. The Islanders have depth and a budding superstar in Matthew Barzal. However, it’s obvious they’ll have to make a move at the trade deadline to make a deep run at the playoffs. Hmm. Maybe a certain stud in Buffalo would entertain playing for the Islanders long term? We’ll see.
3. Zibanejad Catches Fire
Mika Zibanejad was one of last season’s breakout stars. He scored five goals in a game and finished the season with a career-high 41 goals. He’s started off slow this season. That was before Wednesday night against the Flyers. Zibanejad lit the hockey world on fire. He scored a hat-trick and notched three assists, all in the second period. That ties the record for most points in a period.
Zibanejad now has six goals and 11 assists on the season. However, if he stays hot he could help the Rangers climb their way back up in the MassMutual East Division standings. The Rangers are currently sixth and will have to move into fourth to make the playoffs this season. As of Sunday night, they’re three points back of Boston.
I think the Rangers will make a run. If Zibanejad can stay hot, anything is possible. Let’s not forget Artemi Panarin has rejoined the team and is one of the best players on the ice when healthy. Hockey in New York City is exciting right now.
4. Fayzutdinov Passes Away Due to On-Ice InjuryIt’s with a heavy heart that I write about this. Last week, KHL player, Timur Fayzutdinov, was hit in the head by a puck during a game for MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg, Dynamo St. Petersburg’s junior team. Faizutdinov, the team’s captain, collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. He passed away three days later. He was 19-years-old.
There isn’t much to say here other than how tragic this is for everyone close to Fayzutdinov. We’re all aware of the dangers of playing hockey, especially when it comes to concussions. However, it’s incredibly rare for a player to die from an on-ice injury. It’s moments like this that we should think about the more important things in life.
My thoughts are with the MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg family and Fayzutdinov’s family.
5. Korpisalo Makes Unreal Save
I love Joonas Korpisalo. He’s a stud for the Blue Jackets. This save proves he has the potential to be one of the best netminders in the NHL.
Joonas Korpisal-OMG… he’s at it again. 😳 pic.twitter.com/3QWO0w1fNe
— NHL (@NHL) March 14, 2021
The first save he makes is awesome. The second save on Jamie Been is spectacular. Moving all the way across the crease like that to catch the puck is ridiculous. It’s also impressive that he didn’t allow a rebound.
Korpisalo isn’t having as good of a year this season. His sv% is .900 and his GAA is 2.97. Both numbers are down from last season. However, the Blue Jackets are currently sitting in the fourth playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. If Korpisalo can play the way he’s capable, the Blue Jackets might be my frisky team this year that I expect to make a run.
I do feel bad for Jamie Benn, the guy can’t catch a break. ■