Happy Monday and welcome to Snap Shots. This week, we will look at two NHL milestones that were reached, a recap of hockey at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and the long-awaited return of one of the league’s star players.
Sidney Crosby Scores His 500th Goal
Pittsburgh Penguins center and team captain Sidney Crosby scored his 500th career goal on Tuesday. Fittingly, it was against the Penguins biggest rival, the Philadelphia Flyers. It was also his 50th goal against the Flyers. Crosby becomes the 46th player in NHL history to reach the 500-goal milestone, and only the second Penguins player after Mario Lemieux to score 500 goals for the team.
Crosby has since scored goal number 501. The Penguins have 29 regular season games remaining, and if Crosby stays healthy, he easily will surpass Joe Mullen (502 goals), Peter Bondra (503 goals), and Jean Beliveau (507 goals) this year.
Canadian Women Win 5th Olympic Gold
Ever since Women’s Ice Hockey was added as an Olympic medal sport in 1998, only two countries have won the gold medal: Canada or the United States. That streak continued on Thursday, as Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 in the gold medal game.
Previously, the Canadian Women’s team won the gold medal in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. The U.S. Women’s team won the gold medal in 1998 and 2018, and had to settle for silver this time; the U.S. also won silver in 2002, 2010, and 2014.
Last week’s gold medal game between Canada and the U.S. drew a TV audience of 3.54 million U.S. viewers, and was the second-most watched hockey game in the United States.
In the bronze medal game, Finland beat Switzerland 4-0. This was Finland’s fourth bronze medal in Women’s Olympic hockey.
Finnish Men Win 1st Olympic Gold
While the Finnish women’s ice hockey team took home its fourth bronze medal in its history, the men’s team won its first-ever gold medal. The Finnish men’s team beat ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) 2-1 in the gold medal game. Finland had previously won the silver medal twice and the bronze medal four times. This was Russia’s third silver medal in Olympic hockey (also counting its time as the U.S.S.R.).
Slovakia took home the bronze medal, beating Sweden 4-0. This was Slovakia’s first-ever Olympic ice hockey medal since Slovakia and the Czech Republic split apart and began competing as individual countries in 1994.
Jack Eichel Makes Debut in Vegas
Center Jack Eichel skated in his first game in nearly a year when he made his debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday. Eichel, who had surgery on a herniated disk in his neck back in November, was part of a blockbuster trade between Vegas and the Buffalo Sabres. Eichel was selected by the Sabres second-overall in the 2015 NHL Draft — right after the Oilers selected Connor McDavid first overall — and was the Sabres team captain from 2018 to 2021.
As for Eichel’s return and debut with the Knights, it was largely anti-climactic, as the Knights lost 2-0 to the Colorado Avalanche. He was minus-one and had just one shot on goal, though he did win eight out of 11 faceoffs. Eichel got an assist in his second game with the Knights, and a goal in his third game last night against the San Jose Sharks.
Two points in three games is a pretty good start for Eichel, considering that he was out with his injury, surgery, and recovery for almost a year. And it is an exciting time to be a Knights fan, as Eichel led the Sabres in scoring for four seasons (2016-17 to 2019-20), and could be that missing piece the Knights need to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Knights lost in the Stanley Cup Semifinals for two years in a row: last year to the Montreal Canadiens and two years ago to the Dallas Stars. Both the Canadians and the Stars lost the Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Vegas is currently in second place in the Pacific Division, just two points behind the Calgary Flames, and looks poised to make another deep playoff run — even more so if Eichel can play as well as he did in Buffalo.
Drew Doughty Plays His 1,000th Game
We started this column with a milestone, and we will end it with one, too. Last week Wednesday, L.A. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty skated in his 1000th regular season game when the Kings faced the Oilers.
Doughty has been a workhorse for the Kings over the past 14 seasons, and was a big reason why the team won Stanley Cup Championships in 2012 and 2014. He also won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best d-man in 2014, was a two-time First Team All-Star and a two-time Second-Team All-Star. Doughty, who was selected by the Kings with the second-overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, is the first player from his draft class to reach the 1,000-game milestone. Congratulations to Drew Doughty, and best of luck in reaching 1,500 games.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■