Unbelievable is the most overused word in sports. But, sometimes it might just be the most appropriate. Stay with me and you will see what I mean.
Super Saturday was pretty crazy at the NHL Network, trying to follow a dozen of the 15 games running simultaneously after 9 p.m. ET. When it was all said and done, the night lived up to the hype and then some.
In no particular order, here are some numbers, observations, and highlights from all 15 games.
• Jeff Carter’s overtime deflection to give the Flyers a weekend sweep of the Devils. It almost overshadowed the idiot who threw a smoke bomb on to the ice moments earlier.
• Nikolai Zherdev scoring with nine seconds to play versus the Pens, giving the Rangers new life and, ultimately, the opportunity to win in a shootout. Even though he has seven career shootout-deciding goals, I just did not have the feeling Sidney Crosby would be able to extend the shootout and, sure enough, he was foiled. Winter Classic heroics aside, Crosby just does not seem to have the swagger in this format that one of the game’s best should. He is now nine for 29 in his shootout career.
• Speaking of the Classic…what a preview for this season’s New Year’s Day event!
Detroit over Chicago 6-5 in a shootout – an overload of skill on display (Pavel Datsyuk, are you kidding me?), multiple lead changes and a Hossa slapper to clinch it.
The downside for the Wings was Johan Franzen – one of the game’s most consistent scorers since March – will be lost for up to a month with a knee sprain. And the Hawks will clearly be sporting their nicer jerseys when the most watched game of the season rolls around in just over two months.
• Anaheim completed the rare road sweep of Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal and did so with all their big gunners finding the score sheet. And for good measure, the Ducks leaned on J-S Giguere to make 47 saves against the Habs.
• The Avs remain one of the hottest teams thanks to a shootout win over Buffalo. Wojtek Wolski fooled Ryan Miller with a move Sam Gagner would approve of and Ryan Smyth not only got away with goaltender interference again (why don’t they scrutinize Smyth the way they did Holmstrom in the playoffs?), he went on to record the shootout winner with a wobbly wrist shot, as only he can do.
• Owen Nolan, the offensive star in a Wild win over Columbus? True. One goal plus one assist in a 2-1 decision.
• Speaking of power forwards, Milan Lucic notched his first hat trick (the only one of the night) on Saturday. Just for good measure, the capper came with less than two minutes left on home ice and was the game winner in a terrific tussle with the Thrashers.
• Could this be scripted any better? Down by one with one second to go, the Islanders attempt their franchise record 60th shot on goal in the form of a penalty shot. Perhaps if Doug Weight had not sent Brandon Sutter to the hospital earlier with a mid-ice wallop, he would have been more focused on making a better move.
Regardless, Cam Ward finished the job and the Canes prevailed 4-3. In a polar-opposite performance on the same sheet of ice, Rick DiPietro allowed two horrible goals on 12 shots before giving way to Joey MacDonald.
• While on the topic of suspect goaltending, Marty Turco is not out of his early season funk just yet. Six goals allowed on 30 shots, the last an overtime game-winner off the stick of Washington’s Alexander Semin. Who would have guessed Ovechkin would be the third best Russian on his team nearing the end of October?
• Brian Boucher is at it again and at this rate coach Todd McLellan may have to play him more. Two games and two shutouts as the Sharks blank the offensively inept Tampa Bay Lightning. Barry Melrose’s rant after the opening weekend in Europe really paid off, didn’t it?
• After taking Friday night off versus the Kings – not literally – the Blues’ big boys bounced back during a 4-0 win over Florida. Keith Tkachuk is tied for the league lead in goals with eight, while Brad Boyes, Andy MacDonald and Paul Kariya are all amongst the top seven in scoring. How long can this last?
• Rookie defenseman Luke Schenn was the first star in Toronto’s 3-2 win over Ottawa – pretty impressive considering he is just 18 years old and did not record a single point. His game is so well-rounded right now, he may soon pass Tie Domi among fan favorites.
• There was no television coverage of the Kings and Predators – good news for Jason LaBarbera, who got the hook after allowing three goals on 15 shots. This on the heels of a shutout the night before! Welcome to the Kings’ season.
• A week ago the Flames were a mess. Now they are the best team in Alberta. Calgary picked up a third straight win, this time in Phoenix. Meanwhile, the Oilers were losing for the third straight time, this time in Vancouver. The Canucks are .500 and yet their captain does not have a point this season. It’s a good thing Kyle Wellwood is picking up the slack.
All in all, it was an impressive nine hours of hockey.
– 99 goals scored for an average of 6.6 per game
– Three games ending in a shootout, two decided in overtime
– Three penalty shots – no goals
– Five goaltending changes, two because of injury
And through it all, the player with the longest active scoring streak entering play this week is…Filip Kuba, who has had at least one assist in each of his first eight games as a Senator.
Brian Duff is a host of On The Fly on the NHL Network. Like his minor hockey days (playing goalie, defense and forward) his broadcasting career has been all over the map. In radio and TV from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, Toronto to Ottawa and back, Brian has been with the NHL Network since 2007 and has been covering the game for nearly 15 years. Read more of his THN.com Blog HERE.