By Andy Eide
Whether you’re a fan of outdoor games or feel that they’re a gimmick whose intrigue has been run dry, it was hard not to love Saturday’s Heritage Classic in Regina. The Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames played an entertaining game in the dark, cold, and snow.
The Jets won 2-1 on an overtime goal from Bryan Little in front of over 33,000 fans and the visuals were magnificent.
Coverage of outdoor games lean on the romanticism of kids playing hockey on the pond, staying out as late as the light allows, and when the games are played in warm weather cities, that narrative can feel contrived. That wasn’t the case Saturday at Mosaic Stadium. Snow fell for most of the first two periods and temperatures were in the upper 20’s. It captured the feel of pond hockey better than many other outdoor games.
Calgary goalie David Rittich set an outdoor game record by kicking out 43 Winnipeg shots, and did it all while wearing a toque over his mask.
Here are our Weekly One Timers.
WOT 1 – A couple of the NHL’s best suffered significant injuries this past week. The worst of them appears to be St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko who has a shoulder injury that will require surgery and keep him out for at least five months. It’s a significant blow to the defending champs who were off to a strong 6-3-3 start to the season. Tarasenko had 10 points in 10 games to start the season and has scored 30-plus goals in each of the last five seasons for the Blues.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) October 28, 2019
WOT 2 – Joining Tarasenko on the injury report is Colorado star Mikko Rantanen, who hurt his ankle and is listed as week-to-week. The injury occurred in a game against St. Louis and the replays of him turning his ankle where cringe-worthy and at first glance looked much worse than it appears to be. That’s good news for the Avalanche, who are off to a hot start, leading the Central Division and could stake claim as one of the top teams in the NHL. Colorado will feel the loss of Rantanen but with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog still healthy and playing well, they just might survive.
WOT 3 – There was understandable hype surrounding the top two picks in the NHL but Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko have struggled early. The preseason thought was that Kakko was more prepared to jump to the NHL because he had the size – he’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 199 pounds – and was coming off an impressive year playing against adults in Finland. It’s been tough for Kakko with just a goal and an assist in his first nine games. That’s not great but he’s actually been worse than that. In those nine games, he’s been on the ice for nine even-strength goals against compared to just one for and the Rangers have given up 33 high-danger chances against to just 10 for with Kakko on the ice.
WOT 4 – Kakko’s struggles, as well as Hughes’, is surprising, but no reason for alarm. These guys are 18-years-old and have a ton of talent. What these struggles tell us is what we probably already knew. The NHL is a hard league to play in. The jump in skill and speed in the NHL is evident in the struggles of the two highest profile rookies. They may be having a tough time now, but don’t be surprised if both are playing better by the time the season ends as they learn and adjust to the level of play.
WOT 5 – Speaking of struggling, the Dallas Stars were a team that were supposed to be a playoff contender coming into the season. They haven’t started strong, with a 4-8-1 record, and are closer to the bottom of the Western Conference standings than they are a playoff position. It’s early of course but the two big off season acquisitions, which were to give them needed depth in their lineup, have yet to pan out. Both Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry have each managed three points on the campaign. Pavelski is coming off a stellar season in San Jose that saw him score 38 goals. It was a strong year for the vet but his drop in production isn’t a total shock. Last year he shot a career-best 20.2-percent, a number eight points higher than his career average. This season, he’s regressed closer to that career number as he’s shooting 11-percent. Compounding his struggles is that he’s taking fewer shots, nearly a shot fewer per game. It’s still early and Pavelski is a consummate professional who very easily could get going as the season progresses.
WOT 6 – Do you know which team has the longest win streak of the young season? It’s not the Oilers, or the Avalanche. With their 5-3 home victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday, the New York Islanders pushed their league-best win streak to seven straight games. The Islanders win with defense, goaltending and timely goal scoring and their start just might be sustainable. Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov have split the goaltending duties and both have played well, staking the Islanders to a .937 team save-percentage, which is eighth best in the league. When teams start hot sometimes its due to riding unsustainable shooting percentages but that’s not the case here. The Islanders are shooting at eight-percent which is in the middle of the pack in the league. Don’t be surprised if the Islanders are right where they were last season, in the playoffs.
it’s a mood ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/pUhmCv8s5m
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 28, 2019
WOT 7 – The early season scoring buzz was surrounding around Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid but a new monster has emerged. Boston’s David Pasternak picked up five assists in the Bruins Sunday win over the New York Rangers. That puts him in the top spot on the scoring leader board. In 11 games, Pasternak has 11 goals and 12 assists.
WOT 8 – Falling behind and coming back to win is usually hard to do in the NHL. Friday night in Vancouver, the Washington Capitals trailed the Canucks 5-1 but were able to storm back in the third period and go on to win the game in a shootout. There were nine games the next day and three of those featured the winning team coming from behind. So far, 44-percent of the league’s 169 total games have featured a comeback. If your team gets behind early, stick with them, they still have a shot.