The weather is getting colder (well, some days, at least) and the action inside the rink is heating up.
It’s just over a month into the 2021-22 NHL season and things have been anything but calm across all 32 teams in the league. Jack Eichel was finally able to leave western New York and undergo the surgery he desperately needed to continue his NHL career. Alex Ovechkin continues his ascent as the all-time top scorer. And the teams that were supposed to be upstairs are downstairs and the ones that should be downstairs live in the penthouse.
OVECHKIN: Go up in the list | Can he catch Gretzky?
It was wild.
As things return to normal – arenas full of fans, coaches in the hot seat or cracking up, Canucks loyalists clamoring for Jim Benning’s lead – time to think it over. And with American Thanksgiving now here, it’s a great time to revisit what we’re grateful for in the first month of the season.
NHL 2021-22: four things we’re thankful for to start the year
1. Breathtaking goals
There was Matthew Tkachuk doing his thing.
Brandon Duhaime scored the wildest career opening goal in NHL history.
His teammate Kevin Fiala exhibiting nasty hand play.
Unsurprisingly, the Connor McDavid Show continues …
MORE: McDavid’s Goal Could Be ‘Goal of the Year’
And then there was Kevin Hayes’ first goal of the year which was bigger than anything we’ve seen – and will see – this season.
2. Goalkeeper resurrections
As mentioned in Sporting News’ Amazon Original review, “All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs,” it was pretty clear that halfway through the five-episode series, not only were the Maple Leafs unhappy with Andersen. , but he never re-signed in Toronto. The Danish keeper struggled with injury – and possibly loss of confidence – during the 2021 season after being an All-Star in 2019-20.
Fast forward to the 2021-22 season and Andersen is in Carolina and is back on track. He’s a brilliant 11-3-0 record with a sparkling .936 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average.
In 2021, Markstrom struggled at times and finished the season 22-19-2 with a career-worst 0.904 save percentage and minus 4.0 goals above average (minimum 25 games). This was a marked drop from his 2019-20 all-star season where he had a save percentage of .918 and a GSAA of 11.4.
Now Markstrom is back. Although he has a strong 8-3-4 record, that is an excellent 1.73 GAA score, .940 save percentage and 12.1 GSAA. There are 15 teams without shutouts; Markstrom has recorded five best shutouts in the NHL – in 15 games.
3. Teams don’t understand the mission
Let’s just say: it was really an unexpected start to the season. There was a lot of ‘what’s going on ?? vibrations. It was like we were all in The Upside Down. Teams like the Red Wings and Sabers were hot while playoff contenders Islanders and Golden Knights were not. That certainly wasn’t how anyone thought things were going to kick off the first full 82-game season in quite some time (incredibly grateful for that, by the way).
Now that things have settled down a bit, there is still a lot of intrigue and drama to fill in the next five months. Who had the Flames leading the Western Conference on November 25? What if the Stars flirt with the .500 and in the mix? Or the Ducks among the best in the West? The Islanders are actually the last of the Metropolitan and until a four-game winning streak, the Penguins were also cellar dwellers.
Madness – chaos? – is quite enjoyable because this season has really become a season where any team can win any night.
Oh, and the only team that really understood the mission? Yes, you guessed it, the Coyotes, who bet on Shane Wright.
NHL DRAFT 2022: Wright and nine other players to watch
4. Age is just a number
The NHL is a youth league … blah, blah, blah. Like a fine wine, a number of grizzled veterans tell the kids ‘hold my chardonnay’ and let me show you how it’s made.
- Alex Ovechkin, 36, is tied for second in the NHL in goals (15), third in points (33) and tied for first in tied goals (11).
- Jonathan Quick, 35, is in the top 10 for goals against average (2.25) and fourth for save percentage (0.928).
- Patrice Bergeron, 36, leads the league in Corsi percentage (63.99) at 5v5.
- Zdeno Chara, 44, ditched the gloves with Pat Maroon.
- Craig Anderson, 40, was 4-2-0 with a .920 save percentage before injuring his upper body on Nov. 2.
- Brent Burns, 36, is second among all NHL defensemen for time on the ice.
There has been a lot to start the season and surely more great moments, mind-blowing saves, goals and storylines to come.
Will super nice guy Keith Yandle Not only will he become the No. 1 Iron Man in the NHL on Jan. 18, but will he break 1,000 straight games by the end of the season? How will the Olympic Games go? What chaos will the trade deadline bring in March? Can the Maple Leafs break their playoff win drought?
It’s gonna be a fun ride the rest of the way. Buckle up and happy holidays!