The NHL playoffs are quickly approaching, and the intensity has picked up on the ice. This past weekend featured some entertaining games and some fun highlights.
The Boston Bruins became the fourth team in NHL history to win 60 games while also clinching the President’s Trophy. They are now within reach of the all-time record for most points in a single season.
In the Western Conference playoff race, the Calgary Flames kept their hopes alive with a pair of comeback wins. In the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins held their ground while also honoring Kris Letang.
Take a look at the best highlights and biggest storylines from this past weekend in the NHL.
Goal of the weekend: Alexis Laffreniere posterizes Rasmus Sandin
Look, Rasmus Sandin will probably have a long and successful career, but he will be on the wrong end of this highlight for years. Alexis Lafreniere caught Sandin on his back foot and made him look foolish.
In the New York Rangers’ win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday, Lafreniere took a nice feed from Filip Chytil, and he had a full head of steam entering the offensive zone. As Lafreniere approached Sandin, he put the puck through his legs, side-stepped Sandin, and fired a backhand shot past the glove of Darcy Kuemper.
That goal was Lafreniere’s 16th of the season, and if the Rangers are getting that kind of performance from him in the playoffs, they will be incredibly tough to beat.
Robbery of the weekend: Devon Levi slides to stop Kaapo Kakko
Former seventh-round pick Devon Levi made his first career start with the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, and it was a memorable one. Levi faced the Rangers, and he didn’t look like a rookie against one of the best offensive teams in the NHL. The highlight of his first career start came in the second period when Levi robbed Kaapo Kakko of a goal.
Late in the period, the Rangers got an odd-man rush, and Kakko was left all alone on the backdoor. Chytil slid a cross-ice pass to Kakko, and Levi went side-to-side for a spectacular glove save.
Levi finished the game with 1.66 saves above average, according to Natural Stat Trick. Debuts don’t get much more impressive than that.
Bruins win 60th game, clinch President’s Trophy
The Boston Bruins haven’t missed a beat all season, and they continued that over the weekend by setting a new franchise record for wins in a single season. On Thursday night, the Bruins were sitting at 57 wins ahead of their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Thanks to a gorgeous overtime goal from David Pastrnak, Boston picked up its 58th win and the franchise record.
The Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday for their 59th win of the season, and that put them in position to win their 60th of the season against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.
St. Louis pushed Boston to a shootout, but Charlie Coyle and Linus Ullmark delivered with the game on the line. Coyle beat Jordan Binnington on one end, and Ullmark made a flashy save on the other to pick up two more points for the Bruins.
The Bruins are now one of four teams to win 60 games in a single season, and are just seven points behind the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens for the all-time record. You can track the Bruins’ quest for NHL history here.
Kris Letang plays his 1,000th NHL game
Kris Letang played his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers. Now in his 17th season, Letang has only played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he will eventually retire as one of the greatest players in franchise history. He has been an integral part of three Stanley Cups for the Penguins, and he has amassed 154 goals, 532 assists, and 686 points throughout his career.
Before puck drop against the Flyers, the Penguins held a ceremony for Letang, and his son got to announce the starting lineup for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins managed to pick up an important 4-2 win over their in-state rivals, and they were able to hold their ground in the final playoff position. The Penguins are currently hanging onto the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and Pittsburgh has some work to do if it wants to make sure Letang makes yet another postseason run.
Carter Verhaeghe nets four against the Blue Jackets
The Florida Panthers have not had the season they expected, and there is plenty of blame to go around, but Carter Verhaeghe has more than pulled his weight. Verhaeghe, who is having a career year, went off against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
Verhaeghe entered the game with 36 goals, already a career high by a wide margin. By the end of the 7-0 blowout, he had 40 goals.
Verhaeghe got his day started late in the first period when he finished off a pass from Gustav Forsling to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead entering the intermission.
Just 18 seconds into the second period, Verhaeghe picked up a rebound and deposited it into the back of the net for his second of the game.
Verhaeghe completed the hat trick with a perfect shot from the left circle. He got the puck, circled, and ripped a laser of a shot over the shoulder of Michael Hutchinson.
Not satisfied with the hat trick, Verhaeghe hit the 40-goal mark with his fourth of the game in the third period. With Florida on the rush, Verhaeghe crashed the backdoor, and Anthony Duclair put a pass right on his stick for a tap-in goal.
The Panthers are still fighting for a playoff spot, and Verhaeghe is doing all he can to make sure their season doesn’t end in disappointment. A few more games like that, and Florida will be competing for a Stanley Cup this spring.
Calgary Flames stay alive with comeback wins
Speaking of teams still fighting for playoff positioning, the Calgary Flames were able to keep their postseason hopes alive with a pair of third-period comebacks.
On Friday night, Calgary trailed the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 heading into the third period, and it was starting to look like the Flames wouldn’t get any points at all. But with under three minutes remaining, the much-maligned Jonathan Huberdeau tallied a power play goal to even the score.
In overtime, Tyler Toffoli finished off a 2-on-1 to give the Flames a massive two points in the standings.
Two days later, the Flames once again found themselves trailing 4-3 in the third period, this time against the Anaheim Ducks. Just over six minutes into the period, Milan Lucic wired a shot over the shoulder of Lukas Dostal to tie the game at 4-4. The good news for Flames fans is that the team didn’t make them endure overtime against Anaheim. Michael Stone let a point shot fly with less than three minutes left in regulation, and it found the back of the net for the game-winning goal.
The Flames are now just two points out of a playoff spot with five games remaining, and Calgary has a huge matchup against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday.
Appointment viewing this week
Oilers at Kings | Tuesday, April 4: The fight for playoff positioning in the Pacific Division will be heated over the next two weeks, and this game is part of that. The Oilers are just one point behind the second-place Kings, and this game will be key in determining home-ice advantage or the division winner.
Flames at Jets | Wednesday, April 5: Thanks to a four-game winning streak, the Flames are now just two points behind the Jets for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to reach the playoffs.
Kings at Golden Knights | Thursday, April 6: Once again, Pacific Division playoff positioning is on the line. The Kings have a big opportunity to gain ground on the Golden Knights for the top spot in the division and the Western Conference.
Lightning at Islanders | Thursday, April 6: The Islanders find themselves in a battle for an Eastern Conference wild card spot, and this game against the suddenly surging Lightning will be a major test. The Isles have a small margin of error.
Avalanche at Kings | Saturday, April 7: This is a big week for the Kings, as you can see. On Saturday, the Kings will go head-to-head with the Avalanche. Two big points are on the line for each team as they contend for home-ice advantage through the conference finals.
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Publish Date:2023-04-04 23:09:45