NHL best and worst: Jack Eichel loving life on The Strip

This week we've got the Michigan of all Michigans, big paddle saves, confused old men and much more.

The NHL season may be deep into its dog days, with teams eager to get the postseason rolling, but don’t let that fool you. There’s no shortage of fantastic moments worth catching up on or watching over again from this past week of action.

If your favourite highlight from this week didn’t make the cut, let me be clear: no other slate of games has had the wall-to-wall excellence of this week, both on and off the ice. Clearly, there’s something in the post-St. Patties day water across the world of puck.

Here’s everything you’ve got to see in this week’s edition of the NHL’s Best and Worst.

With his first hat trick as a Golden Knight and seven points in his last four games, Jack Eichel is leading the charge towards his first ever playoff berth. (Getty Images)
With his first hat trick as a Golden Knight and seven points in his last four games, Jack Eichel is leading the charge towards his first ever NHL playoff berth. (Getty Images)

Player of the week: Jack Eichel

With seven points in four games, including a hat trick against the Blue Jackets last Sunday, Jack Eichel has once again found another gear, getting hot at the right time as the Golden Knights look to lock down the Pacific Division.

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Eichel has had his ups and downs over the course of this year, particularly in January after his linemate Mark Stone went down with a potentially season-ending injury. Recently, however, things have gotten back on track in a big way for the Massachusetts native, as he gears up for what will be his first career playoff action in just a few short weeks.

Goal of the week

Even though a few players have pulled it off, nothing quite beats a "Michigan" goal, which makes Kent Johnson’s take on the move an easy goal of the week. Johnson’s slick move — on the anniversary of the original "Michigan", no less — caught everybody's attention, including a mic’d up Johnny Gaudreau who could only stare and giggle, a reaction that plenty of other hockey fans can surely relate to on this one. Interestingly, this isn’t the Blue Jackets rookie’s first rodeo with the lacrosse goal, having pulled the move off at the BCHL and World Juniors levels, though ironically, never during his time at Michigan University.

Save of the week

Talk about putting it all on the line to keep your club in the hunt. In the throws of the most intense wild card chase in recent memory, Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin robs Erik Gustafsson point-blank with the paddle to keep it a one-goal game. That save would prove pivotal, turning the tide for New York and helping bring on an onslaught, as the Isles eventually dumped seven goals on a discombobulated Leafs squad.

Hands of the week

Check out the nifty mitts on this one. Flyers forward Scott Laughton, who’s known more for his defensive acumen than his offensive touch, takes a beautiful stretch pass from Tony DeAngelo, then undresses former teammate Alex Lyon seven ways to Sunday with some quick wrists and even quicker thinking.

Stat of the week

The Calgary Flames continue to be hockey’s biggest disappointment, but thanks in part to the sputtering Winnipeg Jets, they find themselves in the hunt just four points back as they enter the home stretch of the season. The club’s struggles, both on and off the ice, have been well documented, but if you’re looking for a synopsis of how the year’s gone, nothing tells the story quite like this graphic from earlier this week.

There may not be a team in recent memory that lacks the clutch gene in more glaring fashion than this edition of the Flames.


Hit of the week

This isn’t Rasmus Dahlin’s first spotlight with the hit of the week, and it surely won’t be the last. A surprising 6-foot-3, the 2018 first-overall pick has grown into his body in a big way this season and has been busy taking names as a result. This time, Devils captain Nico Hischer is the victim of choice, as he tries going after the Swedish defender to no avail and gets reverse hit flat on his wallet, sending both players tumbling to the ice and drawing a crowd after the thunderous check.

Worst of the week

Conor Sheary has had to work pretty hard to get to this point in his career. Once a hotshot prospect as part of the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Penguins squad, the diminutive winger has settled into a solid complementary role with the Washington Capitals, flip-flopping between a couple of clubs and a few underwhelming seasons en route to this point. In all of his 500-plus NHL games, however, it’s hard to imagine Sheary has ever had a goal served up on a silver platter quite like this one he scored on Anton Khudobin.

Presidential welcome

President of the United States Joe Biden visited the Canadian House of Commons for the first time since his election in 2020 and decided to make some friends the easiest way possible: dumping on the Toronto Maple Leafs. If baseball is America's pastime, then throwing a few jabs at the self-proclaimed "Canada's team" is surely the national pastime north of the 49th parallel. If nothing else, Biden truly proves once and for all that it is always about the Leafs.

Where’s Bobo?

Like almost every other snowbird, it seems as though Bob McKenzie has made his way to Florida post-retirement. Hockey’s preeminent insider had himself a hilarious moment pregame ahead of the Maple Leafs matchup with the Florida Panthers, with his son Shawn doing his hit prior to puck drop.

Desperation at the buzzer

Even with rumours swirling around his future, Carter Hart had himself a vintage performance on Saturday afternoon, turning aside 29 shots for his second shutout of the season. No save on Saturday by the former Everett Silvertips product quite matched the intensity and larceny of this one, as he robbed Jonatan Berggren point-blank late in the game to secure the clean sheet.

Wholesome moment of the week

Throughout history, goaltending tandems have often been defined by the internal competition they bring on. Pairings like Hasek-CuJo, Luongo-Schneider, and Reimer-Bernier are defined by how the media played one another off each other as rivals on the same team vying for playing time. This year in Boston, however, despite two goaltenders worthy of starting jobs, Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman seem like two peas in a pod. Need proof? Well, beyond their fantastic hug celebration, it turns out they even feed each other during post-game pressers.

Stalock-ed in

This may come as a surprise to you, but Alex Stalock is still in the NHL — and piecing together a pretty nice season in the process. A metaphorical “tank commander” with the Chicago Blackhawks, Stalock has been the best netminder in the Windy City by a healthy margin and could be playing himself into another NHL deal next season. Plus, if he’s going to be making saves like this one against the scorching-hot Nathan MacKinnon, that list of suitors could be longer than you may think.

Scrap of the week

Nik Ehlers is known for many talents, but none of those are his fisticuffs. Despite that, the Jets' Danish star didn’t shy away from challenging Brayden Schenn, who is no grinder himself but can certainly chuck ‘em, to a good old-fashioned tilly following a physical exchange. Both sides got their licks in on this one, plus, who doesn’t love a scrap between All-Stars?

Vintage Sid

He may no longer be the face of the league, but Sid the Kid still has plenty of gas in the tank with his old bag of tricks. On this one, Crosby makes mincemeat of Sam Girard, who clearly needs a map to keep track of his man, before pulling out the old-school backhand snipe to beat Alexandar Georgiev clean on his blocker side.

Milestone of the week

Connor McDavid, welcome to the 60-goal club. After topping out at 44 goals a season ago, McDavid has gone full Rocket Richard and put everything but the kitchen sink in the back of the net, including his 60th of the season against the Arizona Coyotes in just his 72nd game of the year. Even better, McDavid does it in style, beating Connor Ingram for the second time that evening with the overtime winner.

Pride Night

Eric Staal, along with his brother Marc, became the latest players to opt out of Pride Night, deciding against wearing the Panthers Pride Night warmup jerseys ahead of their game against the Maple Leafs on Thursday. The only problem (well, besides the bigotry) was that Staal had already been caught in 4K having worn a Pride Jersey with the Canadiens just two years prior. The ridicule, and memes, rightfully followed. Meanwhile, Panthers teammate Matthew Tkachuk put into perspective what the overwhelming majority of players in both Florida and league-wide felt about the importance of Pride Nights with an impassioned post-game scrum worth a watch.

Garrett retires

John Garrett, an icon of Vancouver Canucks broadcasts for over two decades, announced on air Thursday night that this would be his final season broadcasting Vancouver Canucks games. With his unmistakable voice and great sense of humour, there’s little doubt that Garrett will be dearly missed not only by fans of Canada’s westernmost team, but the many others that enjoyed his work.

Counting records

Alex Ovechkin’s place in the history books is all but assured at this point, but that didn’t make this self-documented back and forth between the Great Eight and NHL.com reporter Tom Gulitti any less funny.

1 vs. 5

Filip Chytil took some time to develop his game, but he has finally found his stride and looks like a potential top-six staple for the Rangers in the foreseeable future. There’s still room to grow, particularly with his ability to impact the game at a possession level, but if he continues slicing and dicing through entire teams as he did on this goal against the Nashville Predators, then I would bet on that coming to pass sooner rather than later.

Take a whiff

There are plenty of ways players get their energy pumping before a game, whether it’s a pregame coffee, a bottle of pop to raise their blood sugar, or any of the various oddities that goaltenders resort to. And, of course, there’s always the classic smelling salts, with their pungent and sharp smell that’ll send you recoiling in disgust. On Saturday night, as Ryan Reaves prepared for puck drop between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks and seemed to get more than his fair share of the strong stuff.

Trending up: Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins are a wagon, this isn’t news to anybody. They’re on pace for an NHL record 63 wins, likely to boast the Selke, Vezina, and Jack Adams winners, if not multiple others, and have clinched their division before most teams even punched their ticket to the dance. Oh, and they’ve won six straight.


How any team plans to go toe-to-toe with them is beyond comprehension, and it's tough to imagine that anybody can knock them down a peg, much less snatch four games off them once April rolls around. The Bruins are exceptional in every sense of the word, heck, they’ve even got the NHL’s best character off the ice too in Brad Marchand. Deny their greatness at your own peril, because we’re likely to be hearing lots of Zombie Nation in the weeks to come.

Trending down: Tampa Bay Lightning

On the other end of the Atlantic Division spectrum, the Tampa Bay Lightning have gone from hunting down the two-seed to trying to not look like an obvious first-round flameout. The Bolts have been skidding hard since the end of February, sitting at 5-8-2 since picking up Tanner Jeannot at the trade deadline, whose three points and -6 rating certainly haven’t helped the cause.

More recently, Tampa’s lost four straight, including a 7-2 shellacking at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, as well as a 3-2 regulation loss to the lowly Montreal Canadiens. While a simultaneous cold stretch from the Maple Leafs has left the door open ever so slightly for home-ice advantage, the odds of that happening seem slim to none at this point. Their primary focus needs to be getting back on track, or they could be in for their shortest playoff run since their shocking sweep at the hands of Columbus in 2019.