On the day John Scott was traded and his attendance at this year’s all-star game came into question, some saw it as a blow to fun in the NHL.
Those examining the NHL’s relationship with its fans could be right to be concerned…but the show must go on.
Friday night provided fans with a couple of superb performances by exciting, young rookies, an offensive outpouring between the Lightning and Penguins, and even a couple of hat tricks on National Hat Day.
Here are four things we learned in the NHL.
1. Hat Trick Kane
The Kane-Panarin-Anisimov line had its way with the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday in a 4-1 win and the resulting numbers are a bit overwhelming.
Firstly, Kane has already surpassed his scoring total from last season, though he did miss 21 games with an injury in 2014-15. His 67 points in 47 games is 13 up on second-place Jamie Benn and 22 up on fourth-place Erik Karlsson. He leads the league in goals, assists and points.
It was also his first career regular season hat trick after 623 games. Shut the front door!
His linemate Panarin isn’t bad either. He scored a goal and two assists Friday and now leads all rookies in — that’s right — goals, assists and points with 16, 26 and 42 respectively.
And if it seems like you’re trying to drink from a fire hydrant with these numbers, the Blackhawks have also won 10 in a row.
Take a breath.
2. Tip of the hat to Spooner
The Boston Bruins really miss David Krejci’s point-per-game pace since his late December injury, but the young Ryan Spooner is taking full advantage of more responsibility.
Spooner has 11 points in the eight games since Krejci went down and it continued Friday with a three-point performance. Though the Bruins are 3-4-1 over that stretch, they’ve scored 22 goals, making Spooner’s 11 points look rather significant.
Elsewhere on National Hat Day, another NHLer scored his first career hat trick. Vladislav Namestnikov and the Tampa Bay Lightning outgunned the Pittsburgh Penguins in a thrilling, back-and-forth contest, winning 5-4 in OT.
Namestnikov — which is really fun to say once you’re used to it — scored three including the winner, and he didn’t even pot the nicest goal of the night. Anton Stralman did. Hoo boy.
4. Hats off to Hellebuyck
Connor Hellebuyck, like Panarin, is going to get a lot of consideration for the Calder trophy this season. Friday, he stopped 24 shots for his second career shutout as the Winnipeg Jets needed just one goal to beat the Minnesota Wild.
Hellebuyck has jumped from the North American Hockey League to the NCAA to the AHL and now to the NHL with apparent ease. Thursday, he spoke about the transition with an interesting take on how goaltenders on unusual paths to the NHL make it work.
“The NAHL has so many teams that the talent is more diluted,” Hellebuyck told In Goal Magazine. “Leagues like that can help a goaltender because you aren’t on a team full of stars; you’re learning to develop behind maybe a struggling defensive system that can’t always handle the good scoring on another club.
“In the CHL, you’re still facing great shots, but you aren’t getting as much variety in the kinds of shots you may face and the kinds of teams you may be playing behind.”
The 22-year-old American is 11-6-1 with a .931 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average.
Finally, just for fun, here’s the world’s best hockey player missing a wide open net. You’ve earned it, NHL fans.