A couple of Sabres rookies continue to make noise, three goaltenders posted shutouts, Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded a trio of apples and a former captain scored in his return. Here are three things we learned in the NHL Friday.
The Evgeny Kuznetsov show
Prior to the season, if you were asked who would lead the Washington Capitals in assists and points, you likely would have answered Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, respectively. You’d be incorrect, though.
Through 70 games, Evgeny Kuznetsov has eight more assists than Backstrom and 10 more points than both Backstrom and Ovechkin — and oh boy did the 23-year-old Russian have himself a game on Friday night.
Kuznetsov had three outstanding assists in a 4-1 win over the Predators. He now leads the league in primary assists with 41 — all three of his apples Friday were of the primary variety.
That’s more like it.
“I knew he was a good centre, but I didn’t know he was this good,” said Daniel Winnik, who scored his first two goals with the Caps Friday.
Sabres rookies continue to surge
Sam Reinhart picked up the 35th point of his rookie campaign when he jammed home his 20th goal early in the first period against the Senators Friday. It marked the first time the Sabres have had a pair of rookies score 20-plus goals since Peter McNab and Danny Gare did it in 1975 and the first time since 1988 that Buffalo had two or more rookies with 35 points in the same season.
Jack Eichel had already surpassed the 20-goal and 35-point markers prior to Friday. In fact, Eichel is in the midst of one of the better rookie seasons in Sabres history. Sure, he’s not quite putting up the numbers Rick Martin (44 goals, 74 points in 73 games) or Gilbert Perreault (38 goals, 72 points in 78 games) did in the early 70s, but he has more points than Pierre Turgeon (42), Alexander Mogilny (43), Thomas Vanek (48), or Tyler Myers (48) did as rookies and is now tied with Tyler Ennis (49).
Both Eichel and Reinhart picked up assists on this nifty Zach Bogosian tic-tac-toe goal.
The Sabres are going to miss the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, but the success of the team’s youth has to give Buffalo fans some confidence heading into the off-season.
Captain Ladd scores in return to Winnipeg
It’s all come full circle for Andrew Ladd. Two full circles…sort of.
And not only did the crowd honour his time there with a video tribute and standing ovation but the veteran forward scored to help his new/old club come away with the 4-0 win.
Ladd captained the Jets in 2014-15 to their first playoff appearance since arriving from Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling picked up the shutout exactly one year since recording his last one.