3 Things We Learned in the NHL: Showcases galore

Watch as Frederik Andersen takes a sure goal away from Ryan Johansen on the wraparound to force overtime between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators.

Here’s a look at three things we learned in the NHL on Wednesday night.

Kapanen makes his case … or was this a showcase?

There’s a segment of Leafs Nation that has been clamouring for Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen to get more playing time. And given his skill set, it’s hard to argue with that.

Just take a look at what he did during a penalty kill in Wednesday night’s 3-2 shootout win over the Nashville Predators.

It was Kapanen’s second goal of the week and the 21-year-old former first-rounder appears to be making his case for more playing time from head coach Mike Babcock.

Or, perhaps Kapanen is showing off his talents as a trade candidate to other NHL clubs? Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman alluded to the possibility in a recent edition of 31 Thoughts.

Regardless, Babcock is impressed.

“He used to be a skinny little kid and now he’s got some meat on his bones and he has worked hard at it,” the coach said of Kapanen following Wednesday’s game. “Then, obviously, experience, and experience makes you compete a little harder on a nightly basis because you don’t want to go back anymore. That’s a great thing about earning your way and being in the minors and riding the bus and learning what it’s like. It makes you not want to go back there. I think that helps out. I also think getting here when you’re ready and not before you’re ready helps you stay and helps you keep your confidence.”

Babcock might have even tipped his hat on Kapanen’s status with the NHL club for the rest of the season.

“He looks like a good player to me. He’s come here, we win, he’s made a difference, flat-out made a difference. We can come at you faster with more people, he’s penalty killing every night and doing a good job for us. I think he’s important.”

Nash does the same …

Speaking of players who are making a case, Rick Nash scored a goal on Wednesday as trade rumours swirl around the New York Rangers forward.

Nash, a free agent at the conclusion of the season, submitted a list this week to Rangers brass containing 18 teams that he would not agree to be traded to.

The 33-year-old Nash has 16 goals and 26 points in 54 games this season. When speaking to media earlier this week, he revealed his unhappiness at the prospect of leaving New York, but if anything, Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Boston Bruins further underlines why the Rangers are reportedly considering a sale prior to the deadline.

The club is last in the Metropolitan Division and has dropped seven of its past eight games.

“I think it was disappointing, frustrating, and embarrassing,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist following Wednesday’s defeat. “For me personally, I think I start the game the way I want, aggressive. Then we make a couple mistakes there and it costs us. I think the way things have been going a little bit lately takes me from being the way I want to be — on my toes, aggressive … When you lose a lot, obviously it’s going to affect you a little bit and you have to work harder to stay in a certain mindset.”

Showcase … for the best duo?

While we’re on the topic of showcases, can we just say that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are making their argument for best duo in the NHL? OK, we’re using the term “showcase” loosely here, but stick with us.

Early on Wednesday, Sportsnet Stats put out this great nugget:

And lo and behold, the Edmonton Oilers duo combined for yet another goal during their evening game against the Los Angeles Kings, with McDavid assisting on Draisaitl’s power-play marker in the second period.

The way the young pair is progressing, it’s fair to say they no longer need to showcase anything.

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