Auston Matthews perked up when told that Andrei Svechnikov had pulled off another lacrosse-style goal — his second in a matter of weeks and the second in NHL history.
Matthews was playing on Tuesday night when Svechnikov flipped the puck on his stick blade behind the net and lifted it over Connor Hellebuyck’s shoulder in one smooth motion.
Told afterwards what Svechnikov had done in Winnipeg, Matthews seemed surprised: “Did he???”
The Toronto Maple Leafs star had tried it himself a couple times earlier in the season and appeared to take another shot during Saturday’s game against Detroit before having the puck roll off his stick.
Here’s guessing it won’t be his last attempt.
And he certainly won’t be the only other player taking his shot at it.
Tyler Ennis gave it a go on Thursday night in Ottawa.
And Svechnikov, the Carolina Hurricanes super sophomore, told reporters that he’s not stopping at two successful attempts: “When I get room, I can score [on] that move because I practise it a lot. If I start behind the net and I’ve got room I’m always going to try that.”
In fact, it would not be the least bit surprising if we saw a small flood of similar goals that could become known as “The Svech.” The NHL is brimming with fearless skill right now and there’s only so much a goaltender can do if a player gets control of the puck on his stick like that.
Plus the dam has been broken.
Not unlike Roger Bannister smashing through the four-minute mile in 1954 — a milestone runners had chased for decades, and then achieved in bunches once Bannister proved it possible — Svechnikov may have opened the floodgates.
We know beyond doubt that it can be successfully executed under the high-speed conditions of the NHL game. Svechnikov has done it at both home and on the road, against big, quality goaltenders in Hellebuyck and Calgary’s David Rittich.
It’s landed him on highlight reels across the continent and T-shirts at PNC Arena in Raleigh:
“The Svech” requires elite hand-eye and the right sense of timing. It’s fun and it’s different. Other players are paying attention and looking for their own opportunity to strike.
My compadre Elliotte Friedman reported on Headlines that pending UFA Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals have decided to put off contract talks until after the season.
This news comes after teams involved in the Taylor Hall trade talks were told that there wouldn’t be any chance to speak with his agent about a potential extension as part of that process.
Now, much can change before July 1, but this leaves open the possibility that there’ll be a former Vezina Trophy winner and Hart Trophy winner testing the market this summer.
When you couple that with the possibility that St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo joins them, the 2020 free-agent class is shaping up to have some high-end options.
The last-place Detroit Red Wings have just nine wins and an ugly minus-65 goal differential.
But the most concerning number hanging over a season that will go down as one of the worst in franchise history is this one: 18.5.
That’s the percentage chance Detroit will have at securing the top pick in the draft lottery if it finishes 31st overall. In fact, the odds are slightly better that the NHL’s worst team will drop to the No. 4 pick (50.6 per cent) than land one inside the top-three (49.4 per cent).
History shows that there’s likely to be a big difference in the quality of player that a team lands with each of those spots.
Over the years, the NHL has continually watered down the draft-lottery odds to take away any incentive for an organization to tank. Where this gets problematic for a team like Detroit is that there’s no doubt about its intentions. The Red Wings are merely paying the tab for a quarter-century of unparalleled success — a period where they had the odds stacked against them in the entry draft more than any other franchise.
It’s been nearly 30 years since Detroit owned a top-3 pick in the draft … dating back to when it selected Keith Primeau at No. 3 in 1990. (Primeau’s son, Cayden, recently made his NHL debut for Montreal).
This season is already a complete write-off for the Red Wings, which means that the most stressful night ahead for fans and the front office is the draft lottery. They’re going to be an underdog then, too.
No official end-of-season awards ballots will be cast until late March or early April. The landscape is going to change dramatically between then and now.
Purely for fun — in other words, don’t @ me — here’s a quick look at how I see some of the major awards shaping up through 44 per cent of the regular-season schedule.
Hart: 1. Nathan MacKinnon, 2. Jack Eichel, 3. Connor McDavid.
Norris: 1. John Carlson, 2. Roman Josi, 3. Dougie Hamilton.
Calder: 1. Cale Makar, 2. Quinn Hughes, 3. Victor Olofsson.
Vezina: 1. Connor Hellebuyck, 2. Darcy Kuemper, 3. Frederik Andersen.
• The Vancouver Canucks are facing the possibility of a sizeable salary-cap overage in 2020-21 because of rookie bonuses. Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson look like locks to max out their $850,000 “Schedule A” bonuses, and Pettersson can claim an addition $2-million “Schedule B” bonus by finishing top-10 among NHL players in either goals, assists, points or points per game (He’s 14th, 19th, 13th and 20th entering play Sunday). When you factor in the potential that Adam Gaudette hits entry-level bonuses, the Canucks could carry more than $4-million in dead money total.
• Jonathan Huberdeau is quietly following last year’s breakout campaign with another monster season in Florida. He’s got 47 points in 35 games and is doing it on a high-value $5.9-million contract.
• I loved Patrik Laine’s interview with Sportsnet’s Sean Reynolds on Saturday afternoon in Minnesota. A touch of honesty mixed in with Laine’s dry sense of humour made for an entertaining cocktail.
• Bless the NHL for its three-day holiday break that starts Tuesday. We’ll all miss the games, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family. All the best to you and yours.