The big story in the NHL Wednesday really had nothing to do with the three games that took place. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Dennis Wideman’s 20-game suspension. Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke even ripped into the league for how they’ve handled the appeal process. In addition to losing that off-ice battle, the Flames ended up losing their on-ice battle to the Minnesota Wild.
On a light night in the NHL schedule – one where Michel Therrien threw P.K. Subban under the bus – here are four things we learned.
Panarin inches closer to the Calder
Artemi Panarin spent the last three seasons playing with Ilya Kovalchuk in the KHL and he looked just like his former St. Petersburg SKA teammate when he sniped home his 20th goal of the season.
The crafty Russian wasn’t done there, though, as with three minutes remaining in the Blackhawks-Rangers game he buried his 21st, which ended up being the game winner. He capped off his first career hat trick by adding his 22nd in the form of an empty netter.
Panarin becomes the first rookie to hit the 20-goal mark this season and he already has more points than Jonathan Toews did in his 64-game rookie campaign.
Last year, five rookies (Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Filip Forsberg, Anders Lee, Johnny Gaudreau) surpassed the 20-goal plateau but none of them took home the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie — Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad did. Many feel the Calder is Panarin’s to lose this year considering he has an 18-point cushion atop the rookie scoring race. He’s not your typical NHL rookie. He’s 24 and was a pro in the KHL, but you can’t deny what he has accomplished in his first NHL season. If Panarin manages to win the Calder he’ll become the third Blackhawks player to do so. Ed Belfour did it in 1991 and Patrick Kane did it in 2008.
Iginla continues to make a mark
Age is just a number for Jarome Iginla. The Avalanche forward scored a pair of goals to lead Colorado to a come-from-behind victory over Montreal. The 38-year-old is now just three goals away from registering his 17th career 20-goal campaign, which is remarkably impressive.
The future Hall of Famer (it’s not really going out on a limb referring to him as one), has been one of the league’s most productive players since he made his NHL debut in 1996 and is steadily creeping up many of the all-time lists.
Eller, Pacioretty show instant chemistry
There hasn’t been much for Montreal Canadiens fans to be happy about in recent months but there should be some optimism surrounding the pairing of Lars Eller and Max Pacioretty, who played together on the same line for first time Wednesday.
The two, along with linemate Sven Andrighetto, generated a number of scoring chances in a 3-2 loss to the Avalanche and connected on a goal in the first period.
The Canadiens remain in the playoff hunt but with Carey Price still recovering from a lower-body injury they need all the scoring help they can muster. Perhaps this Eller-Pacioretty duo can breathe some new life into Montreal’s offence.
The decision to play them together seemed to go over well with Habs fans.
Montreal, which had a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, was 19-2-0 when leading after the first period heading into the game.
Scott lights the lamp in the AHL
John Scott‘s appearance and MVP performance at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game was hockey’s feel-good story of the year, but that doesn’t mean Scott is content with riding off into the sunset just yet. The big bruiser is toiling away with the St. John’s IceCaps in the AHL hoping to get another crack at the NHL. He picked up his first goal with the IceCaps Wednesday.
Get to the net. Stick on the ice. Atta boy, Johnny!