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MORE SPORTS | Feb 16

2023-2024 NHL Recap: A Season to Remember

A Heart-Stopping Season Will Go down to the Wire to Determine the Playoff Seeds.

2023-2024 NHL Recap: A Season to Remember
Alex Pietrangelo #7 of the Vegas Golden Knights/Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Ice Cold 🥶

Head coach Rick Tocchet must have made some sort of Faustian deal in the offseason…

We are approximately three-quarters of the way through the NHL schedule and now is a good time to see which players and teams have either captivated or disappointed us as the home stretch of the season looms.

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Oilers Getting Slick

I had high hopes for Edmonton before the season started, so much so that I put a few bucks on them to win the Stanley Cup. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when they began the season 2-9-1 after a dozen games. It was the same old song and dance from last year, plenty of firepower up front with the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl but piss-poor goaltending from Blackjack Campbell.


But a funny thing happened, maybe not so much funny as overdue, the team fired head coach Jay Woodcroft and hired Kris Knoblauch on November 12th. The new shot caller behind the bench immediately made changes while Jack Terri-bell, I mean Campbell, was waived, and went unclaimed which means he is now toiling in some backwoods AHL hellhole.

Since that time, goaltender Stuart Skinner, now in his sophomore season, has assumed his role as the starting goalie with veteran journeyman, Calvin “Jean-Luc” Pickard proving to be an adequate backup. The turnaround has been jaw-dropping with the Oilers going 26-9 since the coaching change and climbing from the basement of the Pacific Division to third place, trailing only Vegas and Vancouver.

 

What the F*ck Canucks?!

The Vancouver Canucks weren’t a bad team last season, as evidenced by their 38-37-7 record good for 83 points, but they weren’t quite good enough to make the playoffs. Coming into this year many teams were discussed as Stanley Cup contenders but the Canucks were not among them.


But, man oh man, look at them now. Vancouver is leading the NHL in points, for the first time this far into the season since 2012, and even made a move to acquire center iceman Elias Lindholm from Calgary at the All-Star break.


Head coach Rick Tocchet, in his first full season coaching the Canucks, must have made some sort of Faustian deal in the offseason, maybe inside a janitor’s closet behind the Zamboni, because only a pact with the Prince of Darkness himself could explain this stunning turnaround.

It’s a terrific story and one I want to see continue right up until they get beaten by the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference championship.

 

Highlights

Boston Bruins – The Bruins were a juggernaut last season, setting an NHL record with 135 points and an 87.3-win percentage. But the retirement of two of its stars, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci, set off NHL rumors that Boston was now in a rebuild of sorts, and expectations were dramatically lowered.


Well, the B’s are back on top, trailing only the Canucks in the overall point standings, and looking to finish what they failed to accomplish last year.

Connor Bedard – Chicago is still mired in the muck of the Central Division basement and currently last in the overall standings but it’s hard to argue with their No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft, Connor Bedard.


The 18-year-old made NHL news after suffering a broken jaw and missing a quarter of the season so far but he remains the Blackhawks’ leading point-getter with 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points after 40 games. He’s the real deal and hopefully, this injury won’t make him gun-shy when he returns.

Joey Daccord – If you reside anywhere but Seattle and read the name Joey Daccord, the normal reaction would be, “Who the F is Joey Daccord?!” Again, the devil was busy this offseason by trading preternatural athletic achievements for one’s eternal soul.


Joey Daccord was buyin’ what ol’ Beelzebub was sellin’ because the 27-year-old has dazzled in net for the Kraken. The Boston native is in the top five in both goals-against average (2.33) and save percentage (.923) and has 15 wins on the season despite a defense in front of him that is not exactly upper-tier.

Ovie Dunsky – Father Time is undefeated and Capitals’ legend Alexander Ovechkin is finding that out. The 38-year-old superstar entered the season with 822 career goals, just 72 behind the greatest of all time, Wayne Gretzky.

Until this season, Ovechkin was defying the laws of time and space, netting 50 goals two years ago and 42 last season. But this year he’s notched only 14 goals over 49 games. It appears though Ovie is all done – dunsky as we say in Idiot Land.

However, the good news is that Ovie has been turning it on recently, scoring a goal in each of his five games in February. Nevertheless, the odds of the Great Eight catching Gretzky before he hangs up his skates for good are growing increasingly distant.

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