Saturday’s best NHL players
Nick Schmaltz, Coyotes
How could it be anyone other than Nick Schmaltz, who set a new Coyotes franchise record by scoring seven points (two goals, five assists)?
Sure, you can ring Schmaltz because he plays for a Coyotes team that felt spiritually (but not mathematically) eliminated from day one. And Schmaltz collected his seven points against a Senators team that clearly still isn’t ready for prime time.
Come on, though. Nick Schmaltz became the first player to score more than 7-pointers in a decade. The last person to do so was Sam Gagner, who scored eight points in February 2012.
Learn more about Schmaltz’s seven points in this article. You can watch the highlights below.
NHL Highlights Saturday
As promised, here are images of Nick Schmaltz’s seven points:
As impressive as the accomplishment is, Schmaltz’s Coyotes record feels like an eccentric anecdote. (Much like Sam Gagner tallying eight points.) With Rick Nash and the Blue Jackets, there’s no doubting his place atop the franchise’s most prominent skater records. In NHL games on Saturday, the Blue Jackets retired Nash’s number 61. More information here, but watch the ceremony in this clip:
Alex Ovechkin hit 764 goals with the kind of goal most people imagine when you say “Alex Ovechkin goal”.
For your greatest pleasure:
Alex Ovechkin’s SEVEN HUNDRED AND SIXTY FOURTH career goal!! pic.twitter.com/zSDaTAmCEZ
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 6, 2022
I will counter the Predators social media team. Matt Duchene’s move was delightful. That 8-0 scoreline was disgusting.
DUTCHY THAT WAS DISGUSTING pic.twitter.com/eVlNQ4FzOp
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 6, 2022
If you hear Flames – Avalanche, your ears might perk up. Calgary and Colorado delivered more often than not, including Nathan MacKinnon:
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 6, 2022
Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames had the last laugh with this overtime winner:
WHAT. A GAME. 🔥
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 6, 2022
Playing 1,000 games in the NHL is already an impressive feat. Do it after not being drafted? Mark Giordano hit that plateau of 1,000 games. Wondering how many more games he’ll play for the Kraken?
Nice gesture from the Capitals to pay tribute to Mark Giordano for playing his 1,000th regular season game in the NHL. pic.twitter.com/ZpGd41ek63
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) March 6, 2022
Saturday NHL Takeout
Nick Schmaltz, seriously
Read well, because it was quite the performance.
Blue Jackets retire Rick Nash’s number 61
You can also check this, as well as the background of his accomplishments. Ask again: If there is a retired Blue Jackets second number, who would it be?
It’s really fitting that the Blue Jackets lost the night they retired Rick Nash’s number, isn’t it?
Matthews takes the lead from Maurice Richard; Ovechkin scores his 764th goal
Saturday’s NHL action wasn’t just about Nick Schmaltz and scoring. The goals also made headlines.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 764th goal in an area of the ice that he made his office. (Honestly, at this point, maybe the NHL should score an “8” there every time Ovechkin retires.)
At 764, Ovechkin is just two goals behind Jaromir Jagr (766) for third in NHL history. After Jagr is Gordie Howe at 801 and Wayne Gretzky in the lead with 894.
As of this season, Ovechkin extended a two-game goal streak and now has 34 this season. Mind blowing stuff, but just good enough for fourth best.
With two goals in NHL games on Saturday, Auston Matthews finished first of the night in the Maurice Richard Trophy race with 39 goals. Leon Draisaitl was limited to one assist, keeping him at 38 goals. Matthews and Draisaitl were probably more focused on their teams’ losses than this trophy chase.
Chris Kreider’s Rangers were inactive so he remained in third place with 36 goals. Kyle Connor (33), David Pastrnak (31) and Alex DeBrincat (31) would need to warm up to make the Maurice Richard Trophy race more crowded.
Sharks expected to ditch facade of playoff dispute and sell at trade deadline
Most of the time, a sudden loss should mean nothing to you. For the Sharks, an 8-0 loss to the Predators should be the last straw. Management can’t just ignore the obvious truth that this team isn’t good enough.
As painful as it may be, trading Tomas Hertl is the wisest and most honest thing to do. Frankly, they would be wise to trade just about anyone beyond the occasional prospect. Timo Meier needs a new contract after next season, and the mature decision would probably be to trade him soon.
Think of it this way: The Sharks are virtually certain to miss the playoffs even with a long way to go. Hertl, Meier and Logan Couture are playing at a high level. Erik Karlsson has had a redeeming year, but how likely is that to continue (and can he reliably stay healthy)? They even appreciated passable goaltenders.
A desperate front office might dream of all of this happening next season, only with (insert hasty addition that sacrifices the future for the present).
Look from top to bottom at the Sharks’ salary structure and you’ll see this team continues to be burned by such decisions. Remove the band-aid, sell high, and increase your volume for a better chance of winning when you fight another day.
The Big Sunday Story
Will the Stars keep climbing and Wild keep sliding?
Given the Stars’ lows and the Wild’s brilliant highs, it’s surprising to see Dallas and Minnesota at eye-to-eye distance.
Building on a three-game winning streak, the Stars amassed 65 points in 54 games played (31-20-3). Disconcerting or not, they continue to cling to it.
With the Wild, they’ve exceeded expectations often enough, for long enough, that it’s tempting to take those good times for granted. Maybe a few cracks are forming, though. With an impressive 3-7-0 record in their last 10 games, the Wild have 67 points in 53 games played (32-18-3).
To be clear, two points and a game less is not an advantage to be discounted. But that gap could really narrow if Dallas wins in regulation. The Wild could also end up losing ground if the Predators warm up after their own swoon.
Beyond the behemoth Avalanche, the Central Division retains some leeway, and therefore chaos. Stars – Wild could push things in a wilder direction, or Minnesota could push things back towards predictability instead.
NHL Results Saturday
Islanders 2, Blues 1
Flyers 4, Blackhawks 3
Coyotes 8, Senators 5
Panthers 6, Red Wings 2
Canucks 6, Maple Leafs 4
Capitals 5, Kraken 2
Bruins 5, Blue Jackets 4 (SW)
Canadiens 5, Oilers 2
Predators 8, Sharks 0
Flames 4, Avalanche 3 (OT)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.