What we learned from the last week of play in the NHL:
Reports of Dave Hakstol’s demise were premature… but true
A day after the South Jersey Courier Post reported the Philadelphia Flyers had fired coach Dave Hakstol and replaced him with Joel Quenneville, the Flyers fired Hakstol — but didn’t replace him with three-time Stanley Cup winner Quenneville. Hakstol was dismissed Monday but his successor will be Scott Gordon, who was coaching the Flyers’ American Hockey League farm team. Chuck Fletcher, who replaced Ron Hextall as general manager a few weeks ago, said he expects Gordon to coach the rest of this season.
Quenneville is earning about $6 million to not coach the Chicago Blackhawks while he tailgates and vacations, which isn’t a bad situation. Also of note, the goaltending-challenged Flyers promoted their goalie of the future, 20-year-old Carter Hart. Here’s hoping he has better luck than their previous goalies of the future.
Alex Ovechkin doesn’t have a Stanley Cup hangover
He partied hard after the Washington Capitals became champions in June — his keg stands were the stuff of legend — but Ovechkin has avoided the usual post-Cup letdown. His game-tying goal against Buffalo on Saturday was his league-leading 29th and extended his goal-scoring streak to six games, including back-to-back hat tricks against Detroit and Carolina. It also stretched his point streak to a career-best 14 games. Then he scored the deciding goal in the shootout as the Capitals won their fifth straight game and eighth in 10.
Ovechkin, 33, is closing in on his 14th consecutive season of scoring 30 goals or more. The record for consecutive seasons scoring 30 or more goals is 15, shared by Mike Gartner and Jaromir Jagr. Ovechkin, who has 17 goals and 23 points during his streak, “came back after winning the Stanley Cup and he was ready to go from Day 1 and he hasn’t stopped since,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden told reporters last week. No argument there.
Bargain find playing key role for Oilers
Edmonton center Connor McDavid is earning $12.5 million this season. His right wing, Leon Draisaitl, is earning $8.5 million. The third member of the trio, Alex Chiasson, checks in at $650,000 and has become one of the league’s feel-good stories. Chiasson came to the Oilers’ training camp on a professional tryout and beat out a number of their top prospects to win a regular job, his fifth NHL stop. He has scored a career-best 15 goals, a rare example of getting more than you pay for.
The Flames are, um, hot
Calgary’s 7-2 rout of St. Louis on Sunday gave the Flames a three-game winning streak and a 12-2-1 record over the past month. The Flames have scored at least seven goals in a game four times this season, tying them with Tampa Bay for the most seven-goal performances. Defenseman Mark Giordano scored a goal for a third straight game, gaining a share of the top scoring total among defensemen with 35 points through Sunday’s action. Goalie David Rittich played back-to-back games for the first time in his career and won both while Mike Smith recovered from what coach Bill Peters described as “general soreness.” Goaltending loomed as the Flames’ biggest vulnerability but Rittich (11-3-1, .925 save percentage, 2.21 goals-against average) has made it a strong point.
Youth will be served
According to the NHL, through Sunday’s games 668 of the 3,148 goals scored this season (excluding shootout winners) were scored by players 22 years old or younger. That’s 21.2%. The last season with a higher percentage was 1987-88, when players 22 or younger scored 1,607 of 6,237 goals (25.8%). This season’s rookie scoring leader, 20-year-old Elias Pettersson of Vancouver, has 17 goals and 35 points in 30 games and is riding a seven-game point streak.
Hold that gossip
The holiday roster freeze will provide blessed relief from recent trade rumors, many of which have mentioned Kings center Jeff Carter, Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds and St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo as being on the trading block. The freeze will begin midnight local time on Wednesday and will last through midnight local time on Dec. 27 with respect to waivers, trades and loans. The holiday break will begin on Dec. 24 and will last through Dec. 26.