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NHL best and worst: Matthew Tkachuk getting comfortable in Florida

Matthew Tkachuk headlines this week's edition of the NHL's best and worst, topped off by a superstar performance against his former team. (Getty Images)
Matthew Tkachuk headlines this week's edition of the NHL's best and worst, topped off by a superstar performance against his former team. (Getty Images)

Welcome to another week of the NHL’s best and worst. This week, there was a ton of action and excitement from around the league, as stars showed up and showed off, goalies flashed the leather, and the kids clutched up. Here’s everything you’ve got to catch up on with the very best of the last week of NHL action.

Goal of the week

After breaking out in a big way last season, Tage Thompson has hit another gear with the Buffalo Sabres in 2022-23. In addition to his blistering shot, Thompson has figured out how to use every square inch of his enormous 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame, and it was fully on display here. Check out this Mario Lemeiux-esque cut to the net, as the big fella made mincemeat of an elite Boston Bruins squad — while on the penalty kill no less.

Save of the week

There’s no such thing as out of position when you’re Jacob Markstrom. The reigning Vezina finalist may be off to a slow start to his season, but discount the Swedish netminder at your own risk. On this play against the Winnipeg Jets, Markstrom does the unthinkable, sprawling around and making an awesome windmill save to keep Calgary out in front early.

Star of the week: Matthew Tkachuk

The most anticipated matchup of the weekend, Tkachuk faced his former team riding a bit of a heater with five points in two games already during the week. Add in a pair of points on Saturday against the Calgary Flames, including this point to force OT, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a week worthy of top player honours. Unfortunately for the league’s preeminent rat, his old squad would ultimately get the best of his Panthers, as Rasmus Andersson’s shootout winner gave the Flames round one of the Tkachuk Bowl.

Hands of the week

Back in September, Sheldon Keefe and the Maple Leafs floated the idea of putting Mitch Marner out on defence during late-game situations, which caught the curious eye of the hockey world. Now, about two months later, it’s safe to say that there’s been an adjustment period for the Maple Leafs winger. In his latest blue-line escapades, we saw Nico Hischer take the Thornhill, Ont., native for a walk like a puppy on a leash, in what was almost the goal of the season. The always hilarious @Jfreshhockey on Twitter perhaps put it best.

Most wholesome moment

As the old saying goes: if a picture paints a thousand words, then a video is worth about a million. Check out this heartwarming exchange between two former Toronto Maple Leafs teammates, Mark Kirton and Börje Salming, both of whom are currently battling ALS. Truly no words.

Worst of the week

Oh no. Connor Hellebuyck, you were trying to do the right thing here, but what in tarnation happened? This play by the Jets netminder definitely did not go the way he envisioned it, as the lumbering keeper proceeded to hand the puck right off to a barrelling Sidney Crosby, who let Bryan Rust deposit this one into a yawning cage. Perhaps it’s best if Hellebuyck lets his defenseman go back and retrieve the puck next time, for his own sake.

Hit of the week

St. Louis Blues forward Noel Acciari laid the absolute boom here on John Klingberg in an absolute bone crushing hit here. No notes Acciari, this one was a clean, excellent hit that left Klingberg on his wallet wondering what kind of wall he just ran into. Extra points as well to Acciari given the fact that his 5-foot-10 stature is a full five inches shorter than Klingberg. Sometimes, you just line ‘em up right.

Called it!

Everybody knows Kevin Weekes and his news-breaking antics, but in addition to being able to tell you what NHL transactions are going to be made, it looks like Weekes has figured out the art of future telling as well. Here, the NHL Network’s premier insider called his shot during the Montreal Canadiens vs. Columbus Blue Jackets game on Thursday after Nick Suzuki tucked his 11th goal of the season.

Elite hand-eye

The Boston Bruins are an absolute wagon right now, boasting a pristine 16-2-0 record with six straight wins and just one loss in their last 10. Their +38 goal differential is tops in the league by a country mile, and they are torching every team that dares step onto the ice with them. To say things are going well in Beantown would be an understatement. As for what’s behind this wicked hot stretch, the Bruins chemistry is off the charts, best demonstrated by this outstanding passing play that all starts with some exceptional hand-eye coordination from the club's perfection line.

Old school Optimus

While the San Jose Sharks continue to slowly slink down the standings, one part of their season that has gone better than expected has been between the pipes. Despite the team in front of him, James Reimer has looked mighty sharp, boasting a respectable .906 save percentage on the year despite sitting near the NHL’s basement. This stone-cold save is one of his best this season, as he does all he can to keep San Jose in striking distance late in their Saturday night tilt with the New York Rangers.

Quote of the week

Torts, please, never change. John Tortorella remains the absolute class of the league when it comes to quotability, and this interview during the Philadelphia Flyers game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was no exception. Asked what his team needed to do, the former Jack Adams winner was quite direct in what he thought needed to change for his Flyers. As a bonus, check out the end of the clip and the vicious headset tear-off, which almost sent his spectacles flying.

Clutch Caufield

With time ticking down and the Canadiens needing a goal, who else but Cole Caufield to save the day and force overtime at the Bell Centre. This clutch tally with just 1.9 seconds blew the lid off the building and ultimately helped the Bleu Blanc Rouge snatch victory from the jaws of defeat after a slick shootout winner from Nick Suzuki gave them the 5-4 win.

Markstrom gets caught

Jacob Markstrom giveth, Jacob Markstrom taketh away. Or, rather, Jacob Markstrom giveth away this puck to the Florida Panthers who promptly buried it to slash the Flames lead in half. Not what you’re looking for when you’re a sub .900 goaltender over a month into the season trying to get on the right track.

Can’t stop McDavid

The weekly best and worst could probably include a McDavid goal every week if we’re being honest. However, in fairness to the rest of the NHL, we’ll try to save it for when there’s some real McMagic in the air. This Saturday night overtime winner to best the juggernaut Vegas Golden Knights definitely falls under that category, as McDavid bobs and weaves during the 3-on-3 overtime to quickly dispatch the Pacific Division’s top team with a beauty.

Starstruck

As Ryan Reynolds continues to swirl around the mix of potential suitors looking to purchase the Ottawa Senators, the Hollywood star has made his way around the Canadian Tire Centre, presumably looking to get a feel for his potential new team’s barn. With the Deadpool actor rummaging around the building, it sounds like Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was a little star-struck when he got to meet the Vancouver, B.C., native.

Milestones

Phil Kessel continued to etch his name throughout hockey's history books this week when he played in his 1000th consecutive NHL game, becoming the first ever player to do so. In addition, as a nice surprise, his Golden Knights pitched in for this doozy of a jacket to mark the special occasion.

Pass happy

Alex Kerfoot’s tenure in Toronto has been divisive at times, as the 28-year-old has moved up and down the lineup looking for a happy home with some chemistry. While he’s in the Maple Leafs top-six at the moment, the former Harvard product probably could’ve used some more of that Ivy League brain on this play, as he passed up a gorgeous opportunity to feed a decidedly less dangerously placed John Tavares. On the bright side, at least he knows his role as his line’s third wheel.

Hi Mom!

With the St. Louis Blues on their mom’s trip, Bonnie O'Reilly saw an opportunity and took it while her son was interviewed postgame last Wednesday following the Blues win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Making her way down to the bench during Ryan's chat with Darren Pang, her enthusiasm is infectious in what is easily a top-five postgame interview we’ve ever seen.

Trending up: New Jersey Devils

Winners of an astonishing 12 straight, the New Jersey Devils are on some kind of heater and look like a different beast. Headed by the dynamic Triple-H crew of Jack Hughes, Nico Hischer, and Dougie Hamilton, the piping hot Devils have gone from playoff bubble team to Stanley Cup contender in about a month, and for good reason. The club’s blistering 63 percent expected goals percentage sits tops in the entire NHL by quite a margin, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Not to mention, it looks like the fans in New Jersey are learning some manners in the process.

Trending down: Buffalo Sabres

With their 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, the Sabres losing streak has now stretched to a brutal eight games, during which they’ve allowed four or more goals in all but one defeat. Combined with the six feet of snow that just dropped on Western New York, things could not possibly be worse for Sabres fans right now. The club’s solid start to the season has been erased in the blink of an eye, as they now stare down another season of praying for lottery luck. Not ideal, to say the least.

See a highlight worthy of the spotlight? Tag @JNeginShecter on Twitter using the hashtag #BestAndWorst and it may be featured in the following week's edition of NHL Best and Worst.

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