It's the first edition of What's Up, What's Down, which is yet another effort in sports journalism to deliver information through a simple and easily understandable medium. Here we look at the players, teams and things building toward something, and the players, teams, and things accomplishing squat.
Up: Shesterkin states his intention
Eyebrows were raised when the New York Rangers started Alexandar Georgiev in favour of Igor Shesterkin on opening night versus the Washington Capitals. It turns out it was more of a galaxy-brain situation for the debuting Gerard Gallant, who was trying to optimize his lineups with a back-to-back on the road to start the season, than an indictment on the team's best netminder. At least so it seems now.
Shesterkin has been sensational since that odd Georgiev start, helping New York capture five points from its last three games with a .949 save rate to begin the season. His performance Monday night versus the Maple Leafs was the stuff of legends, or at least the sort of thing that could help keep him top of mind when year-end awards are being decided. His 40-save performance through regulation and overtime, which featured 26 saves on slot shots alone, was one of the best single-game performances from a goaltender we'll see all season.
It also led to this incredible moment involving the last great Rangers netminder.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) October 19, 2021
Shesterkin has expectations to fulfill after signing a new multi-year contract worth almost $6 million in the offseason, and he looks intent on doing just that.
There's something about early-season overtime, isn't there?
As brilliant as Shesterkin was in Monday's thriller between the Rangers and Maple Leafs, he played only a supporting role in the most electrifying sequence in the game, which was the no-holds-barred overtime frame between the two teams.
This might have been the best few minutes of hockey at Scotiabank Arena (or, then, Air Canada Centre) since Nathan MacKinnon led Team North America over Sweden at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. It's worth all two minutes and 44 seconds.
— Liam McHugh (@liam_mchugh) October 19, 2021
As an aside, Sam Rosen forever.
Down: No dress-code dress codes
Auston Matthews is, all of a sudden, three years away from unrestricted free agency. Which means if he comes into the office with an idea, it's on the Toronto Maple Leafs to listen, and listen intently. His latest, we're led to believe, is that the Leafs shouldn't have to wear suits to games and instead have the freedom to express themselves through clothing. There are many around the league who would love this change, presumably including quite a few Leafs. But for others, it presents a problem most have while preparing to attend an event, date, or job interview:
How casual is too casual?
Is this too dressy?
These common-man and common-woman dilemmas seemed to be particularly impactful for John Tavares, whose mind had to have been in a pretzel when coming up with the idea of his "happy medium" between business and casual being an untucked a dress shirt under a suit jacket with jeans.
The result was *extremely* John Tavares.
john tavares said “relaxed dress code? let me just untuck this shirt real quick, oh boy do I feel casual” pic.twitter.com/49n5EIjoth
— liz 🦇 (@yanoforsure) October 18, 2021
Sportsnet did not offer much of a glimpse into the attires on the broadcast, which likely means it was a whole bunch of Maple Leafs track suits and golf shirts. But shout out to Jason Spezza for keeping things classy with one of his many high-end suits.
I guess he's not opening a Dolce & Gabbana consignment shop on Ossington any time soon.
For the record, Spezza still wore a suit, so. pic.twitter.com/wG0W21A6A0
— alberto (@twistedleafs) October 19, 2021
Up: Early 2010s vibes
The NHL's weekly three stars isn't exactly the most prestigious honour going, but the first somewhat arbitrary, mostly meaningless plaudits that dropped into the inboxes of NHL reporters and into the Twitter timelines of fans to start the season did trigger something: some nostalgia from, say, a decade ago.
In a league ran by new, hot, game-breaking talent, it was Anze Kopitar, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos highlighted for their impressive starts to the season, being named the league's first, second, and third stars, respectively, with a combined 10 goals and 19 points through the NHL's opening week.
While all three remain productive today, they were at the peak of their powers and in a class above in the early-to-mid 2010s. In a span five seasons between 2010 and 2015 alone, the trio combined for 511 goals, 1048 points, four Rocket Richard trophies, and two Stanley Cups.
Anze Kopitar (@LAKings), Alex Ovechkin (@Capitals) and Steven Stamkos (@TBLightning) have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Oct. 17.#NHLStats: https://t.co/vcgYYIVFLU pic.twitter.com/3k9IriOdzj
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 18, 2021
What's old is new again, it seems.
Down: The concept of Seattle being a strong defensive team
"Hey, at least they will keep things respectable" was the common refrain around the Seattle Kraken, as fans and media alike carefully approached the topic after being burned by the Vegas Golden Knights five years ago. But the one expectation we did have, which was that Seattle would hold its own defensively, has not yet come to pass. The numbers aren't atrocious overall, but the Kraken do lead the NHL with eight high-danger goals against in four games, which means the defensive lapses have been both frequent and costly.
To be fair, these issues should be the expectation out of an expansion team, even with a strong back line on paper and Vezina Trophy nominee from last season.
Damn you, Vegas!
Up: Stick toss celebrations
There was a time when throwing a stick in the stands was dangerous, while miming it was a cardinal sin. (Mats and Daniel, hello). Nowadays, it will have you featured on every promo cut by the NHL's three major broadcasting partners — or at least it should. Jack Hughes's celebration after scoring in overtime in the New Jersey Devils' opening-night victory is almost a week old now, but it was too good to not be featured on this column.
It was one of the coolest spur-of-the-moment things we've seen in a long time, and another example of this next wave of talent doing things differently. You have to have some confidence and some flash to pull off a stunt like this — and Hughes has those things in spades.
Jack Hughes OT winner. What a goal. pic.twitter.com/FghGsrL9uj
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 16, 2021
Look for the former No. 1 pick to break out this season. Not because of the stick toss, but a bit because of the stick toss.
Down: Evander Kane
I mean, imagine thinking you could out-fox the National Hockey League with an allegedly fake vaccination record.
Evander Kane has real problems, things that need to be addressed at a professional level. He's an athlete who clearly requires help, and I hope he gets it. But this latest issue, which earned him a 21-game ban from the league for violating COVID-19 protocols, is different in that it's laughable.
While clearly not as serious as his other issues (even though it could have put people's health and well-being at risk), it's likely going to be his ticket out of the league. Why wouldn't the San Jose Sharks as an organization, which is surely sick of employing him, not use this situation to end this relationship at last?
Up: Break up the Buffalo Sabres
No, not literally. (Though Jack Eichel should have been traded five times by now. C'mon guys).
Take the opportunities when they present themselves, I have been told. And we may never have another chance to bestow praise on the organization, so shoutout, Buffalo, for the 2-0 start. Four power-play goals in two games, an expected goals against per 60 minutes at even strength under one. That, my friends, is a recipe for success.
Up: McDavid, the sniper
Have we ever seen a puck jump off the stick of Connor McDavid with ease quite like this?
— Dyl (@dhockey13) October 17, 2021
The world's best player continues to do what the very best always seem to do, which is to add to their skillsets when time permits. Returning from the summer months with a better shot makes McDavid an even more terrifying proposition to defend.
The goal featured above, which was part of an early-season hat-trick, illustrates just that.
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