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NHL Rink Wrap: Violent (and biting) Saturday of hockey; Canadiens changes

NHL Rink Wrap: Violent (and biting) Saturday of hockey; Canadiens changes

Top players from Saturday in the NHL

Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche

Scroll down just a bit, and you’ll see how Predators - Avs figured into a violent Saturday in the NHL.

Let’s focus on Rantanen’s strong performance first, though. The 25-year-old collected a hat trick and also an assist, pushing his season points total to 18 (10 goals, eight assists in 15 GP).

No/less Nathan MacKinnon won’t help, but Rantanen has a chance to blow away his career-high of 31 goals from 2018-19. In a way, such a prediction feels like cheating. Rantanen scored 30 goals (and 66 points) last season, which is even more impressive since he managed to do so in just 52 games.

My feeling is that these COVID-compromised seasons keep the Rantanens of the world from making the season impression that they normally would. Casual fans might not register just how impressive those 30 goals were in a mere 52 games. Maybe Rantanen can stay healthy after missing three games and put up the sort of stats that make his star power undeniable?

(That might be the plus side of MacKinnon missing some time. You can’t just say it’s all MacKinnon.)

Highlights from the NHL on Saturday

A violent night

It almost feels like there’s something in the air this weekend. That thing appears to be: anger (and not much self control?).

Scroll on for the Brendan Lemieux - Brady Tkachuk biting spectacle. Click here for the quotes and more insight. There were other notable moments, and some were violent.

Milan Lucic received a five-minute boarding major for a dangerous hit on Neal Pionk. The Jets weren’t able to capitalize on that major power-play opportunity. Ultimately, Winnipeg broke its five-game losing streak nonetheless.

In what was already a skirmish, Gabriel Landeskog bloodied Mattias Ekholm, who didn’t appear totally ready for a fight:

Obviously, Landeskog was alarmed by Mikko Rantanen’s helmet being removed. But ... you have to think that will draw scrutiny. For what it’s worth, Landeskog received his fourth career suspension for boarding Kirby Dach earlier this season.

Could be a busy weekend for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Highlights with less carnage

Overall, times are clearly not great for the Canadiens. That said, they beat the Penguins on Saturday, and Jake Allen made this marvellous save:

Add this to Lucas Raymond’s impressive Calder Trophy resume.

Hold the phone, someone won a stick battle with Mark Stone? Kinda -- either way, impressive goal by Zach Hyman.

Here’s footage of that Mikko Rantanen hat trick.

Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Two Islanders games postponed

Click here for the lowdown on two Islanders games being postponed due to COVID.

Gorton, Mellanby, headline what might just be part of Canadiens’ changes

While the biggest moves look to be determined, we’re already seeing signs of change for the Montreal Canadiens.

On Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman summarized some of the potential Canadiens changes -- while acknowledging that key figures haven’t addressed them officially.

  • Scott Mellanby, described as a key Marc Bergevin advisor and Canadiens assistant GM since 2014, resigned. Mellanby resigned, in part, because he was told he wouldn’t become Canadiens GM. One additional detail is that Bergevin might have learned of Mellanby “the same time as everyone else.”
  • The Canadiens reportedly received permission to talk to former Rangers GM Jeff Gorton. Crucially, Friedman notes that the Habs aren’t interviewing Gorton for the GM role specifically. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels recently opined that hiring a president of hockey operations is a “logical first step” in Canadiens’ front office changes.
  • Jeff Marek followed up that Patrick Roy hasn’t (yet?) been called about possibly being part of changes.

In addition to Friedman and Marek, TSN’s Chris Johnston added some possible insight into the Canadiens’ process. Specifically, Johnston notes that the Canadiens are likely to seek a “French GM” when it’s time to replace Marc Bergevin.

After hearing that, plenty criticized the Canadiens on social media. But maybe there’s a key tweak that could flip what would seem like a limited search to a fairly wide-ranging one?

Again, the biggest Canadiens’ changes are most likely still to come. These are already significant turns, however, and it looks messy already.

Perhaps not enough leftovers for Brendan Lemieux?

When does Brendan Lemieux celebrate Thanksgiving? Does he go by the Canadian October holiday, being that he’s Claude Lemieux’s son? Or does he go the American way, being that Brendan Lemieux was born in Colorado, and plays for the Los Angeles Kings?

Perhaps the answer is “neither.” That certainly seemed like a more logical answer after Saturday’s NHL action.

In a truly odd spectacle, Brady Tkachuk accused Brendan Lemieux of biting him. Read more about that, and the Senators also waiving Matt Murray on Saturday, in this post. If not, just gape in awe at this strange hockey event:

[UPDATE: Lemieux will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.]

So much for Artemi Panarin displaying the strangest bit of hockey anger this week when he chucked a glove at Brad Marchand.

Some history for Joe Thornton, but Panthers miss breaking a tie

It’s not just Alex Ovechkin who’s making history this weekend. With an assist on the Panthers’ only goal (by Patric Hornqvist), Joe Thornton reached 1,532 points for his career. By reaching 1,532 points, Joe Thornton broke a tie with Paul Coffey for 13th all-time in NHL history.

Jumbo Joe isn’t so far from 12th, either. Mark Recchi currently ranks 12th with 1,533 points. While 12th is in reach, 11th is further away. Ray Bourque’s 1,579 points rank 11th all-time.

(Only 14 players [Coffey now ranked 14th] have reached 1,500+ points. At 15th, Stan Mikita generated 1,467 points. Beyond Joe Thornton, Alex Ovechkin is the leading active scorer with 1,356 points [26th all-time].)

Speaking of history, the Panthers entered Saturday’s games having opened the season with 11 straight home wins, tied for the most in NHL history. They didn’t manage to break that tie, as the Kraken won 4-1.

(Also speaking of history: yes, indeed, it’s still a little odd that Joe Thornton is a Panther.)

Sunday’s big story

Sunday afternoon NHL showdowns (Capitals - Hurricanes, Lightning - Wild)

If you can’t watch the NHL all day on Sunday (lame!), you might want to make time for the “matinee games.”

At 1 p.m. ET, the hot Capitals travel to Carolina to face the even-hotter Hurricanes. Then there’s Lightning at Wild at 2 p.m. ET. (Can someone bribe these teams to synchronize pre-game ceremonies just right to maximize how much people can watch both games? No? OK.)

Getting to see the loaded Hurricanes try to slow down Alex Ovechkin (ageless wonder enjoying a season for the ages) should be a real treat.

And, even without some of their best players, the Lightning just keep getting it done. That said, even the repeat champs won’t have it easy against a confident Kirill Kaprizov (two four-point games in his last five contests [11 points in five GP overall]).

With games like Maple Leafs - Ducks, Sunday’s full of quality NHL games. Those early contests look especially spicy, though.

(Plus, who knows if you’ll have some more Montreal Canadiens news to chew on early in the day? Potential Canadiens changes rank as the biggest off-ice Sunday NHL story ... you know, unless the Canucks want to steal some headlines.)

Saturday’s NHL scores

Canadiens 6, Penguins 3
Red Wings 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
Kings 4, Senators 2
Oilers 3, Golden Knights 2
Kraken 4, Panthers 1
Jets 4, Flames 2
Avalanche 6, Predators 2
Blues 6, Blue Jackets 3
Stars 3, Coyotes 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.