NHL Wins and Sins: Midseason arguments, Erik Karlsson, Elias Pettersson's injury and the return of the glow puck
What's right and wrong in the NHL this week
It's time for our weekly installment highlighting what's right and what's wrong with the NHL during every week throughout the season. For all the things there are to love about the NHL and its product, there's also plenty to hate and plenty to criticize.
With that in mind, let's hash it out together ... right here ... every single Wednesday.
What's right: Midseason argument season
We have officially hit the midway point of the NHL season and that can only mean one thing, baby...it's time to argue. (Well, if you live on Hockey Twitter like I do, you know that it's always time to argue. We just happen to have very specific things to argue about now.)
This time of year always brings debates regarding All-Star selections and midseason awards races; this year is no different. There were plenty of takes to go around last week when the league announced its All-Star rosters (you can read some of mine) but obviously the thing people love to talk about most are snubs. The snubs were particularly inevitable this year thanks to an overload of thriving talent around the league, as well as the league's current All-Star roster format.
With 12 spots per division and the NHL mandating that each team have at least one representative, there's certainly potential for things to get a little dicey in terms of selections -- and it was especially predictable for the Atlantic division this time around. There were only six forward spots for a division that includes Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Aleksander Barkov, Dylan Larkin, Mark Stone, etc.
See what I mean? It was always going to be a disaster.
In any case, it's always kind of funny to see how many fans get worked up over All-Star noms, especially considering how many of those fans also love to complain that the All-Star Game is a joke, means nothing, isn't worth watching, etc. What a bunch of babies. That'd be like saying that the Golden Globes are meaningless only to slip into a blackout rage when "Bohemian Rhapsody" wins Best Drama. Couldn't be me.
Between snubs and a few very tight awards races (yep, some thoughts on thoseas well) there's plenty of stuff for hockey fans to be upset about already in 2019. Let's get shouting.
What's wrong: Philadelphia Flyers goaltending
Remember that Cleveland Browns fan who had the hilariously sad jersey featuring the names of all the failed quarterbacks that came through the Dawg Pound since the turn of the century?
Well, that fan is probably pretty happy knowing Baker Mayfield should be the last name on the list for quite a while, but I'd like to think that somewhere there's a Philadelphia Flyers fan out there that is working on a similar jersey featuring the names of all the goaltenders that the Flyers have gone through over the past handful of years.
Hell, even a jersey featuring the names of the goalies the Flyers have gone through this year alone would be hilariously long.
Mike McKenna became the seventh netminder that has suited up and played a game for the Flyers this season, making them only the fourth team in NHL history (over 100 years!) to use that many goalies in one season. My dudes and dudettes, we're barely into January. Game 43 for the Flyers. Seven goalies.
Of course, Flyers fans are hoping that Carter Hart can be their Baker Mayfield -- the long term solution to a revolving door of misery. The 20-year-old Hart has been pretty solid (.909 SV%, 2.68 GAA) in the seven games he's played for Philly so far this year, so there's still hope.
I mean, it's about time that Philadelphia got some good luck between the posts, right?
What's right: Erik Karlsson
Remember the beginning of the year when people were saying that Karlsson wasn't playing well in San Jose? That was never really true, even if his numbers were a bit understated by his own standards.
A look at the numbers would tell you that Karlsson has been the Sharks' top possession driver through the first half. He helped San Jose go from middle-of-the-pack offensively last season to among the league's top five offenses this season, and their power play unit has also made a jump into the top ten as well. That's not a coincidence.
But don't look now because he's also starting to light up the stats sheet of late.
Karlsson is currently working on a 14-game point streak, during which he's tallied 26 points (1-25). Over his last seven games, he's had six muliti-point showings -- including two three-point nights and a four-point night. Seems not bad, if we're being honest.
He's third on the Sharks in points right now despite shooting a career-worst 2 percent and being on pace for his worst goal-scoring season since his rookie year in 2009-10. It seems fair to anticipate that that percentage will rise in the second half, and considering Karlsson has the third-most shots on the Sharks' roster, he's probably going to start putting the puck in the net more soon.
What's wrong: Elias Pettersson injured again
It was certainly an up-and-down week for the young Canucks phenom, who scored his first NHL hat trick but then was injured a few days later.
That injury came as result of getting awkwardly tangled up with Montreal's Jesperi Kotkaniemi last Thursday. The 20-year-old Vancouver star, who is leading the Calder race in a landslide right now, clutched at his knee and it looked like he may have suffered a potentially devastating injury. It would have been more than fair to be sent into hysterics over the thought of Pettersson suffering an ACL or MCL tear, as he's been one of the most exciting and fun players to watch across the league in his first season.
Luckily, the damage was somewhat limited, as Pettersson suffered only a MCL sprain. He'll still been sent to the IR by the Canucks and will miss a week or two -- and a week or two without Pettersson is a bad week or two -- but it's certainly better than the alternative.
Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, including Kotkaniemi, who was heavily dumped on by emotional fans angry at the result of the play. But for what it's worth, Pettersson didn't think it was a dirty play.
"He hooked my leg a little bit – I was going to reverse him or stop him – and it was an accident," Pettersson told Sportsnet. "We got tangled up, we both fell down and I got in an awkward position. It wasn't a dirty play or anything. He apologized afterwards, which shows good sportsmanship from him. So it was really just unlucky for me and it's nothing too serious."
Bless that sweet angel child.
What's right: Return of the glow puck
[extremely dumb meme voice] "Only '90s kids will remember this one!"
The infamous "glow puck" feature made a stunning return to the NHL over the weekend when the Fox Sports West used it for replays during their special "'90s Night" telecast of a Los Angeles Kings game on Saturday night.
If you weren't around for the glow puck era, here's an explainer from Wikipedia:
"FoxTrax, also referred to as the glowing puck, is an augmented reality system that was used by Fox Sports' telecasts of the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1996 to 1998. The system was intended to help television viewers visually follow a hockey puck on the ice, especially near the bottom of the rink where the traditional center ice camera was unable to see it due to the sideboards obstructing the puck's location. The system used modified hockey pucks containing shock sensors and infrared emitters, which were then read by sensors and computer systems to generate on-screen graphics, such as a blue "glow" around the puck, and other enhancements such as trails to indicate the hardness and speed of shots."
A lot of people absolutely hated the feature because they felt it was distracting gimmick, which is why it had such short shelf life. But time heals all wounds and, in the decades since its retirement, the glow puck has seemingly become a celebrated relic from a simpler time.
At the very least, its comeback made checking out Kings-Oilers highlights worthwhile, which is really saying something these days.
Now the obvious question becomes whether the glow puck should or will have a more regular place in today's game? Maybe it's not totally necessary for today's HDTV world, but it actually looked pretty clean and crisp on the Kings' broadcast and it seems like it might be a feature that can help newer fans follow and get acclimated to the speed of the game.
Even if it's used very sparingly during broadcasts (replays and intermission reports) it seems like it actually could be beneficial and welcome if utilized properly. I, for one, welcome the return of the almighty glow puck.
I also welcome more of Thomas Middleditch pretending to be old school Canadian hockey broadcasters.
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