Please Like My Sport: First quarter highlights, trolling and what to be excited about in the NHL
We're a quarter of the way through the season and there's been plenty to love so far
Welcome to Please Like My Sport, the weekly column in which we find various things that can (and should) make you excited about hockey this week. Whether you're already a hockey enjoyer or someone who is looking for reasons to become one, the goal is to deliver reasons for you to appreciate the NHL right now.
Here are some things to enjoy about hockey this week:
Quarter mark stats
We've officially hit the quarter pole of this NHL season already and they say time flies when you're having fun. For us enjoyers, there's been plenty of fun to be had, and if you're the kind of person who needs statistical evidence... well, you're in luck. The NHL released some numbers on Tuesday to help illustrate how wild the opening quarter has been, so let's borrow some of the highlights to help promote the product, shall we?
- At 6.2 goals per game, this was the second-highest scoring opening quarter of a season in the last 23 years
- A whopping 44-percent of all games resulted in a comeback win of some kind, including 66 third-period comebacks and 21 multi-goal third-period comebacks (both are the most ever)
- There were 87 games that went to overtime -- the most ever through a quarter of a season
- There were 32 percent fewer coach's challenges than the opening quarter of last season
- Of the Top 20 scorers this season, 16 are under the age of 30
- An impressive 11 players are scoring at a 100-point pace, including Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl, who is currently on pace for 157 points (only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemeiux have ever hit 160)
- Four players have scored four goals in a game (Anthony Mantha, James Neal, David Pastrnak & Jack Eichel), which already matches last season's total
You can check out the full list here but, if we're being honest, all you really need to know is that hockey has been extremely fun and we are all blessed to have it in our lives. Here are some of my personal favorite highlights from the first quarter:
We've still got three quarters left to spare and it's not too late to hop on this train, baby.
Marc-Andre Fleury's outrageous save
Has Marc-Andre Fleury been the best goalie so far this NHL season? Maybe... maybe not. But has he been the most entertaining and fun to watch? Absolutely.
The Vegas Golden Knights goaltender has given us an incredible "save of the year" candidate on a near nightly basis this season. He's made incredible saves of every variety but this week brought the cream of the crop -- the best save we've seen from him all year, and possibly the best save we'll see from anyone all year.
A save that like is great no matter the situation, but this one is definitely sweeter with a little context. Not only did the incredible glove stop help the Golden Knights preserve a late lead en route to a 4-2 win over the Leafs, but it also may have ultimately put a nail in Mike Babcock's coffin. The Maple Leafs coach after Toronto's loss to Vegas -- their sixth straight.
Not only did the save break Babcock, but it also broke the scoreboard operator working the Golden Knights broadcast. Watch that highlight again and keep an eye on the score ticker after Fleury makes the save.
Coyotes' T-Swift banner
One of the dumbest storylines in the NHL this season somehow continues to have legs and remain funny, and for that I'm extremely thankful. In case you missed the news earlier in the year,after enough fans complained that the pop star was cursing the team.
The banner, which was first raised in 2015 to celebrate Swift's record number of sold out performances at the arena, has disappeared from sightlines at Kings home games, but it reappeared this week when the Kings headed to Arizona to face the Coyotes. In an outstanding bit of trolling, the Coyotes game ops department rolled out a replica of the banner and placed it right outside the Kings' locker room tunnel during their game on Monday night.
That's a very good job of messing with an opponent but, to the Kings' credit, they had a pretty wonderful response on Twitter.
For what it's worth, the banner jinx may still be on considering the Kings lost 3-0 in Arizona. However, that probably has more to do with the fact that the Kings suck than it does Taylor Swift voodoo magic.
Coyotes sign Leighton
Speaking of the Arizona Coyotes, November is Hockey Fights Cancer month and there are a number of initiatives across the NHL aimed at combatting cancer and those it has affected in and around the game. This week, the Coyotes hosted Leighton Accardo, an eight-year-old fan battling cancer.
Leighton inked a one-day contract with the 'Yotes and got to spend the day with the guys. She skated with the team during practice and pre-game warmups, then took the ceremonial opening faceoff ahead of Arizona's game against the Calgary Flames. It was all very awesome.
Big stick taps to the Coyotes for putting together this big day for Leighton, as well as delivering a 3-0 win with her in attendance. And, as always, f--- cancer.
Pat Maroon's homecoming
Anyone who watched the Blues' Stanley Cup run (and their ensuing championship celebration) last season knows that Patrick Maroon was essentially the heartbeat of that team. His game-winning goal in Game 7 against the Stars was one of the most emotional and incredible moments of the entire playoffs, and his hometown connection with St. Louis (and Laila Anderson) was pretty heartwarming.
With Maroon departing in free agency to sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he didn't get to collect his Stanley Cup ring until this week. The Blues hosted Tampa on Tuesday night and they held a special pregame ceremony for Maroon prior to puck drop. He got his ring along with a huge standing ovation from the St. Louis crowd, and it was a pretty special moment for a hometown guy who is basically now immortalized as a hero in that city regardless of what jersey he wears.
Hayley Wickenheiser gets enshrined
If you're at all familiar with my work on Twitter, you likely know how invested I get when it comes to international hockey, especially when it means I get the chance to poke and prod Canadian hockey fans about their diminishing product and raging inferiority complex.
But I'd be remiss if I didn't take a little space in this column to shout out a real one in Hayley Wickenheiser, whoearlier this week, making her the seventh woman to make it in the Hall.
For an American fan like myself, Wickenheiser was the nemesis -- a nightmare on the ice. Not only was the talent undeniable, but she was an absolute warrior and a trash-talking legend. It pains me to say it, but this is one of the most incredible cut-throat one-liners in the history of the game:
I don't have to like it but I damn sure have to respect it.
Wickenheiser played 23 years with the Canadian women's national team, leading the program to four (!) Olympic gold medals and seven world championships. She also is the national team's career points leader with 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 games. Just absurd.
A massive congratulations to one of the baddest trailblazers to ever lace 'em up.
The Flying Skate
November may be shaping up to be a dismal month for the Vancouver Canucks (2-5-2) but they finally wore the Flying Skate jerseys after announcing that they'd be coming back OVER A YEAR AGO. Luckily, it was worth the wait because these are still clean as hell.
It's rather upsetting that these aren't the Canucks' regular alternates (they're designated as more infrequent Heritage throwbacks this year) but we'll take what we can get, I suppose.
Quote of the week: "I have always bet on Mike Babcock. I'll continue to bet on him."
That quote comes from Babcock himself, two days prior to getting fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not every bet slip can cash, I suppose.
The Beautiful Game highlight of the week
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