Please Like My Sport: Plight of the Leafs, Halloween and other reasons to be excited about the NHL
Toronto fans should probably just skip this week
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 here is to deliver reasons for you to appreciate the NHL right now.
Here are some things to enjoy about hockey this week:
Maple Leafs schadenfreude
Apologies to Toronto Maple Leafs fans, but you may want to skip this section. In fact, you should probably just skip hockey altogether for the time being and we'll let you know when it's safe to come back.
After a rather interesting offseason, the Leafs have really struggled out of gate this year and things haven't gone as planned. They're still scoring quite regularly, but John Tavares got hurt, Auston Matthews isn't pulling his weight defensively, they're giving up too much in their own end and the goaltending hasn't been great.
It's led to a disappointing 6-5-3 start for Toronto and, from the outside, it seems the epicenter of hockey is growing pretty restless watching this team figure it out. Unfortunately for those frustrated fans, there's nothing that brings the league's other 30 fanbases together quite like some Maple Leafs schadenfreude, and there's been plenty to be had through the first month of the year. And not just on the ice.
You know things are not going your way when. Gary Bettman had this to say when asked about the league's current playoff format ahead of the Heritage Classic last week:
"We think the format we have works extremely well ... unless you're a Leafs fan."
That is, of course, a reference to the Leafs' inability to get out of the first round, particularly against the Bruins, who they've lost to in each of the past two postseasons. It's a good joke, even if Bettman is wrong about the playoff format working "extremely well." (We'll save that for another day).
Then there was Alex Ovechkin piling on with some harsh (but fair) criticism of the team's selfishness ahead of Tuesday's Caps-Leafs game.
I have some thoughts on that quote that you can read, but basically he's not wrong (and most Maple Leafs fans will tell you that themselves) and if anyone has a right to say it, it's Alex Ovechkin.
At least Toronto fans might be able to take some solace in the fact that the Tampa Lightning also kind of suck big time right now.
Andrei Svechnikov's lacrosse style goal
It finally happened -- we finally got a lacrosse style goal at the NHL level, and it came courtesy of a 19-year-old.
Andrei Svechnikov accomplished the feat against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday and it was wonderful.
Perhaps he was inspired by Vancouver Canucks prospect Nils Höglander, who pulled off the trick in a SHL game earlier in the day.
Andrei Vasilevskiy's heroics
It's not all that often that you get to see some legitimate buzzer-beating action in hockey but when it happens it's always worth your time. The only thing better than an incredible last-second goal at the buzzer might be an incredible last-second save at the buzzer, and Andrei Vasilevskiy delivered the goods during last week's Lightning-Penguins matchup.
With the Penguins down by one and pressuring in the final seconds, there was absolute chaos in front of the Lightning net. Vasilevskiy seemed down and out when Kris Letang fired a final shot at the net, but the Lightning goaltender somehow managed to snag it with the glove just before it crossed the goal line.
There was some thought that the puck may have actually crossed the plane while in Vasilevskiy's glove and the play went to review but, ultimately, it was ruled no goal. It's one of the best finishes to a game we've seen this season and it might be tough to find a save as clutch as that one as the season rolls along.
The outdoor game nobody knew about
You may not have been aware considering most people seemed caught off-guard, but there was an outdoor hockey game over the weekend. The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets met in Regina for this year's Heritage Classic. It wasn't particularly marketed well and the game started at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, so it wasn't exactly hard to miss.
Say what you want about outdoor games -- some people are over the "gimmick" and the sloppy product they often produce -- but there's no arguing that they're usually a pretty spectacular treat for the eyes, at least aesthetically. This one certainly was, thanks in large part to the snowfall and the incredible jersey matchup.
The Jets won the game in overtime but the Flames won the sweater battle, although it's pretty clear that both of these uniforms are significant upgrades from what these teams wear primarily. Sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the prettiness.
This is the time of year where NHL teams get together for their Halloween parties and events and deliver some wild, ridiculous and/or impressive costumes that we all get to take in. Here are some of the hits this year:
Connor McDavid embracing his inner unhappiness in Edmonton and going as the Grinch.
Scott Mayfield throwing it back to a time when "Game of Thrones" was good.
The Bruins did their annual Children's Hospital visit dressed as the characters from 'Toy Story 4.' Matt Grzelcyk, who is not trash, had the honors of Forky.
Matt and Sydney Martin nailed a timely pop culture couples costume with 'Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.'
Carey and Angela Price got me to stare at this picture for far too long trying to figure out what happened to her legs.
Gritty went as Wonder Woman, because of course.
And speaking of Gritty, Lindsey Vonn and PK Subban used their Halloween costumes to deliver a pretty funny response to the Flyers mascot's troll from a few weeks back.
Loui Eriksson's (brief) happiness
It has really been a really tough stretch for Loui Eriksson in Vancouver. The veteran forward has been healthy scratched for most of this year but he finally seemed to catch a break this week when he got back into the lineup and made things happen. His forecheck was pivotal in creating a Canucks goal during their game against the Panthers and he earned his first point of the season with an assist on Tim Schaller's tally.
Unfortunately, a stat correction later took away that assist, resetting Eriksson back down to zero and leaving him as the ONLY forward in the Canucks lineup to not record a point against the Panthers that night. Just absolutely brutal.
Quote of the week: "Sometimes you start watching 'Love Island' and you don't want to go to bed because you are like, 'Oh, what is going to happen next?' You stay up for another hour and then you're not tired anymore."
That beautiful and relatable quote came from Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois in a piece detailing a sleep study recently conducted by CBJ.
The Beautiful Game highlight of the week
If you follow me on Twitter, you might know about my "The Beautiful Game" series that highlights how dumb and chaotic hockey can often be. We've got a two-way tie this week.
The first features one of the worst NHL fights you'll ever see:
And the second sums up the Sharks' start to the season pretty well:
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