Twas the night before Thanksgiving and the hockey was good
A smattering of thoughts from a fun night flipping from game to game.
For me, Thanksgiving Eve was spent on the couch at my parent’s house with family and flipping between hockey games.
And because it’s hard for me to take a night off, I started taking notes and eventually started writing things down in the process.
The following is a random collection of notes/ideas/observations while flipping from game-to-game.
Stars-Golden Knights lives up to the hype
It feels like the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights are on a Western Conference Final collision course.
The teams met in the 2023 playoffs and if not for an ill-advised penalty by Jamie Benn it could have been a classic seven-game series.
This season they’ve already met twice, with Vegas winning the first meeting in a shootout and on Wednesday overtime determining a 2-1 victory the Golden Knights on a highlight-reel play by Jack Eichel.
For both teams, everything this season is about building for the spring. The regular season only matters as a testing ground and building block for the playoffs. One of the teams will reach the Stanley Cup Final, the other will consider this season a failure.
From a Dallas perspective, this was the final game of a week full of a measuring sticks.
The Stars struggled against the Colorado Avalanche, but smashed the New York Rangers. By responding to an early power-play goal against Vegas and controlling the flow of play, win or lose, the Stars impressed with their overall play.
Yes, Vegas won in overtime, but everything about Stars-Golden Knights feels like a building block toward a series in late May.
Shap Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Alex Lyon gets a deserved shutout
On Tuesday morning I had a lengthy chat after practice to catch up with Detroit Red Wings goalie Alex Lyon.
Lyon watched Detroit’s first 16 games a the third-string goalie before getting his first start last week in Sweden. He played well, deserved a better fate, but lost 3-2 in that game to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Red Wings rewarded him with the start on Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils and he delivered his second career shutout.
Lyon only had to make 16 saves in the victory. The Devils only had six high-danger chances according to Natural Stat Trick, and it was a pretty convincing victory for Detroit.
Lyon’s mentality is important. It’s the reason he’s able to step into difficult situations and play well even after sitting out for weeks.
Whether by causation or coincidence, with Lyon in net the Red Wings scored thrice in the first period for the first time this season.
Lucas Raymond, who I wrote about this morning, created another goal where he turned defense into offense.
It reminds me of this quote from Raymond.
“I think you learn quickly in this league that playing defense leads to more offense. Spending less time in the D-zone, playing more offense. When you do the work, you end up with the puck more.”
Pretty big win for the Red Wings, who needed a bounce back after letting opportunity slip away on their trip to Sweden.
The Oilers are a mess
You know this already.
Despite having two of the top players in the world, the Edmonton Oilers are falling apart and after waving their $5 million goalie and firing their coach, they have continued to struggle.
On Wednesday they lost to 6-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes, in warmups Darnell Nurse took a puck to the face and Stuart Skinner wiped out before he was later pulled in the start.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, you know the line about the playoffs and how this holiday determines where a team finishes in April, and after the loss in Carolina the Oilers are eight points out a playoff spot.
That’s a huge gap for Edmonton to cover, and aside from trading for a goalie, I’m not sure what else can be done.
Some college hockey and draft thoughts
As a nice precursor to the NHL slate, Boston University and Quinnipiac met in a top-five college hockey matchup that aired on ESPN+.
Boston University won 3-2.
Earlier this month in EP Rinkside's college hockey power rankings, I had BU ranked No. 9 and Quinnipiac ranked No. 6.
In that ranking, which published Nov. 14, I wasn’t sold on Quinnipiac as a top-five team. Yes, they won the national title last season, but I had a hard time with the internal bar I set for power rankings that essentially asks, “which team would win a best-of-three series?”
Even with the loss to Boston University on Wednesday, I was impressed by Quinnipiac. I’ll probably have them higher on my respective ballot when we do our December power rankings.
It’s also impossible to watch BU without focusing on Macklin Celebrini, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.
Celebrini was held off the scoresheet by Quinnipiac, but his overall impact is evident in how other teams shade to him in the offensive zone and he still creates chances. He nearly scored on the power play, but was denied on a sharp glove save.
I personally don’t do draft rankings, it’s not fair since I’ll never get a proper read on the European-based prospects. But, I can give a list of the prospects I’ve seen in person over the past 12 months that I would be high on for the 2024 NHL Draft.
Right now, it would be as follows….
Macklin Celebrini, Boston University
Cole Eiserman, USA NTDP
Artyom Levshunov, Michigan State
Zayne Parekh, Saginaw Spirit
Liam Greentree, Windsor Spitfires
Again, this isn’t a top-five for the draft, it’s just a list of players I’ve seen in person that I think will have successful NHL futures.
I’m still taking questions for the Friday Funbag, you can respond to this email or comment on this post to get involved in that. Also, I’ve got a story coming tomorrow morning on the Stars skating coach that I think you’ll enjoy.