Feeling out of the loop on the week that was in the NHL? Here's a cheat sheet of five things you need to know from across the league this past week.
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Blue Jackets working towards NHL history
The Blue Jackets' stunning, magical run has no end in sight at this point. Columbus has won 16 consecutive games, which means that they have a chance to tie the longest single-season winning streak in NHL history this Thursday with a win over the Capitals.
If they extend the streak to 17 straight, they'll match the Penguins' run from the 1992-93 season.
That Penguins team, which won the Presidents' Trophy that season, was stockpiled with top-tier talent. The same can't exactly be said for this young Columbus team ... at least not yet.
But while the Jackets may not take home the Presidents' Trophy this year, they're putting themselves in great position to make a run at it, and will most likely be a playoff team at season's end. By then, they could own a piece of NHL history.
Not bad for a club that many projected to finish as a lottery team this year.
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An outdoor twofer
Typically, the NHL celebrates every change of the calendar year with an outdoor game in the Winter Classic. This year, however, fans got two.
The Centennial Classic took the New Year's Day slot typically reserved for the Winter Classic, while the latter was bumped to Jan. 2.
And while the Centennial Classic, which kicked off the 100th year celebration of the NHL, seemed to have the less intriguing matchup — Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings — it ended up being the superior game.
(This, despite the fact that it became the second outdoor game this year that was delayed by the sun. A century of existence and the league still forgets about that giant ball of fire in the sky.)
The Red Wings mounted a stunning comeback and tied the game with just one second remaining in regulation, but ultimately fell to the Leafs, who were carried to glory by their rookie savior Auston Matthews and his two goals.
The Winter Classic, which featured the Blues hosting (who else?!) the Blackhawks at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, was less riveting. It brought the usual spectacle we've come to expect from the outdoor games, but the weather wasn't great and the game was just okay. The hype men were awful (see here and here).
Honestly, the best part of the Winter Classic may have been the Blues' uniforms. They're silly if they don't make them alternates immediately.
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2017: The Year of Auston Matthews
The 19-year-old Leafs phenom and top overall pick in last year's draft has already had himself one heck of a start to 2017.
Not only did he tally two goals (including the game-winner) in the outdoor Centennial Classic, but he also had one of the best highlights this year in his following game.
Matthews recorded what might ultimately become the best assist of the season during Tuesday's game against the Washington Capitals. The teenager delivered a spinning, no-look pass from behind the net. It was basically an act of wizardry.
Matthews is on pace to score 44 goals (and 75) in his rookie campaign and the Leafs are looking like a potential playoff team. We may only be a week into the new year, but there also may not be a better time to buy into the hype.
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Fighting being forced out?
Fighting has yet to be outright banned by the NHL, but the league may be heading in that direction. Efforts by NHL officials to swiftly prevent and break up fights seem to be at an all-time high, as evidenced by a couple curious cases this week.
The most notable one involved a confrontation between Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid and Sabres forward William Carrier. McQuaid approached Carrier to answer for a questionable hit that concussed teammate David Backes. The Sabres forward was willing to oblige, but a couple of linesmen stepped in and did everything they could to separate them.
They failed. Instead, one linesman ended up holding McQuaid's arms down while he was forced to eat punches from Carrier, who was still swinging freely. It was an ugly scene.
The NHL and its officials seem to want to push fighting out of the game without explicitly telling players that they're not allowed to fight. But trying to have it both ways is putting everyone's safety in jeopardy.
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A grudge settled
One of the best stories to come out of the NHL this week surrounded the dissolution of a decade-long grudge.
When he was 11 years old, New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood sent a letter to his favorite player at the time, Alex Ovechkin, asking for autograph. It wasn't so much a request as it was a threat, as Wood wrote:
“If you don’t sign this and send it back to me, when I make it to the NHL, I’m going to give you a big body check.”
Wood never got his autograph, so he had no choice but to follow through on his promise and make the NHL. This week, Wood and Ovechkin met on the ice for the first time, but no big check was exchanged between the two.
Why? Well, because Ovechkin made sure to send over an autograph to Wood in the locker room before the game. On a picture, he wrote “To Miles, take it easy tonight!!!”
An excellent move of self-preservation on Ovi's part.