NHL wins and sins: Colorado’s scary duo, William Nylander, Braden Holtby’s generosity and Halloween costumes

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. 

Loving and/or hating something about the NHL at any given point throughout this season? Feel free to drop your praise/complaints in my email inbox at [email protected]

What’s right: MacKinnon and Rantanen

If anybody out there is in the market for a couple’s Halloween costume this year, may I suggest Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen? The young Colorado Avalanche stars are arguably the hottest duo in the NHL to start this season. 

MacKinnon and Rantanen have recorded at least one point in each of Colorado’s first nine games to start the season, tying a franchise record. As of Wednesday, Rantanen is entrenched in a three-way tie for the league lead in points (16) and is tops in assists with 12. MacKinnon has 15 points himself, including eight goals. 

And while their success and level of production is impressive, it’s not exactly shocking. The 23-year-old MacKinnon and 22-year-old Rantanen comprise two-thirds of the Avs’ top line (we didn’t forget about you, Gabriel Landeskog) and they’ve been one of the most formidable and dynamic lines in hockey over the past two seasons. 

In fact, according to TSN’s Travis Yost, only four duos in hockey have produced more goals per 60 minutes than MacKinnon/Rantanen (5.4) since the beginning of last year — Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin (6.0), Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel (5.8), Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos (5.5) and Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak (5.5).

MacKinnon had 97 points and was a Hart finalist last year, but Rantanen, who seems to be talked about far less than he deserves, also posted 84 points as a 21-year-old in his second full NHL season. Colorado was largely a one-line team last season and the success of that duo was a big reason why the Avs were able to get back to the playoffs. 

If there was any concern that last year’s breakout was a fluke, their hot start to this season should shut down that talk. It’s pretty clear that these guys are for real, and they’re here to F— S— Up.  

And, once again, let’s not neglect the third member of that top line, Gabriel Landeskog, who is having a fine start to the season himself. Through nine games, Landeskog is tied for second-most goals in the league with eight and was recently named the NHL’s first star of the week. 

He is also very handsome and has a spectacular head of hair. Don’t forget that. 

My goodness. Just look at it. It’s tremendous!

What’s wrong: Still no solution to Nylander debacle

For those keeping track at home, we’re approaching the third week of the season with William Nylander still absent from the NHL landscape …at least physically. That last part is important because boy, oh boy has he ever been discussed ad nauseam.

In case you’ve been lucky enough to escape the entire ordeal, here’s a little recap: The 22-year-old forward is currently a restricted free agent without a contract, but his rights still belong to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nylander, who has put up 61 points in each of the past two seasons in Toronto, reportedly wants a big, long-term deal, while the cap-wary Leafs prefer he take a more team-friendly bridge deal.

Despite a few summits between Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and Nylander’s agent, there’s still no deal.

It’s a straight-up bummer that we’re being deprived of getting to watch one of the NHL’s most talented young stars early in the season; Nylander is a very fun, dynamic player who could be tearing it up with this explosive Toronto offense. But his absence becomes twice as frustrating when we’ve got to endure the unrelenting rumor mill that includes updates about every Dubas sighting.

On top of that, we’ve already got whitey tighty-wearing keyboard folk weighing in and telling Nylander how to handle his business, saying if he weren’t selfish he should be willing to take less than market value for the sake of the team. We’ve also got stay-at-home butt-scratchers suggesting wildly unlikely trade scenarios left and right. It’s the worst.

Fortunately, it feels like we could be heading for a resolution soon — talks are reportedly at a “critical juncture” — but it remains to be seen what that resolution will be. The Leafs seem to be confident that they can come to terms with Nylander and keep him around, but there are also plenty of trade rumors floating around as well.

Whatever the case, let’s just hope that it comes sooner rather than later because 1) I miss watching Nylander play, 2) we can’t fully assess the Leafs until that ordeal is sorted out, 3) I’m sick of the rumors, and 4) this “Where In The World Is Kyle Dubas?” crap is getting out of hand.

Meanwhile, Nylander is hanging around and practicing with Austrian club Dornbirn EC while the situation plays out. He has to sign a new deal before December 1 in order to be eligible to play this season.

What’s right: Halloween!

Halloween technically isn’t until next week, but costumes and celebrations have already begun rolling in from around the league. There are some early favorites worth highlighting, including Matt Duchene’s spooky couples costume, which doubled as a pregnancy announcement. It achieves the rare feat of being very adorable, yet also very unsettling.

I guess this is how we’re announcing it… Happy (early) Halloween from the three of us! #ComingInJanuary

A post shared by Matt Duchene (@matt9duchene) on

At 6-foot-7, Ben Bishop is the tallest goalie in NHL history, which makes it rather fitting that he went as The Beast from “Beauty and the Beast” this Halloween. He really committed to the look and the end result was tremendous, and also hilarious. The small stature of his wife, who went as Belle, really brings it all together.

Connor McDavid also got into the spirit of things. After dressing up as Donald Trump last Halloween, the Oilers star went with a more universally-beloved choice this year: Homer Simpson. McDavid’s Homer was pretty solid, but his girlfriend sort of stole the show with an exceptional Marge.

@mcdavid97 went ALL OUT for Halloween this year ?? (?: @laurenkyle1)

A post shared by TSN (@tsn_official) on

It was also a bit coincidental that McDavid decided to go as Homer, considering Homer also decided to go as McDavid.

As always, an NHL Halloween is not complete until P.K. Subban suits up, so stay tuned for that.

What’s wrong: The crusade against Holtby’s generosity

Man, there just seems to be something about the Washington Capitals and their quest to give souvenir pucks to little kids. It never goes as smoothly as they’d hope. 

You probably remember the debacle from last year’s playoffs involving a young girl and the emotional roller coaster she had to endure before getting a puck from Washington forward Brett Connolly. But earlier this year, Braden Holtby also had his own run-in with a puck-snatcher getting in the way of his intended target. At the time, the Caps’ officially Twitter account asked, “why does this keep happening?”

Well, guess what? Just two weeks later, it happened to Holtby again.

Now forgive me for asking, but what in the actual hell is going on here? How does this keep happening?! The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that these monsters are plants hired by the team to drum up social media reaction, but that seems unlikely. The more likely answer is simply that people are garbage.

I suppose at least this latest puck-snatcher appears to be on the younger side, possibly in his late teens or early 20s. That’s certainly better than an old, rich weenie hijacking the joy of children, but still … come on, dude. That puck was clearly intended for the kids, and to reach over them and swipe it away is a total scumbag move. 

I could forgive it had he immediately recognized his transgression and surrendered the puck to a youngster, but he held onto it and awkwardly celebrated even as Holtby glared at him through the glass. Yikes.

Although credit where credit is due, I suppose. Even though puck-snatching is clearly bad and wrong, I have to give some credit to the kid for not completely melting as Holtby delivered the death stare of all stares. 

What’s right: Goal of the year candidates

We had plenty of goals through the first couple weeks of the season, but our first legitimate “goal of the year” candidate didn’t come until the end of last week … and it came from an unlikely candidate. 

The 23-year-old Anthony Duclair was once a top prospect and has since become somewhat of a young journeyman trying to find his place in the league, but he’s off to a hot start with the Columbus Blue Jackets — his third team in the last three years. He may have won over plenty of new fans with this absolute beauty of a goal.

That’s just an amazing display of focus and a preposterous display of puck control. It’s not exactly the way he drew it up, but the determination to stick with it and just find a way to get a shot on net is what’ll make this goal memorable. (I’ve already seen some people suggest that it’s better than Ovechkin’s infamous falling goal. It’s not, but it’s still quite good.)

But Duclair wasn’t the only guy to submit an early candidate for goal of the year this week. 

It took Sidney Crosby seven games to get into the goal column this season, but he sure made it count when he did. Crosby scored twice against the Edmonton Oilers in a fun, back-and-forth contest Tuesday, including an absolutely stunning game-winner in overtime. 

Yeah, it’s the Oilers and, yeah, their defense was a bit gassed and, yeah, it came during 3-on-3 in OT. But this is still an incredible individual effort from Sid. The stick-handling. The skating. The vision. The finish. The clutch. It’s all stuff we’ve seen from Sid before, but he still has the ability to stun us with his ability when he puts it all together in a sequence like this.

If you enjoy wondrous individual displays that lead to jaw-dropping highlights, this was quite a fun week for you.

What’s wrong: Morale in San Jose

The Sharks have yet to develop into the juggernaut that many expected them to be after their acquisition of Erik Karlsson, and I think I have figured out why: The new defenseman is clearly not fitting in with his new teammates. Let’s roll the tape.

I mean…

Listen, you can keep your analytics and fancy stats. I don’t need anything more than the eye test and this one small clip to determine that the Sharks hate Karlsson’s stinkin’ guts and they’ve got to get him out of there immediately before he completely tanks team morale. 

Gritty Watch!

Are you suffering from Gritty Exhaustion yet? I hope not, because it was yet another strong week for the deranged Flyers mascot. Let’s see how he kept busy this week.

I’m honestly not really sure what the hell the context of that clip is, but do you really need context? It’s Gritty going full rage and taking out people in sumo suits. Stop asking questions and just enjoy the ride. 

One of the biggest reasons Gritty has worked so well in Philly so far is because there’s actually a strong personality attached to the suit. Whether he’s dropping in from the rafters, shooting t-shirt cannons directly at people from point-blank range, messing with youth hockey players or sprinting across the ice at full speed to tackle faux-sumo warriors, he always seems to be wreaking an astounding amount of havoc, even for a mascot. 

He’s obnoxious, he’s reckless, he’s borderline insane…and he has to be. Have you seen him? It all just works.

Anyway, the legend of Gritty rages on in several ways. This week, we had a number Gritty Halloween pumpkins start popping up. Truly terrifying stuff.

But the biggest Gritty update of the week came here:

If you thought Gritty was on crack, rest easy. He’s only in the vicinity. 

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