Andreas Athanasiou’s combination of speed and skill was on full display Saturday night against the Penguins when he pulled off a stunning end-to-end rush.
Montreal Canadiens center Phillip Danault wowed with an impressive solo rush for one of the prettiest goals of the season earlier this week against the Winnipeg Jets, and one has to hope he enjoyed his time as the owner of the greatest end-to-end rush of the campaign because he has to pass the crown to Detroit Red Wings winger Andreas Athanasiou.
During Saturday’s meeting between the Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, Athanasiou, who is one of the fastest players in the game today, showed off his incredible wheels with a jaw-dropping rush up the ice. Picking the puck up behind the Detroit goal, Athanasiou saw open ice and took it.
Athanasiou darted through the neutral zone, leaving Evgeni Malkin in his wake, then headed straight at the Penguins’ defense. Looking at a potential one-on-three situation, Athanasiou moved to his right to single out Justin Schultz, deked around the defender and rifled the puck over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury. Check it out:
For all that skill and speed, it’s comical how subdued Athanasiou was in celebrating the tally. That kind of play would have warranted a near shoulder separating fist pump, but, instead, Athanasiou went about celebrating the goal like he had potted a tap-in.
Though Athanasiou doesn’t get a ton of ice time in Detroit — he’s averaging less than 13 minutes per game — he’s having a pretty solid sophomore season. He’s played nine games fewer than he did in his rookie season, but Athanasiou has matched his nine-goal, 14-point performance and is on pace for a 20-goal campaign in his second season in the league.
Tomas Plekanec isn’t scoring quite like he used to and that’s an issue with the veteran carrying a $6-million cap hit. Meanwhile, the Wild might be forced to make a hard choice on the blueline with expansion looming.
After putting up 60 and 54 points over the last two seasons, Montreal Canadiens second-line center Tomas Plekanec's numbers are down considerably this season. With only 19 points in 42 games, the 34-year-old's on pace for a 37-point campaign. That would be his lowest in a non-lockout season since his 39-point effort in 2008-09.
That drop in Plekanec's production sparked some questions about his future in Montreal. On Saturday, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported “there's a sense” he could be available at the March 1 trade deadline if his production doesn't improve.
Even if the Canadiens opt to move Plekanec by the deadline, his contract is a tough sell. Though he only has one year remaining, the annual average value is $6 million. Not many teams will come calling for a declining center in his mid-thirties carrying that expensive salary-cap hit.
WILD MAY HAVE TO DEAL WITH LOST DEFENDER
The Minnesota Wild possess considerable depth on defense. However, they risk losing a blueliner in this summer's expansion draft.
As per expansion draft rules, veteran Ryan Suter's no-movement clause ensures he must be protected. Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba all lack movement clauses. Even if the Wild opted to protect the maximum of four defensemen, one of them could still be plucked away by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Rather than lose a defenseman for nothing to the expansion draft, there's some talk that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher might move one of those rearguards to bolster his depth at center. However, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports Fletcher won't be moving a blueliner before the trade deadline.
Fletcher could be resigned to the fact he's going to lose a good young defenseman at the expansion draft. He will have a narrow window of opportunity to perhaps trade one of them before he has to submit his list of protected players before 5 p.m. ET on June 17.
After netting a career-high 49 points in 2015-16, Spooner has only 21 points in 43 games this season. Since Dec. 12, his production has shown signs of improvement, netting 12 points in 15 games.
Despite that uptick in his offense, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported Sunday there's talk the Bruins could shop Spooner for a defenseman. His third-period benching during the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes won't quell the trade rumors.
Given the Bruins' limited secondary scoring, they could hang onto Spooner for the remainder of the season. If his production keeps improving, he could provide the Bruins with vital offensive depth in their quest for a playoff berth.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
Steve Mason respects Alex Ovechkin’s one-timer enough that the assumption the blast was coming drew the Flyers goaltender all the way out of his crease, leaving an empty-net for Matt Niskanen to tap home a simple tally.
Lack was on to something, too, because later in the same game Ovechkin scored his 1,000th point, he blasted home a shot from the newly minted OviZoid. But don’t go thinking Ovechkin isn’t aware that he’s often firing from the same position on the ice, and don’t assume that the ‘Great 8’ isn’t a cerebral enough player to use that against opposition netminders.
Early in the third period of Sunday’s meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals were breaking up ice on a 2-on-1 with Ovechkin as the apparent triggerman for a pass from Nicklas Backstrom. As Ovechkin opened up his body and a pass came across, he wound up like he was going to lay another blast on goal from the OviZoid, but instead of releasing the one-timer, Ovechkin tapped a one-timed pass into the middle of the ice for the easiest non-empty net goal Washington blueliner Matt Niskanen will ever score:
There’s committing to a save, there’s overcommitting to a sniper’s shot and then there’s whatever Ovechkin made Flyers netminder Steve Mason do on that play. The assumption that Ovechkin wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to rifle a one-timer on goal was enough to literally yank Mason all the way out of his crease. That’s a special kind of respect given to a player’s shooting ability.
The marker was Niskanen’s third of the year, which would be followed only minutes later by his fourth of the campaign, but neither tally would really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. Niskanen’s goals, the third and fourth of the night for Washington, were simply the icing on the cake in a 5-0 victory over Philadelphia.
The Breakaway Challenge is no more, but the often ridiculous event at the skills competition offered up some fantastic moments and great laughs. Take a look back at the five best attempts.
The highlight of the NBA’s all-star weekend, almost without fail, is the Slam Dunk Contest. The event has delivered moments like Michael Jordan’s foul line dunk, Vince Carter’s forearm in the rim jam and last season’s phenomenal showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
It would only make sense then that the NHL would try its hand at imitating the event, creating the Breakaway Challenge as its version of the dunk competition. The goal was simple: wow the crowd with incredible displays of puckhandling or win them over with props and creativity. Most players went for the latter, and it’s been one of the more ridiculous and comical events at the all-star weekend over the past six skills competitions.
However, after its six-season run as one of the weekend’s events, the NHL has decided to do away with the Breakaway Challenge, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The news only a couple of weeks before the league is set to head to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game and is at least a slight indication that some new competitions could be part of the format.
With the Breakaway Challenge no more, though, let’s take a look back at five of the very best and most memorable moments from the contest:
5. Johansen gets some help, but Voracek one-ups him
Ryan Johansen had the Columbus crowd in the palm of his hands by using an Ohio State jersey as a prop, and he really got the crowd on its feet by getting a youngster to help bury a shot. It was a great moment, for sure, but Jakub Voracek really got the crowd laughing by stealing Johansen’s idea with the help of another kid on hand: diminutive Flames star Johnny Gaudreau.
4. Ovechkin is the new Captain Canada
If this is the end of the Breakaway Challenge for good, then Alex Ovechkin will go down as the greatest participant the competition has ever had. He won the first ever event in 2008 and with the chance to defend his crown in 2009, he pulled out all the stops, getting a hand from fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin and endearing himself to the Montreal crowd with an interesting choice of headwear.
3. The transformation of Burns
It almost doesn’t matter which team you support when it comes to Brent Burns. He’s an absolute stud on the blueline for the Sharks, he’s one of the most exciting players in the game, he’s got a unique love of animals and he has a Harry Potter tattoo. That last one will only please a certain generation of fan, but it’s indicative of the personality he brings. Burns also isn’t afraid to make light of his grizzled appearance, and he pulled off the perfect gag at the 2016 All-Star Game.
2. SuperKane takes center stage in Ottawa
Ovechkin was the king of the Breakaway Challenge for three straight All-Star Games, and it took a superhuman performance by Patrick Kane for someone to finally take the crown from the ‘Great 8.’ Kane went prop heavy with his attempts, but the clever use of an “exploding” puck was really the topper.
1. Subban pays tribute to greatness
As he continues his career well into his 40s, Jaromir Jagr’s status as one of the game’s most beloved players grows, and that seemingly goes for both players and fans alike. So, how do you win over an entire crowd and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in one breakaway attempt? Well, you throw on a mullet, a Jagr jersey, some Cooperalls and cap it off with a salute.