Top 10 MO­MENTS of 2017-18

The Hockey News - - TOP 10 MOMENTS OF 2017-18 - BY RYAN KENNEDY

Noth­ing im­pacted the hockey world this sea­son, or per­haps any other sea­son, more than the Hum­boldt Bron­cos bus crash. It touched lives in com­mu­ni­ties across North Amer­ica and spawned an out­pour­ing of emo­tion from coast-to-coast, from novice hockey to the NHL. In terms of mag­ni­tude it’s un­de­ni­ably the hockey story of the year.

In the NHL, it was a re­mark­able sea­son for sur­prises. The Stan­ley Cup fi­nal pit­ted the best ex­pan­sion team of all-time, in any sport, against a club and a su­per­star most had writ­ten off af­ter so many years of play­off dis­ap­point­ment. Our top 10 NHL mo­ments are dot­ted with tears, some from pain, some from joy. All are from the heart.


Noth­ing went ac­cord­ing to script in Ve­gas for the Golden Knights’ in­au­gu­ral sea­son, and with one tragic ex­cep­tion, that was good news. Due to one of the worst mass shoot­ings in Amer­i­can his­tory, the Ve­gas home opener was a somber af­fair, with a trib­ute to those af­fected and Las Ve­gas res­i­dent/de­fense­man Deryk En­gel­land tak­ing the mic be­fore the game to de­liver thought­ful words to the crowd. The Golden Knights won that game and many more in their shock­ing run. Af­ter tak­ing eight of their first 10 games and us­ing three dif­fer­ent goalies to do it, Ve­gas be­came one of the most in­tim­i­dat­ing places to have a road game in the NHL, with the ‘Ve­gas Flu’ be­com­ing a thing for op­po­nents not used to the city’s 24-hour charms. A ros­ter that raised zero eye­brows dur­ing the ex­pan­sion draft turned out to be fine-tuned for to­day’s NHL, with GM Ge­orge McPhee as­sem­bling a speedy, re­spon­si­ble and tal­ented bunch of castoffs that would end up win­ning the Pa­cific Di­vi­sion and ran roughshod through the West in the play­offs.


In the same sea­son Alex Ovechkin notched ca­reer goal No. 600, the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals ac­com­plished sev­eral things they had never done dur­ing the ‘Great 8’ era. First and most im­por­tantly, they brought home the Stan­ley Cup for the first time in fran­chise his­tory, beat­ing the Golden Knights in an “up­set” in the fi­nal (Ve­gas was the odds-on fa­vorite head­ing in). And the fact the Caps knocked off archri­val Pitts­burgh in the sec­ond round made the vic­tory all the more mean­ing­ful. Ovechkin led the charge from the reg­u­lar sea­son on, do­ing some of his finest work while wear­ing the cap­tain’s ‘C.’ He bounced back from a so-so 2016-17 cam­paign by putting up 49 goals to earn his fifth Rocket Richard Tro­phy in six years (and seventh of his ca­reer). Though the Pen­guins were ob­vi­ously fa­tigued af­ter two straight ti­tle runs, the Cap­i­tals get full marks for dis­patch­ing Sid­ney Crosby’s crew in six games, ban­ish­ing the no­tion that Wash­ing­ton would al­ways choke against their ri­val.


FE­BRU­ARY 22, 2018 – In the wake of one of the most pub­li­cized school shoot­ings in Amer­i­can his­tory, Florida Pan­thers goal­tender Roberto Luongo stepped up to the mi­cro­phone and spoke from the heart be­fore the team hosted Wash­ing­ton. Luongo talked about liv­ing in Park­land for the past 12 years. He praised the teach­ers of Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas and lauded the stu­dents for their brav­ery. It was an emo­tional ad­dress, but a fit­ting one that rep­re­sented how many were feel­ing at the time. The Pan­thers and other mem­bers of the hockey world (such as Philadel­phia’s Shayne Gostis­be­here, who at­tended that high school) em­braced the school in the af­ter­math, with mem­bers of the Ea­gles hockey team rep­re­sent­ing the school as a whole. In what be­came a bit­ter­sweet coda to the tragedy, that hockey team ended up win­ning the Florida state ti­tle just 10 days af­ter the mass shoot­ing.


NOVEM­BER 1, 2017 – For New Jersey, it was a sea­son of tri­umph. A pre-sea­son af­ter­thought in the Metro Di­vi­sion, the Devils rode an MVP per­for­mance by Tay­lor Hall to an un­likely play­off berth, with help from an un­likely cast that in­cluded Brian Gib­bons and Keith Kinkaid. But when it comes to feel-good sto­ries, it was hard to beat Brian Boyle, the gi­ant shut­down cen­ter who not only had one of his best of­fen­sive sea­sons, but did so af­ter miss­ing the first 10 games of the sea­son due to leukemia. To com­pound the stress, Boyle was told a few days later that his two-year-old son, De­clan, might have an ag­gres­sive form of cancer. He was later di­ag­nosed with a dif­fer­ent non-can­cer­ous mal­ady that still re­quired treat­ment, but Boyle was all set to spend time with his son in Bos­ton dur­ing the NHL al­ls­tar break when team­mate Hall went down with an in­jury. Boyle was cho­sen as his re­place­ment, and with his fam­ily’s bless­ing, he headed to Tampa Bay. Join­ing him on the trip? His fa­ther, Ar­tie, him­self a cancer survivor. Boyle also had a spe­cial mo­ment in Novem­ber, when he scored his sec­ond goal of the sea­son, on Hockey Fights Cancer night ver­sus Van­cou­ver. Af­ter cel­e­brat­ing with his team­mates, the re­li­gious Boyle poignantly looked up to the skies.


APRIL 2, 2018 – Ever since GM Brian Burke traded for the right to pick sec­ond and third in the 1999 draft, twins Hen­rik and Daniel Sedin have been an in­te­gral part of the Canucks. The su­perb Swedes helped the team get to the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal in 2011, and with their im­mac­u­late vi­sion and be­guil­ing chem­istry, the line­mates set nearly ev­ery of­fen­sive record in fran­chise his­tory over the course of 18 years in Van­cou­ver. When it was time to an­nounce their re­tire­ments, the Sedins did so with class – the same way they did ev­ery­thing else in their ca­reers. Cit­ing a need to spend more time with their fam­i­lies, the Sedins de­cided to step away from the game, but gave fans a few more op­por­tu­ni­ties to see them live be­fore all was said and done. In the most fit­ting end­ing to a ca­reer marked by ex­cel­lence, Daniel scored the OT-win­ner in the twins’ fi­nal home game, with Hen­rik nat­u­rally get­ting an as­sist. It was Daniel’s sec­ond goal of the con­test against Ari­zona, and it blew the roof off the joint. Both play­ers fin­ished their ca­reers with more than 1,000 points, an Olympic gold medal and an Art Ross Tro­phy, while Hen­rik also had a Hart Tro­phy and Daniel nabbed a Ted Lind­say Award. Next stop is the Hall of Fame.


JAN­UARY 14, 2018 – Of all the ways An­drew Cogliano’s iron­man streak was go­ing the end, a sus­pen­sion was the least likely. The Anaheim Ducks veteran had never ac­crued more than 45 penalty min­utes in any given NHL sea­son, but a late and ques­tion­able hit that in­volved head con­tact on Los An­ge­les’ Adrian Kempe saw Cogliano draw a two-game ban from the league. The sus­pen­sion snapped Cogliano’s con­sec­u­tive games streak at 830, rank­ing him fourth all-time be­hind Steve Larmer (884), Garry Unger (914) and Doug Jarvis, the champ at 964 games. (Jarvis’ streak, in­ter­est­ingly enough, ended on a healthy scratch.) Cogliano was un­der­stand­ably emo­tional in the wake of the sus­pen­sion, and the two games served were the first he had missed in his en­tire NHL ca­reer. The ver­sa­tile left winger broke into the league with the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers in 2007-08 and had never missed a game un­til the sus­pen­sion. Mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion all the more sticky was the fact the man be­hind the ban, NHL depart­ment of player safety head Ge­orge Par­ros, is a for­mer team­mate from Anaheim. Par­ros was forced to vig­or­ously de­fend the sus­pen­sion to both the Ducks and the public, par­tic­u­larly since Dustin Brown of the Kings was not sus­pended for a dodgy cross­check around the same time. But in the end, it’s just im­pres­sive to think about all the bumps and bruises Cogliano must have played through with­out miss­ing a start. For the record, Florida de­fense­man Keith Yan­dle now holds the cur­rent iron­man ti­tle at 715 games and count­ing.


APRIL 7, 2018 – It took un­til the very last game of the sea­son, but the Avalanche got there. Dead­locked for the fi­nal play­off spot in the West, the Avs faced St. Louis in a win­ner-gets-in sce­nario and came out on top with a rous­ing 5-2 vic­tory. And this was no or­di­nary wild-card win. Last year’s edi­tion of the Avalanche was the worst NHL en­try since the 2004-05 lock­out. Sea­son over sea­son, this year’s Colorado squad im­proved a mind-bog­gling 47 points from 2016-17’s to­tal of 48. At the helm of the turn­around was star cen­ter Nathan MacKin­non, who evolved his speed game and put up a Hart Tro­phy-wor­thy sea­son. GM Joe Sa­kic pulled off a coup in his big­gest trade to date, a three­way af­fair with Nashville and Ot­tawa that saw Matt Duch­ene leave Den­ver in re­turn for a king’s ran­som of picks and prospects. Los­ing a tal­ented cen­ter could have stalled the Avs, but they kept on chug­ging be­hind MacKin­non and line­mates Mikko Ran­ta­nen and Gabriel Lan­deskog, help­ing erase the ugly mem­o­ries of the sea­son be­fore and even win­ning two play­off games against Nashville in the first round.


OC­TO­BER 4, 2017 – There was a lot of an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment sur­round­ing the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers head­ing into the sea­son and their boy cap­tain was the main rea­son. In the sea­son-opener against the archri­val Cal­gary Flames, Con­nor McDavid lived up to those ex­pec­ta­tions by dous­ing the com­pe­ti­tion for a hat trick in a 3-0 win on home ice. The sec­ond marker was the gem of the bunch, as No. 97 caused a turnover in his own zone, then blew past three Flames en route to a break­away goal on net­min­der Mike Smith. The idea of McDavid do­ing al­most ev­ery­thing for the Oil­ers that night be­came an un­for­tu­nate har­bin­ger, as Ed­mon­ton un­der­per­formed all sea­son, miss­ing the play­offs and not even re­ally com­ing close. Out­side of McDavid, the team was slow and goalie Cam Tal­bot couldn’t han­dle the load. McDavid was ex­cel­lent through­out, how­ever, fin­ish­ing the sea­son with a league-best 108 points and win­ning his sec­ond straight Art Ross Tro­phy. Alas, the woe­ful­ness of his team­mates un­der­mined McDavid’s chances at a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Hart Tro­phy, which in it­self opened up a huge de­bate in hockey cir­cles: does a player’s team need to make the play­offs in or­der for him to win the Hart? Can a year with­out a post-sea­son berth have any true value in the NHL? Vot­ers made their opin­ions heard, and McDavid was not a fi­nal­ist for MVP hon­ors. But watch out next sea­son…the kid doesn’t set­tle for los­ing.


MARCH 29, 2018 – It’s the stuff of Dis­ney movies and the rea­son pro sports can still sur­prise. The Chicago Black­hawks were al­ready with­out starter Corey Craw­ford for a game against Win­nipeg when backup An­ton Fors­berg got hurt dur­ing a pre-game rit­ual. Third-stringer Collin Del­lia (mak­ing his NHL de­but) played most of the game – un­til he got hurt, too. That paved the way for Fos­ter, the arena’s emer­gency goalie, to jump in. An ac­coun­tant by day, the beer-lea­guer did play for Western Michi­gan Univer­sity, but that was a decade ago. Fos­ter stopped all seven shots he faced to pre­serve a Chicago win, while his beer-league bud­dies watched in awe from a lo­cal rink. In the end, the 26-year-old Fos­ter saw a lit­tle more than 14 min­utes of ac­tion, stop­ping shots from Tyler My­ers, Paul Stastny and Dustin Byfuglien, among oth­ers. Need­less to say, Fos­ter was mobbed by the Hawks when the fi­nal buzzer sounded in the 3-1 vic­tory, while coach Joel Quen­neville, in his post-game avail­abil­ity, could only chuckle about the kismet sur­round­ing the ac­coun­tant.


JAN­UARY 29, 2018 – One of the most leg­endary ca­reers in NHL his­tory likely ended this sea­son when the Cal­gary Flames waived 45-yearold Jaromir Jagr. The first-bal­lot Hall of Famer tal­lied one goal and seven points in 22 games for Cal­gary, where his lack of foot speed fi­nally caught up to the sharp mind and big body that had dom­i­nated for so many years. Of course, Jagr was not fin­ished with hockey. He ended up go­ing back home to fin­ish out the sea­son with Kladno, the team in which he also has an own­er­ship stake. But af­ter two Cups, an Olympic gold, five Art Ross Tro­phies and a Hart Tro­phy, Jagr’s NHL ledger can prob­a­bly be set­tled up. He was one of a kind and a model for younger play­ers in his twi­light, a tire­less worker who fa­mously got in ex­tra prac­tice when­ever he could. He fin­ished with 1,921 ca­reer points, sec­ond all-time, and just 34 games shy of all-time leader Gordie Howe (1,767).

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