Best and Worst of the Week: Tavares, Tarasenko and the softest goal of the year

Find yourself someone who looks at you the way Johnny Boychuk looks at John Tavares. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(Life’s busy — it’s not always easy to stay on top of everything happening around the NHL. So in case you missed it, here are some of the best and worst highlights of the week.)

Best Performance

Vladimir Tarasenko is a bad, bad man.

He flat out assaulted the Oilers on Tuesday in the Blues’ 8-3 win, nearly pulling off a double Gordie Howe hat trick with two goals, two assists and earning the decision in his fight with Matt Benning.

Calgary’s Sean Monahan also had himself a big game against the Flyers last Saturday, scoring three goals and adding a helper. He was the hottest player in the league this week with an NHL-best six goals and nine points in four games.

But Tarasenko gets the nod this week based on style points.

Nicest Individual Goal

There weren’t a ton of jaw-dropping goals this week (don’t worry, we’ll get to John Tavares later). Kevin Fiala had a nifty little goal against the Jets, Auston Matthews did his thing against the Canadiens, but the honor this week goes to Islanders D-man Nick Leddy. The goal is nice enough in and of itself, but the fact he pulled it off against two defensive specialists — Marcus Kruger and Jaccob Slavin — is what puts this one over the top.

Best Squad Goal

There’s just something so satisfying when every player touches the puck on a goal. Throw in a sweet spin-o-rama pass and a skate-to-stick finish and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed winner.

Tastiest Dish

“You probably won’t see a better goal all year” gets thrown around a lot over the course of a season (guilty as charged), but seriously — you probably won’t see a better goal than the one John Tavares set up against the Flyers in overtime. Sure, there will be prettier goals, but the utter will and skill shown by Tavares on this play is astounding. And it was against a pretty damn good defensive player in Sean Couturier, to boot. Special play by a special player, and good on Josh Bailey for making it count.

Best Save

It’s been a rough season for Henrik Lundqvist, but boy did he look like his old self this week. He won all three of his starts, including a shutout, stopped 92 of 94 shots and made a couple of 10-bell saves, none better than this one right here (although his sliding save against Ottawa was close).

Softest Goal

Scott Darling will be on blooper reels for years to come.

Worst Giveaway

Man, you gotta feel for T.J. Brodie here. To lose the puck on such a harmless play, in overtime, for the only goal of the game. What a nightmare.

Best Shootout Goal

We’re going to throw this one to Charlie McAvoy for potting this slick game-winner against the Devils. His teammate, David Pastrnak, scored a beauty of his own earlier in the shootout, but given McAvoy is a rookie and a defenseman he gets the edge this time.

Firsts

The Bruins have had a lot of them this season, including another on Friday:


Strangest Play

It’s amazing to think of all the things that had to happen for this goal to be possible. The stick had to break in that particular way and end up in that particular spot without the referee moving it. Phil Kessel had to hold on to the puck a split second too long without being warned of what lurked behind him, Matt Hunwick had to bump Matt Murray out of position ever so slightly, the trailing forward had to not pick up Loui Eriksson and instead deflect the puck, which then hit the knob of Matt Murray’s stick and went into the net. The universe is an incredible thing!

Most Reckless Play

Nazem Kadri can be plenty reckless on the ice, but apparently when he’s off the ice as well. Kadri was called for a retaliatory cross-checking penalty late in the game seconds after the refs missed a blatant cross-check on him, so naturally he was a little hot when he went to the box. As he slammed his stick against the door, the butt-end came up and clipped the official in the face and man was he not pleased. Kadri said the following day he felt horrible and apologized to the guy after he realized what happened.


Biggest Hit

Bryan Rust out here poppin’ buckets.

Best Scrap

Michel Liambas is one of the few professional goons still employed by an NHL team (of course it’s by Randy Carlyle’s Ducks), but William Carrier more than held his own when the two chucked knucks in an old-school tilt this week.

Whipping Boy

The Buffalo Sabres have lost four of their last five, are dead last in the Eastern Conference and sit only one point ahead of the Coyotes in the NHL basement. So it’s not surprising the team’s best player is taking heat from fans and the local media alike. In fairness, Jack Eichel has not been at his best this season (seven goals and 19 points in 23 games) and until he turns it around he’s going to be an easy target. He did pop the game-winner against Edmonton on Friday, so that’s a start.

Monkey off the Back

Wayne Simmonds went more than a month without a goal before finally ending his 14-game drought Friday against the Islanders. That’s a long time for a guy who has led the Flyers in goal scoring the last four years.

Streaking

With goals in six straight games and points in eight straight, Nino Niederreiter is undoubtedly the hottest player in the league. But it’d be a disservice not to give props to rookie Brock Boeser for his current run. He had five goals in four games this week to extend his point streak to six games and is now tied for the rookie lead in goals (11) and points (22).

Ridiculous Rumor

The Coyotes visited Toronto this week, so naturally discussions began almost instantly about the Leafs potentially swinging a deal for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. It’s really not an outrageous proposition (he needs to be re-upped soon, the Coyotes stink, the Leafs could use blueline help), but it’s just so typical for the local media to create something out of nothing when that team just so happens to be in town. Fun times.

Best Quote

There were a couple of good ones this week. Matt Murray trolling the Canucks was delightful, as was John Tortorella’s rant on the science of forward lines, but Ken Hitchcock takes the cake for this long overdue take down on “body injuries.”


Snapshot

Some rivalries will never die.

(Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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