Friday night was an evening to remember in the National Hockey League. We had the top two teams in the Atlantic Division keep on winning, history in Ottawa and an epic tribute in Anaheim.
Vasilevskiy is a Points Machine
Andrei Vasilevskiy was back in between the pipes for the Tampa Bay Lightning of Friday night and he kept both of his personal streaks alive. He made 23 saves to extend his overall point streak to 15 straight games and his road point streak to 11. Only Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky have had longer streaks in the past five seasons than Vasilevskiy, who has not lost in regulation since Nov. 19.
The 4-3 victory at the Anaheim Ducks was Vasilevskiy’s ninth during the month of January and the 150th of his career. He is just the fourth goaltender in NHL history to win 150 games with less than 250 games played. The other three goaltenders to accomplish this feat were Ken Dryden, Andy Moog and Braden Holtby.
“We’ve had some special players here but he’s right at the top,” head coach Jon Cooper said of his starting netminder.
Vasilevskiy is one game away from tying the franchise record for the longest point streak by a goaltender, which is held by Nikolai Khabibulin. The Lightning will play again tonight at the San Jose Sharks, but it is unlikely Vasilevskiy will play. His next start should come on Tuesday against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Bruins Benefit from Rask’s Return
The Boston Bruins got their Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender back on Friday night and he helped them keep pace with the scorching-hot Lightning. Tuukka Rask made his first start since Jan. 14 when he suffered a concussion in a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Rask was very busy in his first game back, making 37 saves in a 2-1 victory at the Winnipeg Jets. His best stop of the night came in the second period when he robbed former teammate Blake Wheeler with this nice glove save.
“I felt the puck well, but then it was a long break so physically not that great,” Rask said after the game. “I think I’ve played enough hockey that it’s more mental. You feel those first few shots.”
The Bruins maintained their five-point lead over the Lightning in the Atlantic Division with the win. The top two teams in the division still have two games against each other this season, both to take place in March.
Samsonov Makes Rookie History
Before the season started, if we had told you that the Washington Capitals would have the most points in the league on Feb. 1 despite Holtby’s 3.11 goals-against average (GAA) and .896 save percentage (SV%), you would have called us crazy. That exactly where we are and the Capitals can thank rookie netminder Ilya Samsonov for picking up the slack.
Samsonov made 25 saves in 5-3 win at the Ottawa Senators as the Capitals now lead the league with 20 road victories this season. In fact, they matched the NHL record for earning their 20th road win in the fewest games. They tied their own record which they set during the 2015-16 season when they also won 20 road games in 27 games.
The young goaltender made plenty of history himself on the same night where Alex Ovechkin passed Mark Messier on the all-time scoring list. He joined Ross Brooks and George Hainsworth as the only rookie goaltenders to win 11 straight decisions.
Samsonov now has a 16-2-1 record in his 20 games making him just the fourth goaltender in league history to win 16 of his first 20 games. Andrew Hammond, Brent Johnson and Dryden are the others who have accomplished this feat. He also improved to 10-0-0 on the road and is one more win away from joining Johnson as the only goaltender to win the first 11 road games of his career.
Gibson Pays Tribute to Kobe
Last Sunday, the sports world lost one of its biggest names when former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash. Many players for the NHL have sent their condolences over the past few days, but Ducks goaltender John Gibson took it to a whole new level.
Gibson wore a mask designed by Shell Shock Designs that paid tribute to Bryant. The amazing artwork featured both of the numbers Bryant wore during his legendary career. The back featured a silhouette of Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who also died in the crash, as well as the names of the seven others who lost their lives in the tragedy.
A big stick tap goes out to Gibson and Shell Shock Designs for this amazing tribute!
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Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.