The “NHL Sound Bites” column is your go-to for daily hockey stories with quotes from your favourite players and staff.
In this edition of NHL Sound Bites, New York Rangers forward Ryan Reaves puts on a show at Madison Square Garden, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz records his second NHL shutout and Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun tallies an assist in his return.
Reaves Scores Twice to Help Lead Rangers Comeback Over Maple Leafs
Reaves scored his two goals of the season in a 6-3 comeback win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, Jan. 19. The enforcer doesn’t light the lamp too often, but when he does, it’s always exciting to watch. The night marked Reaves’ second two-goal game of his NHL career, previously accomplishing the feat as a member of the St. Louis Blues on April 25, 2013.
“You never want to go three months without scoring,” said Reaves. “I tend to do that a lot in my career. Feels good to get them out of the way, especially in this barn. Hopefully, they keep coming now.”
The Rangers found themselves down 2-0 just 3:30 into the first period. At 12:52 of the opening frame, Reaves potted his first goal of the season to bring New York back within one. The Rangers gave up another goal to the Maple Leafs just under five minutes later, falling back down by two.
It took Reaves only 2:58 into the second period to score again and bring the Rangers back within a goal. His pair of tallies inspired another four goals from New York. The victory gives the Rangers sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the NHL with a 26-10-4 record.
“I think we’re proving to the league, we’re proving to ourselves, that we’re a contender,” said Reaves. “The standings don’t lie.”
The Rangers’ valiant comeback extends its win streak to three games, the third-longest in the NHL right now, only behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche, who have each won four-straight.
“It shows our maturity,” said Reaves of the comeback. “It shows that we can hang with the big boys, that we are one of the big boys.”
Francouz Makes 34 Saves in Shutout Win Over Ducks
Francouz posted the second shutout of his career on Wednesday. A 34-save performance, he has now recorded each of his shutouts against the Ducks, formerly taking them down, 1-0 on Feb. 21, 2020. The 31-year-old improves his save percentage (SV%) to .922 percent on the season.
“The way the game was going from the start, it looked like it was going to be a tight game, and this was exactly the same scenario like [the first shutout against the Ducks], when we scored late in the second and we battled through it in the third,” said Francouz. “So, it was just the exact same game.”
Francouz is a late-bloomer finding solid consistency as an NHL goaltender in his second season as an Avalanche mainstay. Across 42 games and 35 starts in his career, he carries a .923 SV% and 2.40 goals-against average (GAA). His incredible performance on Jan. 19 continues his trend of success in net.
“I thought his performance was excellent tonight,” said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. “He just seems to be getting better and better the more he plays, so he was a big part of that one tonight because I didn’t think we were at our best from the defensive side of it.”
Chychrun Records Assist in Long-Awaited Return, Praises Goaltender Vejmelka
Chychrun missed the last 11 games, seven with an upper-body injury and four in COVID-19 protocols, before returning to the ice on Wednesday. Tallying an assist in the game, the Coyotes took down the New Jersey Devils, 4-1.
“I just wanted to simplify,” said Chychrun. “When you miss that much time, I think you need little refreshers here and there. I felt my feet were moving, I was jumping up into plays. I wanted to defend hard and move my feet, and I think I did a decent job of that.”
Chychrun got a heavy workload on defence in his first game back, as Arizona was outshot 36-17. He credits goaltender Karel Vejmelka for helping secure the victory.
“He’s just got a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger,” said Chychrun. “He’s very calm in the net and he’s been really key for us this year. I think he’s just kind of soaking it all in and so happy to see his success. He works at keeping it up, and we’re going to need him to continue to play that way.”
Thank you for reading this edition of NHL Sound Bites, and make sure to listen to THW Podcast every weekday (Monday to Friday) to hear everything your favourite hockey writers have to say about the hottest topics around the league.
Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers. He lives in Toronto and is a diehard fan of the St. Louis Blues.