Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews did it first, lifting his glove to his ear to suggest he couldn’t hear the crowd after he scored late in Sunday’s clash in Chicago.
But Blackhawks standout Patrick Kane made it memorable by copying Matthews’ celebration once he delivered the game-tying goal just 33 seconds later to send the game to overtime.
The show of emotion, enthusiasm and edginess stole the spotlight once the Maple Leafs rallied for the 7-6 win Sunday, but what made the moment even more captivating was Kane’s goal was the 12th of 13 scored in the game — one of many high-scoring tug of wars to start the season, a trend that has coincided with the implementation of more fitted chest protectors for goaltenders.
“Apparently for other teams there’s a lot of holes,” Wild winger Zach Parise said. “We don’t see them.”
Although its sample size is small, the Wild’s offense has sputtered out of the gates with just two goals in two games.
All but five teams had scored at least five times through the first week of the season, while more than half the league has tallied eight or more and 11 have reached double digits.
It’s unclear if the different gear is the catalyst, but it is a change that goalies and forwards will be adapting to as the season progresses.
“Anytime stuff gets smaller as far as equipment, I think you’re going to see a little inflation of goals,” backup Alex Stalock said. “I think you already kind of have a little bit. I’m not solely putting it on chest protectors. It’s early in the year. Teams are still working on new systems. You’re trying to get rid of bad habits from summer.
“At the same time, it could keep up. Maybe it will make a difference, I don’t know.”
Stalock and No. 1 netminder Devan Dubnyk have been wearing a more contoured look since training camp when they received smaller pads. Not only are their chest protectors slimmer, but so is the cushion down their arms — which is the most glaring adjustment Dubnyk has noticed.
“That big, boxy, shoulders up at the ears look, that’s what they’re trying to get rid of,” he said. “I think they could have done that without now creating some vulnerable spots on the arms, which I think is not really going to do anything visually. It’s not going to do anything because you can’t see your arms and as far as holes go, I don’t think it’s going to do anything. So all it’s really done is give us more bruises on the arm.”
Dubnyk believes the motivation behind the rule change is to alter how goaltenders present themselves by ensuring everyone is wearing size-appropriate gear.
“It’s frustrating for everybody to see somebody standing at the other end that you know is 170 pounds, and he looks like Optimus Prime,” Dubnyk said.
With only two chances to size up goaltenders, the Wild hasn’t detected a difference so far but players could since they do target the white area behind goalies.
“You’re definitely trying to look for holes,” center Eric Staal said. “If there’s less equipment and more net to see, it’s definitely going to be more appealing to your eye and you create more offense.”
And that’s a development Wild forwards certainly endorse, to stoke the excitement of the games and their own productivity amid a slow start.
“People like to see goals and see offense,” Staal said. “Obviously not at the expense of goalies getting hurt but if we can add more goals, I think it’s a good thing for the league.”
Three things ...
There’s plenty of hockey to go, but the Maple Leafs sure lived up to the hype of being a Stanley Cup favorite during their opening week. Not only did Toronto win three out of four games, but it scored a league-high 20 times — including two seven-goal outputs. Center Auston Matthews leads the NHL with seven goals, but new Leaf John Tavares isn’t far behind with six. It’ll be tough for the team to maintain this torrid of a pace, but it’ll be fun to watch the Leafs try.
Despite the Leafs’ strong debut, the best start in the NHL belongs to the Hurricanes (3-0-1). This is a transition season for Carolina, with a new coach (Rod Brind’Amour) and General Manager (Don Waddell) in place in addition to a slew of new players. But the group has found a way to jell early and looks like it’s enjoying the process. The players have started celebrating wins by jumping into the boards.
The Capitals made quite a bit of noise with their Stanley-Cup celebration, and the rings to commemorate the run are just as flashy. They’re made of 14-karat white and yellow gold and are decorated with diamonds, rubies and blue sapphire. Aside from the team’s logo, the rings also include the Capitol building, the player’s name and the logos and series scores leading up to Washington’s win.
Sarah McLellan covers the Wild and NHL hockey for the Star Tribune.