Sergei Belsky - USA TODAY Sports

EP Rinkside 3 Stars: Come on back

Nice of the NHL to kind of ease in and out of the All-Star break, I think. There was that stretch before it where they played some absurd number of games in a one-week span, then barely played anything in the five days leading up to the break. And now this week we're getting what feels like a kind of muted run once again.

Eight games on Tuesday, seven last night. Pretty normal for the regular mid-week gamedays. But only two on Monday, then three both Wednesday and tonight? Let's everyone take it a little bit easy.

Of course, all but six teams are playing tomorrow night, starting with four(?) games at 1 p.m., and then it's a nearly uninterrupted hockey availability through the end of Edmonton Oilers/Los Angeles Kings, which is the late Hockey Night in Canada game. I say it all the time but this should happen every Saturday.

Doesn't make for the most interesting week of hockey from a "3 Stars" point of view — the leading scorer this week had a whopping three points — but it's still pretty good.

Let's go:

3. Absurd periods

It's not often you watch an NHL game and wonder if you are losing your grip on reality. At this point in my life, I pretty much feel like I've seen it all with this league. And then I watched the Carolina Hurricanes/Colorado Avalance game.

There was a point late in the first period between these two high-octane teams where shots were like 8-5 Colorado and the score was 3-0 Hurricanes on a natural hat trick by Martin Nečas.

And you can go, hey, it happens. You've probably seen stranger things this season alone (especially if you have a Netflix subscription!!). But the first one was a shot where Alexandar Georgiyev didn't react at all. It just hit him then dribbled in. Weird goal.

The second was on a delayed penalty, which you don't see often. "Pretty cool," I thought to myself. Normal goal for the hat trick, though, which I guess in this context makes it weird.

And once that hat trick happened it felt like things might settle down. But then Zach Parise scored his first as an Av inside of a minute to go in the period, on a shot where it also looked like the goalie made the stop but it just kind of bounced off him and kept going in? Don't know if I've ever seen that twice in one night.

But then the Avs won the ensuing draw and Sam Girard got it over the red line and just kind of gunned it at the net. Off the post and in. Why not?

So to recap: goal where it hit the goalie and he didn't even react, delayed-penalty goal, goal where it hit the goalie and went in anyway, goal on a shot from center ice. In one period. Five goals in all, on a grand total of 13 shots.

You figure it out.

2. I must begrudgingly say "Jonathan Quick"

I talked about this yesterday, but Jonathan Quick has, for the second time this season, played himself into a situation where there is legitimate discussion of just how many games he should be starting for the New York Rangers.

Early in the season, you'll recall, Quick started out playing .982 hockey in his first three appearances, giving up just one goal on 57 shots. Everyone considered that a fun bit of punching above his weight. And then in the Rangers' last three games, including two this week against dangerous Colorado and Tampa offences, he's .952. In those two games this week he gave up just two goals on 42 shots. Doesn't really get much better than that.

And so you might be saying, "Well jeez, this guy has only 19 appearances, and he's got about a third of those where he's been beyond-lights-out good. Surely he is deserving of more starts." Well, about that. In the 13 games between his two really strong stretches, he's a respectable .903, and the Rangers' record in those starts is 7-4-2. All you're looking for from a 38-year-old backup, if we're being honest.

But the reason this kinda came out of nowhere is that there was a five-game stretch across almost a month where he was .884, which is bad. And the only problem for the Rangers was that Igor Shestyorkin was actually worse.

So the fact that Quick had a good week (and also a good pre-All-Star performance against the Senators, but Ottawa can make lots of goalies look good) is a nice surprise again.

Is it a long-term proposition? You can probably guess with confidence that it's not. But they needed these performances and they're getting them, and when you're struggling, as the Rangers were before this stretch, you'll take all the help you can get.

1. Keeping your name out there

Maybe the biggest name on the trade market for most of the season? Noah Hanifin. Your leading scorer of the week after the All-Star Game? Noah Hanifin. Guy who posted the second-highest expected goals percentage in all situations this week? Noah Hanifin.

Hey, if the guy did figure out over the break that he wanted to move on from Calgary — certainly the most baffling "will they, won't they" scenario of the season — he's certainly helped elevate his opportunities and also, for his current employer, the asking price. This is a very good defender, and while Chris Tanev might seem like the more out-there name in terms of who's more likely to move, it doesn't make sense that the Flames would want to keep any pending UFAs.

That's true despite their mini streak this week, which now has them Only One Point Out Of A Playoff Spot, according to the local media, who don't seem to understand what "games in hand" means. The fact is they've seemingly gone back and forth like a tall tree in a strong breeze, vacillating between "we'll try to keep him" and "we'll move on" while always remaining firmly rooted, unmoving, to the ground in "what exactly would be the point?" territory. Why would the Flames commit more money and years to keeping this group together? They are two points above "NHL .500," which means they've only lost three more games than they've won this year. Another year of aging, of less commendable play from the goaltender, of more resources committed to a core with this ceiling isn't going to, like, help. So they should trade Hanifin. They should have always been looking to trade Hanifin. And given how well he played this week, there's truly no time like the present.

I get why people are all excited for their team to acquire another Flames defenseman, Tanev. He's exactly what the Oilers need, for example. But Hanifin? There's a guy who can play, and is worth re-signing long-term. Just not, like, for the team where he'd be their best defenceman.

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The EP Rinkside January 2024 NHL Mock Draft
The EP Rinkside January 2024 NHL Mock Draft
This article is about:
NHL Calgary Flames Carolina Hurricanes New York Rangers NHL Noah Hanifin Martin Necas Jonathan Quick
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