There’s always a bit of a come down when the trade deadline passes, as it did on Friday afternoon. For the previous month or so, every time you log onto your preferred sports app there’s an anticipation high as you wonder what spicy swap may have occurred since the last time you looked.
Once that’s behind you, things in the hockey world can feel a bit mundane for a minute. That is, until these stars who switched teams throw on their new threads and start ripping goals.
This weekend saw a swath of players still getting their feet wet in new colours and, man, did a bunch of them deliver.
We can’t start anywhere but Canada’s capital, where Jakob Chychrun made his home debut for the Senators.
I think we can safely assume everybody associated with the Sens felt fantastic about this deal from the moment it happened, so it stands to reason the positive emotions were off the charts when Chychrun wired home a goal that put an exclamation point on the entire week for Ottawa. The Sens cruised to their fifth straight win on Saturday with a 5-2 smashing of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
If those on the outside were loving it, it didn’t compare to how a fired-up Chychrun reacted at the moment before telling Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas post-game he was going to tear up watching footage of his grandfather — Chychrun has strong family ties to the area — celebrating in the stands.
When was the last time vibes were this good in Ottawa?
If Chychrun wasn’t the steal of deadline season, perhaps Timo Meier was, given the New Jersey Devils didn’t have to surrender an ‘A’ prospect to get him from San Jose.
Just 9:09 into his Devils career on Sunday night, Meier swished a rebound past Arizona Coyotes goalie Connor Ingram to open the scoring in a contest New Jersey ultimately won 5-4 in extra-time when Meier’s Swiss countryman, Nico Hischier, potted the three-on-three game-winner.
Ivan Barbashev may not have been the most sought-after player around the deadline, but everyone knew what a useful player he’d been during his stay with the St. Louis Blues.
On Friday, in his third contest with his new team, Barbashev picked up a pair of helpers as Vegas squeezed past the Devils in a shootout. Then on Sunday, the Russian bagged his first two goals as a Golden Knight, giving him five points in four outings with his new squad. (Jonathan Quick, for what it’s worth, also picked up the first non-Kings win of his NHL career, getting the W for Vegas in a 4-3 victory over the visiting Canadiens).
And not every new guy who made an impression did it via the scoresheet. John Klingberg, a buzzer-beater acquisition for the Minnesota Wild on Friday, was in the lineup in Calgary just over 24 hours later and played solid, mistake-free hockey in a game where Minny didn’t surrender a goal.
Max Domi, meanwhile, endeared himself to his new Dallas Stars teammates by steamrolling Colorado Avalanche defenceman Samuel Girard on his first shift in Big D, as the Stars got a desperately needed 7-3 win over their Central Division rivals.
All right, so Patrick Kane hasn’t found his groove yet in two games with the Rangers. Hey, we waited all that time for him to be traded there, we can hang in a few more days to see the real No. 88 appear on Broadway.
In the meantime, a bunch of other guys are demonstrating precisely why their new teams wanted them, while helping the rest of us made the transition from the thrill of daily trade speculation to enjoying stretch-run drama.
• In a fun twist, a few players who wound up on teams categorized as sellers during deadline season also showed well for their new clubs.
Craig Smith, moved out by Boston to create salary space in the deal that landed the Bruins Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from Washington, notched a pair for the Capitals in an 8-3 romp over San Jose on Saturday. His new teammate, Rasmus Sandin, kicked in three helpers in his first game with the Caps, who picked up the young defenceman from Toronto as part of an on-the-fly re-tool.
Tyson Barrie, meanwhile, found the net for the first time as a Predator in his second game with the team as Nashville downed the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday.
• For the first time in a while, Dawson Mercer played an NHL game and didn’t score a goal as his eight-game goal-scoring streak ended Sunday in Arizona. Still, the Devils winger kicked in an assist during the win over the Coyotes as the 2020 18th overall pick — with 16 points in his past nine outings — may be finding a new gear late in his sophomore season.
• Obviously no team gets more benefit of the doubt than the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the vibes are undeniably tough around the club that’s made three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances right now.
On Saturday, Jon Cooper was benching his top line in a 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. On Sunday, the Bolts lost 6-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes and failed to register a shot on goal in the second period while mustering up 14 total in the game. Nikita Kucherov also took a puck to the face (but returned after initially leaving) while Victor Hedman was also injured, tried to return, but couldn’t go.
Tampa is 2-4-3 in its past nine and needs to get its mojo back in a hurry for any shot at home-ice advantage in its looming first-round tilt with Toronto.
Filip Gustavsson stopped all 31 shots he saw from the Flames in Calgary on Saturday night, as the Wild dealt the home team another blow to its wild-card hopes. Minnesota, meanwhile, is within striking distance of the Central Division lead thanks in no small part to the goalie Gustavsson has become this year. The 24-year-old’s .940 five-on-five save percentage is second behind only fellow Swede Linus Ullmark (.942) among goalies who’ve played 1,300 minutes in the crease.
Red and White Power Rankings
1. Toronto Maple Leafs (38-17-8) It’s been a pretty wild week for the Leafs. If they can secure a ‘W’ in Jersey on Tuesday they’d close out their current road trip 3-2-0 and, all things considered, they’d probably be more than okay with that.
2. Edmonton Oilers (34-22-8) After scoring three of them on the weekend, Leon Draisaitl has 50 power-play goals since the start of the 2021-22 season. The next closest player is Mika Zibanejad with 34.
3. Winnipeg Jets (36-25-2) Was Saturday night’s 7-5 victory over the Oilers a must-win? If not, it was as close as it gets.
4. Ottawa Senators (32-26-4) Time to put this fun ride to the test; Ottawa is about to embark on a five-game roadie which takes it through Western Canada and seven of the Sens’ next nine are away from home. Their two home games during this stretch are against the defending-champion Avalanche and their Ontario rivals from Toronto.
5. Calgary Flames (27-23-13) We’ve finally arrived at the booing portion of the Flames season. What a nightmare.
6. Montreal Canadiens (26-33-4) Kaiden Guhle misses two months with a knee injury, plays three games this week, then is ruled out of Sunday’s game versus Vegas with an upper-body ailment. The number of injuries in Montreal this season (and last, by the way) is preposterous.
7. Vancouver Canucks (25-32-5) The feel-good moments have been few and far between in Vancouver this year. Beating the visiting Leafs in front of a rollicking Saturday-night crowd with shorthanded goals 44 seconds apart in the third period was definitely one of the high points of the season.
The Week Ahead
• Alex DeBrincat returns to Chicago for the first time since being traded to Ottawa last summer on Monday. Buried under all the other good things happening for the Sens right now is the fact DeBrincat is playing some of his best hockey of the year, with a five-game point streak going and 15 points in his past 14 outings.
• The New York Islanders have looked pretty good lately and they’ve got a huge week ahead with three games versus teams — Buffalo on Tuesday, the Penguins on Thursday and Caps on Saturday — in the Eastern Conference wild-card battle.
• Saturday is going to be a monster day of hockey, with everybody but the Ducks and Flames in action. Tyler Bertuzzi figures to face his old team, the Red Wings, in Boston, while Connor McDavid and the Oilers are in Toronto for a big Hockey Night in Canada showcase versus Auston Matthews and the Leafs.