On Monday, the NHL released a statement saying that it had administered thousands of tests to over 800 players the previous week and netted a total of ZERO positive results, which was awesome to see. Following the end of that testing period, the players entered their respective bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, and as of Tuesday, we could officially say that hockey was semiofficially back!
The actual Stanley Cup qualifiers don’t start until Saturday but having exhibition games to watch every night has been the taste of hockey that I’ve been craving for the past four months—and it appears a few million people in Canada felt the same way.
Hockey is BACK. Last night's games were the two most-watched NHL exhibition games in @Sportsnet history, with over 4.3-million Canadian viewers.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 29, 2020
The NHL has handled the pandemic surprisingly well, and I never thought I’d say this, but shoutout to commissioner Gary Bettman and the rest of the league for getting its shit together and making hockey happen safely (at least so far).
There have only been two days worth of exhibition games but the NHL’s return has brought back everything we know and love about the sport: the highlight reel goals, huge hits, emotional moments, and yes, even fights. In honor of its glorious comeback, here are some of the best moments so far that you can use to warm up those hammies and hit the ground running this weekend.
Oilers Honor Fallen Teammate Colby Cave
Colby Cave, a forward in the Edmonton Oilers organization, died suddenly in April after suffering a brain bleed at only 25 years old. This was one of the saddest losses for the hockey world in a long time and the Oilers took a moment to honor him in their first game back since his passing.
Rest in peace, Caveman.
Connor McDavid Makes Opponents Look Silly With No-Look Goal
It didn’t take long for Connor McDavid to start making his opponents look like fools again. I had to resist the urge to just insert that video into this post ten times. It really doesn’t get much filthier than that.
Nathan Mackinnon Showcases His Speed
Hart Trophy nominee (but unlikely winner) Nathan Mackinnon turned on the afterburners and ripped an absolute laser past Minnesota Wild goalie Alex Stalock. Thanks in no small part to Mackinnon’s offensive ability, the Avalanche are definitely a team to keep an eye on heading into the playoffs.
Scott Laughton Wins It In Overtime On A Sweet Breakaway
Scott Laughton of the Philadelphia Flyers caught a slick pass from Travis Konecny and was able to put one home to win the game in overtime. Is overtime overkill when you’re playing a virtually meaningless game? Maybe, but I’m not complaining
Nate Beaulieu Throws A Textbook Hip Check
BIG HIT BEAULIEU 😤 @natebeaulieu
— NHL (@NHL) July 30, 2020
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Nate Beaulieu absolutely crushed Zack MacEwen of the Vancouver Canucks with one of the most beautiful hip checks you’ll ever see. Big shoutout to MacEwan for taking that like a total champ, though. He hopped right back on his feet and barely missed a step.
Alex Ovechkin Scores From (Guess Where)
The co-winner of this years’ Rocket Richard Trophy is already back to doing what he does best: blasting one-timers from the top of the left circle. Other people might be afraid of returning to the office right now but it doesn’t look like that’s the case with Ovi.
He’s currently eighth on the all-time goal-scoring list, and he needs 188 more to steal Wayne Gretzky’s top spot. I certainly hope he can pull it off, as it would be an amazing milestone to witness and Ovi is easily one of the best pure goal-scorers to ever play the game.
Semyon Varlamov Makes Glorious Pad Saves
New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov channeled his inner brick wall to make these fantastic pad saves. A lot of people were questioning how long it would take the players to get back into mid-season form after such a long break, but Varlamov seems to be picking up right where he left off.
Brian Boyle And Mikhail Sergachev Chuck Knucks<
During the exhibition game between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, Brian Boyle and Mikhail Sergachev decided to have a little civil discourse. It wasn’t the craziest fight of all time, but you have to appreciate these guys going at it in a contest with nothing on the line.
Evgeni Malkin’s Perfect Assist To…Kevin Hayes
Last but not least, we have an #SCNotTopTen moment, as Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins took the puck, put it in a nice decorative wrapping paper, tied a bow on the top, and decided to donate it as a gift to Kevin Hayes…who plays for the Flyers.
This was definitely not a mistake you’d typically see out of someone as talented as Malkin, but I’m sure he’s not losing sleep over it.