The NBA season is heating up as the playoffs are near. The Bucks and Raptors have been turning heads with their impressive performances in the Eastern Conference, recently falling to LeBron James and company. A few key matchups were on display including Giannis Antetokounmpo vs Kawhi Leonard, Khris Middleton vs Kyle Lowry, Al Horford vs DeMar Derozan, etc…
Thanksgiving has always been a significant day for NHL clubs. Not merely for the sake of the cuisine.
During a standard 82-game season, the belief is that a team’s position on the last Thursday in November (about the quarter point of the season) will be where it will be in the spring. In other words, struggling teams seldom claw their way back into contention, while those in playoff position tend to remain there.
Of course, it’s not a hard science. And this season did start a bit later than normal, in mid-October. However, as the “but it’s early!” argument fades and teams have largely exposed who they are, the Thanksgiving barrier remains a decent mile marker.
Who is the most satisfied with what they see? We’ll find out soon enough.
On Thanksgiving weekend, ABC, ESPN+, and Hulu will broadcast a complete schedule of must-see NHL games, beginning Friday afternoon. From Friday through Sunday, there will be a total of 27 games accessible on ESPN+ (blackout restrictions apply).
Prepare for the start of the season with an in-depth look at great players, fascinating stories, and even some games-within-games you won’t want to miss.
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1 p.m. ET | Live stream on ESPN+ | Line: Bruins -160 5.5 is the over/under.
This season, the Rangers have already surpassed expectations. Boston? Not at all. The Bruins have had a stuttering, erratic start, and Tuukka Rask’s absence due to hip surgery has put their goaltender depth to the test. The high-flying offense in New York will aim to take advantage of the situation. Will the bruising Bruins, on the other hand, fight back? It’s the ideal Original Six matchup for your leftovers from Thanksgiving.
What to keep an eye on for the Rangers
Artemi Panarin is a Russian actor. The most electrifying playmaker in New York is just getting started. That’s great news for the Rangers, but it’s awful news for their opponents. Panarin just scored 11 points in nine games, vaulting back into the league’s top 20 scorers. Keep a watch out for Panarin near the goal, as he has committed to keep shooting the puck more instead of constantly seeking for the assist (Panarin leads the team with 15).
On Friday, the NHL returns to ABC, with two games on ESPN+/Hulu. In addition, ESPN+ will broadcast 27 games from Friday through Sunday (blackout restrictions apply). The following is the schedule for Friday: • 1 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN+, Rangers-Bruins • 3:30 p.m. ET, Blues-Blackhawks ESPN+/Hulu • Devils-Predators, ESPN+/Hulu, 6 p.m. • How to keep an eye on things
Adam Fox is a fictional character. It’s a great moment to be Fox right now. He earned the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defender last season and signed a seven-year, $66.5 million deal on Nov. 1 to become one of the league’s highest-paid defensemen. Fox, on the other hand, isn’t resting on his laurels; he’s been a powerful presence on New York’s blue line this season, contributing 18 points.
Shesterkin, Igor. Shesterkin, the Rangers’ goalkeeper, has named the team’s MVP this season. He’s snatched a couple victories for New York, covered a variety of defensive gaffes, and only had three save percentages below.900 in his first 13 starts. Shesterkin has consistently ranked in the top five in every major goaltender metric this season, establishing himself as New York’s unquestionable backbone.
What to look out for if you’re a Bruins fan
A top-tier trio. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak have been one of the top offensive lines in the NHL for years. That three has been less consistent this season, but they haven’t completely lost their edge.
Let’s take a look at Marchand first. Through 15 games, the agitator everyone loves to hate led all Bruins with eight goals and 20 points, and his savage shooting % (23.5) demonstrates that he’s still going strong at 33.
Through 15 games, Pastrnak was tied for second in points (15) with Marchand, and he’s always a threat to score. Every opponent should be concerned that he hasn’t completely broken out yet, yet still contributing at a point-per-game rate.
Finally, there’s Bergeron, who had a four-goal game earlier this season and is still one of the best two-way centers in the game — and a top-three scorer in Boston.
Charlie McAvoy is a character in the film Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy is very guaranteed to make Team USA’s Olympic selection for the 2022 Games in Beijing (along with Fox, coincidentally). He’s been that excellent for a long time, and the Bruins’ greatest defender has been asked to do even more this season. McAvoy, on the other hand, has been up to the challenge, solidifying Boston’s blue line through a roller-coaster season while also contributing 12 points in 15 games. McAvoy is blossoming even more because to his relationship with teammate Matt Grzelcyk.
Prowess in power plays. In the first nine games of November, the Rangers’ penalty kill has struggled, allowing seven power-play goals. That might be beneficial to Boston. The Bruins’ own power play has been pretty productive this season, ranking in the top ten in the NHL with a conversion rate of over 20%. Special teams fights might determine a winner on a tight-checking day.
Line: Blues -145 | 3:30 p.m. ET | Stream live on ESPN+ | 5.5 is the over/under.
These Central Division rivals have a lengthy history together. The Blues and Blackhawks have played each other 383 times, including some notable postseason matchups. Both teams had a lot of success in the 2010s, with Chicago winning three Stanley Cups and St. Louis winning one.
The Blues have won the last five head-to-head meetings, including a 1-0 triumph earlier this season. When Chicago and St. Louis get down to business, there’s always the possibility for pyrotechnics, regardless of numbers or streaks. Who becomes victorious? It might come down to a few crucial players.
What to keep an eye on for the Blues
Jordan Kyrou is a fictional character. It’s time to get to know Kyrou if you haven’t already. He’s entertaining to watch. With eight goals and 18 points in his first 18 games, the Blues center is enjoying a breakthrough season offensively, and he’s kept steady when the rest of the team hasn’t. Kyrou has slotted in in among veterans like Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron as a gifted player who is just getting better in his second full NHL season.
Robert Thomas is a fictional character. After some stops and turns along the road, St. Louis’ first-round choice (20th overall) in 2017 has been coming into his own this season. Thomas has been second on the squad in scoring (17 points in 18 games) and is particularly powerful in the faceoff circle (51.2 percent ). It’s another another indicator that the 22-year-old is breaking through after a lengthy wait for admirers eager to see him succeed. Finally, Thomas seems to be ready to show off.
Are the Blues on their way back? St. Louis is a bit more vulnerable than it was the last time it played Chicago. The Blues went from collecting a point in eight of their first ten games to losing six of their next eight, including a 3-2 loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes, to finish last in the Western Conference. St. Louis has been shaky on many fronts, but who doesn’t like a good comeback story? The Blues just defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in dominating manner, regaining some of their early-season confidence. Can the Blues afford to spend time figuring themselves out in the Central Division, when the top five clubs are separated by as little as four points?
What to look out for if you’re a Blackhawks fan
Seth Jones and Patrick Kane. They’re playing together for the first time in Chicago this season, and Kane and Jones have already been picked to the U.S. Olympic squad in Beijing (along with Auston Matthews). In what has been a challenging season for the Blackhawks, they’ve also been one-two in scoring (17 points for Kane, 15 points for Jones). Large stages and large games, on the other hand, bring out the best in players like them. They’re bound to shine in a high-profile Christmas game.
Alex DeBrincat is a character in the film Alex DeBrincat. DeBrincat is difficult to overlook. He’s the one who generally puts the puck in the goal. DeBrincat has scored 11 goals in 19 games while riding shotgun with Kane on Chicago’s top line (almost twice what Kane and Brandon Hagel, the Blackhawks’ second-highest goal scorers, have combined for), and he shows no signs of slowing down. By being absolutely electric on the ice, DeBrincat has continually disproved any misconception that smaller players (he’s 5-foot-7) can’t succeed in the NHL.
Chicago’s king. This season, the Blackhawks have already experienced significant changes. Following an inquiry into Kyle Beach’s sexual misconduct charges against the Blackhawks, Stan Bowman resigned as GM. Then, after a 1-9-2 start, head coach Jeremy Colliton was sacked. Derek King was elevated off the bench, giving the Blackhawks a much-needed lift. Chicago is 5-2-0 under King’s guidance, winning close games that may have previously thrown them off. Now is the time to keep trying and see if there is anything good they can salvage in the remaining season.
Line: Predators -145 | Over/under: 5.5 | Stream live on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET
The Devils and Predators are not Original Six franchises. There is no long-standing rivalry between these two teams; this will be their 20th meeting.
These clubs do have one thing in common: intriguing rosters. Whether it’s via powerful scoring runs, excellent goaltending, or a display of top-tier defense, the elite players in each squad are clicking. In a nutshell, now is the best time to see New Jersey and Nashville lit up.
What to keep an eye on for the Devils
Dawson Mercer is a character in the film Dawson Mercer. Meet the Devils’ newest superstar. Mercer, a 20-year-old rookie, led the club in scoring after 16 games with six goals and 12 points, solidifying his place towards the top of the Calder Trophy race this season. Mercer delivers with a level of assurance that belies his age, enabling him to direct play and display the high-end skill set that has fans captivated. It’s difficult to look away from him.
This season, ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu, and ABC will broadcast 103 exclusive regular-season games, with more than 1,000 out-of-market games accessible on ESPN+. • • Subscribe to ESPN+ to watch. • Watch NHL games on ESPN.
Dougie Hamilton is in a blue-line struggle. When Hamilton was a free agent last summer, he had a lot of options for where he wanted to go. The Devils were the ones that drew him in with the promise of exciting young talent and a competitive team. Hamilton has pushed New Jersey one step closer to reaching its full potential. He’s a real offensive defender (five goals and ten points in 13 games), dependable in all situations, and eats up a lot of minutes (22 minutes of ice time per game on average). Hamilton has done an excellent job of bolstering the Devils’ blue line.
A goalie duo that shines. Mackenzie Blackwood is on a lengthy list of goaltenders being considered for Canada’s Olympic squad for a reason. When the Devils’ starter went down with a month-long heel ailment, there was legitimate anxiety about the team’s goaltending. Jonathan Bernier, a seasoned pro, enters the fray. Filling in replacing Blackwood, he has a 4-2-1 record and a.916 save percentage, keeping the Devils’ goals-against average under control. When Blackwood returned, he went on to go 3-1-1 with a.921 save percentage in the following five games. Regardless of who is in net for New Jersey, the Predators will have to fight hard for their goals.
What to look out for if you’re a Predator
Matt Duchene is a defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks. Duchene hasn’t played this good in years. Seriously. Through 18 games, the Predators’ highest scorer had already scored 12 goals and had three three-point nights. Duchene scored a hat trick in one of those games, his first in a decade, and he scored all three goals in less than 10 minutes. So, yeah, Duchene is having a moment, and it’s exactly what Nashville needed to get off to a fast start.
Roman Josi fights on the blue line. Josi is one of the few defenseman that can create offense. Unless you’re Dougie Hamilton, of course. It’ll be a fascinating game-within-a-game to watch which of these two outstanding defenders emerges victorious. Josi is enjoying another outstanding individual season, with six goals and 17 points in 18 games with an average of over 25 minutes of ice time each game. He’s usually a force for Nashville, but this season seems eerily similar to Josi’s Norris Trophy-winning season in 2019-20. Is he capable of going any higher now?
The emphasis is on special teams. Here are some bits of wisdom for the Devils: Keep yourself out of the penalty box. If you don’t, the Predators’ power play will punish you. Nashville has been in the top five in the NHL with the man advantage this season, scoring four power-play goals in as many games. While we’re at it, Nashville would be wise to play it safe as well. The Predators’ penalty kill is just as bad as their power play, ranking in the lowest third of the NHL. If penalties pile up, it could lead to some heart-pounding hockey on both ends. Because the Predators have been dreadful short-handed this season, even with goalkeeper Juuse Saros standing tall (.920 save percentage, 2.43 goals-against average in 18 games). We’ll have to wait and see whether it lasts.