THE HAT TRICK: Top Three Things To Watch In The NHL This Week

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2017

Head shots have been in the hockey news as much as that hoax of a flying balloon, but unlike Falcon’s attempt to trick America, the NHL is not getting tricked on what is and is not a suspension. 

Let me start of my rant by saying that I do not condone intentionally hurting a person, but this sport is a violent one built on aggression and playing physical.  Scott Stevens made a living by hitting players coming across the middle with their head down, and this is why I agree that the NHL got it right this week.

With their decision to suspend Toumo Ruutu for his late, from-behind hit on Darcy Tucker and for not suspending Mike Richards for his open ice hit on David Booth.   It is always a scary moment in sports to see the stretcher be brought onto the ice and have a player down and motionless, but folks this is their profession. 

With that I move to the Pucking Awesome Hat Trick, or the top three things I am watching for this week.


Kings Ransom:  

Can anyone name the leading scorer in the league?  Nope not that crazy Russian in our nation’s Capital, but the slick moving Slovenian playing in sunny Los Angeles, Anze Kopitar.  This former first-round pick has been lighting up the scoreboard for the upstart Kings. 

The first ever Slovenian to play in the NHL made an immediate impact scoring two goals in his first NHL game and now is showing critics he is worth the big time seven-year, $47.6-million contract extension he signed before last season. 

With two games this week against the Sharks and Canucks I will be watching this talented player face two of the league's premier goalies.

Maple Leafs vs. The League:  

The good news is after a week with one game, the Toronto Maple Leafs are back in action with four chances to win their first game of the season.  Maybe even better news is that all these games are away from the rabid fans who are clamoring for that sweet taste of victory. 

So I am alerting all the Ducks, Starts, Sabres and Canadiens fans, because I will be watching for the Leafs to finally win one of these games.   

Game of The Week:  

Red Wings vs. Canucks—Two power house teams struggling to find an identity early square off Tuesday.  I still think both of these teams will be near the top of the standings when all is said and done, but injuries are starting to take a toll on both of these talented squads. 

They are both still shooting at a blistering pace with the Canucks ranked second with 34.4 shots per game and the Red Wings sixth with 32.3 shots per game, but both teams are giving up a good amount of goals five on five. 

In this game both teams will be looking to make a statement to the league that they are not panicking and everything will be fine for this pre-season favorite.  The loser of this game will still be searching for answers on how to solve the problem of playing without important players.