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The All-Star break is nearly upon us which means it’s time for the final mad dash to the playoffs.
Let’s not get too excited, there’s still plenty of fun to be had when the league’s best and brightest (except for dudes who are injured or were snubbed *cough* Travis Konecny *cough*) gather in south Florida.
Hopefully, the All-Star weekend provides enough fodder for a special edition of the NHL Weekly Awards, but let’s not pretend this week didn’t have its share of gems.
We’re hitting all levels of the North American pro hockey system and even diving into college puck once again.
So, let’s get to it with an unreal save-of-the-year candidate…
Highway Robbery of the Week: Semyon Varlamov
Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov has been sharing the net with Ilya Sorokin and is slated to hit the free-agent market after this season.
So, if Varlamov decided to make a concerted effort to up his value by pulling off some unbelievable saves in the final months of his current deal, he’s off to a great start.
Reilly Smith will have to go down to the PD to file a report after getting robbed like that.
That save is on the shortlist for save of the year, and it was a big one. The Isles managed to win that game over Vegas by a score of 2-1 thanks to a Matt Barzal OT winner.
Good Genes of the Week: Luke Hughes
The Hughes family is quickly becoming the first family of American Hockey. Quinn is currently in Vancouver (“currently” being the keyword in that sentence) and his younger brother, Jack, has been ripping it up with the New Jersey Devils.
Their younger brother Luke is a Devils prospect too — having been selected 4th overall in 2021 — and at the moment he’s playing for the Michigan Wolverines.
Luke Hughes single-handedly dominated the Penn State Nittany Lions last week to the point that Devils fans are drooling right now. Hughes potted 4 goals against the Nittany Lions to help the Wolverines to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory.
First of all, sick hands and a filthy set-up from the projected top 2 picks this year, Adam Fantilli.
Secondly, Hughes had another goal the day before in the Wolverine’s 7-3 win over Penn State.
Maybe the Devils can cut a deal for Quinn Hughes for their upcoming playoff run, then next season Luke could be ready to go pro, and there’d be a Hughes trifecta in Jersey.
Swiss Army Knife Of The Week: Milwaukee Admirals Equipment Manager Evan Watts
Talk about a Renaissance man…
Evan Watts is the equipment manager for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, the top minor league affiliate of the Nashville Predators.
There’s no denying that Watts can sharpen a mean skate, but when the group picked to sing the National Anthem had to cancel, Watts raised his hand and showed off his pipes.
That was a fine job, a damn fine job. Surely, this man doesn’t have any other talents hidden up his sleeve…
Talk about versatility. Our guy Evan Watts can take care of his own gear, belt out the anthem, and then if you’re not too busy picking your jaw up off the floor, he’ll stonewall you for good measure.
Stick taps, Mr. Watts. Stick taps.
There He Goes Again Moment Of The Week: Jordan Binnington
Not since Ron Hextall has there been a goalie with a shorter fuse than Jordan Binnington. He’s not one to shy away from a confrontation or start one that didn’t need to happen in the first place.
He did just that when the Blues paid a visit to the Colorado Avalance.
I’m going to guess that Binnington was angry about letting three pucks get past him, but he certainly didn’t appreciate having a little company in his crease.
Binnington tried to wave Avs netminder Alexandar Georgiev into the fray, but the linesman made sure that didn’t happen.
Waving at the home crowd to get louder as you’re being ushered off the ice after letting in 3 goals is an odd move, but hey, it’s on brand for 2019 Stanley Cup champ Jordan Binnington.
Team With Sweaters That Could Most Accurately be Described As “Groovy”: Orlando Solar Bears
If you’re looking for something to wear to a Dead & Company concert I may know an ECHL team whose special sweater might fit the bill.
The Orlando Solar Bears have one of the best brands in minor league sports, and they hit a home run with these tie-dyed jerseys.
These are — to quote Barry Williams as Greg Brady — “Groovy.”
If you click through those pictures you’ll see that even the socks got the tie-dye treatment.
For a one-off jersey, this is a solid one.
That’s it for this week! Let’s all meet back here — same time, same place — for some more NHL Weekly Awards. If you see something that you think should be on the receiving end of an award, let me know. Send it my way on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle