What do you need to know about the weekend's big stories? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best.
Gallant firing a shocker: There's no way anyone had Gerard Gallant in the pool as being the first coach fired this season. After a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers fired Gallant late Sunday. You can't put all the blame on the coach for the team's 11-10-1 record. Injuries to key players and roster changes affected the team's start. Also, if hockey personnel in Florida are relying on analytics to decide a coach's fate, they have it wrong. The players respect Gallant, something analytics won't tell you. General manager Tom Rowe is taking over behind the bench, but a coaching change will have a negative effect in the room. It was no fluke Gallant led the Panthers to franchise-record 103 points and a Atlantic Division title last season. Describing the situation as a "gong show" would be a major understatement. Here's my question: Who is calling the shots in Florida? Management or ownership? I can't see how this change helps the team. Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee should hire Gallant today for next season.
Pastrnak stands out, too: I can't remember a season when the NHL was loaded with such a huge pool of talented young players. You've got, of course, the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid, the Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews and the Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine. Across the board, players under-24 players are dominating. But let's not forget about the Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak. The 20-year-old forward, a 25th-overall pick in 2014, has been Boston's best player this season. He scored his 13th goal of the season to help the Bruins to a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Sure, it helps that he's playing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but he always has been a dynamic player and he's finally coming into his own. Pastrnak is second in goals behind the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (15) and has 17 points in 17 games, including a plus-13. Add Pastrnak to the list of young players to keep an eye on this season.
Give the stopper credit: Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will be one of the key reasons for the Jets' return to the Stanley Cup playoffs this season. He made 42 saves in the Jets' 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday, his second shutout of the season. The victory also ended Winnipeg's five-game losing skid. Hellebuyck has made timely saves in critical situations as the Jets' go-to guy while starting 11 of the past 13 games. The 26 games (13-11-1 record) he played as a rookie last season were invaluable as the organization is leaning on him now. He's only 8-8-0 with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 17 games, but the 23-year-old is playing with confidence, which can only equal more wins for the Jets.