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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Wraparound: Hockey minds spar over Zegras’ sweet skills

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He’s done it again. Trevor Zegras has dropped the jaws of the hockey world. In just his rookie year, Zegras, a 6-foot-0, 185-pound, 21-year-old from Bedford, N.Y. has earned a reputation as one of the most skilled and most creative players in the NHL playing for the Anaheim Ducks. He goes for the deke, the dangle, the spin-o-rama, the lacrosse pass, the no-look shot, all effortlessly. One would think that for a league accused of being outdated at times, this kind of ingenuity would be welcomed, but this hasn’t exactly been the case.

Take the Ducks’ 5–0, April Fools’ Day thrashing of the Arizona Coyotes. In an act of frustration over a game where Arizona was out-skilled (including a Michigan goal by Zegras himself), Coyotes forward Jay Beagle cross-checked Anaheim’s Troy Terry three times while he was down in the final minutes.

Coyotes color commentator Tyson Nash shared his thoughts during the play: “That’s the problem with these young players … You want to skill it up? You better be prepared to get punched in the mouth.”

It’s a narrative that’s been floating around the old-school members of the NHL community. Former long-time coach John Tortorella was publicly scrutinized for his criticism of Zegras’ breakout play: a move where Trevor lobbed the puck over the back of the net for teammate Sonny Milano to bat in against the Sabres on Dec. 7.

“I just think our game has gone so far away from what the game should be,” Tortorella said. “A hard game, an honest game. It’s almost gotten too showman.”

This is an example of gatekeeping — notice Tortorella’s use of “our game,” implying that hockey should be restricted to the hands of the older generation. If the NHL truly wants to grow its sport, it must rid itself of this philosophy. With younger fans and an enormous social media presence, creativity on the ice is precisely where hockey should be going, and players certainly shouldn’t be punished for their slick moves.

A few other thoughts from around the NHL:

  1. We’ve known the eight participants from the East seemingly since December, but positioning is taking shape with under 10 regular season games left for most teams. Florida has a stranglehold on first in the Atlantic, leaving Boston and reigning champ Tampa Bay to duke it out for the rights to play second-seed Toronto. In the Metro, Carolina and the New York Rangers are neck and neck for the top while Washington attempts to knock Pittsburgh into the second Wild Card spot.
  2. Things are only murkier out west. The Golden Knights are on the outside looking in for now, but the Stars, Kings and Predators are all teetering on the edge. Colorado and Calgary have their divisions just about wrapped up, and a Blues versus Wild first round is looking more and more inevitable.
  3. What a season for Auston Matthews. The Maple Leafs juggernaut scored his 50th goal in 50 games as of April 9 against the Canadiens, and he made it 51 in 50 by scoring just 27 seconds later.

Enjoy the games this week!