The hats were flying at a historic pace on the first two nights of the NHL season.
Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Wayne Simmonds and Brandon Saad each recorded a hat trick in his team’s season opener. It’s the first time four different players scored at least three goals in his season opener in 100 years, since the NHL’s first two games back in 1917 when hockey was a very different game.
“Other than it was a puck and three periods, and you were keeping score, there was really no similarities,” author and historian Liam Maguire said. “You had goaltenders who were basically wearing cardboard, you had no red line, you had the rules in terms of how you could pass a puck up the ice.
The guys would routinely play 50 or 55 out of 60 minutes, so it wasn’t like you had systems or back-checking or anything.”
That was reality when Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens, Harry Hyland of the Montreal Wanderers, Cy Denneny of the Ottawa Senators and Reg Noble of the Toronto Arenas each scored three-plus goals in the first two games in NHL history on Dec. 19, 1917. All four are Hockey Hall of Famers and were alive more than 100 years before McDavid was born.
When McDavid, Ovechkin, Simmonds and Saad got their hat tricks this week, they came against well-thought-out defenses and goaltenders with real pads.
The same goes for Auston Matthews, who scored four goals in his NHL debut a year ago.
Ovechkin’s hat trick, that led the Washington Capitals to a 5-4 shootout victory at Ottawa on Thursday, was the 18th of his career, most among active players and tied for 20th-most all time.Reigning MVP McDavid was clocked skating at a speed of over 25 mph during his second goal on the way to his second career hat trick at age 20.
Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan said McDavid “doesn’t go from first to second to third to fourth gear. He just goes from first to fourth and he’s gone.”