Greatest Moments of NHL Season … So Far: second round, matchup 9

The 2019-20 NHL season had many incredible moments before it was paused on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, and now fans can decide which one was the best.The Greatest Moments of the NHL season … So Far is down to 32 entries from the original bracket of 64 with the first round…

The 2019-20 NHL season had many incredible moments before it was paused on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, and now fans can decide which one was the best.

The Greatest Moments of the NHL season … So Far is down to 32 entries from the original bracket of 64 with the first round now complete. Fans will vote on one matchup per day, ultimately deciding the greatest moment up until this point.

Fans can vote on Twitter and Instagram each day from noon until 10 a.m. ET the next day. Each day, the winner of that matchup will be revealed, and a new set of moments will go head-to-head.

Though fans will have the ultimate say, two NHL.com staffers will weigh in on the matchup each day to give his or her opinion on which one should advance to the third round. 

In the matchup Saturday, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights moving to fifth on the all-time wins list defeated the Winnipeg Jets’ victory in the Heritage Classic. 

The matchup Sunday pits Columbus Blue Jackets rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikinsthree shutouts in four games against the 17-game point streak by Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel.

John Kreiser, managing editor

Kudos to Eichel, who has had a terrific season for the Sabres. But Eichel was a known entity, something that can’t be said about Merzlikins. The 26-year-old rookie from Latvia came out of nowhere and played well enough to get the Blue Jackets back into the Stanley Cup Playoff race after Joonas Korpisalo sustained a knee injury Dec. 29 that required surgery. Merzlikins had already helped the Blue Jackets sweep a three-game California trip when he went into T-Mobile Arena and made 27 saves in a 3-0 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 11. Columbus was back home three nights later and shut out the Boston Bruins 3-0, with Merzlikins making 34 saves. After a 3-2 home win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 16, Merzlikins had perhaps his best game of the season two nights later against the New Jersey Devils, making 21 saves in the first period and 41 for the game in a 5-0 victory. Three shutouts in four games, two of them against teams that were in first place when the season was paused March 12, are a tremendous accomplishment for any goalie, let alone one who had never played an NHL game before this season.

Video: NJD@CBJ: Merzlikins fuels Blue Jackets’ shutout win

Rob Reese, fantasy editor

I agree with John that what Merzlikins has done in his rookie season is impressive. But when we’re talking greatest moments, the longest point streak of the season has to advance. From Nov. 16-Dec. 21, Eichel had 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists), including seven points on the power play (two goals, five assists), in a personal 18-game point streak; he was scratched with an upper-body injury for a 6-1 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 19. Eichel’s 32 points were the most in the NHL in that span, five more than Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon‘s 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists). Eichel’s 17-game streak is tied for the second longest in Sabres history with Dave Andreychuk (Dec. 31, 1991-Feb. 4, 1992 and Oct. 8-Nov. 14, 1992). Gilbert Perreault holds the Sabres record at 18 games (Oct. 24-Dec. 4, 1971). Eichel’s remarkable run deserves to advance here.

Tweet from @NHL: Marc-Andre Fleury moves on to the next round! ������Which are you taking today: Elvis Merzlikins’ (@Merzly30) shutout binge or @Jackeichel15’s 17-game point streak? VOTE ������

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