Between the Pipes
Welcome to the inaugural column of Between the Pipes, a weekly feature giving you quotes, top fights, who or what is hot and not, stats, goalie spotlight, and many other information from around the league. What an opening week it has been so far.
The number one thing I am looking forward to this season, just like any other season, is the biggest jumps, up or down by a team. For example when Boston was the 8th seed and Montreal the 1st seed in 2008 and they subsequently swapped places the next season in 2009. This year I figured Anaheim will jump up the most as they were the 8th seed last year. I peg them anywhere from 2st to 5th this year. Of course technically they were tied for 6th last year but they were still officially the 8th seed. The Avalanche have a possibility to nab the 8th seed which would be quite a jump up, don’t laugh it’s possible. For biggest tumble I can’t really see anyone dropping more than 3 spots, which I don’t think is enough of a drop to warrant a mention, but you know some team will.
You also have to wonder what the effects on the possible move/sale and the leaving of coach Gretzky will have on the Phoenix Coyotes, though it does look like they are staying in Phoenix for now. Granted Gretzky didn’t really seem to have an impact on the team but I can’t imagine the possibility of a move doesn’t have an affect on them. On the other hand it might motivate them to play better and it sure looked like it worked vs. the Kings.
The biggest surprises of the week were probably Colorado blanking Vancouver 3-0. I bet no one saw that coming, and the demolishing of Carolina by Boston 7-2. It’s not that Boston won the game it’s the score. I think Boston may still be bitter about last year’s playoff exit, just a little.
This feature will highlight a goalie every week. I will strive to do a few paragraphs on a different goalie every week, and I won’t base it on their past week’s performance. However, depending on how hot a goalie is during a given week, I may just discuss that.
Craig Anderson – Colorado Avalanche
Many “experts” predict Craig Anderson will be this year’s version of Tim Thomas, a longtime journeyman who becomes a superstar. Of course Thomas backstopped the Bruins to the best record in the Eastern Conference last year; I don’t think Anderson will be able to replicate that in the West. If Anderson sounds familiar it’s because he posted back-to-back shutouts last year, and in one shutout he set the NHL record for most saves (53). Despite his success last year, he was unable to wrestle away the top spot from Tomas Vokoun in Florida, despite having more of an upside based on being 5 years younger, and he became a free agent.
Anderson turned down offers from other teams to sign with the Avalanche, and relegate former starting goalie Peter Budaj to the bench. “It’s a dream come true,” Anderson said. “It was the place I wanted to be, a city I’ve always loved. I think it’s a great opportunity for me, and I want to be part of the solution bringing the team back.”  At 6 feet 2 inches Anderson is one of the taller goalies in the league and plays with a butterfly style made famous by his idol (and mine) Patrick Roy, who of course led the Avs to two Stanley Cups. The Avalanche believe they have found their goalie of the future and with Stastny, Wolski, and third overall pick Duchene are starting to form a nice nucleus to bring them back to respectability.
Fights of the Week
Everyone loves hockey fights! Some people watch only for the fights, sad because the rest of the game is even better. This feature will comb through all the past weeks fights to bring you the best.
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Donald Brashear vs. Eric Godard
This fight was interesting because of the sheer amount of time they took sizing each other up before they engaged. Brasher started hot but I think Goddard won overall.
Craig Conroy vs. Sam Gagner
Right off the face-off with this fight, literally, I don’t even think they cared who won the face-off. Both had some great punches, I give the win to Gagner though.
Andrew Alberts vs. Shawn Thornton
Like the Brasher vs. Goddard fight a lot of sizing up time, afterward Thornton basically makes Alberts his bitch. Bonus points to the announcer who really seemed to get into the fight. “Call off the fight, it’s a bloodletting!” Not sure where but alright!
Goat of the Week
Nikolai Khabibulin – Speaking of goalies, Khabibulin’s whiff of playing the puck in the final minute of a tied game, led to a gift goal and a win for the Flames. This was in the home opener no less, talk about silencing the home crowd. Further proof of why I always say goalies should stay between the pipes.
Tweet of the Week
According to Sportsin140 the NHL has the least amount of tweeters of the four major sports. Which should make it hard to find decent tweets for this section, but I figured it would still be fun. The NHL is, however, the first League to have all their teams tweeting.
So where’s the tweet you say? Unfortunately I couldn’t find a good one, if this keeps up, I’ll close this section. C’mon players tweet!
Things I like
1. Tavares in New York, assuming the Islanders stay there, was a great draft choice that joins the Islanders other great top picks like Ryan O’Marra, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey…. okay maybe not. But Tavares has the skills to lead the Islanders back to respectability and maybe some of it will rub onto line-mate and 2006 7th overall pick Okposo.
2. Ovechkin picking up right where he left off and then some. Though he didn’t win the scoring title last year, I suspect he will win it this year. The real challenge is whether he can bring his shooting percentage back from respectability after his paltry .106 percentage last year. So far, 5 goals in 3 games not to shabby.
3. The St. Louis Blues for their collective effort of beating the Red Wings, not once but two nights in a row, all the way over in Sweden. Also good to see Paul Kariya back recovered from injury and in top form, I’m sure the Blues are glad too.
4. Ray Emery, although only 2 games in, has seemed like a worthwhile addition to the Flyers including a shutout of Carolina opening day. If he can stay out of trouble this may led to bigger and better things. I know the Flyers and their fans are hoping for that. Of course last night he gave up 5 goals to the Capitals, but then again it was the Capitals.
Things I don’t
1. Robert Luongo, who I always thought was a tad overrated, has apparently regressed. The last time we saw him he gave up 7 goals to the Blackhawks, I don’t think that sat well with him. Reminds me of Jake Delhomme’s meltdown with the Panthers in the NFL Playoffs and then his starts the following year, he said it didn’t bother him, but later admitted it did. Maybe Luongo has the same mental block. It’s not time to turn to Raycroft yet, but if he keeps this up the Canucks may not have a choice.
2. Martin Brodeur one of the true legends of the games may be slipping. Like Luongo he had a playoff meltdown as he let in some weak goalies against Carolina in last year’s playoff, including the two late goals in the game 7 stunner. He has now given up 8 goals in 2 games. It didn’t sit well with me that they let go of Clemmensen, you hope it doesn’t come back to haunt the Devils.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing, not who I think is better or how they will end the season.
29. New Jersey
27. Tampa Bay
Ducks Watch (My team)
The Ducks were embarrassed in their home opener against San Jose, and Hiller seems to have lost some of his mojo. They looked real good up 3-0 to the Wild after 2 periods. They then promptly lost that lead, giving up 3 goals in the 3rd, not playing awful but not playing great either. Then in overtime Wisniewski takes a beyond stupid penalty by sucker punching a Wild right in front of the ref, ugh. Gave me flashbacks to all those games that ended with Pronger sitting in the penalty box. Minnesota promptly scores on the power play. On the plus side Anaheim got a point and at least looked like they might get better as the season progresses and they continue to gel.
Well I hope you liked the column any suggestions, comments, and/or feedback are always welcomed.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.