Between the Pipes
Wacky Standings – If you look at the Western Conference standings you might think, with a few exceptions, you are looking at them upside-down. With Colorado and Phoenix in top spots and Detroit, Anaheim, Vancouver 11 – 13 respectively it is definitely a topsy-turvy year. San Jose was in 8th place but with a win they catapulted all the way up to 3rd and knocked Phoenix out of the division lead. Of course when one win can leapfrog you 5 spots you know it’s early. We are only about eight games into the season and it is an 82 game season. But are you surprised? You probably are. Should you be though? The answer to that is no. Every year we have these surprises. The question is which of these current trends has staying power? As I said before I think Colorado has the talent, barring injury, to stay contending for the top. Ottawa from the East and Phoenix I’m not so sure about. I think they will fall back down. If Ilya Bryzgalov, more on him below, keeps up his current play though, the Coyotes will definitely contend. Vancouver and Anaheim, more so, I think will pick up their play. Detroit I’m not so sure about maybe they have finally hit that wall. They have made the playoffs the last 18 seasons, minus the lockout year, and the past two Stanley Cups. All streaks have to come to an end at some point, is this the year for the Red Wings? I would love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section.
Cristobal Huet – Chicago Blackhawks
Huet is from France which is quite rare for an NHL player. He is currently the only Frenchman playing in the league. Huet is currently the starting goalie for the Blackhawks, though I do emphasize the word current. Drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, Huet never fit into their long term plans. Huet made his way to the Montreal Canadiens were he was selected to the All-Star game in 2007. Despite having some success with the Canadiens, Huet was traded away next year in mid season when it was clear the Canadiens viewed newly drafted Carey Price as their goaltender of the future.
He ended up on the Washington Capitals where he supplanted Olaf Kolzig as the starting goaltender. He didn’t stay with the Capitals long as he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks when the season was over. Expected to be the number 1 goalie, Huet was unable to beat Nikolai Khabibulin for the top spot. Khabibulin was named starting goalie in the playoffs last year and led the Blackhawks to the conference finals. Huet saw his first action of the postseason in those conference finals vs. the Red Wings when Khabibulin went down with an injury. Despite playing admirably the Blackhawks lost to the Wings.
When Khabibulin left for the Oilers this off-season it brought great pressure on Huet. Even though he could not win the number 1 spot outright, he was handed it by default anyway. The Blackhawks have great expectations this year with a young and deep team. Huet is expected to help lead them, despite never getting out of the 1st round of playoffs when he has been the number 1 goalie with the Canadiens and Capitals. So far he has not been able to live up to those expectations posting his worst numbers of his career. It is still early in the season but he does risk losing his number 1 spot to Antti Niemi if he keeps it up. Niemi will be a free agent at the end of this year. If Niemi does well they Blackhawks will be tempted to keep him, which they were unable to do last year with Khabibulin because of Khabibulin’s and Huet’s high salaries.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Tanner Glass vs. Brandon Prust and Darcy Hordichuk vs. Brian McGrattan
That’s right two fights at the same time! I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen that. I liked Darcy Hordichuk vs Brian McGrattan better. McGrattan’s last punch was really good.
Cody McLeod vs. Brad May
Some really good punches by both guys especially towards the end, May gets cut.
Rick Rypien vs. Brandon Prust
Rypien was in a good fight with Stortini this week as well, but I chose this fight because it was a little longer and more competitive. Rypien is a really quick fighter.
Goat/Trick Shot of the Week
Cristobal Huet and Stephane Robidas
Well it’s not many times that the trick shot of the week and goat of the week will be the same play, but in this case it was. Huet, who I spotlighted earlier, really miss played a dump in shot by Robidas, who probably never thought he would get a goal. I realize it was a tricky bounce but Huet had his glove right there, not sure how he missed it.
Things I like
1. The Pittsburgh Penguins, with only one loss, are rolling this year. Good to see that this team did not have a letdown after winning the Stanley Cup last year and after playing the most games the past two seasons. We will see how hungry they are come playoff time.
2. San Jose’s top line has been sensational. Thornton (14 pts.), Heatley (6 G), Setoguchi (7 G) are really delivering and Marleau is also chipping in from the 2nd line with 7 goals.
3. Ilya Bryzgalov and his insane 1.14 GAA. In case you’re wondering, and let’s face it you are, that GAA currently stacks 4th all time behind 3 goalies who played in the 20’s. In fact if you take away this season, the top 20 GAA are all from goalies that played in the 20’s and 30’s. Obviously it was a much different game back then. Miikka Kiprusoff would be the first goalie listed from the modern area checking in at 24 for his 1.69 GAA in the 03-04 campaign. Both IIyas (Bryzgalov and Kovalchuk on the Atlanta Thrashers) are having great seasons so far.
Things I don’t
1. The Minnesota Wild would have no points had the Ducks not blown a 3 goal lead in the 10/6 game. Of course the Ducks did, but if they hadn’t the wild would be 0-7-0. A team with some decent talent in Havlat, Koivu, and ageless wonder Nolan as well as a decent goaltender in Backstrom, should not be having this problem.
2. The Ducks so called top line and supposedly one of the best lines in NHL. Getzlaf, Perry, and Ryan have been less than stellar. Perry has played well but Getzlaf and Ryan have 1 goal between the two of them. That isn’t going to cut it. The Ducks will need them to step up if they have hopes to progress further this year.
3. Toronto is still winless. At least the NHL gave them a week off to dream about their first win. Anyone care to comment when that might be?
2. New York Rangers
4. San Jose
29. New York Islanders
Ducks Watch (My team)
The Ducks must have had Deju Vu Wednesday night as they almost blew their 2nd 3 goal led against Minnesota in a week. Luckily they pulled this one out for the win. They followed the big home win up with a drubbing by the St. Louis Blues 0-5. Not the way you want to lose in front of the home fans. The Ducks only had 2 games in the span of 9 days due to their odd scheduling. The Ducks will look to rebound against the Dallas Stars today. They should also have James Wisniewski back in the lineup from his shoulder injury.
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.