Between the Pipes – NHL Recap Week 7
Does anyone else find this funny? – Alex Ovechkin has missed the past 6 games, yet he still leads the league in shots on goal. Hey Alex, we know you’re a prolific scorer but you might want to try passing the puck a little more.
A Tale of Two Cities – Detroit and Pittsburgh will be forever linked in hockey lore because of playing each other in back to back Stanley Cup finals and having some of the highest ratings in some time in those games. This year both teams started out in opposite directions. They have now both reversed directions since those starts. Of course Pittsburgh, with Evgeni Malkin back, has seemingly stopped the bleeding.
Detroit started out 3-4-2 not a bad record but being Detroit you would expect more. Of course they had to open up the season overseas in Europe, which is always tough on any team. Pavel Datsyuk started out slowly, with only 4 pts in the first 7 games, which didn’t help matters. They also had huge injuries to Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen, two key players who are still out. Detroit has now won 6 of 7, their only loss in that span was to umm.. Toronto. Yes you read that correctly, perhaps they fell asleep. Datsyuk has since shaken off his slow start and Zetterberg has been his usual productive self. Goaltending is still iffy. Chris Osgood hasn’t really looked all that sharp and neither has his replacement Jimmy Howard.
Pittsburgh started out red hot and had the best record in the NHL. They also had a perfect 7-0 road record. Things were looking good. Then Malkin got injured and they lost 5 of 6 games, before rebounding with a tough win against Boston and then a win against Anaheim. Also starting in the last week of October their defenseman started dropping like flies. It started with Sergei Gonchar, then Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, and Alex Goligoski followed. I can’t imagine many teams playing all that well without their top four defenseman. In fact I’m sure many teams wouldn’t win for a long time or until one of them came back. I think Malkin has a great chance to win his first Hart trophy this year as evident by the slump the Penguins suffered while he was out. Though I do realize the missing defensemen also contributed to that, Malkin is the Penguins rock. While Crosby is talented, he tends to be streaky, Malkin is generally more consistent.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think both will end up in the playoffs and both will be one of the top seeds. I also think that another rematch is possible. Although I personally don’t want to see the same teams three years in a row, I mean Marion Hossa won’t even be on the losing team if that happens. The Devils and the Sharks might have something to say about it, as they currently hold the top spots in the standings. But neither has had much postseason success recently, and of the course the Sharks playoff problems are well documented. Now teams can and have come out of nowhere to go to the Finals but, generally speaking, teams have been on the brink for a few years before they finally get there. It should be an interesting finish to the season.
Brendan Shanahan – I like to bid a fond farewell to Brendan Shanahan as he retires from the NHL after 21 seasons. Shanahan finished his career 23rd in points (1354) and 11th in goals (656). He is also the only player in NHL history to amass more than 2,000 penalty minutes and 600 goals. Like Joe Sakic he will be missed.
Tim Thomas – Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas has the distinction this week of being in the goalie spotlight and also the goat of the week (see below).
Tim Thomas was the winner of the Vezina Trophy (top goalie) and the William Jennings trophy (best GAA for a team) with Manny Fernandez last year. However it took a long time for success and recognition to come to Thomas at the professional level. He won the Vezina trophy at the age of 34. He was the oldest first time winner in 43 years since Gump Worsley did it at age 36 in the 1965-66 season for the Montreal Canadiens.
Michigan born Thomas played at the University of Vermont. He was a two-time All-ECAC Conference selection and a two-time NCAA East All-American. He also holds many Vermont records including; games played (140), wins (81), and minutes played (3,950). He is also second in the NCAA Division I record book in career saves (3,950). Thomas was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994 but nothing ever came of that. He finished up his four years of playing at Vermont. After playing briefly in ECHL and IHL, Thomas made his way to Finland where he played for HIFK in the SM-liiga league. He led them to the championship that year.
He signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 1998 and joined their AHL affiliate only to end up in Finland again. He came back to the states to play for the Detroit Vipers only to end up in Europe again this time playing in the Swedish league. He then signed with the Boston Bruins but elected to play a year in the SM-liiga Finnish league again. He then came back to the states to play for the Bruins affiliate the Providence Bruins. He played a few games for the Bruins too during the stint and ironically his first NHL win came against the Oilers, the team that drafted him. He returned to Finland for the 4th time and racked up a league high SV% and broke the league shutout mark for a season. He led his team to a 2nd place finish that year. Finally done with Finland, Thomas came back to the Bruins (both Providence and Boston.) Due to injuries to two goalies he was supposed to backup in different seasons, Thomas emerged as the number one goalie. His last two seasons were his statistical best in the NHL and he was also named to the All-Star game both times, the first time as a replacement and the second time as a starter.
Thomas led the Bruins to their best record in some time in the 08-09 season and despite suffering a tough 7th game lost in the 2nd round to the Hurricanes, expectations are high this year in Boston. Boston has struggled this year but Thomas for the most part has held up his end. Already recording 3 shutouts this season Thomas should easily pass his career high of 5. Look for Thomas to continue leading his team in the chase for a playoff spot.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Some really good fights this week to choose from. I narrowed it down to four though, two with bloodshed.
Rick Rypien vs. Brad May
High intensity fight, I love the way Rypien fights with his fists of fury. Brad May is getting older and you can tell. May gets his head caught in his jersey.
Brandon Prust vs. Adam Mair
Pretty decent fight, the refs should have let them go longer though. Prust lands some nice blows to the face at the end.
Matt Bradley vs Aaron Voros
Stick around until 40 seconds to see Bradley sporting the crimson mask.
Brian McGrattan vs Colton Orr
McGrattan gets a nice bloody nose for his troubles. Bonus points for his blonde Mohawk.
Goat of the Week
Tim Thomas for letting in a goal in the final second against the Penguins (Bill Guerin) and then giving up the game winning overtime goal (Pascal Dupuis) after misplaying the puck badly.
Trick shot of the Week
Rick Nash in his shootout winning goal against the Ducks, started to lose his balance, but he was able to regain it and score the game winner anyway.
Things I like
1. As noted above watch out NHL, Detroit is starting to heat up, Hockey’s version of the Death Star or the New England Patriots.
2. Carolina won! Sure, barely in a shootout but a win is a win. Next up they can try for a road win.
3. The Phil Kessel addition in Toronto. Sure the Maple Leafs gave up a lot to get him and they had to wait a bit until he played, but he has been productive since entering the lineup. He has 8 pts in 7 games and is one of the few players on the team with a positive +/-.
4. Chris Pronger has been quite a force in Philadelphia. Leading all defenseman on the team in scoring and 2nd on the team in the all important +/-. Not sure why Anaheim didn’t keep him and dump Scott Neidermayer or make Scott take a huge pay cut like they make Teemu Selanne take.
5. Corey Perry (ongoing) and Ryan Getzlaf (snapped) both had 11 game scoring streaks. The longest for two teammates since Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had 13-game streaks in 2007.
Things I don’t
1. There have been a lot of blowouts this week and I am not a fan of them. It makes games harder to watch on TV and in person. Obviously if one team is playing better, that’s the way it goes but I still don’t have to like it. We had Vancouver (8) vs. Colorado (2), Atlanta (7) vs. Los Angeles (0), Detroit (9) vs. Columbus (1), Philadelphia (5) vs. Ottawa (1).
2. If Boston has hopes of making the playoffs again, David Krejci is going to have to step it up. Having lost Kessel to Toronto and Marc Savard to an injury, Krejci is needed more to prove that last years successful season was not a fluke.
3. If the playoffs started today only one Canadian team would be in it, Calgary. I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with most Canadians and I think that would only make it harder for them to win their first cup in 17 years. Good thing it’s still early.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
November 12, 1931 The first NHL game was played at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Black Hawks won 2-1 over the Leafs.
November 12, 1910 At the annual meeting of the National Hockey Association (a forerunner of the NHL) a new rule was passed changing hockey’s playing time from two 30 minute periods to three 20 minute periods (with two ten-minute intermissions).
November 13, 1947 For the first time in NHL history, the league initiated the policy of having players raise their sticks to signify the scoring of a goal. Montreal’s Billy Reay became the first to do so as the Canadiens beat Chicago, 5-2 at the Forum.
November 13, 1934 St. Louis’ Ralph Bowman scored the first penalty shot goal in NHL history. It came during a 2-1 Maroons win over the St. Louis Eagles. It was Bowman’s first NHL goal, and just the second penalty shot attempt in NHL history.
November 13, 1992 Goaltender Pat Jablonski recorded the first shutout in Tampa Bay Lightning history (and the first of his NHL career) to lead the Lightning to a 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators, in Tampa Bay.
November 14, 2001 Patrick Roy became the first goaltender in NHL history to win 200 games with two teams (Montreal and Colorado) when the Avalanche won 1-0 against the visiting Minnesota Wild. It was Roy’s 54th career shutout.
November 15, 1973 Boston’s Bobby Orr had three power play goals and added four assists to become the first NHL defenseman to score seven points in one game, as the Bruins beat the New York Rangers 10-2.
November 15, 1995 Rookie Alex Hicks scored on the first shot in his first career NHL game, then added another goal along with an assist to lead the Mighty Ducks to a 7-3 win over the Avalanche, in Anaheim.
November 17, 1979 Rookie Wayne Gretzky played against Gordie Howe for the first of four times in their NHL careers. Gretzky went scoreless while Howe picked up one assist in the Hartford Whalers’ 4-0 win over Edmonton.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. San Jose
2. New Jersey
28. St. Louis
The Ducks are in last place in the western conference and that doesn’t sit well with me. They lost the first game on an east coast road swing against the Devils. They looked like they were still on west coast time, they didn’t play well. They lost a heartbreaker in the shootout to Columbus. True they still got a point but they played well and they should have won. They don’t do real well in shootouts, not sure why, but they don’t.
Then they had their playoff rematch against Detroit. They played well but somehow every time they had tied the game and had momentum, Detroit would literally come right back and score. Tied at 4-4, Hiller allowed 2 horrible goals in a row which cost them the game. Also of note were the first few horrible penalties the Ducks took. The refs are never fair to the Ducks but these aren’t to be blamed on the refs these are just stupid penalties. Only two types of good penalties; ones that prevent goals and breakaways and ones that stick up for your teammates, these were neither. I find it disturbing that GM Brian Burke says that coach Randy Carlyle won’t be going anytime soon, he is a proven winner. All I know is the since the Stanley Cup win, all the Ducks ever do is start slow and take dumb penalties. If that isn’t a sign of undisciplined coaching I don’t know what is. A coaching change did wonders for Pittsburgh. I think it would here as well.
Next up the defending champs again and they made sure the Ducks stayed winless on this road trip. While Corey Perry’s point streak continued (12 games now), Ryan Getzlaf’s (11 games) did not. Getzlaf also uncharacteristically was in a fight against Bill Guerin, a man 15 years older than him. Of course when you take 3 penalties in the first 8 minutes of the game, you don’t exactly give yourself a great start. Worse though was the fact that Pittsburgh was without its top 4 defensemen and the Ducks could only manage 2 goals. This team is too talented to be in last place in the conference. They need to wake up and start doing the little things better. They turn the puck over way to much in their own zone and of course all those dumb penalties. Now comes a long home stand and make or break time for their seasons playoff hopes. In a related note, I’m shopping for some brown bags with eyeholes in them.
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.