‘Tis the season to underachieve? – So who are this years biggest underachievers? Some might say Vancouver or Detroit. Detroit is due for a bad year after all their years of success and Vancouver, while a decent team, is a team I think is overrated. Some “experts” picked them to go to the finals this year. Really? At any rate both teams are only a few points out of playoff spots. The biggest disappointments would be, by far, Carolina, Philadelphia and Anaheim. All of them made the playoffs last year and they were all pretty much expected to build upon their success last year. Philadelphia has really tumbled lately, all they down to 13th place, and just recently fired their head coach. Carolina and Anaheim are bottom feeders. So what has happened?

Well I generally document Anaheim’s problems on a weekly basis. I will sum it up with injuries, not being able to win key face-offs, dumb penalties, inconsistent goalie play, poor penalty killing and not clearing the zone when they have the opportunity. Selanne, Giguere, Koivu, Wisniewski, and Lupul have all been injured. Various other minor players have also been bitten by the injury bug. Lately they have been blowing 3rd period leads which happened in a stretch of three games in a row. They are 2nd in the league in giving up the most goals in the 3rd period. They need to have that killer instinct and shut teams out in the 3rd period when they have a lead. One bright spot for the Ducks is their power play. After struggling in the beginning of the year, they now have the 3rd best power play in the league. The Ducks need to start doing the little things better and get everyone back healthy and playing consistently.

Philadelphia had high expectations after being bounced in the playoffs two years in a row by the Penguins. Chris Pronger in the eyes of the Flyers was that missing piece to get in the way of Crosby and Malkin and they gave up a lot to get him. Pronger has played well though. His +/- is near the top of the league and his scoring pace is higher than his previous two seasons. So we can’t blame Pronger. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are on the same pace for points this year as they were last year. They did lose Joffrey Lupul and his 25 goals a year but Danny Briere is healthy this year and picking up that slack. So what’s the problem? Well I haven’t watched all that many Flyers games, so I can’t say with certainty. Having Simon Gagne, and his 30+ goals, injured for much of the year hasn’t helped the Flyers. Ray Emery’s numbers are worse than the man he replaced, Martin Biron. In the most recent game against the Canadiens Brian Boucher, subbing for Emery, gave up 3 goals on 13 shots, yikes. So goaltending which has generally been the Flyers Achilles’ heel is still a problem. The penalty killing could be improved as well.

Carolina has the honor of having the worst record in the league. They also went 14 games without a win in one stretch, ouch. Starting goalie Cam Ward has been out for a month so far. Neither of his backups are performing well. In fact the Hurricanes have the worst SV% and the 2nd worst GAA. Eric Staal has really struggled this year and is just recently starting to play better. Veteran Rob Brind’Amour is also struggling. Carolina’s powerplay is 2nd to last, which is never a good sign. The Hurricanes are also tied for 2nd with the Ducks in giving up the most goals in the 3rd period. Hmm… let’s see, bad powerplay, check, struggling 1st line, check, starting goalie injured, check, giving up tons of 3rd period goals, check. It’s hard to win games when those things are happening. On the bright side the Canes have won 2 in a row, although they have done that two other times this year only to go on losing streaks again. They should be getting back Cam Ward this week, which should help the Hurricanes immensely. Of course Ward will need to work off his rust.

All these teams have the talent to make a run for the playoffs. The season is only a third of the way done, so there is still plenty of time to turn it around. However if things don’t start to improve expect changes to be made. Whether it’s dealing some players, or following the Flyers lead and making a coaching change, shakeups will occur. Expectations for these teams are too high this year to sit around and be content with being in last place.

Goalie Spotlight

Miikka Kiprusoff – Calgary Flames

Kiprusoff is a Finland native and was selected in the 5th round by the San Jose Sharks in the 1995 entry draft. Before joining the Sharks in 2000, Kiprusoff was already an established international star. Kiprusoff led TPS in the Finnish league SM-liiga to gold in 1995 and 1999. He won the Urpo Ylönen trophy, for best goalie, in 1999 a year after fellow NHLer Tim Thomas (Goalie Spotlight Week 7) won it. His numbers in the postseason that year were a 9-1 record, 3 shutouts, and a 1.55 GAA. He also led Finland to silver placing finishes in the 1999 and 2001 World Championships and in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Kiprusoff moved to North America in 1999 and played for the Kentucky Thoroughblades in the AHL, and made the All-star team his first year. He played briefly for the Sharks during the 00 to 03 seasons. In the 2001 playoff series against the Blues, Kiprusoff became the 1st Finnish goaltender to win a playoff game. Having lost the starting goalie spot to Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks traded him to the Flames in 2003 for a 2nd round pick.

Rejuvenated by the trade to the Flames, Kiprusoff was named defensive player of the month for December of 03. Despite battling injuries he led the Flames to the postseason for the first time in eight years. He also led the league in GAA with a 1.69 mark, setting the tone for a stellar career with the Flames. This was the lowest GAA in the modern era and 24th best all time. He went on to lead the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals, including beating his former team along the way, against the Tampa Bay Lightning where they lost a close series in 7 games. The year after the lockout, Kiprusoff won the Vezina (best goalie) and Jennings (lowest team GAA) trophy. He set the record for most wins for a Flames goalie with 42 and then broke it himself 3 years later with 45 wins. Other Flame franchise records he holds include: Most shutouts in one season (10), most shutouts all time (30) and most games played in a season (76).

Despite losing in the 1st round the past 4 years, the Flames look poised to go deep in the playoffs this year. With Kiprusoff, captain Jarome Iginla, and new additions from last year Olli Jokinen (fellow Finlander) and this year Jay Bouwmeester the Flames have a great core. Off to a great start this year the Flames hope it can land the Stanley Cup in Canada for the first time since the Canadiens brought it home in the 1992-93 season.

Fights of the Week

Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.

Didn’t like that many fights this week and I’m strapped for time.

Matt Bradley vs. Daniel Carcillo

Technically not a fight as Bradley didn’t get any penalty minutes. Carcillo punches Bradley right as he drops his gloves. Carcillo racked up 29 minutes in penalties with the check and fight.

Brian McGrattan vs Raitis Ivanans

The 5th bout between these two, dating back to their AHL playing days, had some slow moments, but still pretty decent.

Goat of the Week

Brian Elliott – Ottawa Senators

Brian Elliott for giving up this fluke goal off the glass to Ryan Getzlaf, you might want to position yourself better Brian. No harm done as the Senators won in the shootout.

Things I like

1. Happy Birthday to the Montreal Canadiens who had their 100th anniversary on Dec. 4th. I’m sure their fans would like their most recent teams to rival their past success but you can’t have everything.

2. People say that the Sharks have the best line, but they would be wrong. The Devils actually have the best line. Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Jamie Langenbrunner (when he’s on the line) have a combined +/- of +43, tops in the league for a forward line.

3. Alex Ovechkin says he won’t change his style of play. Good for him I say, he only knows how to play one way and he isn’t going to change that. He plays with passion and I really don’t find his style that reckless.

4. The Carolina Hurricanes got their first road win of the season against the defending Stanley Cup champs of all teams, extracting some revenge from last years playoff sweep.

Things I don’t

1. Teemu Selanne is injured for about 4-6 weeks in what could very well be his last season. This is a huge blow to an already injured and struggling Ducks team. It will also affect how high Selanne can climb on numerous scoring records. Here’s hoping he doesn’t call it quits after this year.

2. Keith Ballard, a.k.a goalie annihilator, has taken his next victim in Craig Anderson. Ballard knocked Anderson out of the game when he slid towards the net and sent Anderson’s head to the goal post, at least he didn’t send him to the hospital though he is still day to day. Maybe Ballard was tormented by goalies as a kid. If you’re keeping track at home that’s two starting goalies down and 28 to go for Ballard.

3. Hard to imagine but the Pittsburgh Penguins’ power play is 28th overall, yikes. With all the talented scorers on that team you figured they could find the net more.

Stat Line of the Week

12/03/09  Capitals 6 vs. Panthers 2

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

M. Duco

5:57

0

0

-1

1

27

Mr. Duco racked up 27 minutes of penalty minutes on four penalties on one play against Alexandre Giroux and was ejected from the game. He was getting Giroux back for the elbow he laid on Dmitry Kulikov. Personally I didn’t find Giroux’s hit all that bad. Lesson to be learned don’t mess with the Duco. You can see both hits below.

12/05/09  Capitals 8 vs. Flyers 2

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

N. Backstrom

19:50

1

4

+1

2

0

The Capitals Swede racked up 5 points, 3 assists on the powerplay, against the Flyers. Ovechkin who?

Box Score of the Week

This won’t be a regular feature, I just thought it was too interesting to pass up. In the Flyers vs. Islanders game, if you look below, 4 players each scored 2 goals back to back without anyone else scoring in between. If they had scored 3 goals each that would have been 4 natural hat tricks in a row. I have no way to look it up but I’m pretty sure the below has never happened before.

1st Period

Philadelphia  9:47, Mike Richards 12 (power play) (Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell)

Philadelphia  15:14, Mike Richards 13 (shorthanded) (unassisted)

2nd Period

Philadelphia  4:21, Jeff Carter 10 (power play) (Danny Briere, Matt Carle)

Philadelphia  7:04, Jeff Carter 11 (Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen)

NY Islanders 10:52, John Tavares 12 (power play) (Jeff Tambellini, Kyle Okposo)

NY Islanders 14:55, John Tavares 13 (power play) (Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo)

Philadelphia  17:29, Claude Giroux 4 (power play) (Mike Richards, Chris Pronger)

3rd Period

Philadelphia  2:35, Claude Giroux 5 (Scott Hartnell)

Did You Know?

Speaking of penalty minutes Randy Holt holds the record for most penalty minutes in one game with 67 set in 1979. He also has the record for most penalty minutes in a period since he got all 67 of those in the 1st period in a game against the Flyers. 45 minutes came on a bench clearing brawl at the end of the period instigated by Holt. He doesn’t hold the record for most penalty minutes for a season though. That record goes to Dave Schultz with 472 penalty minutes set in the 1974-75 season.

Numbers, Numbers

0 – Number of overtime losses for Vancouver.

14 – Number of goals scored by the Capitals in the 2 games Ovechkin was suspended.

103 – Career shutouts for Martin Brodeur tying Terry Sawchuck’s NHL record.

15 – Career shutouts by Ryan Miller who was in the other goal when Brodeur tied the record.

13 – Anze Kopitar’s goalless game streak

This Week in Hockey History

Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.

December 03, 1999 Ottawa’s Kevin Dineen picked up a misconduct penalty to become the fifth player in league history to get 300 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes in his NHL career. The milestone came during a 7-4 Senators loss at New Jersey.

December 04, 2001 Peter Bondra scored his 400th and 401st NHL goals to become the 5th active player to score 400 goals with one team in the Capitals 5-2 win against the visiting New York Rangers.

December 05, 1988 Detroit’s Steve Yzerman set a new team record with a goal in his ninth straight game, a 7-2 Red Wings’ loss at Montreal. Yzerman broke the team record of goals in eight straight games set by Gordie Howe in 1952.

December 06, 1995 Colorado Avalanche obtained goaltender Patrick Roy and Mike Keane from the Montreal Canadiens, in exchange for Andrei Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky and goalie Jocelyn Thibault.

December 07, 1977 New England Whalers’ Gordie Howe scored his 1,000th professional goal (counting the NHL and WHA) in a WHA Whalers’ game against Birmingham.

December 08, 1999 Pavel Bure scored his 12th career hat trick in the third period to lead the Panthers to a 6-1 win at Phoenix. Panthers set a team record with five goals in the final period, as Mikhail Shtalenkov won in his first start with Florida.

December 08, 1967 Two months into their first NHL season, the “California” Seals officially changed their name to the “Oakland” Seals.

Rankings

The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.

Top 5

1. Washington
2. Chicago
3. Phoenix
4. Boston
5. Minnesota

Bottom 5

30. Philadelphia
29. Columbus
28. Tampa Bay
27. Florida
26. NY Rangers

Anaheim Ducks Watch

The Ducks suck, there I’m done. Anyway the Ducks were leading 1-0 against the Stars when they let the Stars score 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd including an empty netter. It was a tough loss for the Ducks who played a good game. To make matters worse Selanne broke his hand in a game he almost sat out because of the flu. Corey Perry’s point streak also came to an end; I think I may have jinxed him. Then there next game against Minnesota taking a 2-1 lead into the 3rd the Ducks were able to make it 4-2. Then they gave up two goals in the final 5 minutes to force overtime, which they of course lost in the shootout. Against Ottawa the Ducks decided to lose differently. They never led in the game and every time the Senators would score, they would tie it within a minute. They then lost in the shootout again.

Next up was the Dallas Stars, again, and the Ducks started off the game in typical Ducks fashion slow. The Stars were up 3-0 before you knew it and it seemed like another loss. But then Joffrey Lupul, who has been on fire since coming back from his injury, scored when Turco made the save on the breakaway but couldn’t put on the breaks as he slid behind the goaline. In the 3rd period instead of sucking as usual, the Ducks dominated the Stars outshooting them 14 to 2 and recently called up rookie Dan Sexton scored 2 goals to force overtime. In the overtime the Ducks continued to dominate and Saku Koivu scored on a 3 on 1 breakaway. All in all a very entertaining game and the Ducks scored 4 unanswered goals, which hopefully gives them something to build upon.

Alex Mueller

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.

Alex MuellerWeekly RecapsAlex Ovechkin,Alexandre Giroux,Anaheim Ducks,Anze Kopitar,Brian Elliott,Brian McGrattan,Calgary Flames,Cam Ward,Carolina Hurricanes,Chris Pronger,Corey Perry,Craig Anderson,Dan Sexton,Daniel Carcillo,Danny Briere,Eric Staal,Jamie Langenbrunner,Jeff Carter,Joffrey Lupul,Keith Ballard,Martin Brodeur,Matt Bradley,Miikka Kiprusoff,Mike Duco,Mike Richards,Montreal Canadiens,New York Islanders,Nicklas Backstrom,Philadelphia Flyers,Raitis Ivanans,Randy Holt,Ryan Getzlaf,Ryan Miller,Saku Koivu,SM-Liiga,Teemu Selanne,Travis Zajac,Vancouver Canucks,Zach Parise
‘Tis the season to underachieve? – So who are this years biggest underachievers? Some might say Vancouver or Detroit. Detroit is due for a bad year after all their years of success and Vancouver, while a decent team, is a team I think is overrated. Some “experts” picked them...