Between the Pipes – NHL Recap Week 14
Back from my one week vacation, did anyone miss me? This is a really long column this week.
Winter Classic? – The NHL had their annual winter classic on New Years Day. Certainly the most marketable game, besides the Finals, and it also draws the most ratings for a regular season by a huge margin. I remember the first winter classic between the Sabres and Penguins. I thought the snow flurries added a nice touch. It look cool watching it on TV but it wasn’t snowing hard enough to ruin the performance of the game. I also thought the game was rigged. It seemed too fishy to have the game to go into a shootout and have it be won by Sidney Crosby. I mean that NHL gets to showcase one of the more exciting aspects of the game, the 1 on 1 shootout, and they get to have their most marketable star, Crosby, win the game. But I guess that’s just what happened.
I didn’t get to watch last years’ game because I thought the game was on at 1pm. Which it was but I live on the west coast so when I turned it on about five minutes before 1pm it had about five minutes left in the game. I can’t remember being more annoyed. This year’s game between the Bruins and Flyers featured almost 40 minutes worth of pre game activities. Some of them added a nice touch I thought like talking to Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke and showing classic footage of each. But overall I thought it dragged and I just wanted the game to start already.
The game was kind of flat. I didn’t find most of it to be all that exciting, except for the end. Philadelphia truly dominated all but the last 5 minutes of the game and overtime. Even though Boston had one more shot on goal in certainly didn’t feel that way. Philadelphia had the better scoring chances and it always seemed to have an odd man rush in their favor every five minutes. Whether it was a breakaway or a 2 on 1, Tim Thomas kept the Bruins in the game. He played like a monster in front of the monster (I couldn’t resist) with well timed saves and occasionally losing his gear during them. I was stunned to see the Bruins tie it up with about three minutes to go in the game. I wasn’t surprised they won it in overtime though; you could tell the momentum had shifted after that. Michael Leighton played really well for the Flyers which I wasn’t expecting, since he didn’t exactly tear it up for Carolina. But he has played well since coming to Philadelphia. Leighton has played on four different teams in his career and is in his second stint with the Flyers. Hopefully he has found a home this time. If he continues to play well I suspect he has and he may even push Emery out the door when he gets back. I was hoping for rain or snow during the game but that didn’t happen. I look forward to next year’s game, wherever that may be.
Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks
Named to the Canadian team this past week I figured I do a write-up on him. Loyal readers know that I already did spotlights on all of the goalies on team USA.
Robert Luongo is the first goalie to be named captain of his team since Bill Durnan in the 1947-48 season. Luongo is a native of Montreal, Quebec like so many other great goalies that come from Quebec. He has a rink named after him where he used to play the 2nd goalie with that honor, the first being Martin Brodeur. He started skating at age 8 and wanted to play goalie then, but his parents wanted him to focusing on his skating. At age 11, after playing forward for a few years, his team’s regular goalie didn’t show. After begging his mom he was allowed to play goal. She said on that day, “It made me sad because he loved hockey and couldn’t skate.” As fate would have it Luongo posted a shutout on that day and it was clear he was meant to be a goalie. At age 15 Luongo joined Montreal-Bourassa a midget team that Martin Brodeur and Felix Potvin (who Luongo is linked to in many ways) played for before they were stars. Luongo then moved on Val-d’Or Foreurs (a junior ice hockey team) where he received rave reviews. Luongo was drafted with the 4th pick by the New York Islanders in 1997. He was the highest drafted goalie ever until the Islanders, again, picked Rick DiPietro 1st overall three years later.
In the 1999-2000 season, a few months after signing his contract, Luongo split time with the AHL (Lowell Lock Monsters) and the Islanders. Luongo played so well that he surpassed Felix Potvin as the starting goalie so Potvin was traded to Vancouver. Despite being considered their future goalie the Islanders traded Luongo and Olli Jokinen to the Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. This paved the way for the Islanders to take DiPietro.
Luongo started his career with the Panthers splitting time with Trevor Kidd but he soon emerged as the clear cut number one. It was hard to record wins playing for the struggling Panthers but he continually posted great GAA and SV%. An ankle injury sidelined him for a third of the 01-02 season. He received his first Vezina Trophy nomination in 03-04, setting the NHL record for most shots faced and saved in a single season and he led the league with a .931 SV%. The previous record holder was Felix Potvin. Luongo was second in the Vezina balloting losing only to Martin Brodeur. After the lockout season Luongo signed a one year deal with the Panthers. He posted what was then a career high of eight shutouts that year. Before the start of the 06-07 season he was wrangling for a new contract with the Panthers. He had a list of demands he wanted met in the contract but GM Mike Keenan and Luongo didn’t have the best relationship. In a surprise move Keenan elected to trade Luongo to the Canucks for Todd Bertuzzi, Alex Auld and Bryan Allen. Luongo brought instant stability to the Cancuks net that had been searching for a goalie for some time since Kirk Mclean left.
In his first season with the Canucks he was an All-Star, set the franchise record for most wins in a season with 47 and set a career high for wins and GAA. 2007 was the first year Luongo ever made the playoffs. In his first game he came within one save of tying Kelly Hrudey’s mark for most saves (73) in a playoff game. The Canucks lost to the Ducks in the 2nd round. Luongo was nominated for three awards (Vezina, Pearson, Hart) that year and finished second in all of them losing to Brodeur again for the Vezina trophy. The next season he was named an All-Star again but he stumbled down the stretch and the Canucks missed the playoffs. Luongo led the Canucks to their second division crown in three seasons and into the 2nd round of the playoffs again. They lost to the Blackhawks in six games where Luongo gave up seven goals. He was heavily criticized for his play and he acknowledged he let his team down. Before the season started he signed a hefty 12 year contract extension.
After struggling mightily this year with a horrible October, Luongo has rebounded nicely posting some stellar numbers in the month of December. He also holds five Panthers’ franchise records and six Canucks’ franchise records. The Canucks hope to repeat as division champs but have stiff competition this year in the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche. This three team race should go down to the wire, just like last year’s two team race between the Canucks and the Flames.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Rick Rypien vs. Cam Janssen
If you like fast punches you’ll like this fight. The refs break it up to early though.
Cam Barker vs. Mike Weaver
The fight wasn’t anything, it was Weaver’s hit on Sharp that was awesome which led to this fight.
Cody McLeod vs. Jared Boll
If you like wild punches then this is the bout for you.
Jonathan Toews vs. David Backes
Here’s a fight between two guys who normally don’t fight, mildly entertaining.
Goat of the Week
Johan Hedberg – Atlanta Thrashers
Funny how about 75% of the goats of the week usually involve a Goalie leaving the crease. That’s why I say goalies should always stay between the pipes. Hedberg thought the puck was going to take a different bounce then it did and Derek Roy was the benefactor of that mistake, as he scored the game winner into a wide open net.
Things I like
1. Rene Bourque where has this guy come from? Never having more than 40 points in a season, he is practically already there after 36 games with 34 points. He also scored his 2nd career hat trick on Dec. 28th.
2. The Sharks top line is all bound for the Canadian Olympic team. If Canada was smart, they would just play that line as it is. They already have a half a seasons worth of chemistry.
3. Jamie Langenbrunner has been on a roll lately. He has a five game point streak going and had a three game goal streak during it, including a hat trick against the Wild. Earlier this month, he had a point streak of seven games.
4. The Sedin twins are getting even hotter. Henrik is now leading the NHL in points and Daniel is creeping up the leader board despite playing in only 25 games so far. Conversely the Canucks have also been creeping up the standings now residing in 6th place.
Things I don’t
1. Consistent is something the Washington Capitals are not. After having strange losses earlier in December to Buffalo and Toronto the Capitals end the month by not showing up against the worst team in the league, Carolina, and then one of the best teams, San Jose. They fell behind 0-3 to the Hurricanes, last Monday, in a game you thought they would have won but they lost 2-5. Maybe they thought it would be a cakewalk and they didn’t really come to play. But the next night against the Sharks they did the same thing and fell behind 0-3 before losing 2-5. You think they would have been motivated to play the Sharks. The Caps snapped their three game losing streak with a win against Montreal.
2. The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost five in a row now. They seem to be getting worse though as each loss mounts. Evgeni Malkin has particularly struggled, producing no points in his past four games and a costly turnover against the Panthers. Things are so bad Mario Lemieux watched almost all of their practice. They were finally able to beat Atlanta 5-2 and Malkin had an assist which is a start.
3. Anze Kopitar was the leading scorer in the middle of November now he is tied for 15th. Has anyone fallen this much this fast before? The Kings have also fallen from a brief, and I do mean brief, stint in 1st place to all the way down to the 7th slot. Of course I write that on Monday and then on Monday night the Kings crush the Sharks at the Shark Tank 6-2. Kopitar had a goal and an assist in the game.
4. Injuries to the Anaheim Ducks. When your injuries can produce a line of Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne, and Joffery Lupul you know you will have problems scoring. That’s just what has happened to the Ducks. A shame because the Ducks were able to string together a bunch of wins overcoming the Selanne and Lupul injuries. But losing Getzlaf is just too much in addition to them and now they are back on a losing streak.
Stat Line of the Week
01/03/10 Senators 7 vs. Flyers 4
Alexei Kovalev feels like he’s been around forever because he has. Now in his 17th season, Kovalev had four goals on six shots not to shabby to go with his +5. The four goals was a career high.
Did You Know?
While Kovalev’s five point night was good the record for most points in one game is twice that mark. The record of 10 points is not held by Wayne Gretzky but rather Darryl Sittler. His six goals and four assists in 1976 as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in a game against the Boston Bruins, still stands today. You have to like the chances of that record falling in the next few seasons though.
4 – Canadian teams that would make the playoffs if they started today out of 6.
-12 – +/- for Scott Niedermayer which looks to be receiving his third minus season in a row, after having only 1 in his previous 15 seasons before.
53 – Wins last year for the President Trophy winning Sharks, they are on pace for that again this year.
14 – Road wins for Colorado last year; they have 13 at the halfway point this year.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
December 31, 1910 Montreal Canadiens goalie Georges Vezina played the first of 367 consecutive regular season and playoff games, when Montreal lost their NHA season opener, 5-3 to the visiting Ottawa Senators. Vezina played every game for Montreal for 15 seasons.
January 01, 1999 Teemu Selanne scored his 15th career hat trick and added two assists, Steve Rucchin had two goals and two assists and Fredrik Olausson tied his career high with four assists in the Mighty Ducks’ 7-2 win at Buffalo.
January 02, 1990 Mario Lemieux tied team record he had set four years earlier, when a goal and an assist increased his point scoring streak to 28 straight games, 4th longest in NHL history, as the Penguins lost 5-2 to Boston.
January 03, 2002 Buffalo’s Rob Ray became the 7th player in NHL history to get 3,000 career penalty minutes (and the first ever to get 3,000 PIM with one team) when his minor, major, and two misconducts pushed him to 3,019 career PIM, in a 3-1 loss at Calgary.
January 04, 1997 Rangers’ Wayne Gretzky tied a club record with four assists in the second period as New York won 6-4 over the visiting Ottawa Senators. It was Mike Richter’s 11th straight win, and the Rangers’ 2,000th franchise victory.
January 05, 1957 CBS television became the first U.S. network to televise an NHL game as the host New York Rangers beat Chicago 4-1 in an afternoon game, at Madison Square Garden.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. San Jose
2. New Jersey
26. St. Louis
Anaheim Ducks Watch
Before I start this I’d like to say it’s incredibly annoying to listen to Brian Hayward announce Ducks games sometimes with his dumb “he’s living right” quote. He says it all the freakin time he must have said it like 10 times during the Blackhawks game, I think it was. Such a dumb quote who is living wrong by the way Hayward?
The Ducks lost Ryan Getzlaf to an injury against the Sharks so an already depleted team further depletes. That’s two years in a row a Duck has been injured by their own skate, first Selanne and now Getzlaf, strange. Bobby Ryan, of team USA, led the way against the Wild scoring two goals and providing an assist. While Anaheim didn’t give up the game in the 3rd period, they only produced 2 measly shots in it. Still they picked up the win and that’s the important part.
They followed up that win with an awful performance against the Stars. I don’t know what it is but the Stars really have the Ducks number the last few years. This doesn’t sit well with me since I’m not a Stars fan to begin with. Though Hiller faced a lot of shots, he didn’t play well. You can tell it’s going to be a tough night when the first goal you give up in the game is a shorthanded one.
The Predators game was hard to stomach as the Ducks led 1-0 after the 1st period then… well you know how it ends. Though the final score was 3-1 the buzzer beating empty net goal doesn’t count in my book. Hiller played better but there are just too many injuries to overcome and the lines are all out of whack. A really tough game to lose because the Ducks needed those 2 points and needed the Predators to not to get them.
Next up was the red hot Blackhawks and Anaheim got crushed 5-2. Now I know what you’re saying but it’s the Blackhawks true, however at the end of November the Ducks shutout the Blackhawks 3-0. Of course the Ducks were healthier then with Getzlaf and Selanne and Chicago didn’t have Hossa yet. My how things have changed, I turned it off at 4-0 so I could go watch the equally thrilling Jets vs. Bengals which was just as competitive, gag. I missed Petteri Nokelainen’s two garbage goals but good for him for scoring them.
Against Detroit Ryan Getzlaf came back and he was greatly needed. The Ducks halted their three game losing streak beating the Red Wings 4-1, with one goal being an empty netter. Getzlaf picked up an assist in his return and Hiller played well for a change making some great saves stopping 38 of 39 shots. Saku Koivu had a pretty shorthanded goal and Matt Beleskey had his first NHL goal. All in all one of the more well-rounded games the Ducks have played in some time.
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.