Between the Pipes NHL Recap and Analysis Week 5
Is the Central Division the best division? – For awhile most people thought the Atlantic was the best division in the NHL. For three consecutive seasons they had four teams who made the playoffs, the only division recently to accomplish that. They just missed out on sending four again last season. They have also sent the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup representative three seasons in a row. However the Central Division has also sent the Western Conference Stanley Cup representative the past three seasons as well. (Whenever you feel like playing hockey other divisions, let us know.) This season the Central Division is outperforming the Atlantic by far. If the playoffs started today, the Atlantic would only send in two teams while the Central would send in four teams. No team in the Central Division has a losing record while the Atlantic boasts two teams (the Islanders and Devils) that seem to be falling off the cliff. It’s been so competitive that the Blue Jackets, who are off to their best start in franchise history at 8-4 were only in 3rd place.
Of course the biggest rise in the Central division is none other than the St. Louis Blues. The Blues rather quietly have the NHL’s best record. They have also allowed the fewest goals in the league. This can mostly be attributed to one thing, Jaroslav Halak. Halak was a relative steal, though who knows how how Ian Schultz or Lars Eller will tun out, for the Blues who were looking to upgrade over goalie Steve Mason. Halak already has three shutouts and is tied with Tim Thomas for the league lead. But Halak’s success isn’t really that much of a surprise, given his playoff heroics last season. The Blues have been stockpiling young talent over the past few seasons. The Blues are the 3rd youngest team in the league and they only have four players with over five years of NHL experience. Former 1st rounders T.J Oshie and David Perron are starting to break out and lead the Blues. Veteran guys such as Matt D’Agostini and Alex Steen are on pace for career years. Defensively former 1st overall 2006 pick Erik Johnson and Barrett Jackman are a force to be reckon with. Before he was injured, Jackman was averaging three blocked shots a game. The Blues have been hovering around 90 points the past two seasons and the continued development of their younger players coupled with the acquisition of Halak have made them into legit contenders.
Mathieu Garon – Columbus Blue Jackets
Perusing the goalie statistical league leaders you will find such familiar names as Tim Thomas and Jaroslav Halak. You will also find somebody by the name of Mathieu Garon sandwiched between them. Not that well known of a player, I figured I’d try and find out a little about him.
In 1996 The Montreal Canadiens drafted Garon 44th overall with a chance of maybe stepping in for the newly traded Patrick Roy. That never really came to pass as Garon didn’t even suit up for the Canadiens until the 2000-01 season. Before that season he spent the majority of his time playing in the AHL for the Fredericton Canadiens, Quebec Citadelles, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Manchester Monarchs. The Fredericton Canadiens and Quebec Citadelles are now defunct. He played in 43 games for the Canadiens over a four year period. His beast season was in 2002-03 but he only played in eight games. He was then traded to the Kings with a 3rd round pick for Radek Bonk and Cristobal Huet. He actually became the starter in Los Angeles for the first time. He posted a 3.22 GAA, a .894 SV% and 4 shutouts. The next season he split time mostly with Sean Burke and Dan Cloutier.
Garon then left for the Edmonton Oilers as a free agent. He became the starter over Dwayne Roloson but then injured his ankle late in the 2007-08 season. He was however the top shutout goalie in the league with a perfect 10-0 record. The following season Garon did not play as much and his numbers slipped from the previous season. Garon was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in early 2009. Garon only played in four games for the Penguins and one playoff game, which was Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals when the Penguins were blown out 5-0 by the Red Wings. He then signed a two year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the summer of 2009. Last season he mostly backed up Steve Mason. This season with Mason struggling Garon has been able to see equal time. He is so far 4-1 with 2 shutouts and a 1.28 GAA and .952 SV%. He is second in the league in shutouts, GAA and SV%.
Garon is part of the reason why the Blue Jackets were off to their best start in franchise history. If Mason continues to struggle, Garon will be called upon more to try and help lead the Blue Jackets to only their second playoff berth ever. Who knows, maybe the soon to be free agent Garon may have finally found a home in Columbus.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Brandon Prust vs. Daniel Carcillo
This one starts off kind of slow but it gets better.
George Parros vs. Frazer McLaren
Somewhat decent fight. It’s the first fight from Parros since he shaved his mustache for charity. Though the mustache is about 1/3 of way back now.
Goat of the Week
Bobby Ryan – Anaheim Ducks
Ryan attempted to clear the Anaheim zone but instead passed it right to Patrick Hornqvist who threaded to Steve Sullivan for the 2nd Predators goal. Ryan said afterward about the play “I was just trying to find a place to hide on the bench at that point.” That sounds about right Bobby.
Things I like
1. After producing only one assist in his first seven games, Mike Green has been on fire. He currently has a six game point streak and he had a four game goal streak. Better yet is that he only has a negative +/- in one of those games.
2. For a guy who is 40 years old and has been contemplating retiring for the last several seasons Teemu Selanne can just flat out play. He is currently tied for 4th in the league in scoring and tied for 2nd in power play goals with four. Selanne has showed that not only he can still produce at his age but he can still produce at an elite level. Here’s hoping he plays another year or two.
3. Speaking of streaks and older players, Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk each have a nine game point streak currently. The Red Wings are also 7-2 in that span. Lidstrom the nineteen year veteran, who is in the 40 year old club with Selanne, has shown that he can also still perform at a high level. He is the top scoring defenseman in the league and tied for 2nd overall in assists.
4. Steven Stamkos (I don’t need to write anything else)
Things I don’t
1. This week I had the chance to watch my first Pittsburgh Penguins game with their home announcers on FSN. All I can say is egad. Obviously announcers are bias when doing their home team telecasts but Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey go above and beyond the normal bias. Also half the time it’s like they are watching a completely different game. I guess many people have disliked them for some time. I can’t say that I blame them.
2. The Toronto Maple Leafs started out on fire and off to one of their best starts in some time. Now they just seem lost and confused. Worse it seems like they couldn’t score a goal if their life depended on it. In the past six games the Leafs have been shut out three times. After producing seven goals in eight games, Phil Kessel has produced no points in the past six games. Coincidence? I think not.
3. When the Bruins faced the Blues this week, I was really hoping it would pit the two hottest goalies in the league of Tim Thomas and Jaroslav Halak against each other. Unfortunately it was not to be as Rask started. While I realize that Thomas was pulled against the Caps in the last game, it was the Caps after all. It was still a good game regardless but these two teams won’t face each other again this season unless it’s in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Stat Line of the Week
11/06/10 Chicago 5 vs. Atlanta 4
It’s been a strange year so far for the Blackhawks but on this night the dynamic duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane combined for all of the Blackhawks goals to lead the hawks to a win over a few of their former teammates. Toews also had one of the two shootout goals for the Hawks with a nifty little move.
Did You Know?
The most games a team has been consecutively been shutout is eight set by the Chicago Blackhawks in 1929. The Maple Leafs have quite a few games to go if they hope to reach that dubious distinction. That same Blackhawks team was also shutout the most for one season. They were shutout a total of 20 times in the 1928-29 season.
50 – Goals scored by the defending champion Blackhawks so far
51 – Goals scored against the Blackhawks so far
6 – Number of home wins for both the Blues and the Kings with no loses
0 – Home wins for New Jersey
7 – Conservative wins by the Blues
7 – Consecutive loses by the Islanders
700 – Career points for Saku Koivu
76 – Steven Stamkos current goal pace
Quotes of the Week
“I don’t dislike them, I think they’re entertaining. I just wish I was better at them.”
– Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who is 1-3 in shootouts as a Leaf.
“We went into their building (in Philadelphia last Saturday), they beat us 6-1 and we got embarrassed. It’s been a downfall since then.”
– Isles defenseman James Wisniewski, before the Isles losing streak was extended to seven games with a 2-1 loss Saturday against the Flyers.
Though the Islanders downfall started before that game because they had already lost three games in a row prior to that Flyers loss.
Zenon Konopka had his own take own the Flyers rivalry.
“There’s no good blood between us, that’s for sure,” Konopka told Newsday. “There won’t be Christmas cards exchanged on that end of the hallway.”
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
November 04, 1956 Jacques Plante of the Canadiens completed a perfect weekend, with his second straight shutout over Chicago, a 1-0 win (following a 6-0 victory the day before). It was Plante’s 21st career shutout.
November 05, 2000 Doug Weight tied a career high with four assists as the Oilers picked up their 800 victory in franchise history, with a 4-2 win against the Blue Jackets at Columbus.
November 06, 1988 Wayne Gretzky became the third player in NHL history to score 1,700 points. He got two goals and an assist in career game #711 as the Kings won 5-3 over the Blackhawks at Chicago. Mark Fitzpatrick started and won his first NHL game.
November 07, 1968 St. Louis Blues Red Berenson scored six goals (for his first career hat trick) & an assist in an 8-0 win over the visiting Flyers. It was the NHL’s first six goal game since Detroit’s Syd Howe did it in 1944. Jacques Plante recorded the shutout.
November 08, 1989 Calgary’s Al MacInnis became the Flames all time leader in assists when he recorded #337 in a 5-4 win at Los Angeles. MacInnis replaced Guy Chouinard (336) and Paul Reinhart (335). MacInnis had three assists in the game.
November 09, 2000 Joe Sakic tied the Avalanche franchise mark for career assists, when he picked up his 668th with the team in a 3-3 tie against the St. Louis Blues. Sakic tied the record set by Peter Stastny (when the team was in Quebec City).
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. St. Louis
2. Los Angeles
30. N.Y Islanders
26. New Jersey
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.