NHL Recap Week 1 – Sophomore Slumps of Goalies, Blackhawks and Sharks hot starts and more
A79BDFAF84FB One of the things I was most interested in seeing this year was Braden Holtby playing this season after his fantastic postseason run. Conversely I was excited to see Corey Crawford play after his fantastic short run against the Canucks two seasons ago. But just like with Crawford it’s not really happening for Holtby. They bring up sophomore slumps with bands all the time and sometimes with NFL quarterbacks. I think it’s the same with NHL goalies. Crawford had a mostly down season last year and split a lot of his playing time down the stretch with Ray Emery. This year he has regained the form he had when he almost single-handedly propelled the Blackhawks over the Canucks. Holtby looks like he might lose his job to Michal Neuvirth this season. Of course he has only played two games and the season is still young and his defense isn’t really giving him any hope.
But it still begs the question, why the sophomore slump? I think it’s two fold. One, there is no expectations when you come in to relive a veteran and two, nobody knows your style. In your second season you are now the man and you are expected to produce as well as you did your first year and two players have now watched your playing style on film. The third thing is goalies are so heavily scrutinized. Players screw up all the time but either it;s not really noticed or it doesn’t end up making a difference. If a goalie screw sup, 99% of the time it leads to a goal and people always notice that. At any rate, I don’t think you’ve heard the last of Holtby and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
Things I like
1. The nice balanced scoring by the Ducks who have gotten off to a hot start, something that never happened under Randy Carlyle. It’s not just the usual suspects that have been contributing. Guys like Daniel Winnik, Andrew Cogliano and new backup goalie Viktor Fasth have played an integral part. The line changes that Coach Boudreau has made have paid off, including moving Saku Koivu to the third line. The Ducks have done it all too, thus far. They won in overtime, blew out the Canucks and then got blown out themselves by the Canucks.
2. The Sharks are red hot and probably the top team in the league right now. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are already in double digits for points. Anti Niemi has played well so far, after some previous roller-coaster seasons in San Jose. But the Sharks could go 48-0 and nobody would care unless they go to the Stanley Cup, time will tell.
3. Conversely the Blackhawks are also off to a hot start with the best record in the NHL at 6-0. A balanced scoring attack led by Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford putting in some quality work make the Blackhawks a team to beat this year. I feel the only reason the Blackhawks didn’t go that far last year was because of Crawford and now that he is back to his rookie form, the Blackhawks should be a top favorite with the Sharks in the west.
4. Craig Anderson is off to a good start in Ottawa again and good for him. I always thought Colorado moved on to quickly from him after a down year. Playing in Ottawa has rejuvenated him.
Things I don’t
1. After beating Carolina 5-1 in the opener, Florida has now dropped four in a row and they have only scored three goals in those games. They also just lost 7-1 to the Flyers, not good. The Panthers need to follow up their breakthrough season last year with a strong season but with the added pressure that may be hard to do.
2. The Capitals just seem like they are going to have a lost season this year. They lost Alexander Semin, their defense isn’t that great and with Holtby’s struggle, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t make the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin has shown he couldn’t really excel under Dale Hunter and I don’t think it will be much different under Adam Oates.
3. The fact that we won’t have any Eastern vs. Western conference games. Those are some of the games I look forward to most, although I’m sure I’m in the minority with that. Another casualty of the lockout along with the Winter Classic and my favorite the All-Star skills competition. I also feel bad for the Thrashers always having to travel east to play everybody. On the plus side, their opponents having to travel west a long distance for their home games is no picnic for them either.
4. As the goalie turns… They say in football when you have two quarterbacks you have none, well in hockey when you have two goalies you have none as well. Though you like to give your main goalie a bit of a breather, you still need one goalie to predominantly carry the load. It’s going to be a really loooooooooonnnnng season in Vancouver. Cory Schneider has never played more than 30 games in a season and because of the lockout, he might not this season either. However if he was the number one goal he should possibly crack that number regardless. But I’m not so sure he is the number one goalie and neither does Vancouver. I have no idea what Roberto Luongo is thinking but I know he isn’t going anywhere this season. This will be one of the best storylines of the short season.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Zack Kassian vs. Ryane Clowe
Nice merry-go-round fight here.
Aaron Volpatti vs. Matt Beleskey
Would have been better if the refs would have let it go longer but still good punches thrown.
Goat of the Week
The Officials in the Kings vs. Oilers game on January 24th
Plenty of bad calls all around and the fans in Edmonton really let the refs know it. I just love the enthusiasm of the Canadian crowds. Before the Oilers tied the game there was a goal that was disallowed because of interference on Quick. Personally I didn’t have a problem with the call but others had a different opinion. The biggest blown call for me was when the Oilers had more pressure on Quick and the ref blew the whistle, probably because he lost sight of the puck, and a second later it squirts threw Quick’s pads and almost in the goal. It was too quick a whistle for my taste. I can’t remember when it was. I think it was the beginning of overtime.
Stat Line of the Week
01/24/13 San Jose 5 vs. Phoenix 3
Joe Thornton has a lot on his plate as the Captain of the Sharks and so far he has delivered in a big way. Through 5 games he has at least 2 points in every game. This 4 point night was his best of the season thus far.
.836 – League worst SV% for Mike Smith of the Coyotes and now he’s day-to-day
+15 – Goal differential by the Sharks, the highest in the league so far
3 – Overtime losses by the Predators to go with their 1 win and 1 loss
2 – Shutouts by Halak, picking up where he left off last season. But his other two games not as good…
8 – Saves by Halak in one of those other games (33 minutes) on 11 shots
5 – Number of goals Daniel Winnik already has, almost half of his previous career high of 11
Quote of the Week
“We finally win,” Ovechkin said. “So it’s much, much better for us right now. No pressure (on) our shoulders”
— Alex Ovechkin, on the Capitals winning their first game against the Sabres. – Well there’s still the pressure of winning the cup so…
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
January 21, 1997 Veteran defenseman Michel Petit set an NHL record by playing for his 9th different team, when he suited up for his first game with the Flyers, a 3-3 tie against the Dallas Stars, in Philadelphia.
January 22, 1976 Mike Murphy scored four goals (including three in the final period – his second career hat trick and his first with Los Angeles) as the Kings beat Toronto, 6-3 at the Forum. Marcel Dionne set a club record that night with five assists.
January 23, 1997 Boston’s Ray Bourque scored his 350th career NHL goal as the Bruins lost 4-1 to the visiting Florida Panthers. Bourque became the second defenseman in NHL history to score 350 NHL goals (and the 4th player in Bruins’ franchise history to do so).
January 24, 1991 Ray Bourque had two assists in a 3-0 win over the Hartford Whalers, to pass Bobby Orr and become Boston’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen. Orr had scored 888 points in 631 career games with Boston. Andy Moog got his 11th career shutout.
January 25, 1986 Rick Middleton scored his 8th career hat trick for the 400th goal of his NHL career as the Bruins won 6-3 over Detroit, at Boston Garden. Middleton became the 25th NHL player to reach the 400 goal mark.
January 26, 1921 Toronto St. Patricks acquired Sprague Cleghorn from Hamilton. – Oh yes! Who, What?
January 27, 1965 Ulf Sterner became the first Swedish born player to make the NHL. He played his first game as the Rangers beat Boston 5-2. Sterner’s NHL career lasted only four games — all with the Rangers.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. San Jose
3. New Jersey
5. St. Louis
26. Los Angeles
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.