Between the Pipes
Some key things to look for during the season:
Trap Games – The Penguins know what this is all to well. After beating the Rangers and Islanders in tough division match-ups the Penguins were probably looking forward to their next division match-up against one of the Eastern Conference favorites this year the Flyers, who are also their bitter rival. Unfortunately Phoenix was in between those games, and the Penguins probably didn’t think much of the lowly Coyotes, who played their hearts out. The Penguins overall played a sloppy game and gave the Coyotes nine power plays, which they converted on two of, which was the difference in the game. Overlooking teams will be a problem this year for a few teams especially the defending champs.
Young Teams – There are a lot of young teams on the rise this year including the Islanders, Coyotes, Avalanche and Kings. The Los Angeles Kings I figured were a year away from making the playoffs but the young guns have really blossomed (see one of the things I like below) and they seem to be a lock for the playoffs this year. Their defense and goaltending are still question marks though.
Last Minute Scoring – There has been an abundance of game tying or game winning goals in the last minute of regulation. I, for one, am not complaining. The game tying goals lead to the always exciting overtime and penalty shootout.
Last week I did a feature on Colorado Avalanche net minder Craig Anderson. This week Jean-Sebastien Giguere heads into the spotlight.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere – Anaheim Ducks
Normally I won’t be spotlighting a “backup“goalie but Giguere is not your typical backup. He has led the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2007 and was one of only five players to win the Conn Smythe trophy, for playoff MVP, on the losing team in 2003 when the Ducks lost to the New Jersey Devils in the finals. He is currently splitting time backstopping the Ducks with Jonas Hiller.
You may wonder how did a goalie with an impressive resume end up splitting time? Statistically the 08-09 campaign was one of his worst. You would have to go back 10 years to when he was a backup for the Calgary Flames and just breaking into the league to find a worse year. Despite this, he was named the Western Conference starting goalie for the All-Star game, further proof that fan voting doesn’t generally reward those that truly deserve to start. In December of 2008 Giguere’s dad, Claude, passed away which further added to his difficult year, a tough thing for anyone to have to go through. This enabled Hiller to get more playing time which he fully took advantage of, becoming one of the hottest goalies last year.
This is an important year for Ducks management to decide what goalie they want to go with in the future. Giguere has one year left on his contract after this season and it’s a huge cap hit of 7 million. Hiller will become an unrestricted free agent after this year, and will command a big raise. While I’m sure management would want to keep both financially it is not feasible. Both goalies have a lot to prove this year, and will be sure to make every game they start count.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Derek Dorsett vs Frazer McLaren
Dorsett spent half the fight on McLaren’s back, never really seen that before. After McLaren finally got him off he landed some pretty good punches.
Zack Stortini vs Triston Grant
A pretty well balanced fight, but the edge goes to Stortini, and very loooong, as far as hockey fight length standards go.
Colton Orr vs. Donald Brashear
What weekly fight recap would be complete without a Brashear fight? Brashear won overall but Orr had a nice punch that knocked off Brashear’s helmet.
Trick Goal of the Week
Corey Perry – Perry on a shorthanded breakaway tried to score but was stopped by Tim Thomas. The rebound off Perry’s head however was not, which caught Perry and Thomas both by surprise. Dennis Wideman’s look of disbelief pretty much summed up the 6-1 loss for the Bruins, it was just that kind of night.
Goat of the Week
Braydon Coburn – Coburn, I guess, attempted to clear the puck, which bounced off unsuspecting Ray Emery and into the net. The goal was credited to defenseman Alex Goligoski. “It certainly was the easiest goal of my career considering that I didn’t even touch it,” Goligoski said. It ended up being a costly goal for the Flyers in a tight game.
Things I like
1. Anze Kopitar is really developing into an elite player in his 4th season in the NHL for the Los Angeles Kings. Generally a just below a point a game scorer, look for him to improve that ratio and be in the mix for the scoring title all season long.
2. Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the few bright spots on the Atlanta Thrashers. IIya led the Thrashers in points the past two seasons and will undoubtedly do it again.
3. Teemu Selanne had 4 goals in back to back games, including the only goal in a shootout vs. the Flyers. At age 39 the “Finnish Flash”, who had 76 goals 17 years ago as a rookie, has not lost his knack for scoring.
Things I don’t
1. The Edmonton Oilers luck or lack thereof. Those who read this column last week know that Nikolai Khabibulin was named Goat of the Week for his misplaying of the puck in the final minute of a game against Calgary, which cost them that game. Thursday in the final 2 seconds of a rematch against Calgary the Flames were able to redirect a puck in for the tying goal. The Flames then won in the shootout. At least the Oilers got a point in this game, but losing two games at home to your division rivals, in that fashion, cannot be easy to stomach.
2. Washington Capitals were considered to be an elite team this year and in many ways they are. However after winning the first two games they have now lost four in a row all by 1 goal, though two of those losses were in the shootout or overtime. Elite teams find a way to win some of those games. So far the Capitals have shown that they are not in that class yet.
3. Toronto is the only winless team left besides the Islanders. However the Islanders have 2 more overtime loses so they have 2 more points. Lowly Toronto has just 1 point and did I mention this is Toronto, Canada home of the Hockey Hall of Fame? Just, disgraceful.
4. Calgary for giving up a 5 goal lead to the Chicago Blackhawks. They at least salvaged a point losing in overtime, but that’s a huge flop. At least the Blackhawks started to chip away in the 1st and didn’t score all their goals in the 3rd.
2. New York Rangers
3. Los Angeles
29. New York Islanders
Ducks Watch (My team)
After two embarrassing games the Ducks demolished the Bruins on the road, which is a good start to a tough East Coast road trip for them. The Ducks received a good balanced contribution from everyone including Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne. After committing nine penalties and giving up two power play goals to the Flyers things looked bleak for the Ducks. However Selanne who was already hot from last game became red hot and scored two goals in the end of the third period sending the game into overtime where he eventually won it in the shootout. The Ducks then dropped a tough game to the Rangers where you could tell they were fatigued most of the game, from playing back to back games. The loss was even more disappointing considering that Henrik Lundqvist was not playing for the Rangers.
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.