Drop the Puck: Week Four
Someone must have placed a shield over the goal area this week (October 25 – October 30) as goalies posted eight shut-outs, including five in one night. The Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, and Montreal Canadiens each recorded six points while the St. Louis Blues continued their hot streaks.
By week’s end, as teams took off for some trick or treating, the Canadiens, Flyers, and Lightning rose to the top of the standings in the east, while the Blackhawks, Avalanche, and Kings were the best in the west, with the Kings leading the league in points.
The Week in Hockey
Crime and Punishment
Don’t look now, but the NHL’s lords of disciplines brought down the gavel again, this time on the Philadelphia Flyers’ Daniel Briere for, you guessed it, a hit in the head. In the last minutes of a 6-1 Flyers’ victory over the New York Islanders, Briere hit Isles forward Frans Nielsen with a blow to the head, swinging his stick, cross-check like, at Nielsen’s skull after the face-off.
Briere’s suspension raised eyebrows across the NHL, not because the Flyers’ leading goal-scorer was suspended (that was obvious) but because the punishment was only three games. The foul was blatant, but did the penalty fit the crime? Briere is a “skill player” and the NHL seems to mete out judgment like a crooked cop or maybe a teacher who has a favorite student.
Goaltenders are the foundation of a good team’s defense but some elite goalies are finding themselves riding the pine, some through injury, others by poor play. Peter Budaj is the starting goalie for the foreseeable future as Craig Andersen is on the shelf with an injury. Budaj has shined in his role, going 3-0-1.
In Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury can’t seem to buy a win and has been replaced on a regular basis by Brent Johnson who has compiled a 5-0-1 record and a 1.16 GAA. Andrew Raycroft for the Dallas Stars and Alex Auld for Montreal also played important roles last week, showing you need to have a good back-up plan in the NHL.
Monday, October 25
Monday featured a light schedule with only three games played but all were one-goal games with the Blue Jackets, Canadiens, and Kings posting victories. Andre Kostitsyn netted his fifth goal in OT to give Montreal the victory while Michal Handzus scored a shoot-out goal to lift the Kings over the Wild.
Tuesday, October 26
Sergei Bobrovsky was strong in goal and Jeff Carter recorded three points as the Flyers bounced from a loss the night before in Columbus to beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-3.
Out west, in the battle of Alberta, the Calgary Flames outlasted the Edmonton Oilers, 5-4, in a shoot-out goal by Alex Tanguay, while the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3, on an OT goal by Mason Raymond. Goalie Roberto Luongo posted 36 saves, the most by an goalie that night.
Toronto and Ottawa also posted wins, stopping a three-game losing streak, but they wouldn’t get another win or goal the rest of the week.
Wednesday, October 27
In a 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks scored a hat trick on his way to a 5-point night, the most points in any game by any player this week. The loss lowered the Devils’ record to 2-7-1. Michal Nuevirth posted a 3-0 shutout for the Washington Capitals over the Carolina Hurricanes (they would lose by the same score three nights later), the first of eight shutouts on the week.
Thursday, October 28
Goalies Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins, and Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues, both recorded shut-outs, continuing their string of strong, early season play. The Blue Jackets won their second game of the week, pushing their record to 6-3, with shoot-out goals from Rick Nash and Nikita Filatov. Ottawa continued its winning ways as did Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Colorado. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 43 shots for the Coyotes, the most by any goalie this week.
Friday, October 29
Bobrovsky continued his strong play this week, stoning the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2, in a game that featured a string of ugly fights at the start of the game. Edmonton scored 4 goals in the first period on their way to 7 goals, the most posted by any team this week, including just the second goal by rookie Taylor Hall.
The Canadiens, Hurricanes, Devils, and Thrashers also recorded wins, with back-up goalie Alex Auld saving the day and stopping thirty pucks for Montreal in a 3-1 victory over the Isles.
Saturday, October 30
A whopping five shut-outs were posted on Saturday night in wins by Pittsburgh, Boston, Rangers, Stars, and Tampa Bay. Thomas got his second shut-out of the year for the Bruins, while Johnson continued his strong play for the Pens with 33 saves and Henrik Lundqviist stopped 36 pucks for New York.
Meanwhile, Bobrovsky posted his second straight win with 30 saves in a 6-1 victory against the Islanders, which was marred by Briere’s head shot. Looking for offense? Paval Datsyuk compiled three points for the Detroit Red Wings as they defeated the Nashville Predators and Nicklas Backstrom recorded four points for the Washington Capitals in a 7-2 win over the Flames
The Flyers rose to the top of the Atlantic Division with victories over the Pens, Islanders, and Sabres as they went 3-1 for the week. Philadelphia outscored opponents 16-8 and goalie Bobrovsky recorded three victories on the week.
The Canadiens punctuated a 3-1 week sweeping the New York Islanders, 5-3 and 3-1, with wins by Carey Price and Alex Auld. Kostitsyn recorded goals in each of the games, but the week ended with a dud of the lost to the Florida Panthers 3-1.
Los Angeles Kings
With three wins on the week, Jonathan Quick helped the Kings to a 3-1 record, including a shoot-out win over the Wild. Their 8 wins are the most by any team in the NHL and they have a 4-point cushion over Dallas in the Pacific Division as well as the best record in the NHL.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are really struggling. 0-4-1 at home, 1-2 last week, and Brodeur is 3-7-1 with a 2.78 GAA and only a .905 save percentage. Maybe this is the year Brodeur struggles after all.
An 0-3 week must not sit well with Sabres’ fans. What’s wrong with Ryan Miller? 3-5-2, 2.71 GAA, and .903 save percentage ranks him right down there with Marty.
Toronto Maple Leafs
After a 4-0 start, the Leafs have dropped five of their last six. Only a 3-1 win over the equally inept Florida Panthers saved them from a six-game losing streak and a 0 for the week. Don’t blame goalie Jean-Sebastian Gigure – he is 4-2-1 with a 2.27 GAA. During their streak, the Leafs have scored a total of 5 goals in 6 games. Yuck.
Offense was difficult to come by last week but here are some guys who are topping the leader boards:
- #1 Star Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: 9 Goals, 19 points. His four points last week keeps him atop the leader board.
- #2 Star Chris Stewart, Colorado Avalanche: 9 Goals, 16 points. Five points in two games made his stock shoot higher this week.
- # 3 Star Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks: 5 Goals, 10 points. This Shark still has some bite in his game.
- Honorable Mention Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks: Leads the NHL in goals with 10.
With eight shut-outs, this was a great week for goalies, even back-ups, though their play may have thrown a monkey wrench into your plans.
- #1 Star Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins: 2 games, 0 goals. On the season, he has been ridiculous. 6-0, 0.50 GAA, .984 save %. He is back.
- #2 Star Brent Johnson, Pittsburgh Penguins: 5-0-1, 1.16 GAA, .960 save %. Looks like he’ll be getting the majority of the PT in Pittsburgh.
- #3 Star Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: His 7-1 record is best in the NHL. Throw in a 1.84 GAA and a .936 save % and you have yourself a fantasy franchise goalie.
- Honorable Mention Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues: 6-1-1, 1.72 GAA, .932 save %. He seems to have overcome the inconsistency that marked his career with the Canadiens.
Until next week – hit the ice running and don’t draw any unsportsmanlike penalties.