I couldn’t help but snicker when I read that Chicago GM Stan Bowman decided not to trade Cristobal Huet because he “believes in the Detroit model” of protecting an average goalie with great defense and goal support. That’s a cute concept, Stan, except for the fact that Detroit didn’t wildly overpay a goalie who hadn’t shown that he could consistently produce results over the long haul.
The affliction might not be limited to these three goalies, but I’ve always had a suspicion that Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin mysteriously play a whole lot better when they need to earn a new paycheck. It’s human nature, after all, but NHL teams need to be weary of these anomaly seasons.
Let me say that these guys aren’t the only possible culprits and this isn’t a universal issue. Really, though, you have to hand it to Marty Turco – the guy’s just too honest to pretend to be an NHL goalie anymore. I’m also sure that some of this comes from my own weird grudges toward the goalies (Khabibulin’s facial tics, Huet’s smarmy demeanor and Theo’s … existence).
But there’s a little fire to back up all the smoke.
While the Bulin Wall was fairly steady in his Lightning days, he won a Cup in his contract year there. That encouraged Chicago to give him a big contract that he didn’t live up to until (wait for it) his contract year in 08-09. Khabibulin’s save percentage went from about 91% to about 92% (more significant than you think), he won 25 of 42 GP and had his lowest GAA in Chicago. This prompted Edmonton to sign the aging goalie to a sizable deal; he’s had a disastrous season ravaged by injury and his DUI charges. Yikes.
Theodore’s career features “convenient” improvements too. There’s some evidence this year in Washington, but his Avs’ run was particularly comical. Suddenly, a goalie who had a GAA above 3 and a save percentage below 90% became a solid NHL goalie again.
Huet is a master of the contract year hot streak. He burst onto the scene with Montreal that way, but really swindled Chicago with the run he had after being traded to the Capitals. Huet had an otherworldly run of 11-2-0 with a 93.6% save percentage and a 1.63 GAA. Now he’s back to being mediocre.
The lesson of this rant is that NHL teams need to be weary of atypical years for goalies. Before you give a guy $5.6 million per year, make sure he can actually do that for more than one season. Or, I guess, you can go with the Caps and Blackhawks models (the blindfolded dart throw).
The Detroit Red Wings are trying to play their way back into playoff contention and have gained points in four consecutive games, including wins in each of their past three home games.
On Sunday they trying to extend that home winning streak against a New York Rangers team that is one of the highest scoring teams in the league, but has had a heck of a time stopping teams in recent weeks giving up 50 goals in their past 12 games.
All of the action starts on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET and you can watch all of it there, or online via our live stream.
The Philadelphia Flyers had a tough second period on Saturday night on their way to a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
It all started when Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas was penalized for clipping Devils forward Miles Wood on a play that the Flyers felt was a legal hip check. Following that call, forward Wayne Simmonds had a brief discussion with referee Dan O’Halloran — the referee that made the call — resulting in Simmonds picking up a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. It wasn’t even a particularly heated discussion (watch it here) and seemed to be similar to ones you see happen in most games across the league on any given night without further incident.
That gave the Devils an extended 5-on-3 power play that resulted in a Kyle Palmieri power play goal to break what had been a 1-1 tie.
Just three minutes later Wood scored his first of two goals on the night to begin putting the game out of reach.
This was the entire sequence that led to the Palmieri goal.
“I’ll take blame for that,” Simmonds said after the game, via CSN Philadelphia when asked about what happened. “I didn’t agree with the penalty, I got an extra two that’s my fault. They score a goal, make it 2-1, that’s a momentum changer, I take all of the blame for that.”
Simmonds would not say what was said between the two, only adding “The referee was talking to me; I was talking to him. I am not commenting on calls; it is what it is. It happened, it’s over with now. I am not going to say anything about that.”
Simmonds has been arguably the Flyers’ best player this season with a team-leading 18 goals entering play on Sunday.
Whether that was what sent the game in the wrong direction for the Flyers or not, the most concerning thing is that was another big loss that continued their recent slump that has seen them win just three of their past 15 games. They remain one point back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference but have already played three more games than them.
Who can challenge Red Wings’ Larkin as NHL’s fastest skater?
As their core players from recent years have started to age and move on, the Detroit Red Wings have undergone a transition period with several new faces taking over the roster.
One of the players that is going to be counted on to be a key piece moving forward in almost certainly going to be 20-year-old forward Dylan Larkin, a top-five finisher in the 2016 Calder Trophy voting and currently one of the fastest skaters in the NHL.
He will be the focus from the Red Wings’ side of their Star Sunday matchup with the New York Rangers on NBC Sunday afternoon.
His performance a year ago earned him a trip to the 2016 All-Star game in Nashville where he helped steal the show at the skills competition by breaking Mike Gartner’s 19-year-old record.
Larkin won’t have a chance to defend his crown at the 2017 NHL All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, but there are a handful of players that might be able to make a run at his record.
Some of the favorites to win this year’s competition should include:
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (who was not at the All-Star game a year ago due to injury) would seem to be the leading favorite to not only win the competition this season if he participates in, but to perhaps also break Larkin’s record. When he is on the ice he always seems to be playing the game at a different speed than everybody else and is already one of the most game-breaking players in the league.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, currently one of the few bright spots on the Avalanche roster, is also a worthy contender and has been one of the fastest skaters in the league from the minute he arrived as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. His acceleration is similar to Olympic speed skaters.
Erik Karlsson is probably the one defenseman in the league that could have a shot at winning the competition given the way he can blow past even the fastest forwards in the league every night.
NHL on NBC: Red Wings look to take advantage of Rangers’ struggling defense
NBC’s coverage of the NHL continues on Sunday afternoon when the New York Rangers pay a visit to the Detroit Red Wings. You can watch all of the action on NBC starting at 12:30 p.m. ET or on our live stream here.
It is another Star Sunday in Detroit on Sunday afternoon when the Rangers visit the Red Wings, with the focus of the game falling on New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin.
For the Red Wings, the time is now for them to start accumulating points if they are going to extend their playoff streak to a 26th season. They enter play on Sunday in 14th place in the Eastern Conference with 47 points in their first 46 games, a pace that has them on track for only 80 points. That would be the organization’s lowest point total (excluding lockout shortened seasons) since 1990-91, the year their current postseason streak started.
The good news is they have already started to pick up some points in recent games and are carrying a four-game point streak into Sunday’s game against the Rangers. Still sitting four points back of a wild card spot (while the team they are chasing still has two games in hand) and five points out of third place in the Atlantic Division they are still going to have plenty of work to do to make up that ground over the next couple of months.
The Rangers, meanwhile, still have a solid hold on a playoff spot and have continued to fill the net as one of the NHL’s best offensive teams.
The problem is they can’t seem to stop anybody from scoring right now, either.
Over their past 12 games dating back to Dec. 20 the Rangers have held teams to less than three goals just three times, and have allowed more than four goals seven times. That includes three games where they have allowed at least seven goals. Overall, they have allowed 50 goals during the past 12 games (that is more than 4.1 per game).
Defense was a huge question mark coming into this season for the Rangers, and there has been nothing during the season that has eliminated that concern. In recent years when the defense has been an issue (especially last season) Henrik Lundqvist has always been good enough to mask whatever problems existed. But at 34 years old there is going to come a point where his play starts to a dip a little bit and we might have started to reach that point this season. He carries a .902 save percentage into Sunday’s game which would be the worst mark (by far) of his career to this point.
Puck drop on Sunday afternoon is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET. Catch all of the action on NBC or on our live stream.