Tim Thomas

Vezina finalists Luongo and Thomas set to duel in Stanley Cup Final

After last year’s Stanley Cup Final, there were fans and pundits who claimed that goaltending wasn’t as important as it used to be. The Blackhawks thought Antti Niemi was replaceable after winning the Stanley Cup and the Philadelphia Flyers came within two games of a championship with a goaltender that ended up playing most of this season in the AHL. Its been five season since the last time a goaltender won the Conn Smythe (Cam Ward in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes). But take a look at the men between the pipes in the Final this year and it’s clear to see that good goaltending will always be in style.

Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli understands that these things tend to be cyclical:

“History shows both sides of that. Sometimes teams try to copy the Stanley Cup finalists the following year, subsequent years. We’ve seen teams before without star goaltenders win Cups. Tim is a terrific goaltender and he’s a clutch goaltender. He’s won championships before. I wouldn’t call last year a fluke. I think you’ll probably see it again at some point. You’re going to be more certain to have a proven goaltender. I think history will show that also.”

Both Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo had the type of seasons that every team wants from their starting goaltender. Luongo lead the league with 38 wins, 2nd in goals against average (2.11), and 3rd in save percentage (.928). Not bad, but Tim Thomas’ numbers were even more impressive. Thomas earned 35 wins and 9 shutouts (2nd in the NHL). He also beat Luongo with a league’s best 2.00 goals against average this season and .938 save percentage; both were among the best the NHL has ever seen. Each goaltender was good enough to earn a spot as finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender.

The spectacular play wasn’t limited to the regular season. Throughout the playoffs, their numbers have been incredibly similar. The both have a 2.29 goals against average, 12 wins, and a pair of shutouts. Thomas has a slightly better save percentage in the post season (.929 vs. .922). Both goaltenders have been called upon at various times to help steal games and have always kept their team in games when the 18 skaters in front of them are having a rough game. That’s all a team can ask from their goaltender: give them a chance to win.

Even though they’ve both been elite netminders since October, Roberto Luongo knows it’ll be a battle:

“Yeah, obviously we have different styles. Tim has had an unbelievable season, probably the best in the league. He’s given his team a chance to win every night.

It’s a good challenge for me, a good battle. There’s different battles. I focus more on their opposition players and what I have to do to be ready against them, but at the same time you want to look at the guy on the other side and try to go save for save.”

Everybody is comfortable with different styles. Obviously he’s a battler. He’ll never give up on a play. He’ll do whatever it takes to make a save, use any part of his body. You got to have a lot of respect for a guy like that. Sometimes you have no choice.

Even myself, included. There are certain things where there’s broken plays or the puck takes a weird bounce where you have no choice but to throw whatever piece of body you can in front of it.

I think I used to do a lot more of that earlier on in my career. As we move along and I get more experience, I think I’ve gotten to the point where I try not to be in those situations, but when they do, you have no choice.

For two teams that have such similarities, it should come as no surprise that they both have strong goaltending going into the final series of the season. The pressure surrounding Roberto Luongo is obvious—the city of Vancouver may burn the city down if they don’t win the Cup this season. But on the other side rink, the 37-year-old Thomas has taken the long road to reach this point in his career. He knows he may never have this opportunity again.

Let’s be realistic: it’s the Stanley Cup Final. Both goaltenders have a tremendous amount of pressure on their shoulders. But if they keep performing at the level they’ve set for the last eight months, fans will be in for a great duel.

Report: Patrick Eaves is driving serious trade interest for Stars

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Patrick Eaves #18 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2017 in New York City. The Stars defeated the Rangers 7-6.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NHL teams are especially interested in trade talks with the Dallas Stars regarding Patrick Eaves, and it’s not because of his stellar beard-per-capita.

Nope, it’s instead that he provides such excellent bang for the buck. You won’t find many players who already have 20+ goals and are making just $1 million, particularly outside of the artificial ceiling created by entry-level contracts.

Eaves, 32, is enjoying arguably the year of his career, but it’s that bargain price that makes him the Stars’ best bargaining chip (and maybe one of the best in all of the league), according to Pierre LeBrun during the latest round of TSN’s Insider Trading.

Interesting, Eaves could conceivably present a now vs. later debate for those in the bidding.

While his cap-friendly contract makes him easy to drop in just about any contender situation, his affordability may prompt the Stars to ask for richer future assets.

Of course, with an expiring contract, the Stars would still need to walk that tightrope between getting something for Eaves and letting him leave for nothing (assuming they wouldn’t re-sign him).

That’s a delicate balancing act for any GM, and Jim Nill has mainly been accustomed to buying in Dallas so far.

Want some more trade talk? Check out that full Insider Trading segment and also Sportsnet batting around ideas below.

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 15: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild tries to get off a shot against Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 15, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Wild haven’t lost often, particularly in the past month, but they did fall to the Chicago Blackhawks in their last meeting.

That was a spirited affair that ended with a 4-3 overtime win for Chicago, a setback that began what’s been a mostly successful run of home games for the Wild.

The Blackhawks aim for a similar result – ideally this time in regulation – to make up ground against the Wild in the Central Division.

At the moment, the Wild have more points (84 to 77) a game in hand, more wins (39 to 36) and more ROW (36 to 34). Catching the Wild even with a win tonight wouldn’t be easy for Chicago; a regulation loss would make the odds extremely slim.

If their last game was any indication, this should be a fun one on NBCSN. You can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Rough night for Carey Price so far

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A large portion of the hockey-loving population in Montreal let out a big sigh on Tuesday night. Especially worrisome types may still be holding their breath about Carey Price, however.

Many gasped after hearing that Price left pre-game warm-ups early after taking a Paul Byron shot up high.

Video even surfaced of the moment, with Price looking very uncomfortable following the shot. (Byron might have felt uncomfortable too.)

Yikes.

It doesn’t sound like Price is going to miss time because of that incident. Of course, in many cases upon further reflection/once the adrenaline of competition wears off, he might think differently. So we’ll see.

As you can see from the video above this post’s headline, the theme of Habs nearly hurting Price continued during the game, too. Sheesh.

Trade deadline auditions? Quincey, Pateryn in action tonight

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 09:  Greg Pateryn #8 of the Montreal Canadiens in action during the first period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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NHL executives, scouts and fans aren’t just watching their teams or the teams they’re jockeying with for playoff position tonight. They’re also likely taking a gander at potential trade deadline targets.

At least two possible defensemen on the move are getting into lineups on Tuesday: Kyle Quincey with the New Jersey Devils (vs. the Senators) and Greg Pateryn for the Montreal Canadiens (against the Rangers).

Will there be a dogged pursuit for Quincey?

Quincey told the Bergen Record that the situation even has his dog on edge (gasp).

“It’s not just me that’s on eggshells,” Quincey said. “It’s the wife and the kids and the dog. You’ve got to uproot your life. But I’m definitely not thinking about it. The only focus is getting some wins because we’re definitely not out of it.”

(Sadly, some cursory searches did not provide insight as to the breed or name of Quincey’s dog. We’ll assume it’s first name is John.)

Quincey’s getting his first bit of action since logging a little more than 23 minutes in a game on Feb. 4. He’s played in 51 games this season, generating 12 points and mediocre (but arguably adequate) possession numbers. At 31, a contender could conceivably target him if the price is low.

Pateryn being shopped

TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that the Habs are indeed looking to move Pateryn, who returns to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 11 (replacing Nikita Nesterov, no stranger to changing locales).

Pateryn is far less experienced than Quincey, but also has fresher legs at 26.

He has six points in 22 games this season and some solid possession numbers.

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Now, neither of these blueliners are expected to make a big splash. Still, the price to even “rent” the likes of Kevin Shattenkirk could be huge, so teams might consider going after bargains like these two defensemen.

Games like tonight’s contests could very well make or break decisions for some teams, for all we know.