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Greatest goalie generation? Why this is a special time for American netminding

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If you ask me, this is a golden era of goaltending for hockey. While the “Dead Puck Era” produced better numbers in many cases, it’s hard to imagine a time in which so many teams had so many solid-to-great goalies. Maybe that might make it tougher for individuals to stand out, but there really aren’t a whole lot of teams who are just flat-out “lost” at the position anymore. There aren’t many squads that need to camouflage Dan Cloutier-type liabilities in net.

We could debate the bigger picture merits of goalies all day, but there’s one thing you’ll have a really tough time making me dismiss: this is the highest point for American hockey goaltending ever. One could argue that is true from both a quality and quantity standpoint. With all due respect to the legendary Olympic run of Jim Craig, scattered talents throughout older times and a solid recently past era that included Tom Barrasso, John Vanbiesbrouck and Mike Richter, this is a peak generation for U.S. netminding.

Let’s take a look at a list of the most prominent active American goaltenders to drive the point home.

Tim Thomas

It’s been said over and over again, but it never really gets old: Thomas put together a combined playoff and postseason run for the ages this year. He generated a record-breaking .938 save percentage during the regular season and somehow found a way to top that by reaching the .940 mark in the playoffs. Oh yeah, he also won the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup in the process. It isn’t outrageous to wonder if Thomas literally put together the best single season and playoff run an NHL goalie ever enjoyed, although it’s tough to be sure because different scoring eras fudge the numbers (we’re looking at you, high-scoring 1980’s).

Thomas might not be a traditional butterfly goalie, but his “redneck style” and resilient journey to the NHL make him the American dream in leg pads.

source: Getty ImagesRyan Miller

If you just flat-out refuse to admit that an unorthodox goalie is the best in the world, then Miller provides another example of an American netminder who is clearly at the top of the form. While Thomas owned just about everything that had to to with 2010-11, Miller was the darling of the 2009-10 season, including the 2010 Olympics. He carried the U.S. to a surprising silver medal after helping them make it within a famous Sidney Crosby overtime goal of the gold and took home the 2010 Vezina Trophy as well.

For those counting at home, the last three Vezina Trophies went to American goalies: Thomas twice and Miller once. The closest example of that happening before was when Barrasso won it in 1984 and Vanbiesbrouck took it in 86.

source: Getty ImagesJimmy Howard

This class of American goalies runs deep. Howard might not roll of your tongue when you’re naming the NHL’s elite, but he’s the present and future of Detroit’s goaltending. The past has been pretty sweet, too; he’s currently riding two consecutive 37-win seasons. After his stats slipped a bit from the 09-10 to 10-11 regular season, Howard responded with a .923 save percentage in the 2011 playoffs.

Jonathan Quick

Jonathan Bernier couldn’t win the Jonathan Championship from Quick last season and it’s going to be tough for Bernier to usurp the steady American next season. Quick  won 39 games in 09-10 and 35 last season while improving his individual numbers along the way. The Connecticut product could rise in many peoples’ eyes if he comes through in what looks to be a promising 2011-12 season for the Kings.

source: APCraig Anderson

The jury seems to be out on Anderson, but one cannot deny his potential after he carried the Colorado Avalanche to a surprise playoff berth in 09-10. The Ottawa Senators made a big investment in Anderson and he might just have the tools to make that pay off.

Ben Bishop, Brian Boucher, Jack Campbell, Scott Clemmensen, Ty Conklin, Rick DiPietro, Brent Johnson and Al Montoya

The long list of backups and/or emerging prospects might push this era over the edge. Boucher and Johnson rank among the better journeyman backups in the league while Conklin isn’t far behind. Bishop is an over-sized goalie for St. Louis while Clemmensen signed an over-sized contract with Florida. DiPietro’s health is a problem and his contract is a punchline, but there was a time when he was an All-Star goalie. Campbell and Montoya are former first round draft picks we’ll probably see more of in the future. If nothing else, more American born goalies are getting work than ever before.

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Again, if you ask me, this marks the highest point for American goaltending at both the elite level (three straight Vezina trophies) and from a sheer quantity standpoint. I’m curious to hear counterarguments to this point, though, so feel free to light some logical fireworks in the comments.

Will the bad blood between the Canucks and Maple Leafs spill over into tonight’s rematch?

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There will be plenty to keep an eye on tonight when the Vancouver Canucks host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

— There are the extra curricular activities:

Tempers boiled over in the last meeting on Nov. 5. It started when Toronto forward Nazem Kadri delivered a controversial hit to Daniel Sedin, resulting in a fight between Kadri and Jannik Hansen.

There was no suspension to Kadri, which obviously disappointed the Canucks.

Alex Burrows speared Morgan Rielly.

That third period turned into a throwback to a much grittier era in hockey, with Derek Dorsett fighting Leo Komarov and then Matt Martin grabbing rookie blue liner Troy Stecher in the corner, prompting goalie Ryan Miller to leave his crease and grab Martin, resulting in a heated skirmish. The two teams combined for 171 penalty minutes that night.

Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson also made a threat to Martin once the game was over. His words were overheard by reporters.

It’s no surprise the league and its department of player safety is paying extra attention to this game.

“It was wrong,” Gudbranson told the Vancouver Sun. “But the number of times I’ve said that (on the ice) is probably higher than most would expect. But do I mean it? No. That’s the honest truth. No, I’m not going to kill the guy. That’s insanity. I was just frustrated at that point, and unfortunately it got taken to a level that I didn’t expect.”

— Two teams with apparently different philosophies of how to build a winning team:

The Maple Leafs are in a rebuild. And while the consistency hasn’t been there this season, they’ve proven on a number of occasions to be an exciting team with a very talented, promising crop of young players.

Auston Matthews is the face of this rebuild.

The Canucks, meanwhile, don’t seem to want to venture down the path of an aggressive rebuild. Did we mention they sit 28th in the overall standings? Did we mention they’ve had difficulty scoring? They’re 29th in that category. Did we mention they’ve had their struggles in goal? They have the 29th-ranked save percentage at five-on-five.

Canucks president Trevor Linden discussed the notion of a rebuild in a wide-ranging interview with Sportsnet, but it still appears the Canucks aren’t in favor of such a drastic step.

“What people fail to realize is the older group of players we had here—the Garrisons and Keslers and Bieksas and Higgins and Hamhuises—which are no longer with us, these are good people. These are leaders. Perhaps in Toronto that wasn’t the case,” said Linden.

“We have Daniel and Henrik Sedin here, who are very important to this organization and icons in the city. They’re not going anywhere. I don’t know how I walk into the room and tell these guys, “Strip it down.” I’m not sure it’s fair to these guys. There’s different circumstances, be it in Toronto or Carolina or Vancouver, that require different routes. It’s not perfect, but I’m encouraged by the young players we’ve introduced, and we’ve got some young prospects.”

Indeed, plenty to keep an eye on between these two teams tonight. Plenty to debate, too.

Sharp placed on IR with concussion symptoms

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 18:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Dallas Stars during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Stars 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars wrap up a four-game road trip tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, but they will be without forward Patrick Sharp.

It’s unknown when, exactly, he’ll be back in the lineup.

On Saturday, the Stars placed Sharp on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 1 with concussions symptoms.

“He has concussion symptoms. We don’t know if it is related to the last one,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s going to be evaluated, and obviously he is going to be out. It’s something he missed a lot of time with and something we want to be really careful with.”

Per the Dallas Morning News, Sharp must be out at least seven days, but it’s almost impossible to put a timeline on concussions given their complex nature.

Sharp has already missed time this season — 14 games to be specific — with a concussion he suffered in October.

“Most injuries you can circle a date, but the injury I suffered was a day-to-day thing I thought I had experienced in the past, but never quite like this,” Sharp said recently.

“The type of injury that I had, you hear some scary stories from around the league. … I’m thankful I was able to come out of it and feel healthy and strong.”

Matt Beleskey suffers lower-body injury in Bruins win in Buffalo

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 20:  Matt Beleskey #39 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot against New Jersey Devils  during the third period at TD Garden on October 20, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins have back-to-back wins, as they held on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday.

However, there was bad news for the Bruins as forward Matt Beleskey left the game after the first period and didn’t return due to a lower-body injury. The injury occurred as Beleskey was hit by Taylor Fedun as he was cutting across the Buffalo blue line. There was no call on the play.

Beleskey’s right knee collided with Fedun’s hip, as the Buffalo defender pivoted at the last second.

So far, there has been no word on the severity of the injury.

Patrice Bergeron scored the winning goal for Boston.

In 24 games this season, Beleskey has two goals and five points. The Bruins host the Florida Panthers on Monday.

Provorov scores two goals in 30 seconds to lead Flyers over Blackhawks

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 03:  Ivan Provorov #9 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammate Andrew MacDonald #47 after Provorov scored a goal in the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3, 2016 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest reasons the Philadelphia Flyers should be optimistic about their future is the fact their farm system has produced a couple of potential top-pairing defensemen the past two years in Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.

We already saw the impact Gostisbehere’s debut made a year ago when finished second in the Calder Trophy voting and was perhaps their most important player in the second half of the season on their way to earning a playoff spot. This year it is Provorov’s turn to make his debut, and while he hasn’t been quite as dominant as Gostisbehere was in his rookie season, he played his best game of the season on Saturday afternoon in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

In just a little more than 20 minutes of ice-time, Provorov scored a pair of goals (both as part of a three-goal second period for the Flyers), recorded four shots on goal, and was a plus-six in shot attempt differential for the day. His two goals came just 30 seconds apart, with the first one tying the game at one, and the second one going in the books as the game-winner.

Have a look at both goals.

Both shots beat Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling from similar spots on the ice. Darling ended up getting the start on Saturday because Corey Crawford was undergoing an appendectomy and will be sidelined for the time being. The Blackhawks had to sign a backup goalie pretty much off of the street to serve as the backup. Coach Joel Quenneville said after the game they could not use goalie coach Jimmy Waite as the emergency backup because he would have counted against the salary cap. It had to be an amateur with no pro experience.

The win on Saturday keeps a couple of streaks going for the Flyers.

First, it was their fourth win in a row and is now their longest winning streak of the season. It is also the 13th consecutive time they have beaten the Blackhawks in Philadelphia during the regular season. You have to go back to 1996 to find the last time the Blackhawks won a regular season game in Philadelphia. We emphasize the regular season part of that because the Blackhawks did win a pretty big playoff game in the city back in 2010.