For all the blustery, long-term risks the Columbus Blue Jackets made during this off-season, their short-term goaltending gambles might be their undoing.
If GM Scott Howson really did enough to improve the team in front of embattled would-be franchise goalie Steve Mason, then maybe these concerns will evaporate. Still, it’s worrisome that Mason has been (at best) an average NHL goalie since his Calder Trophy season in 2008-09 – especially after solid backup Mathieu Garon departed to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Things could get ugly if the Blue Jackets are forced to lean on a backup. That was already true heading into training camp, but now the situation looks even more dire considering Mark Dekanich’s high-ankle sprain. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that Dekanich will be sidelined for about a month with the injury, which opens the door for former St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks backup Curtis Sanford to get another crack at NHL time.
Sanford hasn’t played in the NHL since he went 7-8-0 with a .906 save percentage and 2.59 for the Canucks in 08-09. His overall record is 37-37-11 with a .901 career save percentage and 2.76 GAA.
In a way, Sanford is actually a safer backup than the reasonably well-liked prospect Dekanich, who has one game and about 50 minutes of NHL experience on his resume. Either way, my guess is that the Blue Jackets better be a high-scoring team in 2011-12 if they want to make the playoffs.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.