Steve Mason

Which NHL teams should be worrying the most about goaltending?

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There’s always a good collection of struggling goalies to start an NHL season. Check that: there’s always a good collection of struggling goalies during any part of the NHL season. It’s just more noticeable in October because October’s stats are the only ones on the book.

That’s not to say every goalie that’s playing poorly now will bounce back, but we should probably give the benefit of doubt to the following two players:

Roberto Luongo (3.17 GAA, .877 SV%) – Typically struggles early in the season. His save percentage last October was .906, the year before it was .902, and the year before that it was 902. I’m not sure why Luongo’s been so mediocre in October, but his only good October with the Canucks was 2006-07, his first with the club. So no worries now. Not for the regular season at least.

Carey Price (3.13 GAA, .878 SV%) – Let’s see how he does once the Canadiens have a healthy defense. So far this season, Jacques Martin has been forced to skate the wheels off PK Subban (who’s been awful), with the likes of Yannick Weber and NHL newbies Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz seeing significant minutes as well.

While we won’t write off Luongo and Price quite yet, the following two guys are a slight worry:

Jaroslav Halak (3.47 GAA, .835 SV%) – No offense to back-up Brian Elliott, who’s played extremely well in relief, but the Blues need Halak to figure things out if they want to get back to the playoffs. Unlike Montreal, St. Louis hasn’t had a ton of injuries on the back end to use an excuse. Carlo Colaiacovo has missed time and Nikita Nikitin has been forced to play more than he should, but that’s not enough to let Halak off the hook. There’s also the fact Halak hasn’t just been bad, he’s been downright dreadful.

Ilya Bryzgalov (2.85 GAA, .895 SV%) – We all know how much the Flyers have invested in Bryzgalov. He started out well with his new team, but hasn’t been good his last two games. Philadelphia can score enough goals to mitigate a spell of poor goaltending, but Bryzgalov isn’t playing behind Dave Tippett’s system anymore, and there are more than enough people who will be happy to point that out.

Finally, these two goalies are an enormous concern:

Steve Mason (3.53 GAA, .878 SV%) – Scott Howson’s failure to properly address the goaltending situation in Columbus might ultimately be his downfall. The general manager that went on an offseason spending spree knew Mason hadn’t played well since his rookie season, yet he still rolled the dice. If the Jackets don’t find a legitimate starting goalie soon, they’ll be done by Christmas, and so might Howson.

Dwayne Roloson (5.11 GAA, .858 SV%) – He’s 42. That’s old. It’s really as simple as that. Mathieu Garon has been outstanding in relief of Roloson, but if the Lightning want to make another deep run in the playoffs, GM Steve Yzerman may want to make a move.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.