Corey Crawford

PHT’s Three Duds of the Week: Crawford, Fowler and Brown


Every Monday, we’ll highlight (lowlight?) three of the NHL’s biggest duds from the past week.

1st Dud: Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks

Key stats: 3.00 GAA, .897 save percentage.

For some weird reason, the backup goalie always seems to thrive in Chicago. Antti Niemi wrestled the starting gig away from Cristobal Huet two seasons ago; last season, Corey Crawford took it from Marty Turco.

This year, it looks like history’s repeating itself.

Ray Emery is making a serious charge for Crawford’s No. 1 gig, though Crawford’s doing all he can to lose it. After a strong start, Crawford fell off a cliff in November and has now lost five of his last eight starts (and allowed seven goals on 33 shots in losses in Calgary and Edmonton, which seems to have shaken him mentally).

As such, Emery will start his fifth consecutive game Wednesday against Minnesota, an opportunity to build on his stellar December numbers: 3-0-1 with a .943 save percentage, allowing just six goals in four games.

When asked about his goaltending situation, Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsement of Crawford’s play…or his ability to hang onto the No. 1 gig.

“I think he’s [Crawford’s] been fine,” Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s working on his game. He’s just waiting for his chance to get back into the net. I think his approach has been fine. We’ll measure a little bit more of that when he gets back in.”

2nd Dud: Cam Fowler, D, Anaheim Ducks

Key stat: 1G-0A-1PT in last six GP.

It might seem harsh labeling the 20-year-old sophomore a dud, so let’s carve Bruce Boudreau a bit first. Anaheim’s new head coach has ridden Fowler hard since coming aboard (there’s gotta be a better way to say that) — with no Lubomir Visnovsky in the lineup, most of the defensive lifting has fallen on Fowler’s shoulders. He played at least 26:14 in each of Boudreau’s first three games, a workload he just didn’t seem ready for. Fowler’s now at minus-13 on the season and on pace for fewer points than his rookie campaign.

3rd Dud: Dustin Brown, LW, LA Kings

Key stat: 1G-1A-2PTS in last eight GP.

The dismissal of Terry Murray has Brown’s fingerprints all over it. The Kings captain has embodied his team’s scoring woes — with just 5G-10A-15PTS, he’s on pace for the worst statistical output since his sophomore season. That’s unacceptable from a guy that’s averaged 27 goals and 56 points over the last four years.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.