It’s not everyday a goalie turns 40-years-old during the playoffs. It’s also not everyday that that goalie happens to be a future Hall-of-Famer either. For Martin Brodeur, today is such a day and having a game against the Flyers to cut your cake to helps provide an extra touch of motivation.
“Last year, I was in Florida. It was nice,” he said. “You get to see your family. I’m happy that I’m home at least for tonight to see them, but on the day of my birthday I won’t celebrate anything until, hopefully, after the game. That’s it.”
What does Brodeur want most for his birthday this year? It’s not too hard to figure out.
“I’d like to beat the Flyers,” he said.
So far, New Jersey’s gotten the best of Philadelphia twice and a win tonight would give them a monster 3-1 edge in the series heading into Game 5. There might not be a better gift than that and Brodeur’s teammates will need to do their part to band together and give it to him.
NHL awards: Handing out hardware at the season’s quarter mark
Almost every NHL team has hit the 20-game mark, which means it’s time to look back at the first month and a half of the season and see who’s ahead of the pack for some of the league’s top hardware.
A lot will change between now and June, but certainly some of the players named below will still be in the mix come awards season while others will tail off after hot starts.
Who is the most valuable to their team? That’s a tough choice as you look at some of the performances so far this season. Nikita Kucherov (17-16—33) can’t stop scoring and Steven Stamkos (10-25—35) is averaging 1.75 points per night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jaden Schwartz (10-16—26) is powering the St. Louis Blues. Johnny Gaudreau (10-21—31) is leading the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, Sergei Bobrovsky it tops among all goaltenders with a .941 even strength save percentage.
There are a number of strong candidates for the Hart at the quarter mark. If voting took place now, how many votes would Kucherov and Stamkos split? And would that allow Bobrovsky to sneak in and steal it? Or does Bob have enough love right now to surpass the Lightning duo?
1. Bobrovsky 2. Kucherov 3. Schwartz
Alex Pietrangelo and John Klingberg are all tied for the scoring lead among blue liners with 19 points, but lookie here, it’s Erik Karlsson, he of five games missed this season, lurking behind them at 17. He also has the best Corsi (56 percent, via Corsica) out of the top scoring defensemen and is averaging 1.21 points per game. Victor Hedman is also just behind with 15 points and 25:18 of ice time a night.
1. Karlsson 2. Pietrangelo 3. Hedman
Outside of Bob, you have Andrei Vasilievskiy’s play helping the Lightning to a ridiculous start. He has a .931 ESSV and has played the seventh-most minutes (1,024:24). There’s also Connor Hellebuyck (.938) and Corey Crawford (.932) to consider; both have been key reasons for why their teams currently reside in playoff positions.
But in the end it’s hard to top what Bobrovsky is doing in Columbus. And it goes to show, as we’ve seen the last few years, just how good he is when healthy.
1. Bobrovsky 2. Hellebuyck 3. Crawford
In October, Clayton Keller (11-9—20) of the Arizona Coyotes appeared to have one hand on the rookie of the year award. But then a few other names entered the picture, like Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders, who sits second in rookie scoring with 4 goals and 19 points. Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks (7-10—17) is a bright ray of hope for the franchise. New Jersey Devils blue liner Will Butcher has been an assist machine with 14 of his 16 points recorded as helpers.
Speaking of rookie defensemen, Charlie McAvoy has 10 points for the Boston Bruins, but just as impressive is the fact that he’s averaging 23:16 a night next to Zdeno Chara. No other freshman skater is over 20 minutes a night.
One goaltender of note is Charlie Lindgren (.929), who has played well filling in for Carey Price. But that’s not going to last once the Montreal Canadiens get their franchise goaltender back from injury very soon.
1. Keller 2. Barzal 3. McAvoy
JACK ADAMS AWARD
Who had the Vegas Golden Knights sitting in a playoff spot and not a lottery spot this season? Well, through the quarter mark, Gerard Gallant’s men have used a strong home record (8-1-0) to get off to an historic start.
There’s also plenty of praise for the jobs that Jon Cooper and Mike Yeo are doing in Tampa and St. Louis, respectively, but typically this award ends up going to a team that exceeded expectations or made a huge turnaround from either the current season or previous year. That’s why if they keep up the pace, John Hynes of the New Jersey Devils and Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets will find themselves getting some coach of the year love in June.
1. Gallant 2. Cooper 3. Hynes
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – TEAM
The Edmonton Oilers were a trendy Stanley Cup pick before the season after a nice playoff run last spring. But it’s all come crashing back down to earth as they sit out of the Western Conference playoff picture and three points ahead of the league-worst Arizona Coyotes. The Montreal Canadiens have been an interesting mess and we’re waiting on the Philadelphia Flyers to take that next step with some exciting young players. The Dallas Stars seem to have issues living up expectations, while Bruce Boudreau’s penchant for winning division titles could take a hit for a second straight season with the Minnesota Wild.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – PLAYER
It took until game No. 18 for Ryan Johansen, owner of a new $8 million cap hit, to score his first goal of the season for the Nashville Predators. Steve Mason (.879 ESSV) was handed a nice $8.2 million deal over the summer but has watched as Hellebuyck has taken the No. 1 job for the Jets. Martin Hanzal was given a three-year, $14.25 million deal by the Stars and has one goal through 17 games. Ben Bishop also hasn’t quite lit it up for the Stars with a .904 ESSV. Carey Price is injured, but sure wasn’t playing like his old self before he left the Canadiens lineup. His .877 ESSV is downright ugly.
ZURICH (AP) The International Ice Hockey Federation has slashed a doping ban given to Russian forward Danis Zaripov from two years to six months.
He’s eligible to play again from Thursday.
Zaripov, a Russian Olympian in 2010, was suspended in July for taking the banned substance pseudoephedrine.
However, the IIHF says it has reached a settlement with Zaripov, who filed an appeal. The IIHF agreed to cut the suspension. Since it’s dated from May 23, that means Zaripov will be eligible again on Thursday.
The IIHF says its decision is “based on extensive documentary and expert evidence that was unavailable” this year.
Zaripov has previously told Russian media he was in contact with the St. Louis Blues about a move to the NHL, where his ban isn’t valid.
Scary thought: The Blues are starting to get healthy
That’s a lot to replace and expect to still rattle off the wins.
Berglund’s offseason injury to his shoulder required surgery and a four-to-six-month timeline to heal – a tough pill to swallow on a team hoping for swift recoveries from Fabbri and Lindbohm, who also went under the knife.
It's November 16th and the #stlblues are 1st in the Western Conference. Bouwmeester and Berglund have yet to play a game, and Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Brayden Schenn are 3 out of the top 7 in points in the entire NHL.
And then training camp came and things got much, much worse.
Fabbri’s season was over as it was just beginning after he tore his ACL in his left knee on Sept. 24, the same ACL that was surgically repaired just months before in February. Seven days earlier, 15-year veteran defenseman Bouwmeester fractured his ankle and two days before Bouwmeester’s injury, winger Sanford dislocated his left shoulder, rendering him out for five-to-six months.
Yet, instead of crumbling, the Blues somehow managed to excel.
The Blues went 10-3-1 in October and two-thirds of the way through November, St. Louis is the top dog in the Central Division, the Western Conference, and the second place team in the whole of the NHL.
Not too shabby from the Band-Aid brigade. The depth general manager Doug Armstrong has managed to put together is impressive.
His offseason acquisition in Brayden Schenn has thrived in his new threads, with eight goals and 26 points and a current seven-game point streak. Schenn, the fourth-best point producer in the NHL thus far this season, is tied for the team lead in points with Jaden Schwartz, whose early season trends have him on pace for a career year, already having amassed 10 goals and 16 helpers.
Bouwmeester will play his first game of the season on Tuesday as he’s been deemed fit to return to the lineup.
The 34-year-old is expected to resume commanding big minutes, as he has done throughout his 15-year career. Blues fans will be hoping he can help out their 23rd-ranked penalty kill. He’s been pretty good in that area.
Will Jay Bouwmeester affect the #stlblues chemistry on the ice? My answer: I sure hope so. Currently, the Blues have the 9th worst penalty kill in the #NHL at 78.3%. Since Blues acquired JayBo on April 1, 2013, #stlblues penalty kill has been tops in the #NHL around 85%.
His return leaves the Blues with eight healthy defensemen, leaving Yeo with what he called a “good problem to have” on Monday.
Yeo has played rookie Vince Dunn in all 21 games this season and the 2015 second-round pick has done more than just earn his keep in the Blues rearguard, averaging 16:38 per night. Yeo said Monday that Dunn needs to be playing. It’s expected that Carl Gunnarsson makes way for Bouwmeester.