Columnist: In deep U.S. goalie class, Quick is No. 1

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Interesting piece from USA Today’s Kevin Allen on the current state of American goaltending:

In 2010, Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was the darling of the silver-medal winning U.S Olympic team. Eighteen months from now, when 2014 U.S. roster spots are being decided, Miller will have a fight on his hands just to make the team.

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick’s stellar play this season, coupled with the continued improvement of Vancouver’s Cory Schneider and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, gives rise to the notion that American goaltending might be the strongest it has ever been…

…You can be sure is that if the Americans were playing an Olympic gold medal game tomorrow, Quick would be the U.S. goalie. He has been spectacular enough this season that he has earned the title of the best American goalie right now.

Some thoughts on U.S. netminding:

— There’s a big difference between the current state and how it projects for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Put it this way: If the Olympic started tomorrow and I had to put a team together today, I’d make Quick the No. 1 with Miller and Thomas in reserve, solely for their playoff/big game experience.

But in 2014, the landscape will be entirely different. Thomas will be 40, Miller 34 and there’s a chance both could be supplanted by Schneider (who has already bumped Canada’s 2010 gold-medal winner, Roberto Luongo, out of a job in Vancouver) and Howard.

— I find it wild that a guy as decorated as Tim Thomas might never star internationally for the U.S. He wasn’t selected at the U-18 or Junior levels, played just seven games over the course of four World Championships and backed up Miller (playing just 12 minutes) at the Vancouver Olympics.

— Don’t discount a young guy stepping up and joining the fold in 2014 in a “learning experience” role (much like what the 24-year-old Quick did in 2010.) Dallas prospect Jack Campbell drew rave reviews in the AHL and has starred for the U.S. at both the U-18 and World Junior tournaments.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.