Darcy Kuemper

Should Minnesota keep starting Kuemper?


Heading into this year, Darcy Kuemper was the No. 3 goalie in the Minnesota organization, parked firmly behind Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding in AHL Iowa.

Today, he’s the club’s No. 1 — and feeling the pressure that comes along with it.

Kuemper suffered his second poor outing in a row in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to St. Louis, which came 24 hours after he was hooked in favor of Ilya Bryzgalov for allowing three goals on 12 shots against Vancouver. Suddenly, the Wild — who were in good shape for the first wild card berth in the West — are just one point up on eighth-place Phoenix, and six up on ninth-place Dallas.

“I’ll be honest, I feel bad for [Kuemper]. I do,” head coach Mike Yeo told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “This is a guy, we wouldn’t even be sitting here in the position that we’re in if he didn’t give us the stretch of hockey that he’s given us.”

On the year, Kuemper’s numbers are solid — 12-8-4, .915 save percentage, 2.43 GAA — but his recent performances have been bad. He’s allowed at least three goals in each of his last four starts, all losses, while posting a ghastly .851 save percentage.

Unsurprisingly, the heat of the playoff chase seems to have gotten to Kuemper. At 23,  he’s got a very limited body of NHL work — just six games last year, 26 this year — and it’s important to remember that two years ago, he was in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears.

The inexperience might be starting to show. On Thursday, Kuemper appeared somewhat flustered after a series of altercations with Blues captain David Backes.

From the Star-Tribune:

[Backes] cross-checked little Jared Spurgeon, crushed little Mikael Granlund and ruthlessly trash-talked goalie Darcy Kuemper from the bench.

Kuemper initiated things with Backes by cross-checking him at the goalmouth, then got in his face.

“That’s where I’ve played a long time,” Backes said. “When I feel disrespected, I’m going to stand my ground and see if there’s any response.”

Backes’ verbal abuse of Kuemper wasn’t done there, either:

The issue Minnesota’s facing now is much more than a question of whether Kuemper or Bryzgalov should start for the rest of this season and the playoffs.

If Kuemper’s the goalie of the future — and by the way people within the Wild organization talk, they believe he is — there has to be some consideration to protecting him, and keeping his confidence from getting shattered.

Vatrano presence: Bruins edge Red Wings in overtime

Frank Vatrano David Krejci
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The Boston Bruins keep flipping the script.

In Wednesday’s case, it swerved to a “Cinderella” story, as little-known forward Frank Vatrano scored two of Boston’s three goals – including the overtime clincher – as the B’s beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 (OT).

Here’s his first goal of the night:

While this is his overtime game-winner:

It wasn’t a perfect night for the 21-year-old, yet it may have been a convincing one.

The Bruins continue to begin a month on a sour note before ending up with impressive sprees.

October: 0-3-0 start, finished month with four straight wins and victories in six of seven contests.

November: 0-3-0 start, losses in four of five; currently on a four-game winning strek with victories in five of six.

Boston faces a challenge in closing this month out against the Rangers on Friday, and it’s possible that this trend may continue, as they begin December with a three-game road trip through Western Canada.

More than anything else, the safest bet with the Bruins is for ups and downs.

Crosby roars, Malkin scores in OT for Penguins win

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Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.

Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:

… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.

(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)

Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.

You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.

Fight video: Claude Giroux vs. Nick Leddy

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Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.

Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.

You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.

It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.

Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.

Update: The fight may have inspired the Islanders more than the Flyers, as they bested Philly 3-1 on Wednesday.

Carter Hutton gets flipped, stays in game

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Carter Hutton is getting something that might make fellow Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous: goal support.

Still, there was at least one moment where Rinne was likely happy to be on the bench, as Hutton was left flipping during this collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno:

Remarkably, Hutton remained in the game.

If you’re the type who loves adding to your “hockey players are tough” files, put this under the goalies section.

Check out this incredible shot of that moment:

Update: The Predators held off the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2.