CrawfordQuick

On Crawford, Quick and the Western Conference Final goalfest

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The last two goalies to win the Stanley Cup are currently up against one another in the Western Conference Final, but it’s hardly been a puck-stopping spectacle through the first five games.

Corey Crawford: 2-3, .882 save percentage, 3.41 GAA

Jonathan Quick: 3-2, .894 save percentage, 2.83 GAA

Quick’s best game of the series probably came in Game 2, when he stopped 23 of 25 shots — several of the highlight-reel variety — to help the Kings win their first-ever playoff game at the United Center.

Crawford’s best? The series opener was good (25 saves in a 3-1 win) but last night’s Game 5 OT win likely bests it, especially since Crawford — facing elimination for the first time this postseason — slammed the door shut for the final 49 minutes of action after allowing this softie to give L.A. a 4-3 lead:

What’s most surprising about developments on both the Quick and Crawford fronts is that, prior to the Western Conference Final, both were playing exceptionally well and posting great numbers. In Round 2, Crawford allowed just 12 goals in six games against the Wild, posting a .926 save percentage; Quick, facing elimination in Games 6 and 7 against Anaheim, stopped 46 of 49 shots (a .939 save percentage).

So… what’s gone wrong in this series?

“We haven’t been playing as well defensively this series, compared to the other two series. It’s more a reflection of how the whole team plays, and not just Crow,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “Especially on the penalty kill, we’ve been letting in way too many goals.

“We can make an overall better effort to play defense.”

As for the Kings? Consider what Drew Doughty said (per LA Kings Insider) about last night’s first period, in which the Kings surrendered three goals in the first 11 minutes:

On the Game 5 loss:

It was a crappy loss and I’m not happy about that obviously. We would have liked to have closed it out tonight, but what can you do? We’re going back home and that’s where we’re comfortable.

[Reporter: Was it a crappy loss because you gave up so many goals?]

Yeah, for sure and the start we had was awful.

Poor defensive coverage. Slow starts. The calling cards, really, of teams trying to protect their goalies. But make no mistake about it — regardless of what the Chicago or L.A. skaters say, the goaltending hasn’t been great this series and neither ‘tender has stolen a game like they have in previous rounds.

(Quick’s signature steal was Game 2 against the Ducks, when L.A. was outshot 37-16 yet won 3-1; for Crawford it was Game 6 of the Wild series, as Chicago was outshot 35-27 yet won 2-1 in OT… at Xcel, no less.)

Will one of these two Cup-winning goalies stamp their authority on this series in Game 6?

Or, if it gets there, Game 7?

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.