CrawfordQuick

On Crawford, Quick and the Western Conference Final goalfest

10 Comments

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?

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

4 Comments

Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

10 Comments

Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

1 Comment

The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.