Boudreau doesn’t know how Ducks goalie situation will ‘shake out’

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For better or worse, Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau seems to be the type who “rides the hot hand” with goalies rather than sticking with a No. 1 guy no matter what. It’s easy to foresee such a situation repeating itself next season, too.

While Jason LaBarbera represents an emergency backup plan for a variety of situations, the battle comes down to two promising-yet-largely-untested options in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Boudreau’s assessment of the situation to NHL.com is honest, if nothing else:

“We think we’ve got two really good goalies and an experienced, veteran goalie,” Boudreau said. “I think we’re OK there, I just don’t know how it will shake out.”

Quite a bargain

The Ducks are taking an interesting and calculated gamble with their goalies.

Whether it’s Andersen – Gibson, Gibson – LaBarbera or Andersen – LaBarbera, the combined cap hit never rises above $2 million. In a league brimming with contenders who have made beefy, long-term commitments to a position that’s often erratic, Anaheim enjoys rare flexibility.

Of course, the flip side is that they face even more uncertainty than usual; while LaBarbera is an experienced (if unremarkable) journeyman at 34, Gibson, 21, and Andersen, 24, combine for 42 NHL appearances counting the regular season and playoffs.

Hindsight will dictate if the Ducks’ strategy will be considered brilliant or foolish, yet it falls into the larger narrative quite well.

Boudreau and goalies

It’s easy to beat up on the Boudreau for a tendency to rotate netminders, but it’s also fair to note that he’s rarely been handed a reliable top goalie. As great as Semyon Varlamov was last season in Colorado, he never managed to play more than 27 regular season games for the Washington Capitals in large part because of injury issues. Departed Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller suffered from his own bad luck and his numbers dipped when he was able to play. It’s difficult to argue that Boudreau has enjoyed any better long-term options through the years, so it’s not as if he’s flippantly benching people like a more robust Mike Keenan.

Long story short, it’s easier to criticize Boudreau’s practices than it is to point out what precisely he should have done differently, yet the Ducks face arguably more uncertainty than ever in net going into the 2014-15 season.

It’s interesting to note that Anaheim has been unusually willing to let goalies walk, too. Many franchises would cling to a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe-winner like Jean-Sebastien Giguere, yet they transitioned to Hiller quite seamlessly and also parted ways with a then-promising backup in Ilya Bryzgalov. One could argue that the GM and coach see eye-to-eye on this matter as much as any in Anaheim, really.

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The Ducks have been a fixture in the playoff picture through many of these seasons, but Boudreau has never coached a conference final series in the NHL. Being less chained to goalies might actually be the best strategy, yet it could be one of the talking points if this coach continues to fall short of expectations in the postseason.

Of course, the advantage is simple enough: the Ducks can easily hit the “Reset” button once again if this doesn’t work out.

The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

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Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

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Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

Associated Press
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The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.