Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters made some headlines on Friday when he went on a bit of a rant regarding the play of backup goaltender Eddie Lack this season, basically telling him to make a big save every once in a while.
It was surprising not only because of how direct and sharp the criticism was, but also because of how out of character it was from a coach that has previously avoided such criticism of his goaltenders.
Following the Hurricanes’ 4-2 loss to Arizona on Friday, a game in which Cam Ward allowed three goals on just 21 shots, Peters was asked if he had any regrets about his comments toward Lack.
He did not.
“No. That’s just being honest,” Peters said. “You guys want it to be a competition for starts, and you gotta have competition to be a competition, correct? You know what I mean? I can’t just give people stuff for free, in pro sports that is not how it works.”
What’s odd about this is that neither goalie in Carolina has played well this season.
Part of Peters’ criticism of Lack on Friday morning was that in his last game he allowed four goals only 16 shots, and had a save percentage for the season that would place him near the bottom of the league. And all of that is accurate. But it’s not like Ward has significantly outplayed Lack this season. After Friday’s game Ward owns a .904 save percentage that is currently 46th out of 60 goalies in the NHL and has given up at least three goals in nine of his past 14 starts. In seven of those starts he has given up at least four goals. Since the start of the 2012-13 season Ward’s .906 save percentage is 43rd out of 45 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games, ahead of only Ben Scrivens and Jacob Markstrom (and oddly enough, five spots behind Eddie Lack).
The point here is that both goalies are struggling and neither one has played anywhere near well enough to give the Hurricanes a chance to win on most nights. To single out the guy that has only played in 10 games this season (and missed significant time to a concussion) while pretty much giving a free pass to the other goalie just seems … odd. He even went out of his way on Friday to praise Ward for making a timely save on a night he gave up three goals on 21 shots (a dismal .857 save percentage) just hours after ripping apart Lack for giving up four goals on 16 shots. Neither performance is good enough.
Goaltending has been a major issue for the Hurricanes for several years now and things seem to be a lot more even than Peters suggests when he says it’s not a competition.
It is a competition.
Not because both guys are playing well, but because both have been equally bad.
Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.
And now it’s happening.
Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.
Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.
As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.
LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.
Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.
Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.
Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.
Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.
In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”
You can watch the full ruling below:
Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.
Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.
Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.
Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.
As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.
The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.
The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.
Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.
“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”
The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.