Jonathan Quick

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Starting goaltenders battling fatigue as playoffs loom


Behind the mask is a mind filled with a web of a thousand thoughts, worries and a singular focus of what it takes to win a game.

Then the next game, then the one after that.

”There is no shut-off for a goaltender,” retired goalie Brian Boucher said. ”The mind doesn’t shut off.”

A starting NHL goaltender bears a burden unlike any position in hockey and few others in sports, and the resulting pressure builds up over the course of a season. By this time of year, with the playoffs on the horizon, No. 1 goalies have grinded through almost six months of work and are battling fatigue that threatens to derail their team’s hopes.

Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay is going through it for the first time while Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals is used to it by now. Goalies of all ages have no choice but to manage the physical and mental hurdles.

”It’s one of those things that you’ve got find ways to make sure you’re prepared and ready to play every game,” Holtby said. ”As a goaltender, there’s not much room to take nights off.”

It’s worse for the goalies whose teams can’t afford to start a backup. Boucher started the final 13 games for Philadelphia in 2010 to help them make the playoffs, Jonathan Quick started 20 of the final 21 games for the Los Angeles Kings when they tried to make a furious push to make it in 2015 and Kari Lehtonen could be counted on to play the final nine games of the Dallas Stars’ season now as they claw for a spot.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

”You’ll go through the whole night thinking about tomorrow, show up to the rink in the morning thinking about tonight and then you show up to the game thinking about the game,” said Boucher, now an analyst for NBC Sports. ”Not until that horn goes off at the very end can you finally go, ‘Whew,’ and take a deep breath and hopefully it’s in a celebration with your teammates. …. You have a shower, you feel good about things, you go home, you kind of decompress and then the next day it starts again: the butterflies, the nerves, the thinking about your opponent. And that’s the mental fatigue that comes into it.”

That’s what Vasilevskiy is dealing with at age 23, 58 starts into his first season as the full-time starter and the league leader in victories.

”Tiredness is something that I probably never faced before,” he told The Tampa Bay Times.

The same goes for Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who is between the pipes for meaningful games and on the cusp of his first playoff appearance. Jets goaltending coach Wade Flaherty talks to Hellebuyck almost daily about what he needs to be successful, and the staff pays careful attention to making sure the 24-year-old is good to go.

Coach Paul Maurice said the Jets are aware of the balance between rhythm and rest but aren’t holding Hellebuyck back.

”There’s a fatigue component that a No. 1 goaltender also has to embrace,” Maurice said. ”He has to learn how to play when he doesn’t feel 100 percent right because that’s basically going to be his life.”

Winnipeg has been able to give Hellebuyck blocks of two or three days completely off, a rarity for top goalies this time of year. The Nashville Predators have a big enough lead atop the Central Division that they can afford to lighten Pekka Rinne‘s workload down the stretch, which could be a huge benefit.

”I like thinking outside the box,” former goalie Martin Biron said. ”You may have a Friday-Saturday game, have a Tuesday game, have a Thursday game. You can play your starter on Friday-Saturday and not play him on Tuesday so he gets Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (off) and then he gets ready for the weekend again for the Thursday. There’s a lot more days to be able to decompress and really think about how to reset and re-prepare.”

Holtby got a 10-day reset from a month-plus of struggles as Philipp Grubauer started four games in a row. Having a reliable backup is a luxury Washington has – and Holtby doesn’t like taking days off, either. Toronto starter Frederik Andersen recently joked that he’s more tired of being asked if he’s tired than he is from facing the most shots in the league.

Practice shots, warmups, travel and mental and physical preparation are also part of the wear and tear. Analyst Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild said those can be spaced out over weeks and months.

”Anything you can do to get a little bit of extra sleep over the course of the season is absolutely monumental when it comes time for the playoff push,” Goldman said.

Biron, who started 59 games for Philadelphia in 2007-08 and backed up Henrik Lundqvist when the New York Rangers realized the ”King” needed more time off, figures 60 is the perfect number for a starter. For someone like Vasilevskiy who can’t afford to learn and wait for next year, Boucher said he hopes a more relaxed market like Tampa Bay helps now and the rush of the playoffs gets him through the grind in a few weeks.

”I think Vasilevskiy’s going to be fine just because you watch his physical attributes, they’re through the roof,” Boucher said. ”So the physical side doesn’t look like it’s an issue. Now it’s his time to shine.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at

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WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Minnesota Wild

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Monday night when the Los Angeles Kings visit the Minnesota Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.


Tobias RiederAnze KopitarDustin Brown
Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTrevor Lewis
Kyle CliffordAdrian KempeTyler Toffoli
Andy AndreoffNate ThompsonTorrey Mitchell

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
Alec MartinezDion Phaneuf
Jake MuzzinChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

[NHL on NBCSN: Kings, Wild continue pursuit of important points]


Jason ZuckerEric StaalNino Niederreiter
Zach PariseMikko KoivuMikael Granlund
Tyler EnnisMatt CullenCharlie Coyle
Marcus FolignoJoel Eriksson EkDaniel Winnik

Ryan SuterMatt Dumba
Jonas Brodin – Ryan Murphy
Nick SeelerNate Prosser

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

Kings ride weird goal to beat Red Wings


If you looked at the scoreboard alone, you’d think that the Los Angeles Kings played like the more desperate team in pushing the fading Detroit Red Wings to eight consecutive losses (0-7-1).

That makes sense, as the Kings did take care of business on Thursday, and they ended up winning 4-1.

Still, it wasn’t anywhere near as easy as that final score indicates. For one thing, Anze Kopitar‘s game-winning goal was a weird one, and must really bum Jared Coreau out as he had been playing well considering his recent struggles:

Tyler Toffoli and Dustin Brown scored late goals to drive up the margin, but who knows if it would have been as smooth of a ride for Los Angeles if the above bounce didn’t go the Kings’ way?

This isn’t to say that the Kings played poorly, mind you, just that it was a close, low-event game. To an extent, it was very much the type of game Los Angeles was able to grind out during the gravy days of Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, and others.

This win gives the Kings 84 points in 71 games played. This gives them a shot at catching the Sharks for the second seed (85 points in 70 GP), but first things first, the Kings strengthened their grip on the third spot in the Pacific and a playoff spot in general. The Ducks and Flames also only have 11 games left like the Kings, but Anaheim’s parked at 82 points while Calgary has 80.

From a big picture sense, this wasn’t all bad for Detroit.

At this point, they’re better off losing, at least when they can do so while “keeping their heads high.” That probably applies here, as they were able to play the Kings hard while also leaving without any standings points. With 63 points in 70 games, Detroit could conceivably sink below the Senators (61 points in 69 GP) among some other cellar dwellers.

So, really, both teams did what they needed to do on Thursday, even if it wasn’t always pretty.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Red Wings at Kings




Detroit Red Wings

Tyler BertuzziHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Darren HelmDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha

Justin AbdelkaderFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

Martin FrkLuke Glendening — Evgeny Svechnikov

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Dan DeKeyserNick Jensen

Niklas KronwallMike Green

Starting goalie: Jared Coreau

[Red Wings – Kings preview.]

Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tobias RiederJeff CarterTrevor Lewis

Tanner PearsonAdrian KempeTyler Toffoli

Kyle CliffordMichael AmadioNate Thompson

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Dion PhaneufAlec Martinez

Jake Muzzin — Paul LaDue

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

MLS team’s ticket promotion doesn’t go as planned, thanks to Canucks

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The idea was simple enough: All the Vancouver Canucks had to do was score a single goal against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night and Major League Soccer side would give fans a chance to win a pair of tickets to their next home game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

They didn’t have to beat the Kings, no, that would have been quite a task for a Canucks team that had won twice in their previous 10 games entering Monday night. Just one stinkin’ goal and a two happy fans would get to see Kei Kamara, Alphonso Davies and the 2-0 Whitecaps.

After a slow start peppering Jonathan Quick with just five shots in the first period, the Canucks really kept the Kings’ netminder busy over the final 40 minutes, firing 30 shots his way. The Whitecaps were keeping the faith:

But it was all for naught and LA ended up keeping Vancouver off the scoreboard entirely with a 3-0 victory.

So what was the MLS side to do in order to keep the promotion alive? They asked their Twitter followers to retweet a gif of some young Canucks fans and they would choose a winner.

Lesson learned, Whitecaps.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.