Ondrej Pavelec

Saturday was awful for great goalies

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Look, there were some good-to-great goalies who enjoyed strong Saturday performances.

Jonathan Quick continued his strong beginning to 2017-18, getting two wins while allowing a single goal as the Kings beat the Sharks 4-1. Corey Crawford snubbed the dangerous Columbus Blue Jackets in Chicago’s 5-1 victory. Braden Holtby got the better of his regular Vezina rival Carey Price. The Nashville Predators still have no answer for Matt Murray. There’s no denying that Marc-Andre Fleury is off to a special start for Vegas, too.

Even in defeat, Craig Anderson sparkled in Ottawa’s shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. He gave Jonathan Bernier‘s stupendous stop a run for its money here:

Still, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline, it was often a brutal evening for some big-name goalies.

In some cases, the evenings were crushingly short, too, leaving those netminders to stare out in disbelief on the bench as games played out.

  • Henrik Lundqvist only made it through one period against the Toronto Maple Leafs, at times looking shocked that he even stayed out that long. Lundqvist yielded five goals on 17 shots as Toronto dominated early; at one point the Leafs crowd gave Lundqvist a “Bronx cheer” after making a save. Frederik Andersen would end up feeling Hank’s pain, as the Rangers stormed back to tie things up 5-5 heading into the third. The dumb, fun, Leafs also made it a tough night for Lundqvist’s backup, Ondrej Pavelec.

It’s been a very rough start for Lundqvist so far, who might miss having a backup like Antti Raanta to pick up his pieces.

  • Do you think Holtby gets annoyed by all the Carey Price hype?

While Holtby stopped 38 out of 39 shots to frustrate the Montreal Canadiens in Washington’s 6-1 win, Price couldn’t slow down red-hot Alex Ovechkin. Like Lundqvist, Price only made it through one period. In that case, he gave up one Ovechkin hat trick plus a T.J. Oshie goal. After a fantastic debut, this one hurt for the Habs.

  • At least in the cases of Lundqvist and Price, they were facing an onslaught of shots and scary offenses.

Cam Talbot sat on the Oilers’ bench with his mask still on after allowing three goals on just seven shots. It seemed like the Vancouver Canucks were going to embarrass Edmonton, but instead they just humiliated Talbot. Laurent Brossoit didn’t give up a goal, but Vancouver held off Connor McDavid & Co. for a 3-2 upset.

  • Robin Lehner fared a little better than his more highly regarded colleagues, almost making it through half of the Sabres’ eventual 6-3 loss to the Islanders. Still, the angry goalie gave up four goals on 16 shots before making way for Chad Johnson.

Penguins, Rangers, Capitals headline PHT’s mighty Metro Division preview

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The Metropolitan Division hasn’t just produced the last two Stanley Cup winners (Pittsburgh Penguins) and last two Presidents’ Trophy winners (Washington Capitals).

It’s also a division that runs deep. The Columbus Blue Jackets took the league by storm in 2016-17, and while Sergei Bobrovsky might not be sensational again, many still believe they’re legit. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders still boast significant strengths, while the Carolina Hurricanes are dark horse candidates once more.

Even the New Jersey Devils keep adding promising talent.

Let’s preview what might once again be the best division in the NHL.

Also, check out these other previews: Atlantic Division, Central Division, PHT’s picks and predictions.

Carolina Hurricanes

Poll/looking to make the leap

Columbus Blue Jackets

Poll/looking to make the leap

New Jersey Devils

Poll/looking to make the leap

New York Islanders

Poll/looking to make the leap

New York Rangers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Philadelphia Flyers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Pittsburgh Penguins

Poll/looking to make the leap

Something noteworthy from today:

Washington Capitals

Poll/looking to make the leap

PHT’s Central Division preview: Blackhawks, Wild, Predators, and more

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For ages, it felt like the Central Division was the reigning champion as the toughest division in the NHL.

The Metropolitan Division seemed to knock the Central off its perch, right down to the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Still, much of those stumbles seemed self-imposed, as the Dallas Stars struggled, the Winnipeg Jets disappointed, and the Colorado Avalanche were jaw-droppingly bad.

Let’s take a look at PHT’s material on the Central Division with the 2017-18 season set to begin.

Click here for the Atlantic Division preview.

Click here for PHT’s staff predictions.

Chicago Blackhawks

Poll/looking to make the leap

Colorado Avalanche

Poll/looking to make the leap

Dallas Stars

Poll/looking to make the leap

Minnesota Wild

Poll/looking to make the leap

Speaking of signings, the Wild inked a deal with Daniel Winnik today:

Nashville Predators

Poll/Looking to make the leap

St. Louis Blues

Poll/looking to make the leap

One other Blues note:

Winnipeg Jets

Poll/looking to make the leap

Cam Ward ready for backup role with Hurricanes

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For the better part of the past 12 seasons Cam Ward has been a constant in the Carolina Hurricanes’ net. He is the longest tenured member of the team and a Stanley Cup champion.

This season, however, his hold on the starting job seems to have finally come to an end with the arrival of Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hurricanes acquired Darling’s free agent rights in a trade, then acted quickly to sign him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract.

That is not a commitment you make to a player that you intend to sit on the bench, and Ward knows this.

In an interview with the News & Observer this week Ward talked about his new role with the team and how he is willing and ready to accept it after being a starter for more than a decade.

From the News & Observer:

“I’m realistic,” Ward said in an interview at Raleigh Center Ice. “I understand the situation. I know he was brought in here to sign a four-year deal for pretty good money not to be a backup.

“I know where I am in my career. … Certainly I’m a competitive guy and I still want to be able to play and I’ll do whatever I can to earn that ice time, but I’m hopeful he can make that next step. He deserves that.”

The unfortunate reality for Ward is that it is a move the Hurricanes had to make.

Goaltending has been one of the single biggest issues plaguing the Hurricanes in recent seasons, and Ward has been the key player at that position. He has not finished a season with a save percentage higher than .910 since the 2011-12 season. In the five years since then his .907 save percentage is 43rd out of 47 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games, ahead of only Ondrej Pavelec, Ben Scrivens and Jacob Markstrom.

The Hurricanes have been assembling a talented, young roster in recent seasons and finally look like a team that is on the verge of becoming a player in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They have an outstanding young defense that has already made them one of the best shot suppression teams in the league, as well as some young high-end forward talent up front. The only ingredient that has been missing has been more consistent play in net.

The Hurricanes have also taken chances on backups Anton Khudobin and Eddie Lack over the years in the hopes they could push Ward and help solidify the position. None of them worked out.

Darling is the latest top backup that they have tabbed to be their solution in net. He has been one of the best backup goalies in the league in recent seasons and will be getting his shot to be a starter this season.

It’s New York Rangers day at PHT

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After plodding their way to a frustrating series loss against the Penguins in 2015-16, Alain Vigneault changed the New York Rangers’ style, and it worked in 2016-17.

Sort of.

The Rangers’ experience ranks up there as maybe the most indicative of just how ridiculously stacked the Metropolitan Division was.

The Rangers were one of nine teams in the NHL to generate at least 100 standings points (in their case, 102), finishing just one behind the Montreal Canadiens, who won the Atlantic Division. Even so, they faced said Canadiens in the first round as a wild card.

After dispatching the Habs, the Rangers fell to the Senators, and now they prepare for what’s likely to be an even bigger set of changes in 2017-18.

The Rangers traded away Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta for Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh pick of the 2017 NHL Draft. The Dan Girardi era ended with a buyout. Ondrej Pavelec now serves as Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup, while the Rangers landed the biggest fish of free agency in Kevin Shattenkirk.

Mika Zibanejad got a new deal as he takes over the No. 1 center spot, while David Desharnais was added to try to limit some of the losses down the middle.

So, the Rangers continued their move toward a more modern system, as their transition game should be much stronger. On the other hand, last season’s deep offense looks quite a bit thinner.

The Rangers are quite the puzzle heading into next season, so enjoy as PHT tries to put the pieces together today.