Author: Jason Brough

Yes, Smith has been good, but the Coyotes have been more than a red-hot goalie


A year ago, Mike Smith was in a “pretty bad place mentally.”

Which was understandable, considering the Arizona Coyotes goalie started 2014-15 by allowing 16 goals in his first three starts. He went on to finish the season with a save percentage (.904) that ranked among the worst starters in the league.

But he’s in a much better place today. Smith was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Monday and has a .971 save percentage after his first two starts, both wins, of 2015-16.

“It’s always nice to get recognized but obviously I’m not getting too far ahead of myself,” Smith told the Coyotes’ website. “It’s two games. I hope to continue the good play. It’s nice, but more importantly we’ve played better as a team and we’re doing a lot of good things in front of me. It starts there.”

The Coyotes will look to stay perfect tonight when they pay a visit to Anaheim. That won’t be easy against a talented Ducks side still searching for its first victory. In all likelihood, Arizona will need Smith to be excellent again.

That being said, the young Coyotes have been more than just a red-hot goalie. Saturday at home to Pittsburgh, they outshot the Penguins, 39-28, and were fully deserving of a 2-1 win.

Forwards Tobias Rieder, Anthony Duclair, and Max Domi all held their own in top-six roles. That’s a 22-year-old and a couple of 20-year-olds, for the record.

“The youth, there’s lots of enthusiasm there, lots of smiling, lots of giddy up,” said coach Dave Tippett. “But there’s a couple things, if you look at our young guys they all have high skill and they play the game very fast. And that, I think, makes everybody else recognize that we’ve got to play quicker.”

After healthy scratch, Severson vows to play ‘next 80 games’

Jimmy Hayes, Damon Severson

Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.

It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.

“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”

Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.

Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.

Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.

“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”

Virtanen to make NHL debut tonight versus Kings

Jake Virtanen
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Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.

The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.

“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”

Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.

The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.

If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.

Here are the 10 oldest players to play a game this season

Jaromir Jagr

This isn’t breaking news or anything. We just thought you’d like to know that three of the NHL’s 10 oldest players (who’ve played at least one game this season) are members of the Florida Panthers.

Oh, and the Panthers’ starting goalie? He’s the oldest starter in the league. (Scroll down.)

Here’s the list of skaters, topped by 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr:


Yet another veteran Panther, 36-year-old defenseman Brian Campbell, ranks 17th on the list.

Granted, the above list does not include 39-year-old Patrik Elias (who’s hurt) or 39-year-old Eric Boulton (who just re-signed with the Isles). As soon as those two play, Thornton will get pushed out of the top 10.

Now here’s the list of goalies who’ve started at least one game this season, topped by 36-year-old Roberto Luongo:


For the record, Luongo isn’t the oldest goalie under contract. That would be Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom, who’s 37.

Related: Can Florida’s old guys hang on while the young guys get better?

Quick on save percentage: ‘Those numbers mean nothing’


With a quote that’s sure to raise the ire of the stats crowd, here’s Jonathan Quick on his .833 save percentage to start the season:

“That’s for people that don’t know the game. Those numbers don’t mean nothing. We’re 0-2, though. That number means something, so that’s something that we’ve got to get better at.”

(That quote, per LA Kings Insider.)

Quick allowed four goals on 22 shots in his last outing, a 4-1 loss to Arizona on Friday, after which head coach Darryl Sutter said of his star goalie: “He didn’t play very well tonight, did he?”

So even if Quick doesn’t think much of statistics, he should still be extra motivated for tonight’s home game against Vancouver, assuming he gets the start.

Last season, Quick’s .918 save percentage ranked in a three-way tie for 14th out of the 29 goalies who started 40 or more games.