Author: Jason Brough

Anders Nilsson

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not


Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.

Blame the Canadian dollar for ‘cap squeeze’

Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Five

Just over two years ago, Bryan Bickell signed a four-year, $16 million contract extension.

Today, the Chicago Blackhawks placed him on waivers, paving the way for a potential AHL demotion for the 29-year-old winger.

True, the ‘Hawks can only save around a million bucks in cap space by sending Bickell to Rockford, but every penny counts these days. The numerous veteran free agents forced to accept professional tryouts are proof of that.

“There is a recent trend in the NHL now to go younger,” agent Allan Walsh told TSN 690 in Montreal.

“And there’s a reason why. Younger players are taking up less cap space. You have a lot of teams that two years ago were projecting a $75-76 million cap right now that did not materialize because of the fall of the Canadian dollar.”

The salary cap for 2015-16 came in at $71.4 million.

“It’s a cap squeeze,” Walsh said. “It’s a function of all these years in the salary cap, the money in the cap system going to the elite guys.”

Elite guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, each now with a cap hit of $10.5 million.

“You see teams now doing everything they can to get their 19-, 20-, 21-year-old players into the lineup,” said Walsh.

Or, they’re signing veterans for peanuts. Like the ‘Hawks did with Michal Rozsivial.

What will be interesting to see over the next few days is how teams finalize their 23-man rosters. If there’s an open spot, do they sign a veteran on a pro tryout, or do they give it to a kid?

“I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the coaches are pushing for the veteran guy, because coaches always prefer experience,” said Walsh.

“(But) there are GMs who are managing caps where they need to get that young guy in the lineup and get him going, vis-à-vis his CBA rights.”

Related: Why NHL fans — no matter where they live — should care about the plunging Canadian dollar

How many games should a goalie play?

Pekka Rinne

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The speculation started even before the Nashville Predators lost in the Western Conference quarterfinals last season, that goaltender Pekka Rinne was working a bit too much during the regular season and he was going to be worn out for the games that matter most.

The Predators talked about whether fatigue played a role in their ouster from the postseason, then dismissed the idea.

So does Rinne.

“I’m not too worried about the number,” said Rinne, who started 64 games last season and was still tied only for seventh among the workhorse goalies in the NHL. “Obviously going deeper this season, you want to feel fresh and you want to be able to give everything you have and help this team. But in the past, I’ve played a lot of games, and I feel like that helps me, too, having that experience.”

Balancing a goalie’s workload over an 82-game season is tricky. Earning a playoff berth usually means playing the best goalie as much as possible – even when the team is going to need him in the long, long postseason where he is the one player who can steal a game and even a series in the chase for a Stanley Cup championship.

So how much is too much?

Nobody played more games in the NHL last season than Braden Holtby. The Washington goalie was in net 73 games, and he also led the league winning 91.1 percent of the Capitals’ games with 41 of 45 victories. Holtby said he simply feels better when he plays more.

“If you can just keep rolling, it makes things easier,” Holtby said. “But at the same time, it’s great if you’re not getting fatigued, mentally fatigued, with injuries or whatnot, so that just depends on the season. You can’t plan on those things. You just take it one day at a time and see where it ends up.”

Holtby’s workload was on Washington coach Barry Trotz’s mind when he ran into Martin Brodeur at the NHL draft in June. Brodeur started 78 games for the New Jersey Devils in 2006-07 and 77 games in three other seasons. Only Grant Fuhr started more games in a single season with 79 for St. Louis in 1995-96, and Brodeur won two of his three Stanley Cups in seasons he started 72 and 73 games.

Trotz said Brodeur believed he got into a rhythm playing game after game, and off days hampered the run. Trotz saw how hard Brodeur worked on a day off in Nashville while coaching the Predators. Brodeur took part in the Devils’ morning skate and kept working, still on the ice when Trotz returned from lunch stopping possibly 400 pucks compared to 25 he might have faced in the game.

Brodeur suggested most goalies can play 70 games a season, a number posted by many in the Hall of Fame.

“I guess ‘a body in motion stays in motion’ type thing,” Trotz said.

Patrick Roy always tried to talk coaches into letting him play more, only to be kept around 60 games per season (his career high was 68 games played in 1993-94). Now coaching Colorado, Roy is using that approach with Semyon Varlamov.

Managing travel and the time change is a bigger issue for Western Conference teams, especially with goalies stuck on planes for hours. Roy left Varlamov at home for a preseason game at Calgary, and he noted the close proximity for Brodeur and the Devils to teams like the Rangers, Flyers and Islanders.

“It’s the traveling you have to look at,” Roy said. “Varly will tell us. We’ll see. We’ll manage that.”

New Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma wanted Marc-Andre Fleury playing no more than 65 games when he coached the Pittsburgh Penguins. Out of the league last season, Bylsma said he watched closely as goalies played 30 games or more in a row with games stacking up to 70 for others. Jonathan Quick started 71 of his 72 games as Los Angeles missed the playoffs, while Tuuka Rask started 67 of his 70 games for Boston, which also missed the postseason.

“I don’t know what the number is,” Bylsma said. “And maybe there’s different numbers for different goalies, and maybe there’s different concerns. But we did look at it, and I was pretty closely watching some of the scenarios last year to see what happened. You see some of those goalies when they went into the playoffs.”

After playing in 73 games, Holtby was in net for 13 of 14 playoff games as Washington lost in the second round.

Devan Dubnyk set the standard last season playing 38 straight games after Minnesota acquired him from Arizona in January. Dubnyk started 39 of 40 games overall with a 1.78 GAA, and the Wild went 27-9-2 with him in net. Dubnyk said he felt good during that stretch, needing only practices off between games to recuperate. Dubnyk then played every playoff game as the Wild beat St. Louis before being swept by Chicago.

The rush of stopping pucks under the lights sure helps a goalie forget the sore hips and knees.

“It’s nothing that every single guy who plays in the league doesn’t deal with,” Dubnyk said.


Hammond out ‘at least two weeks’ with groin injury

Staal, Lazar, Ward

The Ottawa Senators will be without goalie Andrew Hammond for “at least two weeks” due to the groin injury he suffered yesterday in practice.

“It’s not a tear or anything, but it’s a pull and we have to be careful with it,” GM Byran Murray told the Ottawa Sun.

Rookie Matt O’Connor, signed this summer as a college free agent, will replace Hammond as Craig Anderson‘s backup.

The Sens play three games in four nights starting Thursday, so O’Connor could see his first NHL start soon.

Here’s how the Sens’ goalies have performed in the preseason:


Todd McLellan is doing some coaching today

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Calling it a “sobering wake-up call,” Todd McLellan vowed to turn last night’s 5-2 preseason loss to Vancouver into a teachable moment for his young Oilers.

“We’ll use it, properly, and try to improve it,” the coach told reporters.

Now, to be fair, last night’s defeat was the first of the preseason for the Oilers. They won their first six, with a couple of shutouts to boot.

But it was the defensive breakdowns versus the Canucks that reminded everyone that Connor McDavid can’t solve everything for this team.

Not Anton Lander‘s finest moment right there.

Nor was this a good moment for new defenseman Andrej Sekera:

And so this is what the Oilers did today:

Edmonton has a tough start to the regular season, opening on the road against St. Louis, Nashville and Dallas.

So temper those expectations, Oilers fans.

“If we think it’s all going to improve at once, we’re mistaken,” McLellan said. “It’s going to improve slowly.”