Author: Jason Brough

Pekka Rinne

How many games should a goalie play?


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.”

Ladd will ‘consider’ shutting down contract talks with Jets

Andrew Ladd, Anze Kopitar

A pending unrestricted free agent, Jets captain Andrew Ladd says he doesn’t want his contract situation to become a distraction. As such, he may shut down negotiations when the regular season starts next week.

“It’s certainly something I have to consider,” Ladd told the Winnipeg Free Press. “My contract and the business part of things can’t become a distraction to me or to my teammates. So setting it aside once the season starts is something we’ll (Ladd and his agents) have to discuss.”

It’s certainly possible that Ladd is trying to put pressure on the Jets by creating a deadline of sorts. The 29-year-old winger was Winnipeg’s leading scorer last season, with 24 goals and 38 assists for 62 points.

From the Free Press:

Both the Jets and Ladd have openly stated they want to sign an extension and talks have been ongoing since the draft back in July. The two sides started apart on both term and money. The club wanted a shorter deal and Ladd was originally pushing for an eight-year deal. They seem to have found middle ground at six years but remain apart on the yearly salary.

Neither side is talking in specifics but the comparables are obvious and $6 million per season is the watermark. Ladd wants to be above that number per year and management is holding fast for an average annual value south of $6 it.

The Jets, of course, have two high-profile pending UFAs, the other being defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

Why Yakupov is still on the third line, despite Eberle injury

1 Comment

Edmonton coach Todd McLellan wants to put Nail Yakupov in “situations to succeed.”

Oddly enough, those situations may not be in the Oilers’ top six, even after winger Jordan Eberle was lost to injury.

Tonight against Vancouver, Yakupov — the first overall draft pick in 2012 — will skate on a third line centered by Anton Lander, with rookie Anton Slepyshev on the other wing.

“I think we’re trying to create some chemistry with Anton,” said McLellan. “Believe it or not, Anton is our leading scorer (5G, 1A) through exhibition season. I’d want to play with that type of guy, if I had Yak’s skillset.”

But it also comes down to match-ups. Theoretically, playing down the lineup should keep Yakupov away from the opposition’s top players, who are more likely to be deployed against Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Edmonton’s top two lines.

“In my opinion, Yak’s strength is with the puck and on the offensive side,” said McLellan. “He’s working on his defensive game. And sometimes who you match up against is important.”

Related: Where does Draisaitl fit for Oilers?