PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
The Devils have been substantially better at the beginning of this season, but Lou Lamoriello isn’t ready to give the love yet: “But right now you don’t compete against your opponents. You compete against yourself. This team is still coming together. We’re a work in progress.” What a killjoy. (Star-Ledger)
It’s time to be real: Anze Kopitar is one of the best centers in the NHL. (LA Kings Insider)
Nothing is wrong with Alex Ovechkin. So says Alex Ovechkin… and everyone else on the Caps (QMI Agency)
That Mike Gillis guy in Vancouver is pretty good at GMing. (Canucks Army)
Great article dissecting Phil Kessel, his personality, and trying to play in hockey-crazed Toronto. (Yahoo)
Who knew that the Rangers would be able to ride a seven-game winning streak on the backs of their defensemen… without Marc Staal (Slap Shot blog)
Speaking of defense, this just in: blocking shots is a tough job in the NHL. (Star Tribune)
It’s almost unbelievable to ask this question after the way they started the season, but could the Sens be looking to add players to make a run for the playoffs? (Ottawa Citizen)
Finally, check out this hit that puts Marc Fistric halfway into the penalty box. Next thing we know, someone will say the doors are too dangerous and need to be rounded off too. (NHL)
The New York Islanders announced this evening that goaltender Al Montoya is day-to-day with a strained hamstring. It was only yesterday when the New York Islanders were playing musical chairs with three goaltenders on their NHL roster. The music has now stopped and only Rick DiPietro found a seat.
Again, two of the Islanders three goaltenders are hurt—and Rick DiPietro is NOT one of the injured. Who says the man isn’t earning his 15-year contract?
Injuries are never good, news of Montoya’s injury comes at a bad time. Evgeni Nabokov left Thursday’s game earlier with a groin injury and is expected to miss around a month. Luckily for the Islanders, they don’t face a back-to-back situation on their schedule until next weekend. Ideally, Montoya will be back in the lineup by the time the Islanders are really looking for a goaltender to share DiPietro’s workload.
Montoya has easily been the best goaltender for the Islanders over the first month and a half of the season. He leads all three goaltenders in goals against average and save percentage for a team that has struggled to find its way into the win column. Hey, at least there won’t be a goaltender controversy over the next few days.
The injuries give DiPietro time to shine as the team’s undisputed goaltender. All things being equal, the organization would much rather have their long-term investment be the dominant goaltender they hoped he would be when they signed him. Who knows how long Nabokov will be with the team and Montoya has been a pleasant surprise. But DiPietro will be with the team for the next decade. It would be nice if he could take over the #1 spot.
He’ll get is opportunity starting tomorrow against the Bruins.
The Carolina Hurricanes showed a different level of effort tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. Yet still, in a results oriented world, Carolina lost again (this time 1-0) and continued their freefall towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference. For those counting, that would be their seventh loss in eight games.
It’ll put the GM Jim Rutherford and the Canes in an interesting predicament. There was some chatter that coach Paul Maurice could receive his walking papers in the wake of Wednesday’s disaster in Montreal. Tonight’s Carolina team looked nothing like the team that was sleepwalking through their game against the Canadiens though. But again, there was the scoreboard problem.
The Hurricanes looked better in just about all facets of the game. The defense looked nothing like the team that has been giving up goals like a lacrosse goaltender. The Canes controlled the game for about 59 minutes—but a single defensive lapse in front of the net and a Jason Pominville rebound goal was all the Sabres would need to escape with a win. The Hurricanes were the better team and deserved a better fate.
This time, the problem was isolated the offensive side of the game. Unfortunately for the Canes, their fans, and their coach, the offensive players on the team can’t find the back of the net. The second consecutive shutout means they haven’t scored a goal since early in the 3rd period against the Flyers—on Monday. They’re scoreless drought is now at 135 minutes, 24 seconds.
It doesn’t matter if the defense is playing well or not; if the team doesn’t score, they’re not going to win.
We’ll see if the organization gives Maurice a stay of execution after the tough luck loss. The team brought the energy you’d hope they would when playing for a coach’s job—the only negative was the result. We’ll see if that’s going to be enough?
How good is it to be Joe Nieuwendyk today? His team has surprised most people around the league with their quick start and is tied for the second most wins in the NHL. His new coach has the team looking good and the offseason acquisitions have thrived with the Stars. Oh, and there’s that Hall of Fame ring he has to shine every morning.
With news of a new owner in Dallas today, now Joe Nieuwendyk should have the assets to make his job easier as well. If he was able to put together a competitive team on a shoestring budget, what will he be able to do now that he has the resources to help the team succeed?
But for those who expect Nieuwendyk and the Stars to start spending like a 16-year-old with their very first paycheck, you may be in for a surprise. It sounds like the GM will continue to exercise patience.
“I like our roster and I think we need to let it be for a bit,” Nieuwendyk told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t foresee any immediate moves that are necessary. But, in the long term, having an owner and possibly a higher budget could open the door for opportunities that we’re not able to study right now. It also will probably change the way other teams look at us, and maybe they will be more open to picking up the phone and making a call.”
Yeah, getting other GMs to answer the phone sounds like a good first step towards actually making a deal. For anyone interested in the Stars future, you should check out Heika’s article. The Stars are going to continue to preach patience—and winning will go a long way towards getting the fans to jump onboard with the plan.
The slumping Maple Leafs have to be looking for any good news they can find right now. Well, the good news is their promising young goaltender James Reimer was able to practice during an optional skate today. He may not be ready to return yet, but at least he’s back on the ice. Any progress is a good thing, right?
The Leafs still aren’t officially saying what’s ailing Reimer, but they previously said he was suffering concussion-like symptoms. If we assume those are the same problems he’s dealing with, then we know that any timetable for a possible return can be termed as “tentative” at best. Still, Ron Wilson gave fans a ballpark update to work with today.
“He won’t be playing for at least another week to 10 days if everything goes smoothly,” Toronto’s head coach said.
Again, hockey fans have come to learn that anything resembling concussion-like symptoms can take a while to recover from these days. Yet whenever Reimer is ready to return to the ice, the Leafs will welcome the netminder back to the lineup with open arms. After a quick start out of the gate, the Leafs have lost their last six games (0-4-2) and have been giving up a ton of goals in the process. Some will say it’s the defense taking a step back, but Reimer’s stellar play has a way of making any defensive corps look a little better. All we know is they’re losing and giving up a lot of goals in the process.
In the meantime, the Leafs will have a busy week without their prized goaltender. Will they be able to keep their heads above water as he recovers? They’ll have to figure out how to earn a few wins if they want that playoff berth in April.