Can Rangers coach trust backup Biron? ‘It’s a good question’


Despite being a starting goalie many moons ago in Philadelphia, Martin Biron seems very comfortable in his role as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup. Still, after a rough Saturday performance, New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault admitted that the Rangers might not be so comfortable about Biron to the Bergen Record’s Andrew Gross.

Biron, 36, was probably the goat in the Rangers’ 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

New York carried the play through two periods, especially in the middle frame, out-shooting St. Louis 13-5. Instead of that giving the Rangers the advantage, Biron allowed three goals on those five shots.

Judge his culpability regarding that trio for yourself:

Biron allowed four goals on 17 shots before giving way to Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 16 of 17 shots as the Blues erupted in the third period.

(At least Lundqvist said that sharp work made him feel a little better.)

The Rangers’ next game doesn’t come until they visit the Capitals on Wednesday, so the Rangers could ponder the backup question for a few days. Biron isn’t cheap for a No. 2, either, as he’ll make $1.3 million in the final year of his deal.

Chicago’s Smith shakes off dangerous boarding hit by Buffalo’s Ott


Saturday could have been a bittersweet night for Chicago Blackhawks forward Ben Smith. Instead, it was mostly sweet.

He scored a goal midway through the first period, but could have suffered a significant injury from this dangerous boarding hit by Buffalo Sabres pest Steve Ott:

Chicago won the game 2-1, and better yet, Smith told’s Tracey Myers that he avoided disaster.

“I’ve been through that before and it’s a little scary and unfortunate. But luckily I came out OK,” The 25-year-old said.

The NHL factors injuries into supplementary discipline, so Smith being OK reduces Ott’s risk of supplementary discipline. He received a two-minute boarding penalty on the play.

Blues set franchise-record start at Rangers’ expense


The St. Louis Blues set a franchise record by winning their fourth consecutive game to start a season, handing the New York Rangers their third straight loss in the process by a score of 5-3.

Jaroslav Halak weathered an early Rangers storm, stopping 22 out of 24 shots in the first two periods of the game. The Rangers scored one more goal in the third period, but only fired five more shots on goal.

The Blues’ deep offense showed up once more, as Alex Steen had four points, David Backes collected three and Kevin Shattenkirk, Derek Roy and T.J. Oshie produced two points apiece.

Moral victories for the Rangers

At 1-4-0 with a three-game losing streak, the Rangers probably don’t want to hear about silver linings, but their fans might.

As mentioned before, New York at least went all-out in those first two periods.

Martin Biron faltered, opening the door for Henrik Lundqvist to build his confidence back up a bit in relief during the third period. The Blues really poured it on with 17 shots in the final frame, but Lundqvist only allowed one goal.

The Blueshirts get a little time to gather themselves, as they don’t play again until they visit the also-struggling Capitals in Washington on Wednesday.

The real bright spot might be that the Rangers only have four more away games left until they finally play their home-opener, though.

Colorado crushes collapsing Caps


For some time, Washington Capitals fans crowed about how much their team won the trade that sent Semyon Varlamov to Colorado. One can still debate that point, but the former Caps goalie enjoyed cold revenge on Saturday, as his Avalanche crushed Washington 5-1.

Caps fans might just miss Varlamov, too, as he’s starting the 2013-14 season red-hot while both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth flounder in D.C.

Neuvirth was the victim tonight, allowing five goals on 28 shots. Colorado beat him three times at even-strength, once on the power play and even once shorthanded.

It’s super early, but some Caps fans might weep at how their goalies are comparing to Varlamov so far:

Varlamov, 25: 4-0-0, .970 save percentage, 1.00 GAA
Holtby, 24: 0-3-0, .873 save percentage, 4.04 GAA
Neuvirth, 25: 1-1-0, .893 save percentage, 3.30 GAA

Washington’s top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson has been a bright spot to start, but they had a rough night, combining for a -8 rating and zero points. Eric Fehr scored the shutout-spoiling goal in the third period.

Meanwhile, the Avalanche continue to ride high, improving their record to 5-0-0 as their goaltending remains hot and their offense continues to be dangerous and diverse (2013 first-rounder Nathan MacKinnon scored his first goal of the season and added his fifth assist).

Varlamov won’t be able to maintain a .970 save percentage much longer, and at least one of Washington’s goalies should start figuring things out, but the two teams seemed to be headed in starkly different directions on Saturday.

Crosby’s four-point night powers Pittsburgh past Tampa Bay


Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby was shooting plenty in his first four games of 2013-14, but only had two goals to show for his 16 shots. Those hands got hotter on Saturday, however, as his hat trick (and assist) drove the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-4 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It began as a duel, as Crosby traded second-period goals with Steven Stamkos:

Crosby’s first power-play tally:

Stamkos answered back three minutes later:

Crosby, 26, took over in the third period, collecting two more goals for a hat trick:

As you can see from his first two goals, Crosby hasn’t allowed his history of concussions to deter him from going to the “hard” areas to score goals. That nose for the net paid off big-time for Pittsburgh tonight.

He also helped set up Matt Niskanen’s game-winner, which came with less than 20 seconds left in the third period: