Tag: Pekka Rinne

Nashville Predators v St. Louis Blues

Pressing Playoff Question: Which teams should be most worried about their goaltending?


Short answer?

Several of them.

The long answer is, well, longer — just consider what’s about to transpire. Goalies in Ottawa (Andrew Hammond), Detroit (Petr Mrazek), Vancouver (Eddie Lack), Winnipeg (Ondrej Pavelec), Minnesota (Devan Dubnyk) and Tampa Bay (Ben Bishop) will all be making their postseason debuts, and we still don’t know who’ll start in St. Louis (Brian Elliott or Jake Allen) or Anaheim (John Gibson or Frederik Andersen). Nashville’s Pekka Rinne ended the year mired in a slump, and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury’s postseason struggles are well documented.

So yeah, just a few goaltending concerns out there.

Let’s start with the unresolved situations in St. Louis and Anaheim. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock hinted Elliott may be the guy based on his body of work against Minnesota this year, but refused to confirm anything — possibly because Allen was the better goalie down the stretch. Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau was even more coy, opting not to elaborate on Gibson’s health (he’s dealing with an injury) or how it could impact the starting goalie gig.

Clear as mud. Moving along…

In Vancouver, head coach Willie Desjardins won’t confirm the obvious — it’ll be Lack, not Ryan Miller, who’ll open against Calgary. Lack took over for the injured Miller in mid-February and impressively backstopped the Canucks to the postseason, with Miller getting just one start over the final two months of the season, a shaky 6-5 OT win over Edmonton in the season finale.

The real question with Lack is the length of his leash. As mentioned above, he’s never made a postseason appearance — a far cry from Miller, who has over 50 on his resume, and was Vancouver’s starter for the majority of the season.

The Vancouver situation is not unlike Ottawa’s. There, Andrew “the Hamburglar” Hammond will roll into the playoffs as the club’s white-hot No. 1, on the heels of a remarkable regular season in which he lost just once — yeah, once — in regulation. But like with Lack, one has to wonder what happens if Hammond falters; sitting behind him is veteran Craig Anderson, who had himself a fine year (2.49 GAA, .923 save percentage) and, lest we forget, won a playoff round for Ottawa in 2013.

Detroit’s in a similar boat to the Canucks and Sens. Jimmy Howard, the No. 1 for most of this year, has been parked in favor of rookie Petr Mrazek. It’s a roll of the dice from Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who’ll be relying on Mrazek — he of the 40 career NHL games — over Howard, who has 45 career playoff games.

Once place with no playoff veteran is Winnipeg, where both Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson are headed to the postseason for the first time. Pavelec’s the No. 1 based on his clutch work down the stretch — the Czech netminder posted three consecutive shutouts to close out his year — but it’s important to note that, for long periods this season, Hutchinson was the Jets’ go-to guy and only had 10 fewer starts than Pavelec did.

Then there’s Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

There’s no question about who’s No. 1 — Bishop and Dubnyk are locked in — but certain unknowns remain. Bishop should’ve gained some much-needed playoff experience a year ago, only to miss the Lightning’s entire opening-round playoff loss to Montreal with a dislocated elbow. How will he respond to the pressure this year? The same question can be asked of Dubnyk who, with his 29th birthday just weeks away, is the oldest of the goalies making their playoff debuts (and the most improbable.)

Finally, there’s Rinne and Fleury. The former hasn’t been very sharp since the All-Star break, going 12-11-4 with a 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage — a far cry from the Vezina-worthy numbers he posted in the first half. Fleury’s hardly been Pittsburgh’s problem, but he now finds himself in unfamiliar territory; with a defense wrecked by injury and an offense that’s struggling to score, the Pens almost need Fleury to go out and win them some games (as opposed to past years, when all they needed for was him not to lose ’em.)

Scrolling back, that’s 10 of 16 playoff teams mentioned in this article.

Think goaltending might be a hot topic this spring?

Price isn’t focused on individual success

When the season ends, it will be interesting to see how much hardware Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price comes away with.

He’s a favorite to win the Hart Trophy, and the Vezina, too. He leads all NHL goalies in wins with 43 — Pekka Rinne has 41 — and his save percentage of .934 is absolutely stellar for a Habs team that has 108 points and is looking to claim the Atlantic Division before the playoffs.

In a recent poll of 20 NHL coaches, all 20 picked Price for the Hart. The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, in the end, selects the Hart Trophy winner. But it says something when 100 per cent of coaches from that recent poll go with Price.

“He deserves the Hart,” Habs head coach Michel Therrien told NHL.com. “As far as I’m concerned he’s the best player in the League right now, he’s the player that’s got the most impact on games. There’s a lot of good players in this League that had some good seasons, but Carey Price deserves that trophy.”

The Habs made it to the Eastern Conference final last spring, but their playoff journey ended there.

They also haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993. Individual accomplishments are nice, but winning a championship would be the biggest reward for Price in what has been a remarkable season for him.

“You want to reflect on it, but you don’t want to get too caught up in looking back,” Price told NHL.com. “It’s been working all season long, the goal-setting looking forward. I don’t want to start resting on a good season yet.”

Goalie nods: After 39 straight starts, Dubnyk gets a rest


News and notes from around the crease…

“Duuuuuuubs” takes a break

For the first time since Jan. 15, the Minnesota Wild will start a goalie not named Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk, who’s made 39 consecutive starts — one with Arizona, 38 with the Wild — will be dropped from the lineup entirely tonight as Darcy Kuemper will start in goal against Nashville, with Niklas Backstrom backing up.

While kicking back and relaxing, Dubnyk can reflect on what’s been a truly impressive — and borderline unbelievable — bounce-back campaign. He’s 36-13-4 on the year with a 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage, numbers made even more remarkable given that, last year, he bounced around three different organizations and finished with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton.

For the Predators, Pekka Rinne is the likely starter.


Sens at Rangers: Andrew Hammond vs. Henrik Lundqvist

‘Canes at Flyers: Cam Ward vs. Ray Emery

Wings at Habs: Jimmy Howard vs. Carey Price

Devils at Bolts: Keith Kinkaid vs. Ben Bishop

Bruins at Panthers: Tuukka Rask (probable) vs. Roberto Luongo

‘Hawks at Blues: Corey Crawford (probable) vs. Jake Allen

Jets at Avs: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Reto Berra

Kings at Flames: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Jonas Hiller

Sharks at Oilers: Antti Niemi vs. Laurent Brossoit

Coyotes at Canucks: Mike Smith vs. Eddie Lack

Holtby has been the difference for Caps this season

Braden Holtby

The Washington Capitals didn’t sit on their hands after missing the playoffs in 2014. They replaced both their general manager and head coach with Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz respectively. They splurged on free agent defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. One thing they didn’t do though was address their goaltending, which was a point of significant uncertainty based on how the 2013-14 campaign played out.

All the same, the Washington Capitals decided to stick with Braden Holtby and only bring in Justin Peters to serve in a supporting role. Their belief in Holtby paid off on Sunday when the Capitals’ netminder turned aside 35 of 36 shots versus Detroit on no rest en route to securing a playoff spot.

“That was an outstanding performance,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Back-to-back in this league against good teams, goalies usually don’t fare very well and he stepped up tonight.”

That wasn’t an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination. Holtby’s been a big part of Washington’s resurgence this season with a 40-19-10 record, 2.24 GAA, and .922 save percentage in an incredible 71 games. He’s the first goaltender since Pekka Rinne in 2011-12 to reach both the 40-win and 70-game marks. Of course, Rinne was also guided by Trotz and goalie coach Mitch Korn. Among goaltenders that played in at least 70 games in a single season, his GAA is the best since Martin Brodeur in 2007-08.

Holtby’s brilliant season has been overshadowed somewhat by Carey Price’s Hart Trophy bid. In fact, in a campaign where Pekka Rinne has been nearly as dominant as Price and Devan Dubnyk swooped in to reverse the Minnesota Wild’s fortunes, Holtby might not even warrant a Vezina Trophy finalist spot. Nevertheless, Washington’s fortunes this season have been tied to Holtby.

So far that’s been to the Capitals’ benefit. They just have to hope that continues to be the case.

“Great season for him and if we’re going to go somewhere great this spring, we’re going to need a great effort from him for sure,” Niskanen said.

Goalie Nods: Halak looks to bump slump vs. Sabres

Detroit Red Wings v New York Islanders

Halak gets the nod for the Isles

Jaroslav Halak will look to get back on track against the lowly Buffalo Sabres Saturday night. Halak has lost two of three starts while allowing 10 goals on 101 shots. He gave up three goals on 39 shots in the Islanders 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus on Thursday. New York has lost four of five, but can clinch a playoff berth with a regulation win tonight.

Andrey Makarov gets the start for Buffalo.


Penguins at Blue Jackets: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Canucks at Jets: Eddie Lack vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Red Wings at Wild: Jimmy Howard vs. Devan Dubnyk

Devils at Rangers: Cory Schneider vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Lightning at Panthers: Ben Bishop vs. Roberto Luongo

Capitals at Senators: Braden Holtby vs. Andrew Hammond

Leafs at Bruins: James Reimer vs. Tuukka Rask

Stars at Predators: Jhonas Enroth vs. Pekka Rinne

Sharks at Coyotes: Antti Niemi (unconfirmed) vs. Mike Smith

Flames at Oilers: Karri Ramo vs. Ben Scrivens

Avalanche at Kings: Semyon Varlamov vs. Jonathan Quick