Roberto Luongo

Goalie nods: All-Czech matchup for Hasek night in Buffalo

1 Comment

All the latest from the blue paint…

Czech affair

A fitting goaltending duel in Buffalo tonight as the Sabres retire Dominik Hasek’s No. 39: Michal Neuvirth will go up against Petr Mrazek as two of the NHL’s three active Czech goalies battle it out.

Mrazek, back with the Red Wings after injuries to Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson, has posted a 5-3-1 record with a 2.29 GAA and .916 save percentage this year. He did allow two goals on just 12 shots in relief of Howard on Saturday against Washington, though.

Neuvirth, meanwhile, will look to build on one of the finest performances of his career. He was brilliant in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay, making 45 saves on 47 shots for a .957 save percentage. While the 26-year-old’s numbers on the year aren’t great — 3-11-1, .909 save percentage, 3.36 GAA — Neuvirth has had a couple good outings lately, which included stops on 31 of 33 shots in a loss to Florida on Jan. 2.

Elsewhere…

Bolts at Bruins: Tuukka Rask likely for Boston, no word yet on a Tampa Bay starter.

Isles at Rangers: Jaroslav Halak vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Wild at Pens: Niklas Backstrom vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Avs at ‘Canes: Calvin Pickard vs. Anton Khudobin

Panthers at Jets: Roberto Luongo vs. Michael Hutchinson

Canucks vs. Preds: Eddie Lack for Vancouver, Pekka Rinne likely for Nashville.

Oilers at Blues: Ben Scrivens vs. Jake Allen

Sens at Stars: Robin Lehner for Ottawa, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.

Sharks at Coyotes: Devan Dubnyk for Arizona, Antti Niemi likely for San Jose.

Florida Panthers, deadline buyers?

4 Comments

On Tuesday, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon was on Sportsnet’s Fan 590 to discuss his surprising squad — just one point back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the East — and what the future might have in store.

It’s a future that could see the Panthers be deadline buyers for the first time in a while.

“We’re in a good position,” Tallon explained. “I don’t think we’re going to change much, regardless of where we’re at — we’re still keeping an eye on the future as well — but we’re in a good position where we can either add from within, or go out and get somebody.

“So it’s all good.”

After a mediocre start to the season — Florida was 7-6-6 following a 4-1 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 24 — the Panthers have caught fire, going 13-5-3 over their last 21 games which includes their current three-game winning streak. Roberto Luongo is playing at a Vezina level (17-7-7, 2.23 GAA, .927 save percentage) and the club is getting tremendous production from youngsters Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad, which has brought excitement back to Sunrise; the Panthers drew 15,000 or more fans in each of their four home games prior to the current road swing.

So, why not keep the enthusiasm going and push for just the second playoff appearance in 14 years?

The Panthers do have some flexibility in terms of financial maneuvering. There’s a slew of veterans that are pending UFAs — Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky and Sean Bergenheim — and a number of prospects on entry-level deals playing very well in AHL San Antonio (Rocco Grimaldi, Alex Petrovic and Quinton Howden, to name a few.)

Tallon alluded to these factors when discussing how he’ll approach the deadline.

“We’re always looking to get better,” he explained. “We have some good young players in San Antonio that we want to get to, and we have some good players that we have to sign this offseason.

“So we’re in a good position. We’re obviously in the hunt.”

Could a goalie win the Hart Trophy in 2014-15?

14 Comments

When Jose Theodore won the Hart Trophy in 2002, the last time a goalie was the “player judged most valuable to his team,” there were two things that made it possible.

First, obviously, Theodore was really good. He had a .931 save percentage for the Montreal Canadiens and made a league-high 1,836 stops. Without their goalie, there’s very little chance the Habs, who were outshot by an average of 31.7 to 25.5, would’ve made the playoffs.

Second, scoring in the 2001-02 season had dipped to its lowest point in five decades. Calgary’s Jarome Iginla finished with the most points, just 96 of them.

Which brings us to the current season, where a similar story is unfolding. Two goalies, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Montreal’s Carey Price, are enjoying particularly excellent campaigns, while the league’s top scorer, Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, is on pace for fewer than 100 points. Since the 2004-05 lockout, not counting the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, no player has finished as the NHL’s leading scorer with fewer than 100 points.

Rinne’s case for winning the Hart is strong. Finally healthy, his .930 save percentage is tops among goalies who’ve started at least 20 games, and his Nashville Predators, after missing the playoffs the past two seasons, currently sit first overall with a record of 28-9-4.

But Price’s case shouldn’t be overlooked. While his save percentage is slightly lower (.928) than Rinne’s, one could argue he’s been even more valuable to the 26-12-3 Canadiens, who, unlike the Preds, don’t regularly outshoot their opponents. Thanks in large part to Price, Montreal is 13-7-2 when it’s been outshot. In comparison, Nashville has only been outshot 16 times, going 8-4-4.

Half a season still remains, so there’s no point arguing too vehemently for one candidate over the other. Florida’s Roberto Luongo could also be in the conversation by the end of things, if he can help his Panthers into the playoffs.

Only seven times since the Hart Trophy was first handed out in 1924 has a goalie won the award. So far, the conditions are right to make it eight in 2015.

Goalie Nods: Crawford, Blackhawks look to remain perfect vs. Wild

4 Comments

All the latest from the blue paint…

Crawford and Wild meet again

Corey Crawford made 42 saves as the Blackhawks doubled up the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. He is now 14-5-2, including postseason, in his last 21 games against Minnesota to go along with a 1.94 goals-against average. Crawford is now 4-3-1 with a 2.98 G.A.A. in eight games since returning from a lower body injury. He was 12-5-1 with a 1.87 G.A.A. prior to being sidelined.

Niklas Backstrom will get the start for the Wild. He is 0-2-0 with a 3.56 G.A.A. and a .877 save percentage in the first two games of the season series. Backstrom is 2-9-1 with a 3.59 G.A.A. in his last 12 starts versus Chicago.

Other probable starters…

Panthers at Oilers: Roberto Luongo (confirmed) vs. Ben Scrivens

Jets at Ducks: Michael Hutchinson vs. Frederik Andersen

So, who was the biggest All-Star snub?

54 Comments

The remainder of the 2015 NHL All-Star Game rosters were announced on Saturday.

While some “snubs” are probably quite happy about getting a break (especially Joe Thornton, who’s taking a nice trip to Cabo), you can bet plenty of fan bases will gripe about players who didn’t make it, even if they might not realize that all 30 NHL teams must be represented in some form.

Well, if you’re going to gripe about it, why not do it in the comfy confines of PHT? Before you vote for the biggest snub of them all, however, let’s take a look at who’s on the roster:

Fan voted: Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: 
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Defensemen: 
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets

Goalies: 
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Rookies: 
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

OK, did you get a chance to scan the list? Good. Pick the biggest nub in the poll below. If your guy was double-snubbed (gasp), then write him in.