PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Canada dominates en route to Olympic gold

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The numbers alone explain how well Canada played at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi:

Six games, six wins, 17 goals for, three allowed.

But to get a better sense of how truly dominant the team was, consider what the guy that built it said.

“Since I’ve been around, it’s the most impressive, the greatest display of defensive hockey,” Canadian GM Steve Yzerman said after a 3-0 win over Sweden in the gold medal game. “They were committed to this, and I think that’s ultimately why we won is because our leaders, our best players, said, ‘Guys we’re going to win; we don’t care about individual statistics.’

“We’re going to play the right way.”

And play the right way they did. The Canadians re-wrote the history books in Sochi, never trailing for a single second of the tournament while setting an Olympic record for fewest goals allowed. They also became the first back-to-back gold medalists since the Soviet Union turned the trick in 1984 and ’88, and were the first Canadian team to go undefeated at the Olympics since the Conn Smythe-led 1928 team ran the table at St. Moritz.

In Sochi, Canada’s opponents acknowledged just how talented a squad they were up against.

“They played unbelievable defense,” said Sweden’s Niklas Hjalmarsson, per the National Post. “One of the best teams I’ve ever played against, for sure.”

Of course, there were individual standouts. Carey Price finished the tournament with an 164-minute shutout streak and was named top goalie. Drew Doughty led the team with six points in six games en route to best defenseman honors. Shea Weber got one past the seemingly unbeatable Kristers Gudlevskis in the quarterfinal win over Latvia, and Jamie Benn scored the all-important goal in the 1-0 semifinal win over the U.S.

But in the end, it was Canada’s team game that stood out. A collection of individual stars buying in and accepting their roles — P.K. Subban, a Norris Trophy winner, played 11 minutes the entire tournament — while understanding that, for six games, they were all combining for something historic.

“It’s a great team that we had in this tournament,” Jonathan Toews said, per the Globe. “You can see it developing, the chemistry in the locker room, the guys start to understand their roles. It’s not easy for some guys. You look at guys like Roberto Luongo or Marty St. Louis, or even Sharpie (Patrick Sharp) tonight, guys that have made sacrifices to win the gold medal. You ask them, I don’t think they care.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of a team like that, whether your role was big or small … we’re just an amazing team to watch, the way we work together.”

Who have been the best and worst shootout goalies in 2014-15?

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Of the 503 games that have been played in the NHL so far this season, 75 of them have gone to the shootout. So, about 15 percent of them. Like it or not (count me in the not department), the shootout remains a significant factor in the standings.

Here are three goalies who have been good (and busy) in the breakaway competition:

Jhonas Enroth (Sabres) — Has faced 18 shots and saved 17 of them. In a related story, Buffalo is 5-1 in the shootout. Which perfectly demonstrates my problem with it. There’s little, if any, correlation between a good shootout team and a good hockey team.

Pekka Rinne (Predators) — 19 shots, just two goals allowed. The Preds, who went 2-9 in the shootout last season and missed the playoffs by three points, are 4-1 this season.

Roberto Luongo (Panthers) — a whopping 49 shots, with 11 goals allowed. Not the best save percentage, but he did make this save on Chris Kunitz last night:

Honorable mentions: Sergei Bobrovsky (26 shots, 4 allowed) and Jaroslav Halak (15 shots, 3 allowed)

Now, here are three goalies who haven’t fared so well:

Jimmy Howard (Red Wings): 15 shots, 11 goals allowed, for a save percentage of .267. Which is absolutely dreadful. Detroit, as a result, is 1-7 in the shootout.

Steve Mason (Flyers): 15 shots, 8 goals allowed. Philly has yet to win a shootout, going 0-5.

Jonathan Quick (Kings): 10 shots, 5 goals allowed. The Kings are 1-4 in the “gimmick.”

Panthers hold off Penguins for shootout win

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One team just seems to do enough to win even with mounting injuries and illnesses. The other has been winning a lot lately, even if people mainly pay attention to their occasional attendance issues.

The Pittsburgh Penguins showed some moxie in grabbing a point on Monday, but the Florida Panthers ultimately got the “W” via a 4-3 shootout victory.

The Penguins grabbed an early 1-0 lead that they protected through most of the second period, but Jussi Jokinen scorned his former team by tying it 1-1 with about 30 seconds left in the middle frame. Jimmy Hayes scored twice early in the third period to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead, yet goals by Nick Spaling and Evgeni Malkin sent it to OT.

The Panthers generated a 37-27 shot advantage on Monday, yet Marc-Andre Fleury helped his team stay in there.

Many believe that Sean Bergenheim’s hit on Bobby Farnham served as one of the pivotal moments of the contest:

(Bergenheim also collected two assists, if you’re into more objective measures.)

Oh yeah, there was also that absolutely wicked Aleksander Barkov shootout goal:

Not to mention Roberto Luongo’s brilliant shootout save on Chris Kunitz:

Pittsburgh’s success has been remarkable with all of its health issues, as they’ve generated a point in all but one December contest, going 6-1-3 in its last 10 games. The Panthers haven’t been far behind with a 6-3-2 record in December.

There’s plenty of season left, but the Panthers made a statement that they shouldn’t be taken lightly while the Penguins showed that they’ll be a tough out even with plenty of players out of the lineup.

Goalie nods: Rinne vs. Bobrovsky is your matchup of the night

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All the latest from the crease…

Bob vs. Peks

Scintillating goalie battle tonight in Columbus as Sergei Bobrovsky takes on Pekka Rinne.

Rinne, who’s returned to form this season after battling with a hip injury all of last year, has won four of his last five with a 1.77 GAA, .941 save percentage and one shutout. He’s been great all season long and is an early Vezina candidate, if not the leader.

Not to be outdone, Bobrovsky is putting forth an effort that should have him in the conversation for December’s first star of the month. The Russian ‘tender is 8-0-1 this month with a 2.01 GAA and .940 save percentage, one of the big reasons the Jackets have rallied from their awful start to the season to climb within seven points of Washington for the final playoff spot in the East.

Elsewhere…

Sens at Caps: Craig Anderson vs. Braden Holtby

Pens at Panthers: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Roberto Luongo

Coyotes at Canucks: Mike Smith vs. Ryan Miller

Sharks at Ducks: Antti Niemi vs. Frederik Andersen

Flames at Kings: Jonas Hiller for Calgary, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Goalie nods: Corey Crawford returns

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All the latest from the blue paint …

Corey comes back for Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks have been playing quite well in Corey Crawford’s absence, as Scott Darling and Antti Raanta have put up almost identically nice numbers. Still, there’s something to be said for stability, and Chicago will get that back tonight as Crawford faces off against the always-limping Columbus Blue Jackets.

Crawford, 29, was on quite the hot run before he went down with a lower-body injury, too. He won his last three games, allowing four goals combined. Crawford also won six of seven and eight of 10.

His overall numbers have been impressive, even if the strong team in front of him certainly helps matters; Crawford is 12-5-1 with a .929 save percentage and one shutout.

The Blackhawks will probably face Sergei Bobrovsky tonight as they hope to continue their domination of Columbus.

Elsewhere …

Coyotes at Kings: Devan Dubnyk vs. (probably) Jonathan Quick

Capitals at Devils: Braden Holtby vs. Cory Schneider

Lightning at Islanders: Andrei Vasilevskiy vs. Jaroslav Halak

Flyers at Maple Leafs: Ray Emery’s expected, Jonathan Bernier’s confirmed

Senators at Canadiens: Robin Lehner vs. Carey Price

Rangers at Hurricanes: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Cam Ward

Panthers at Penguins: Roberto Luongo vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Avalanche at Sabres: Calvin Pickard vs. Jhonas Enroth

Predators at Wild: Pekka Rinne vs. Darcy Kuemper

Flames at Canucks: Jonas Hiller vs. Ryan Miller

Blues at Sharks: Jake Allen vs. Antti Niemi