Roberto Luongo

All eyes on Lundqvist

11 Comments

According to Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, Henrik Lundqvist “would be the first to say that six goals against is very uncharacteristic.”

So how uncharacteristic would it be if that happened two games in a row?

That’s why all eyes will be on Lundqvist tonight in Tampa Bay, as the Rangers try to even the Eastern Conference Final at two games apiece.

Vigneault was even asked if Lundqvist would, indeed, be his starter.

The coach laughed.

Of course The King would be the starter.

“Hank is very accountable and very demanding on himself,” said Vigneault. “He is going to do what any good goaltender does. He is going to put [Wednesday’s] game behind him.”

The thing about being one of the best goalies in the world is that you end up playing in a lot of big games, with everyone watching. Lundqvist leads all active goalies with 107 playoff appearances, most of which he’s played very well in.

But you play enough big games, you’re going to have some stinkers. Marc-Andre Fleury has appeared in the second-most playoff games among active netminders, followed by Jonathan Quick, Corey Crawford and Roberto Luongo.

All five have been at least as far as the Stanley Cup Final, if not won it. But each has also had a few nightmares under the spotlight.

“Sometimes stuff happens,” Vigneault said after Game 3, when asked about the long-range shot that beat his franchise goalie in overtime.

Lundqvist still has a .926 save percentage in these playoffs. He could still end up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

But the Rangers know the size of tonight’s game.

“It’s absolutely a huge game, you know,” said captain Ryan McDonagh. “Being tied 2-2, going back to MSG or being down 3-1 is quite a hole.”

So they’ll need The King to play like one.

Will anyone pay a price for Markstrom?

15 Comments

Once again, the Vancouver Canucks are going to have to try and trade a goalie.

GM Jim Benning didn’t deny it yesterday, while also agreeing that the time to do it may be at this summer’s draft.

“We have depth in the goaltending position,” Benning said. “We’re going to decide who we’re going to go with going forward. That’s an area where we could probably recapture a draft pick if we decide to trade somebody.”

Chances are, the Canucks will have the same netminding tandem next season as they did this season: Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack. The former has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent; the latter only has one year left, but given his age (27), ability and popularity with the fans, nobody would be surprised if he were to sign an extension.

That leaves Jacob Markstrom, the 25-year-old pending restricted free agent who has nothing left to prove at the AHL level but everything left to prove in the NHL.

Markstrom came to Vancouver from Florida in the Roberto Luongo trade. Drafted 31st overall in 2008, he was once the Panthers’ goalie of the future. Obviously, that plan was never realized.

In September, Markstrom was actually available for free on waivers. While there was reportedly interest, the Canucks gambled they could sneak him down to the minors. In the end, no team made a claim and he was sent to Utica, where he proceeded to go 22-7-2 with a .934 save percentage, good enough to be named to the AHL’s second all-star team.

Bottom line: Markstrom is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. Based on his AHL numbers and draft pedigree, there’s clear potential. On the other hand, in 50 career NHL games, he has a .896 save percentage.

In other words, if you’re the Edmonton Oilers (they jump to mind, right?), you’d be taking an enormous risk by acquiring Markstrom and slotting him in as your back-up. (Just ask the Dallas Stars about their experiences with a back-up that was once highly touted but came to them with a questionable NHL track record.)

The Canucks do have an asset in Markstrom, for now. Assuming he’s the goalie they decide to shop, it’s what they can turn that asset into, if anything, that will be interesting to see.

Big, bad blunder: Bruins fall against Panthers

64 Comments

The good news for the Boston Bruins is that their awful Thursday doesn’t knock them out of the playoffs altogether. The bad news is … just about everything else that happened tonight.

As you may already know, the Ottawa Senators held up their end of the bargain with a 3-0 win against the New York Rangers. That allowed Ottawa to bump Boston out of the East’s wild card ranks, but the Bruins could have made that a temporary thing. The B’s failed in that quest, however, falling to the 10th-ranked Florida Panthers 4-2.

(One can imagine that Roberto Luongo was quite happy to spite his pals from Boston, eh?)

The Panthers also did the New York Islanders a favor, as this Boston win punches their ticket to the playoffs.

The final stretch

Let’s look at what the wild card looks while ignoring the Detroit Red Wings’ tight contest against the Montreal Canadiens for now:

Wild card spot 1: Ottawa, 97 points, one game left, 36 regulation/OT wins
Wild card spot 2: Pittsburgh, 96 points, two games left, 38 ROW

Bubble: Boston, 95 points, one game left, 37 ROW

As you can probably see, the Bruins need some help after this more-or-less worst-case scenario night. The Penguins face the now-clinched Islanders on Friday and then the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Saturday while the Senators close out their season against the Philadelphia Flyers. Boston faces a Tampa Bay Lightning team that may still be gunning for the Atlantic Division crown, so they can’t expect a casual opponent.

Ultimately, if Ottawa gets a mere point against Philly, it’s over for Boston. The Penguins only need two points in whatever fashion they may get them in their last two games.

It all looks very bleak for the Bruins, who saw former teammate Jaromir Jagr score his 1,800th career point in painful fashion tonight.

(That’s cold.)

(Seriously, ouch.)

The most positive thing is that many people were once counting out the Senators like they’re counting out the Bruins right now.

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

15 Comments

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.

Elsewhere…

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

Goalie Nods: Detroit continues rotation as playoffs near

4 Comments

All the latest from the blue paint…

Petr Mrazek starts for Detroit as rotation continues

Jimmy Howard turned aside 22 of 24 shots in regulation en route to a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota on Saturday, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock announced well in advance that Howard and Mrazek would split Detroit’s goaltending duties this weekend. That’s nothing new for the Wings as Howard’s recent struggles have thrown his status as the team’s number one netminder in question.

The debate was also fueled by Mrazek’s strong play in March (2.18 GAA and .932 save percentage in six games), but he allowed three goals on 25 shots against Boston on April 2.

It remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs with a clear starting goaltender. Then again, it remains to be seen if Detroit will enter the playoffs at all. A loss against Washington tonight could certainly complicate matters for the Red Wings.

It’s not clear who will play between the pipes for Washington, although it wouldn’t be shocking to see Braden Holtby start on no rest.

Elsewhere…

Habs at Panthers: No confirmed goaltenders yet for this one, but Carey Price is rested so odds are Montreal will start him. Dan Ellis might get the nod for Florida after Roberto Luongo surrendered four goals on 22 shots on Saturday.

Sens at Leafs: Andrew Hammond vs. Jonathan Bernier

Blues at Hawks: Jake Allen vs. Corey Crawford