On Ducks, Blues and the goalie depth dynamic

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On Friday, Martin Brodeur practiced for the first time as a St. Louis Blue.

On Saturday, Jason LaBarbera suffered an upper-body injury in Anaheim’s loss to San Jose.

On the surface, these two incidents really don’t have much in common — but in a broader context, they really do.

Over the last few years, few organizations boasted more talent in goal than Anaheim and St. Louis. Just go back to 2012, for example: St. Louis had Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak, Ben Bishop and Jake Allen stockpiled in the organizational warehouse while Anaheim had Jonas Hiller, Frederik Andersen, John Gibson and Viktor Fasth (who they signed in May of that year).

Now, fast forward to the present.

Anaheim, having already moved on from Fasth and Hiller, rolled the dice on Andersen and Gibson as their tandem — despite the fact that, coming into this season, the two had 27 NHL starts between them.

“It’s funny how this business is,” said Ducks general manager Bob Murray said at the time (audio). “We go from having the deepest goaltending, everybody’s talking about it.

“Now, all of a sudden it’s the two kids.”

St. Louis made a similar move, albeit in slightly different fashion. This summer, the club opted not to retain Ryan Miller — acquired from Buffalo in a blockbuster move at the deadline, which saw Halak go the other way — and handed the reins to a veteran (Elliott) and prospect (Allen), neither of whom had much experience as a NHL starter.

“I don’t think I’ve ever coached two guys with less ego than these guys,” head coach Ken Hitchcock raved prior to the season, per the Post-Dispatch. “These guys have no ego. They just come to work and come to play and they’re receptive to information. They want to get better every day.

“This is about as low maintenance a tandem I’ve coached in my life, which is really nice for coaches.”

But then came the injuries.

The Ducks lost Gibson to a groin strain that’ll sideline him until late December. That forced them to recall LaBarbera and, with him now hurt, Igor Bobkov is on his way up to be Andersen’s No. 2.

The Blues, meanwhile, lost Elliott last week to a lower-body issue. That left them with Allen and AHL call-up Jordan Binnington as the lone netminders, which resulted in the Brodeur tryout.

As such, it’s hard not to look at what each team’s ex-goalies are doing elsewhere. Two years after the Blues dealt him away, Bishop has emerged as a star in Tampa Bay; Miller, meanwhile, is near the top of the league in wins with Vancouver.

Halak was just named the NHL’s first star of the week and has been a revelation for the Islanders, while Hiller been solid for a surprising Calgary team.

With all of that said, it’s important to remember a key facet of the Blues and Ducks leaning on their depth in net:

Financial freedom.

The Blues have just $3.3 million committed to Elliott and Allen this year, which allowed them the room to sign Paul Stastny in free agency (and bring back Jori Lehtera from the KHL, which has been an equally vital pickup.)  Anaheim has $1.85M locked into Andersen and Gibson, which provided the ability to absorb Ryan Kesler’s contract ($5M annually) while freeing up a good chunk of space should GM Bob Murray decide to add at the deadline.

What’s more, teams have won with inexpensive goalies before. Most will point to the Cup-winning ’08 Red Wings (Chris Osgood, $850K) and ’10 Blackhawks (Antti Niemi, $826K) — though both teams had expensive backups in Dominik Hasek and Cristobal Huet.

But it’s worth mentioning the Stanley Cup playoffs here, because that’s when the goalies in St. Louis and Anaheim will face the most questions. It’s been a position of weakness for both in recent postseasons — especially St. Louis, where Armstrong made the big Miller move last season to shore up what’s traditionally been a trouble spot.

“We gave up quite a bit to get Ryan and we felt as an organization that might be a piece that could push us deep and get us into the Stanley Cup and win us a Stanley Cup,” Armstrong said. “That’s why the trade was made.

“It didn’t work out that way, obviously.”

The Buzzer: Fleury shuts out Penguins; hats off to Jost

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Three Stars

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights. The Pittsburgh Penguins did everything they could on Saturday night, and probably even had the better of the play against the Golden Knights, but Fleury stopped all 29 shots he faced — including a couple of highlight reel saves — to get the shutout against his former team. Fleury is off to a great start this season and now has a .934 save percentage in his first six starts.

2. Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche improved to 7-0-1 by rolling over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night thanks in large part to a hat trick from Jost. Expectations were sky high for the Avalanche at the start of the season and they have done nothing but justify them so far. They have the best top line in hockey, an exciting young defense, and strengthened their secondary scoring during the offseason. It is now really difficult to find a clear weakness on this team.

3. Corey Perry, Dallas Stars. Style points don’t matter for the Stars right now. They were not particularly strong on Saturday night in Philadelphia, but they still managed to snap a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win to get two points that they desperately needed. The star of the game was offseason Perry, scoring his first goal as a member of the Stars and recording two assists. How bad as the Stars offense been this season? Entering play on Saturday the Stars only had five players on the team record more than three points for the entire season (over nine games!).

Other notable performances on Saturday

Highlights of the Night

This is some vintage Anze Kopitar hockey here, turning defense into offense and scoring a slick shorthanded goal to help the Kings roll.

Look at the patience from Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck to wait for Pekka Rinne to make the first move and then beat him with a slick backhander.

Here it is again, the first NHL goal for the 2019 No. 1 overall pick, Jack Hughes. The only goal in a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

Blooper of the Night

Jost ended up getting a splash of water to the face in celebration of his first NHL hat trick.

Factoids

  • The Vegas Golden Knights won the 100th game in franchise history on Saturday, needing just 173 games to reach it. That is the second fewest games needed to reach 100, trailing only the 165 games the original Ottawa Senators franchise needed back in 1917. [NHL PR]
  • Jack Hughes became the ninth player in league history to score their first NHL goal in a game against their brother. [NHL PR]
  • Morgan Rielly‘s overtime goal on Saturday night was the fourth of his career. Only Tomas Kaberle has more among Maple Leafs defenders in franchise history. [NHL PR]

Scores

New Jersey Devils 1, Vancouver Canucks 0
Montreal Canadiens 5, St. Louis Blues 2
Arizona Coyotes 5, Ottawa Senators 2
Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 3 (OT)
Colorado Avalanche 6, Tampa Bay Lightning 2
Dallas Stars 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1
Vegas Golden Knights 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 0
New York Islanders 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2 (OT)
Florida Panthers 3, Nashville Predators 2 (SO)
Los Angeles Kings 4, Calgary Flames 1
Buffalo Sabres 4, San Jose Sharks 3

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Drew Doughty and Matthew Tkachuk had another chaotic encounter (Video)

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The Los Angeles Kings put together their best game of the season on Saturday night, defeating the Calgary Flames 4-1 to pick up their third win.

A lot of good things happened for the Kings in this game, starting with the fact that they actually scored a few goals after being shutout for more than 130 consecutive minutes of hockey (including back-to-back shutout losses) entering the night. Then there was starting goalie Jonathan Quick, stuck in a miserable slump to open the season that has seen him allow 19 goals in his first three games, stopping 23 of 24 shots for his first win of the season. The only goal he surrendered was a late penalty shot goal to Mikael Backlund.

If we are being honest, though, the biggest reason anyone outside of the Kings and Flames fanbases would be keeping an eye on this game would be to see if Matthew Tkachuk and Drew Doughty would continue their ongoing feud.

To the surprise of no one, they did.

Midway through the third period Doughty managed to take out Tkachuk with a low hit that set off a chain reaction pile-up that also included Flames defenseman Mark Giordano flying in from the top rope and taking out Kyle Clifford.

Tkachuk ended up getting two minutes for tripping, two minutes for roughing, and a 10-minute misconduct, while Clifford picked up two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. No other penalties came out of that sequence.

This feud has been ongoing for three years now starting with Tkachuk — during his rookie season — earning a two-game suspension for elbowing Doughty in the face. Since then they have gone back and forth through the media and constantly been involved in on-ice incidents.

In their first meeting this season Tkachuk scored a late game-tying goal against the Kings to send it to overtime where Doughty would win it and then taunt the Flames’ crowd.

So far this season Doughty and the Kings have managed to get the best of Tkachuk and the Flames.

They will have to wait until Dec. 7 to face each other again.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Wild’s Jason Zucker apologizes to Bruce Boudreau for post-game comment

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The Minnesota Wild are off to an absolutely brutal start to the 2019-20 season having won just one of their first seven games.

Following their most recent defeat, a shutout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, Jason Zucker vented some frustration and said that everyone on the team needed to be better. Not exactly an earth-shattering comment for a 1-6 team, but what made it into a story was that he specifically mentioned coach Bruce Boudreau by name.

The exact comment: “I think more than (a meeting’s) going to have to jumpstart us, to be honest with you. Bruce has got to be better. We’ve got to be better. Everybody’s got to be better. That’s it.”

Anytime one of the top player’s on a team mentions the coach by name as someone that needs to be better — especially one that is seemingly already on the hot seat — it is going to get some attention. In Zucker’s case, it got a little more attention than he wanted, and after apologizing to Boudreau on the team plane after the game on Thursday, publicly apologized on Saturday.

“I’ll start by first apologizing to Bruce,” Zucker told Wild reporters on Saturday, via Michael Russo of The Athletic. “There was no reason for me to use his name in that quote in any way. That’s completely on me. My intention with the quote was to state that everybody needs to be better and needs to do more and pull more weight, and 99.9 percent of that is on the players.”

He went on to call it a poor choice of words on his part and again reiterated the fact that everyone needs to be better.

Zucker has two goals for the Wild through the first seven games of the season.

He has been one of the Wild’s best players for a few years now but still found himself as the centerpiece in two different trades that fell through by former general manager Paul Fenton.

The Wild are back in action at home on Sunday against Canadiens before playing seven of their next 10 games on the road.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Jack Hughes scores first NHL goal in first game against brother (Video)

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Jack Hughes had to wait until his eighth game to score his first NHL goal, and the timing of it could not have been any better.

Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, scored on the power play at the 14:04 mark of the first period to give the New Jersey Devils the lead over the Vancouver Canucks, finishing a play that was set up by the 2010 No. 1 overall pick, Taylor Hall.

It turned out to be the only goal in a 1-0 Devils win, their second in a row.

Here is a look at the play.

Why was the timing so perfect for Hughes?

Because his older brother, Quinn, is also playing in his rookie season for the Canucks and is in the lineup on Saturday afternoon. And since this was the first regular season matchup in the NHL between the two brothers the entire Hughes family was in attendance In Newark to see the big moment.

Both players players figure to be contenders for Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year.

Jack’s goal on Saturday comes one game after he recorded his first career point, an assist in the Devils’ win over the New York Rangers  — and No. 2 overall pick Kaapo Kakko — on Thursday night.

Quinn entered Saturday’s game with a goal and two assists in six games for the Canucks. He scored his first goal in a win over the Los Angeles Kings earlier this season. He was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft class.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.