Getty

The Buzzer: Gibson – Rinne trumps Kesler – Johansen

2 Comments

Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho

Monday was a big night for Sebastian Aho, Forward Version.

He was one of only two players to generate two points – so, yeah, Monday was pretty big for goalies – and his overtime goal was so smooth (and so funny at Brent Seabrook‘s expense) that it got its own post.

Aho generated the lone assist on Teuvo Teravainen‘s power-play goal, which helped Carolina get back into the game after falling behind 2-0 to Cam Ward and the Chicago Blackhawks.

By the way, Ward doesn’t make it to the three stars, but he managed 37 saves in his return to Carolina. Worth a mention, especially for a goalie who feels very far removed from his glory days with the Hurricanes franchise.

2. John Gibson

Heading into Monday’s contest in Anaheim, the buzz surrounded Ryan Kesler and Ryan Johansen. Would the two brawl in the parking lot, like an “Attitude Era” episode of Monday Night Raw? Perhaps they would settle their dispute by gorging on goals?

Nope.

Instead, Gibson and Pekka Rinne lived up to their 2018-19 reputations as two of the best goalies (if not the two best, full-stop) in the NHL. The contest went into the shootout 1-1, but Gibson was the netminder who finished with the W, with Gibson making 34 saves (including 10 in overtime) while Rinne stopped 29 shots.

As talented as both are and as productive as they’ve been really since last season, it’s tough to imagine them avoiding the natural pull of regression, at least to some extent. With that in mind, it was nice to see those two goalies carry their outstanding work into that game, and then deliver with a true goalie duel.

The Predators lost their first road game via the shootout, yet they kept their away point streak alive. The Ducks needed this much more, even if this sticks to the script of Gibson being an all-world, MVP-caliber goalie.

3. Cam Atkinson

You can thank Aho, Rinne, and Gibson for the headline not being something Atkinson Diet-related.

(Stashes that already-extremely-dusty joke for later.)

Atkinson joined Aho as one of two players to generate two points on a low-scoring Monday. While Atkinson didn’t generate the GWG like Aho did, he bares the distinction of being involved in all of Columbus’ goals in a tight win against the Stars. This was a nasty affair at times, as you can see from this fight between Jamie Benn and Josh Anderson.

As strong a night as Atkinson enjoyed, the Blue Jackets might most heartened by the possibility that Sergei Bobrovsky could be back in the zone.

Highlights

Rinne didn’t get the win, but he probably made the most ludicrous save, although there were enough great ones in this that I could be wrong.

Anton Khudobin couldn’t grab a win or even a point for Dallas in that tense, tight game against Columbus, but he did make this save.

Speaking of nice saves in losing efforts, here’s the best from Cam Ward:

Again, Aho’s OTGWG was quite something, so check it out here.

Factoids

Maybe the Hurricanes’ barrage of shots wasn’t a product of Bill Peters? Or maybe they haven’t forgotten his lessons?

Henrik Lundqvist continues to make history, and the Rangers are quietly heating up. If you want to tank, Lundqvist isn’t exactly your guy.

Scores

NYR 2 – VAN 1
CAR 3 – CHI 2 (OT)
CBJ 2 – DAL 1
ANA 2 – NSH 1 (SO)

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Memorable goals from Crosby, Ovechkin

2 Comments

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

We’re in Year 14 of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin debate. Now in their 30s, both are still at the top of their games and the last three Stanley Cups have been won by either the Penguins or Capitals.

Both Crosby and Ovechkin have delighted us with numerous moments since they entered the NHL in 2005-06. Highlight-reel goals, assists, moves and moments. As they renew their rivalry again Wednesday night, we decided to pick out our favorite goals from both over their future Hall of Fame careers.

Let us know your top moments from each in the comments.

SEAN

Both of these goals are very similar in nature. When a player of elite talent grabs the puck and picks up steam flying through the neutral zone, that situation won’t end well for the opposing team.

Ovechkin’s goal begins as he picks up a rebound in front of Braden Holtby. He loops around the Capitals net and starts driving up ice. It’s basically a 1-on-3 situation and Ovi knows from the moment he puts his head up that he’s doing this by himself. Rick Nash shows why he’s never won the Selke Trophy an Ryan McDonagh is just hoping he can get his stick or body on it, but to no avail.

Crosby takes the pass from Mark Recchi as he’s entering the neutral zone. He’s not bothered by Blair Betts’ backchecking or Jason Ward’s desperation stick check and then splits a hole between the Rangers defense before beating Henrik Lundqvist. The goal was point No. 37 for Crosby during a season where he would finish with 120, winning his first Art Ross Trophy.

JAMES

During the nascent days of Hockey Twitter, there was a certain level of animosity toward all of the attention Crosby and Ovechkin received. “What about our guy, these two haven’t even done anything yet?”

Such resentment was always silly because the two stars delivered essentially since day one – both eclipsed 100 points as rookies – but their incredible displays in trading “dueling hat tricks” in Game 2 of their memorable, eventual seven-game series in 2008-09 really silenced a lot of critics. (Granted, it also fueled a new obnoxious narrative, as Ovechkin’s successes soon were dismissed in light of Crosby’s greater team triumphs, a plot that’s only now been softened.)

One remarkable thing is that the actual goals were pretty easy to forget, as the sheer force of the narrative – and the exhilaration of the series – really lingered. All three of Crosby’s goals were “workmanlike,” as he was essentially hacking away close to the net. Meanwhile, Ovechkin basically scored from “his office” for his first two goals, while his third was a great one-on-one move off of the rush.

Both players would go on to do bigger and better things from team standpoints in particular, yet this was their glorious answer to that Michael Jordan – Larry Bird “H-O-R-S-E” commercial. Like any classic moment, it holds up today.

ADAM

I am going with this goal in 2009 against the Montreal Canadiens with the behind-the-back pass off the boards to himself at center ice, and then scoring while being hauled down on his way to the net. It is just a completely freakish play that I think gets a lost in the shadow of the goal he scored against the Coyotes in his rookie year. Which was also insane.

Crosby is tough because he doesn’t score as many highlight reel goals. He usually scores the rebound goal, or the deflection, or is just so much better than everyone else that he gets to the puck before anyone else does and just straight up beats the goalie. Think my personal favorite goal of his was probably in his return from the concussion because, one, he scored it like five minutes into the game, and two, it was one of his vintage backhand goals where he just skates by everyone and delivers an unstoppable backhand shot.

[WATCH LIVE – 7:30 P.M. ET]

SCOTT

Here you have Alex Ovechkin sapping the will out of his opponents. He splits Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and scores off his knees with a filthy wrist shot. The goal itself is incredible, and then Girardi’s face on the replay said it all: “What am I even supposed to do about that?” Hacked, hauled down and still scored. Ovechkin at his finest. 

A goal that ignited a nation. After Canada’s disappointment in Turin in 2006, Crosby restored a country with one quick flick of the wrist. It wasn’t his flashiest or even most impressive. But it was his most important. With everything on the line, Crosby did what Crosby does.

JOEY

There’s so many different way you could go when choosing a favorite Ovechkin goal because he’s the best goal scorer of this generation, but how about this individual effort against the New Jersey Devils? Not only does he make defenseman Jon Merrill look silly, he also owns goalie Cory Schneider just seconds later. There’s not many players in the world that can pull that off. 

Crosby grew up cheering for the Montreal Canadiens because his dad was drafted by the team in 1984. So naturally, he had to do something remarkable when he played against them for first time in his NHL career. We’ve all come to appreciate Crosby’s ability to use his backhander, and that’s exactly what he used to beat Jose Theodore in the shootout. Bonus: he totally obliterated the water bottle on top of Theodore’s net. Incredible.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Lundqvist dominates, Fowler’s trick ends Ducks’ losing streak

AP
2 Comments

Three Stars

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. He may be 36 years old, he may not be the player he was a few years ago, but Henrik Lundqvist can still take over and steal a game. He did that on Sunday night in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres by turning aside 39 of the 40 shots he faced to help lead them to their third consecutive win. The win for Lundqvist is the 435th of his career and he is now just two wins behind Jacques Plante for seventh on the all-time list (via NHL PR).

2. Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning. With Victor Hedman sidelined the Tampa Bay Lightning need some other players on their blue line to step up. Ryan McDonagh has done that and more over the past week. He played an incredible game on Sunday, recording three assists in the Lightning’s wild come-from-behind win and forced the turnover on the game-tying goal in the closing seconds. This is his second three-point game in his past four games.

3. Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks. Over the first month of the season Anaheim Ducks games have mostly been the John Gibson show. Even though he was really good again on Sunday night, it was defenseman Cam Fowler that ended up stealing the show as he literally provided all of the offense in the Ducks’ 3-2 overtime win. Fowler scored all three goals in the win, including the game-winner in overtime, to record his first career hat trick. He is just the 12th different defender over the past 10 years to record a hat trick, and the first since Justin Faulk on Feb. 13, 2018. He is the third Ducks defender over the past 10 years to score three goals in a game, joining Hampus Lindholm and Lubomir Visnovsky. This win snapped what had been a seven-game losing streak for the Ducks and came on the same night they lost Ryan Getzlaf to another injury, this time an upper-body injury. To say they needed this one would be quite the understatement.

Highlights of the Night

The Tampa Bay Lightning were 30 seconds away from losing in Ottawa. Then Ryan McDonagh started this play to tie the game.

Here is Cam Fowler completing his first career hat trick.

Factoids of the Night

The New York Rangers scored a pair of goals in the first minute of the second period on Sunday night. That is something they have not done in quite some time.

More on Cam Fowler’s big night for the Anaheim Ducks.

 

Scores

New York Rangers 3, Buffalo Sabres 1

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Ottawa Senators 3 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2 (OT)

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Ducks ask too much of Gibson, and Getzlaf isn’t happy

Getty

Through the first few games of the season, it seemed like the Anaheim Ducks might get away with their “hoping John Gibson stops everything” plan.

With injuries sidelining and/or limiting the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and Corey Perry, Gibson propped up a threadbare Ducks roster, helping Anaheim win its first three games and begin the 2018-19 campaign with a 5-1-1 record.

As great as Gibson seems to be when healthy, even he can only do so much. The Ducks are now on a four-game losing streak, and it sounds like Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars made Ryan Getzlaf snap.

“We’ve got to play hockey,” Getzlaf said, via the OC Register’s Elliott Teaford. “It’s (expletive) embarrassing. The way we play defense and the way we swing our sticks around and not help our goalie (John Gibson). I got asked the other day if I thought we hung him out to dry and I said, no. My answer has changed now.”

Getzlaf’s calls for action are mix of reasonable-enough (they need to do a better job of exiting their zone with crisp, smart passing) and boilerplate stuff that might extend from Randy Carlyle (being more physical and not … waving your stick around?).

Really, though, Getzlaf gets a larger point. It’s not that the Ducks are suddenly playing poor defense; it’s that they could only get away with it for so long.

Case in point: somehow, this goal came from … Roman Polak? *rubs eyes in disbelief*

So far, Gibson has faced 335 shots, while Henrik Lundqvist is a distant second at 263. While games played skew the numbers a bit, the Ducks’ 38.2 shots allowed per game is the worst mark in the NHL, and by a healthy margin of 1.8 per contest more than second-worst Pittsburgh. It’s no surprise that Anaheim currently has an astoundingly bad Corsi For percentage (40.77 at even-strength, easily the worst in the league, via Natural Stat Trick), and they’ve also allowed the most high-danger chances against.

Simply put, they’ve been propped up by one of the best goalies in the world in Gibson. Even after Anaheim’s lost some of the luck, his 2018-19 save percentage is a splendid .940, and it goes up to a remarkable .951 when you consider even-strength only.

Sean Tierney’s chart on Goals Saved Against Average really hammers the point home about Gibson being on another level so far this season:

The Ducks have also been incredibly lucky that Ryan Miller‘s quietly been absolutely outstanding as a backup. He hasn’t been in the crease much yet (three games, two starts), yet the former workhorse sports a .938 save percentage this season and generated a remarkable .928 save percentage in 28 games for Anaheim last season.

Considering some of the brilliant young talent the Ducks have on their blueline, it’s tough not to put a lot of the blame on Carlyle’s system. The former Maple Leafs coach’s teams have been infamously bad from a possession standpoint, and it’s difficult to ignore how lopsided Anaheim’s start has been.

To some extent, that boils down to circumstances, as the Ducks haven’t exactly been loaded with the sort of forwards who are going to hog the puck in the attacking zone.

Whatever the reasons might be, this is a serious concern for Anaheim. They’re down to 5-5-1 despite enjoying incredible goaltending. If Getzlaf’s stern, sometimes profane words don’t help the Ducks ease Gibson’s burden, it could be a long season.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flames goalies: Blessed by Salt Bae?

Getty
1 Comment

Calgary Flames goalie Mike Smith recently delivered what Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson believes was the quote of the season so far, regarding some solid early play from fellow Flames netminder David Rittich:

“Whatever Salt Bae sprinkled on him in New York, I want a little bit of that too,” Smith said.

If you’re a registered old like me, you had two reactions: “Heh” and “Huh?”

Well, to start, here’s the photo Smith was referencing:

OK, that helps, but *ahem* some of us might not be too familiar with Salt Bae. You know, not your humble author, but … others. Is this person salty? For the bae part seems easy enough to follow.

Welp, Salt Bae is apparently this wonderfully smooth proprietor of steakhouse chain Nusr-et, who gained viral fame (thus eluding certain olds) with this video:

Why, that is quite impressive. As someone who’s had friends in the restaurant industry who’ve suffered ghastly wounds while preparing food (still not sure how your finger didn’t fall off, Michael), that display can be filed under “easier said than done.”

It brings up a question: which player best exemplifies the tenants of “Salt Bae?” My vote is Mathew Barzal: he cuts through defensemen as if he was wielding a steak knife, and he does so with undeniable grace and swagger. He also plays in Brooklyn, which helps the comparison since Salt Bae’s rooted in New York.

Maybe Barzal is the best NHL equivalent for Salt Bae, yet goalies seem most fascinated by him.

Rittich recently sprinkled some of that mystery spice after a recent win, for example:

(If Michel Therrien coached the Flames, Rittich wouldn’t get away with that fun celebration for long, right?)

Rittich can’t call first dibs on being NHL goalie-as-Bae, though, as Roberto Luongo perfectly executed this Halloween costume last year:

Bravo.

This does bring up some burning questions. Why hasn’t Henrik Lundqvist gotten involved? Is he merely trying to avoid a clash between Salt Bae and Swede Bae?

Regardless, make sure to make as many bad cooking jokes as you can, whether Calgary’s goalies are performing at high levels or churning out the netminding equivalent to turning meat into what looks like hockey pucks.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.