Louis Domingue

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The Buzzer: Rough night for rougher teams

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Three Stars

1. Assorted Buffalo Sabres

Look, when you beat a team 7-1, you’re probably going to have at least a few standouts, and your top Sabres star probably boils down to taste.

Johan Larsson is a good player to start with. His three assists happened during Buffalo’s five-goal opening period, one that really made the Devils’ dire situation extra-glaringly-clear. Jack Eichel did what he does, which is score a lot, extending his point streak to 10 games with one goal and two assists.

To be fair to the Devils, they at least tried to make the score more respectable. They fired 45 shots on goal, including 39 during the second and third period, to try to get in the game. Linus Ullmark wasn’t interested in helping New Jersey save face, however, as he stopped all but one of those 45 SOG.

2. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues

Could we be seeing a mini-renaissance for a goalie who’s been left in the dust by Jordan Binnington?

Allen was arguably the first star of Monday night, making 38 saves for his first shutout of 2019-20, including 17 in the third period to cement that goose egg.

While it’s a small sample size, Allen has been heating up after two rocky appearances in October. Allen generated a strong .934 save percentage during five appearances in November, and began December with this shutout. Again, it’s not exactly a lengthy run of elite puck-stopping, yet if Allen can maintain a decent level of play, the Blues can at least keep Binnington reasonably rested as they try to defend that first-ever Stanley Cup title.

Semyon Varlamov is a decent option as another goalie as he made 30 out of 31 stops as the Islanders got back on the winning track against the very-much-not-winning Red Wings.

3. Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks

It’s unclear if Lindholm will find the game that made him an under-the-radar elite defensive presence from 2015-16 to 2017-18, only to drop off significantly in 2018-19. But he at least enjoyed a nice game on Monday.

Lindholm collected three assists against the Kings, ending a seven-game pointless streak. The last time he collected a point? Why, that was … another three-assist night, in that case against the Avalanche on Oct. 26. Lindholm now has 12 points (all assists) in 20 games in 2019-20.

Stephenson is Vegas-bound

The Washington Capitals traded Chandler Stephenson to the Vegas Golden Knights (and George McPhee) for a fifth-round pick in 2021.

Tough to say that Stephenson is a huge loss, judging by both his modest scoring numbers, workmanlike other stats, and his RAPM chart at Evolving Hockey. But he might at least give Vegas a decent option to soak up penalty kill minutes and other unglamorous roles.

Highlight of the Night

Kings forward Nikolai Prokhorkin sliced through the Ducks defense like a hot fork knife through butter.

Lowlight

Ouch, Louis Domingue.

Factoids

  • Jake Allen joins Brian Elliott (25) and Jaroslav Halak (20) as the only three Blues goalies with 20 career shutouts, according to NHL PR. Binnington is at six in his regular season career, in case you were wondering.
  • NHL PR points out that Jack Eichel (four assists on March 21, 2018) is the only Sabres player with more assists in a single period than the three Larsson collected in the opening frame on Monday.
  • The Devils have lost their last two games by a combined score of 11-1. The Sabres scored three goals before New Jersey even registered its first shot on goal in Monday’s 7-1 drubbing.
  • The Red Wings have now lost 10 games in a row, and have allowed the most goals in the league with 118. No one else has reached 100 goals allowed yet this season (Montreal’s second-worst with 95).
  • As rough as the Rangers’ underlying numbers have been, they were putting together some decent stretches. Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights ended a five-game point streak where the Rangers went 4-0-1.

Scores

BUF 7 – NJD 1
VGK 4 – NYR 1
NYI 4 – DET 1
STL 4 – CHI 0
ANA 4 – LAK 2

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.

Devils place struggling Cory Schneider on waivers

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One of the main reasons why the New Jersey Devils are off to a 7-8-4 start and have failed to meet high expectations so far has been lackluster goaltending. On Monday, general manager Ray Shero didn’t make a trade, but instead chose to waive Cory Schneider, who has not won in nine starts dating back to last season.

Called up from AHL Binghamton to man the nets with Mackenzie Blackwood was Louis Domingue, who was acquired earlier this month after a strong season with the Lightning in 2018-19.

This season, the 33-year-old Schneider is winless in six starts with an .864 even strength save percentage. Once he clears waivers on Tuesday at noon, he’ll be reassigned to Binghamton in hopes of getting his game back. Schneider, who owns a no-trade clause, is signed through the 2021-22 season and carries a $6 million salary cap hit.

“The way the schedule comes now, we didn’t see him getting into a lot of games in the next few weeks,” said Devils head coach John Hynes. “If you’re not going to have an opportunity to play, it’s hard to get the game reps you need.”

Schneider has not been himself the last two seasons as he’s battled hip injuries. In 32 appearances since last season, he has only six wins and a .897 ESSV%, third-worst among goaltenders who have played at least 30 games over that stretch.

After being traded from the Canucks to the Devils at the 2013 NHL Draft, Schneider filled a hole as Martin Brodeur’s career wound down. In his first five seasons in New Jersey Schneider sported a .925 ESSV% and helped them end a five-season playoff drought in 2017-18.

Allowing Schneider to play games in the AHL will take the spotlight off him a little bit on the NHL level as he tries to get back to the level he played at earlier on in his Devils tenure.

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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.

Devils bits: Standing up for Jack Hughes, trading for Domingue

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Two New Jersey Devils items of note on this Friday:

  • Goaltending has been an issue for New Jersey lately, which isn’t too much of a shock considering the fact that they deployed a moderately intriguing but undeniable goalie in Mackenzie Blackwood, and dramatically fading would-be starter Cory Schneider.

With that in mind, the Devils sent a 2021 conditional seventh-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for depth goalie Louis Domingue. Here are those somewhat amusingly specific conditions:

1) Domingue plays in seven NHL regular-season games for the New Jersey Devils during the 2019-2020 NHL regular season; or

2) Domingue plays in one NHL playoff game for the New Jersey Devils during the 2020 NHL playoffs; or

3) Domingue is traded by the New Jersey Devils prior to the start of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The team noted that Domingue, 27, will report to New Jersey’s affiliate.

That makes sense as a start, but with how poorly things have been going in the Devils’ net, New Jersey should be open-minded to giving Domingue a shot. He fared reasonably well last season for Tampa Bay (21-5-0, albeit with an unspectacular .908 save percentage), and managed a downright solid .914 save percentage for the Lightning after being traded from the Arizona Coyotes in 2017-18.

Not mind-blowing, but considering Schneider’s .847 save percentage and Blackwood’s not-much-better .871 mark heading into Friday’s game against the Flyers, any improvement could be a pretty big deal for a Devils team that could sure use some optimism, what with Taylor Hall giving emo/screamo quotes recently.

  • While Kyle Palmieri probably lost the decision in what was admittedly not a spectacular fight, many gave him some kudos for sticking up for Jack Hughes during Friday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The top overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft could spend his entire career undersized, but that might be especially true now, as he made that immediate jump to the big time. With that in mind, it’s helpful for Palmieri to show that he has Hughes’ back. Even when the hits aren’t necessarily dirty. I’m not sure if there was much/anything wrong with that hit by Matt Niskanen, but considering Hughes’ helmet flying off, I don’t think his Devils teammate was really making the mental calculations to decide that it was a textbook check.

That said, I won’t deny that, in most cases, Palmieri’s better off using his hands to score sweet goals than throw punches.

At the moment, it seems like Hughes and Palmieri shook off whatever they took from their exchanges with Niskanen, which makes for the best news of all for the Devils.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 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.

Vasilevskiy back for Lightning after Domingue’s solid stretch of play

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Andrei Vasilevskiy will be back in goal Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Toronto Maple Leafs. It will be the netminder’s first appearance since a fractured foot knocked him out of the lineup a month ago. 

That loss could have spelled danger, even for a strong team like the Lightning; and general manager Julien BriseBois could have gone out and plucked a goalie off waivers or made a trade for the short-term. Instead, they rode Louis Domingue (and Eddie Pasquale for one start) to a 12-3-0 record and enter this matchup between the NHL’s top two teams on a seven-game winning streak.

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It was Nov. 2017 when the Lightning acquired Domingue from the Arizona Coyotes as an insurance policy. When Vasilevskiy’s backup at the time, Peter Budaj, got hurt, Domingue stepped into the No. 2 role and ended up starting 11 games last season.

Having already been an NHL starter in Arizona and having worked previously with Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean, it seemed like a good fit. Domingue’s play in 2017-18 earned him a two-year, $2.3M extension and he’s proven to be worth every penny so far. Not bad for a guy whose career was in limbo just before he landed in Tampa.

In Domingue’s 14 starts since Vasilevskiy’s injury he’s posted a .919 even strength save percentage while facing the second-most shots at 5-on-5 (374) over that span. It hasn’t always been pretty — he’s allowed three or more goals eight times in that stretch — but when you’re on the NHL’s top-scoring team, they’ll bail you out on a bad night more often than not.

“When your starter goes down and you know this isn’t a couple of days thing, it’s a month thing, now you’re looking saying ‘Holy cow, I’m going to be starting a bunch of games in a row here,'” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “So mentally there’s a hurdle there to get over. He was probably sitting there saying I’ve got to make every single save. When you start putting a little too much pressure on yourself… he just needed to relax a little bit and understand we’ll get some goals, just make the saves when you can and if you can help bail us out sometimes, do it. That’s what he’s done of late and been really confident in net.”

Also, during most of his run, Domingue wore a neat mask during Hockey Fights Cancer month which featured drawings done by kids being treated at Children’s Cancer Center of Tampa Bay.

As Vasilevskiy returns, the Lightning now know they have a proven No. 2 behind him who can instill confidence in teammates when he gets the call. And with Vasilevskiy having started 64 games last season, Domingue’s presence will allow Cooper to rest his starter when needed — an issue that came up last season.

“It’s a team sport and the reason you’ve got guys in line waiting to play is in case injuries happen,” said Cooper. “You don’t want anybody get to hurt, ever, but you can lose your starting goaltender for a month or so. That’s 15 or 16 games. Somebody’s got to fill that void and step in and Louis has done an unreal job.”

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.

Goalie nods: Gibson goes for Ducks, whose playoff starter is still uncertain

John Gibson will get another chance to show he should be the Anaheim Ducks’ playoff starter when he goes up against Colorado tonight at Honda Center.

Gibson’s last start was a good one; the 21-year-old stopped all but one of the Devils’ 27 shots last Sunday in a 2-1 victory, after which he was named the game’s first star.

Still, neither Gibson nor Andersen has made it an easy decision for coach Bruce Boudreau. Both young goalies have had excellent performances, and both have had their hiccups.

“I think they both want the starting role,” Boudreau said recently, per NHL.com “We had a tough game in New York and Columbus [last month] and when [Andersen] played two really good games, it was like [Gibson] said, ‘Oh, yeah? OK,’ and he came in and played great. I think they both would like to have it.

“If we go far they’re both going to play, and if we don’t go far, they’re both going to play, because if we’re losing, we’re going to make switches. That’s the way I think of it right now. We’re not married to thinking one is better than the other. When they’re on top of their game, they’re as good as there is.”

Reto Berra will start for Colorado.

Elsewhere…

Scott Darling likely for Chicago versus Anders Lindback for Buffalo.

Dustin Tokarski for Montreal versus Keith Kinkaid for New Jersey.

Brian Elliott for St. Louis versus Kari Lehtonen (likely) for Dallas.

Louis Domingue for Arizona versus Antti Niemi for San Jose.