Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kovalchuk benched; Hat tricks, shutouts on the menu

Kovalchuk a healthy scratch, Devils routed
When you're scheduled to pay a guy $100 million over 15 years, making him a healthy scratch in Year 1, Month 1 might not be the best way to get him going.

New Jersey coach John MacLean scratched Ilya Kovalchuk from Saturday's lineup, saying it was a coach's decision, and would not commit to playing Kovalchuk in Sunday's game. The Devils responded by getting slaughtered by Buffalo, 6-1. Johan Hedberg gave up four goals before being replaced by Martin Brodeur.

Mind-boggling decision, if you ask me. Kovalchuk wasn't playing all that poorly - he leads the team with five points - but isn't performing at the all-world level he's capable of. Still, a healthy scratch? MacLean's tenure as head coach couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. New Jersey fell to 2-5-1. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner all but apologized for the team's woeful performance in front of Hedberg, who made his first start of the season.

As for the game, the Sabres scored the game's first five goals. Thomas Vanek had two. Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and Patrick Kaleta also scored. Ryan Miller made 26 saves and Mike Grier, Rob Neidermayer and Derek Roy each had two assists.

Zach Parise scored New Jersey's lone goal.

More hat tricks
--John Tavares netted a hat trick but the Islanders fell to Florida, 4-3, on Radek Dvorak's goal late in the third period.
--Alexander Semin did most of the work, scoring three times, and Washington overcame a late tying goal by Atlanta to get an overtime winner from Tomas Fleischmann to beat the Thrashers, 4-3.
--Brad Richardson tallied his first three goals of the season and led Los Angeles over Colorado 6-4 in a wild back-and-forth affair. Richardson scored twice in the third period, once shorthanded, to break a 4-4 tie. Jonathan Quick made 28 saves. Paul Stastny had three points, including two goals, and Milan Hejduk also scored twice for the Avs. The Altitude network guys? Bummin'.

Clean sheets
--Carey Price wasn't busy, needing to make just 19 saves as Montreal blanked Ottawa, 3-0. Andrei Kostitsyn scored twice.
--From the "I'm glad he's out West" department, Jaroslav Halak showed he still owns the Penguins, fending off all 31 shots sent his way and Erik Johnson's overtime goal gave St. Louis a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh. Brent Johnson made 23 saves in defeat.
--Cal O'Reilly's goal 42 seconds from the start of the game proved to be the only tally, and Pekka Rinne's 30 saves guided Nashville over Dallas, 1-0. Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves.

Beating the clock
Pavel Datsyuk scored with 12 seconds remaining in regulation and Detroit squeaked past Anaheim, 5-4. Henrik Zetterberg had four points, including two goals. Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom also scored for Detroit. Jimmy Howard made 21 saves. Ryan Carter, Danny Syvret, Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne scored for the Ducks.

Back to the bench
Tuukka Rask made his first start since the season opener for Boston but dropped a 3-2 decision to the Rangers. In his defense, one of the goals was awfully flukey, being batted into the air then deflected off a defenseman's glove and over Rask into the net. That was the second of two goals in 27 seconds for New York. Artem Anisimov, Alexander Frolov and Marc Staal scored for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 35 shots.

There were three first-period fights in this game.

That's more like it
--Philadelphia dominated Toronto, out-shooting the visitors 40-14 and earned a 5-2 victory. Mike Richards scored his first of the season and had two assists. Special props to Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who blocked eight shots.
--Six different players scored for San Jose, which routed Edmonton, 6-1. Joe Pavelski had a goal and two assists and Joe Thornton posted three helpers. Antero Niittymaki won his second straight start, making 21 saves.

I hate you, Steve Mason
So you get bombed for six goals, earning yourself a spot on my bench (although in my defense, I played Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick ahead of him) but then respond by shutting down Chicago, making 30 saves to lead Columbus to a 3-2 win. The Blue Jackets got goals from R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette in the third period to erase a 2-1 deficit. Derick Brassard also scored for the Blue Jackets, who had fallen behind 2-0 on goals by Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews. Corey Crawford made 37 saves.

Not too road-weary
Carolina, on the last of its seven-game road trip that included trips to Finland, all parts of Canada, California and Arizona, allowed a 3-0 lead slip away but rebounded for a 4-3 overtime victory over Phoenix on Anton Babchuk's goal. Cam Ward stopped 36 shots. The Coyotes scored twice in 22 seconds with two minutes remaining to force overtime. Kyle Turris had two goals and one assist for Phoenix.


Adam Dulmer said...

I agree that it is rediculous that Maclean benched Kovalchuk. If you are going to send a message to your team, do it after a loss, Mac did this right after a 3-0 win by the devils. His timing for this move couldnt have been worse. Kovalchuk should be in every game to justify his contract, and they put him in the press boxes when they are playing against an All-Star goalie in Miller and with the back up goalie Hedberg in net. I hope they turn it around and such, but with decisions like this Maclean might not be a bench boss in the NHL for long.

KiPA - Kevin in PA said...

I agree. This benching (word is he broke a team rule) coupled with the horrid start might mean he's not a coach for much longer. You can't keep a talent like Kovalchuk off the ice when the team is struggling to score goals like it is.