Saturday, November 27, 2010

Goalies rule as offenses play in tryptophan-induced lull

If you play fantasy hockey, chances are you didn't like what your skaters did, unless you own Alexander Semin. Conversely, you probably really enjoyed the performances from your goalies. Unless you own Mike Smith, in which case, you deserve whatever badness you get.

Only four teams out of 26 in action scored more than three goals. Smith, Pekka Rinne, Jonas Hiller, Antti Niemi: Go to your room!

The perfect goalies
Three of the first seven games to go final were shutouts. We had two more by night's end.

--Cam Ward made 37 saves and a power play goal in each period against the league's top-ranked penalty killing lifted Carolina over Boston, 3-0. Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner had a goal and assist each.
--The Islanders avoided making history by ending their 14-game non-winning streak by knocking off the Devils, 2-0, behind Rick DiPietro's 29 saves. The team record for a winless streak is 15 games.
--Semyon Varlamov had little to do, facing just 17 shots and stopping them all in Washington's 6-0 rout of Tampa Bay. Alexander Semin had a hat trick.
--Henrik Lundqvist was very busy, fending off 40 shots from Florida to lead the Rangers to a 3-0 victory.
--Don't look now but the Thrashers might have a goalie. Ondrej Pavelec posted his second shutout in four games as Atlanta took down another marquee team, beating Montreal, 3-0. Pavelec has given up two goals in his last four games. Rich Peverley scored twice.

Nearly as good
--Marc-Andre Fleury's stellar run continued with a 43-save effort in a rather defenseless Pittsburgh 2-1 victory over Ottawa. Counterpart Pascal Leclaire made 38 saves. Fleury is on a 7-0-1 run and has his personal numbers way better than earlier in the season.
--A goal and assist from Patrick Sharp and 26 saves by Corey Crawford gave Chicago a 4-1 win over Anaheim.
--Valtteri Filppula had a goal and assist in support of Jimmy Howard's 34 saves as Detroit reclaimed the Central Division lead with a 2-1 win over Columbus. Steve Mason stopped 30 shots.
--Ryan Miller made 35 saves, losing his shutout bid with 3:27 remaining on a Phil Kessel shorthanded goal that was set up by Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold's errant clearing attempt, in Buffalo's 3-1 win over Toronto.
--Roberto Luongo made 31 saves and Mikael Samuelsson scored twice as Vancouver routed San Jose, 6-1.

Not as good, but still good
--Jose Theodore made 32 saves and Martin Havlat scored twice and had three points for Minnesota in a 5-2 win over Nashville.
--Kari Lehtonen made 25 saves but the story in Dallas' 3-2 win over St. Louis was Jamie Benn. His shorthanded goal in the third period tied the game at 2-2, then, after an aggressive forecheck by Brenden Morrow forced Jaroslav Halak to play the puck on a potential icing call, Benn stole the puck and slid it across to Mike Ribeiro, who had a wide-open net for the eventual game-winner.

Adventures in officiating (Copyright: TMQ)
We saw a rare, perhaps downright horrid, call in overtime of the Calgary-Philadelphia game. Mike Richards appeared to score a power play goal to give the Flyers the victory. Instead, the referee inside the attack zone waved the goal off and whistled Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The reasoning? Pronger lifted his arm off his stick, briefly blocking the vision of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Was there intent on Pronger's part? Even my hatred for him as a player and the Flyers as a team doubts that; Pronger appeared to be pointing to an area for Richards to attack.

This is the Sean Avery Rule; you'll remember when Avery faced Martin Brodeur in a playoff game, waving his arms and stick, gesticulating like the douchebag he is. With Avery's action ranking a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10, what Pronger did is probably a minus-4. At least.

After a surprisingly scoreless 3-on-3 - because, you know, that's supposed to generate all kinds of goals - the game went to a shootout, and goals by Niklas Hagman and Rene Bourque canceled out a Claude Giroux score to give Calgary a 3-2 win. Even I think the Flyers got hosed.

It's always possible Pronger tried to impede Kiprusoff's vision more than a normal screen does - and Pronger had his back to Kiprusoff - but I doubt that's what went on there. Plus, I lose a Richards game-winning PPG. Dammit.

Anyway, Kiprusoff finished with 34 saves. Curtis Glencross and Steve Staios scored for the Flames. Nikolay Zherdev and James van Riemsdyk had the Flyers goals. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots.

--Speaking of bad calls, Ottawa got hosed too. Alex Goligoski's game-winning power play goal came a few seconds after teammate Mark Letestu skated into Mike Fisher, knocking Fisher down and clearing a lane for Goligoski. Should've been interference on Letestu. I didn't even react to the goal, which broke a 1-1 tie; I was still in shock that play was still going on.

--Good bounceback win for the Wild.

--The Bruins suck. If they didn't have awesome goaltending, they wouldn't win anything. Of course, normally they do have awesome goaltending, but still. You know what I'm saying.

--That's the last time I label a Tampa-Washington game as "must-see." Second horrid effort by the Lightning against the Caps. Maybe when the series shifts to Tampa it'll be different; Washington is such a monster on home ice.

--I'm growing more impressed with Atlanta each day. No stars on that team, no real game-breakers, but a lot of energy, a lot of grit, and that's making it tough on opponents. Plus Pavelec is on fire.

--I kind of think the Stars should be better than they are. I'd kill to have just one of their top four wingers - Loui Eriksson, James Neal, Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow, all of whom I love - and with Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro, that's one really good center and one pretty good one. I guess it's the weak defense, whose only household name is Stephane Robidas (and that one might be iffy) and goaltending which isn't quite consistent yet. Defenseman Matt Niskanen's been in major regression mode but he's only 23, so no need to give up on him yet.

--Antti Niemi is doing all he can to prove last year's Stanley Cup run was a fluke.

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