Between the Pipes NHL Recap and Analysis Week 6

At the quarter pole – We have just about hit the quarter mark of the NHL season, though some teams have played more than others. It always bothers me when one team has played five more games than another team. You think they could schedule that better. Let's take a look at which teams have been surprising and which have been disappointing. I didn't want to go overboard, so I just picked a few.

Surprising

Anaheim – Well the Ducks started out worse than anyone in the league but they have since quickly turned it around. For a team loaded with offensive talent and a great goalie, it was really about whether the defense would be anything good. It turns out it that it's not that bad. Anaheim is actually 5th in the league in blocked shots. A special thanks also goes to Cam Fowler for helping to make the defensive turnaround.

Montreal – The Canadiens aren't really that much of a surprise, since they made it to the Conference Finals last year. But that in itself was a bit of a surprise and many people attributed their run mostly to Jaroslav Halak. The Canadiens actually have a pretty balanced team and Carey Price (more on him below) has played well.

Disappointing

New Jersey – Well I don't think anyone can be more disappointing than the Devils. Their record setting goalie, Martin Brodeur, is having a fairly sub par year, their top free agent signing, Ilya Kovalchuk, either disappears during games or gets benched, their Team MVP, Zach Parise, ends up on injured reserve and it turns out they don't really have any good defensemen.

Calgary – The Flames look like a good team on paper but for some reason they just can't put it all together. To make things worse Jerome Iginila is struggling. Of course it shouldn't really be much of a surprise, as it's been the same team for the past two seasons. If it didn't work then, why would it work now?

Buffalo – Well many people would think the Sabres are a disappointment. Personally I think their record is as it should be. Tyler Myers has been disappointing and Ryan Miller has yet to record a shutout. Offensively, Derek Roy is the only player scoring at a point or game or higher pace. Hey what else is new? On the plus side, Steve Montador is having a career year.

Pittsburgh – The Penguins seemed like an early Stanley Cup favorite with their off-season defensive acquisitions. But Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled, Evgeni Malkin has struggled at times and their power play isn't what it should be. The biggest problem is they really miss Jordan Staal.

Goalie Spotlight

Sergei Bobrovsky – Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have had gone through a lot of goalies over the past decade. Rarely would a goalie carry the starting load for more than two seasons. Most seasons would see two or three goalies splitting the duties. After a long playoff run shared by Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher most figured the Flyers would run with both of them this season. But then Leighton got injured and that's where Sergei Bobrovsky comes into play.

Bobrovsky was eligible for the 2006 NHL draft but he went undrafted. The Flyers oddly enough were interested in him but the thought it would be too hard to sign the netminder from Novokuznetsk, Russia to come play in the NHL. Unwanted in the NHL Bobrovsky played for Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the RSL (Russian Superleague) before it was absorbed by the KHL and then he played with them for two seasons in the KHL. During his time with Metallurg Novokuznetsk he played well, though he actually had a record of 16-42-5 in the KHL. He also helped capture a bronze medal for Russia at the 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. The Flyers offered him a three year contract after his four stint with Metallurg Novokuznetsk and he was slated to be assigned to the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL. The combination of his strong training camp and Michael Leighton's injury kept him on the opening day Flyers' roster.

Bobrovsky was the youngest Flyers goaltender ever to start a season opening game at 22, just surpassing Ron Hextall's old mark, which he ended up winning. Currently he is the starting goalie for the Flyers while Brian Boucher has the backup duties. Bobrovsky is tied for the league lead in wins at 11 to go along with his 5th place in GAA and 4th place in SV%. Bobrovsky's English isn't very good yet, so he uses a translator, Natalia Bragilevskaya, to help him during post game interviews. Regardless of the language he speaks the Flyers are hoping they have found what has eluded them for quite some time, stable goaltending from one goalie for years to come.

Fights of the Week

Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.

Eric Boulton vs. John Erskine

Just two hockey players whaling away at each other.

Tanner Glass vs. Mike Brown

Pretty decent fight, unfortunately not long enough.

Goats of the Week

Ilya Kovalchuk – New Jersey Devils

Well we've all seen this a couple of times by now. But really, does it ever get old? I think this will defiantly be a goat of the year finalist. He redeemed himself somewhat the next night with the game winner in overtime.

Dan Hamhuis – Vancouver Canucks

Hamhuis goes to clear the puck in the finals seconds of overtime but instead passes it directly to Tyler Myers, who capitalizes on it. Considering the year Myers has had, he will probably be sending a few Christmas cards to Hamhuis.

Zbynek Michalek – Pittsburgh Penguins

Michalek goes to play the the puck off the boards but falls down, enabling Callahan to go the other way for the game winner in overtime.

Things I like

1. Carey Price has probably had the toughest NHL career of any player in some time. But despite all he has been through it looks like this could be his break out year. He is posting career numbers so far and he has half as many shutouts as he did in all of his career. This past game against Carolina he made some spectacular saves, which even the tough crowd in Montreal acknowledged.

2. The Philadelphia Flyers are on fire. Showing that last seasons long playoff run was no fluke, the Flyers have one of the best records in the NHL. They are also the 2nd highest scoring team behind only the Capitals. Sergei Bobrovsky has been tearing it up in net and the Flyers may actually have the most complete team in the East.

3. Streaks, streaks and more streaks. Whether it's losing streaks or wining streaks we have seen a lot of them lately. I like it because I think it adds to the game when you want to see if the team can keep them going or when they try and snap them.

4. Most of the goals in the Avalanche vs Blues games were pretty amazing. Great moves and mostly all top shelf goals.

5. The Maple Leafs coming back from a 5-1 deficit in a game they really needed to win against the Predators. Of course the fact that the Predators kept giving them penalties was the catalyst for the turnaround. Nazem Kadri also picked up his first NHL point.

Things I don’t

1. Jeff Carter was just signed to an 11 year deal.... do the Flyers really not read my column? Just kidding but seriously while the cap hit of 5.27 million makes it not that cost worthy of a deal, 11 years is just to long a contract. Here's hoping they won't regret it down the line, even though I don't like the Flyers much.

2. Hey remember when the Tampa Bay Lightning had the best record in the Eastern Conference? Ya I don't remember it either. It seems like it was so long ago. In the last seven games the Lightning are 1-5-1. They've given up 15 goals in the past three games.

3. I like absolutely nothing about the Edmonton Oilers right now. This was supposed to be a season of improvement for the Oilers but it looks like another top pick is in the works for them. Which may not be a bad thing, They can draft a goalie or a defenseman with that pick. They just got decimated against the Rangers in an 8-2 loss. So many bad turnovers and Khabibulin looked like he just mailed it in on those last few goals. On the bright side, they will probably never be as bad as the Islanders.

Stat Line of the Week

11/14/10 New York 8 vs. Edmonton 2

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

M. Gaborik

17.42

3

1

5

4

2

In only his 2nd game back since shoulder surgery Marian Gaborik keyed the Rangers win against the Oilers. He scored the first goal just 90 seconds into the game. He added two more goals for a hat trick, picked up an assists and he had an eye popping +5.

Did You Know?

That there have been five sets of twins to play for the NHL. The Sedins twins are of course the most famous. The others are Chris and Peter Ferraro, Joel and Henrik Lundqvist, Rich and Ron Sutter and Peter and Patrik Sundstrom. Interestingly enough, three of those pairs are from Sweden. The Sedins, Sundstroms and Lundqvists.

Numbers, Numbers

7 – Losses at home for the Blackhawks so far

8 – Losses at home all of last season for the Blackhawks

-11 – Patrick Sharp's +/- by far the worst of the top 50 point scorers

15 – Goals scored against Carolina in back to back games

5 – Short handed goals for Philadelphia

17-23-2 Games played, points and +/- respectively for both Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Twins you say?

Quotes of the Week

“If we talk about that I'll break down.”

Coach Cory Clouston, on the suicide death of Daron Richardson, the 14-year-old daughter of assistant coach Luke Richardson.

Very Sad.

“If you want to take the bows when the team is winning, then you'd better face the music when the team is not.”

Toronto general manager Brian Burke on the heat he is feeling from the public and the media.

“All I've got is this lisp, and a few stitches.”

Wild D Nick Schultz on getting a puck to the face last weekend vs. Columbus.

“It takes a while, but sometimes you have to go all the way to the bottom to get that win and you start feeling better.”

LW Ilya Kovalchuk on the Devils finally getting their first home win of the season Friday night.

Apparently that bottom includes whiffing on a shootout attempt.

This Week in Hockey History

Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.

November 11, 1989 Quebec's Guy Lafleur scored his 544th career NHL goal to tie Maurice Richard for eighth All Time in NHL goals, as the Nordiques beat Vancouver 3-2, in Quebec City.

November 12, 1955 In a 3-0 Montreal victory over Detroit, Jean Beliveau and Red Kelly, the two most gentlemanly players in the league got into a fight. Jacques Plante recorded his 14th career shutout, and Beliveau scored a goal and an assist.

November 13, 1997 NHL's Nashville expansion franchise announced the team (set to begin play in 1998-99) would be called the "Predators".

November 14, 1989 Larry Robinson had two assists in the first period of Kings' 8-6 win over Calgary to move past Brad Park (896) into third place on the NHL's all time point scoring list among defensemen. Only Denis Potvin and Bobby Orr were still ahead.

November 15, 1997 Tom Barrasso became Pittsburgh's all-time leader in career shutouts, when his 12th as a Penguin came in a 5-0 win at Toronto. Barrasso broke the record of 11 held by Les Binkley. It was also the 25th shutout of Barrasso's NHL career.

November 16, 2001 Steve Yzerman scored twice, including the 650th goal of his NHL career and Brett Hull had two assists for his 1,200th career point in the Red Wings 8-3 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild.

Rankings

The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.

Top 5

1. Washington

2. Philadelphia

3. Los Angeles

4. Vancouver

5. Detroit

Bottom 5

30. N.Y Islanders

29. Toronto

28. Edmonton

27. New Jersey

26. Tampa Bay

3 Comments

George Prax's picture

No Habs in your top 5? We beat 2 of the 3 teams you listed there in the last week Tongue

But I shouldn't complain, you gave them ton of credit about as well as Price directly.

Great column as always.

Alex Mueller's picture

Well technically most of this is written right before Tuesday night's games, so I don't change much after them. But I had them at like 6, if that makes you feel better.

George Prax's picture

Haha fair enough. Didn't think about the Tuesday thing. Still, I reserve the right to be biased in this Tongue