Between the Pipes NHL Recap Week 1

It’s been about five months since I’ve done one of these but I’m happy to back. If you haven’t read a Between the Pipes before, basically I start out with a mini piece on a hockey topic relevant to the week or in general, then I spotlight a goalie and then we dive into the week with clips, opinion/analysis. I then round it out with stats, did you know and this week in hockey history.

Hockey is back (in Edmonton) – There are two ways to build a long term successfully team in any sport. Drafting well in the lower rounds and/or trading down to acquire more picks as you continually make the playoffs as the Red Wings do and the New England Patriots do in the NFL. These teams have to draft really well because since they generally make the playoffs, they don’t receive high draft picks. The other way is to tank for a bit and stockpile high 1st round draft choices. O wait that’s right, teams don’t tank on purpose *wink*. This would be the Penguins method and now the Oilers method. In fairness to the Oilers, they didn’t get four years in a row of a number one or number two selections like the Penguins did.

Either way there hasn’t been this much excitement in Edmonton Alberta since a young doey eyed player graced the number 99 jersey back in 1978. For the home opener in Rexall Place Thursday, the crowd was rocking like a playoff game. Magnus Paajarvi (10), Taylor Hall (1) and Jordan Eberle (22) are three young former 1st round draft picks that are looking to help return the Oilers back to respectability. Gretzky wasn’t even playing for the Oilers anymore when they were all born. Khabibulin, the 37 year old 16 year veteran, is the oldest on the team but he’s been playing like he was 27 again. Through two games he has a shutout and a blistering 9.69 SV%. Eberle is off to the best start of the young bunch, with two electrifying goals. Hall has one assist and Paajarvi has yet to produce a point but it’s still early. It’s a total team effort though with Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky all relative veterans chipping in. Ryan Whitney acquired in the trade with Lubomir Visnovsky has fit in even better than the Oilers had probably hoped. He has two assists thus far. The Oilers hope to repeat the Colorado Avalanche’s success last year by going from last place in the conference to making the playoffs the following year.

Goalie Spotlight

Semyon Varlamov – Washington Capitals

Varlamov began playing goalie at the age of eight in Kuybyshev Russia. He was the dominant teenage goalie in various leagues before he made his way to the Lokomotiv Yaroslav junior farm club. Varlamov was then drafted with the 23rd overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Capitals. He stayed in Russia leading Lokomotiv Yaroslav to the Russian Superleague Finals in 2008. At that time the Russian SuperLeague was the premier professional league in Russia. It has since disbanded and the KHL is now the premier league.

When he came to North America Varlamov played for the Capitals affiliate Hershey Bears. He played in six games for the Capitals during the 2008-09 season winning four and losing one game in overtime. He was named the star of the game in his debut, a 2-1 victory of the Canadiens. He was the 3rd goalie until backup Brent Johnson had a hip injury. When the playoffs came around, Varlamov saw action when Jose Theodore was pulled after allowing four goals. Varlamov remained the starter posting respectable numbers and two shutouts as he help lead the Capitals to the second round. Ironically he was pulled himself in favor of Theodore after giving up four goals in Game 7 against the eventual champion Penguins.

The next season Theodore was the starter but it was widely expected that Varlamov would end up wining it by season end. Unfortunately an injury derailed that and Varlamov had to rehab back in Hershey when he was healthy. He rejoined the club for the playoff stretch run and ended up making most of the playoff starts. Varlamov played well in last years 1st round exit to the Canadiens. But you wouldn’t know it because his counterpart Jaroslav Halak was stopping 40+ shots a game. Now with Jose Theodore gone, Varlamov is the man in net. He is also tasked, like the rest of the Capitals, with the seemingly daunting task of getting past the 2nd round of the playoffs. He was also the 3rd goalie selected for the 2010 Russian Olympic team. Currently Varlamov is injured but he is expected to regain his stating position within the next week or so. The Capitals hope that he can bounce back and even improve his still maturing skills.

Fights of the Week

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

Raitis Ivanans vs. Steve MacIntyre

We already have blood on the first day of the season. Ivanans knocks out MacIntyre and leaves him bloody and needing assistance to get off the ice.

Ilya Kovalchuk vs. Mike Green

Yes these two actually fought and for pure comical reasons, this fight was great.

Goat of the Week

Kris Letang – Pittsburgh Penguins

Letang’s lazy and errant pass never made it to intended recipient Paul Martin, Claude Giroux saw to that. The goal ended up being the Game winner.

Things I like

1. Don Cherry being back and telling it like it is, complete with loud plaid suit and a western daffy duck tie. Cherry was spot on with the whole Carey Price thing and I will paraphrase what he said. Price will be a good goalie but not in Montreal, where he gets booed for the littlest thing, even when it is not his fault. As for Halak, he single handedly won two playoffs series, his jersey was a hot number, fans made stop signs with his name on it and he was beloved. The Canadiens traded him away for practically nothing. More than likely, I believe it will come back to haunt them for a long time.

2. Few said it could be done and many questioned some of Brian Burke’s moves but he has helped to bring the Maple Leafs back to respectability. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is having a career revival in Toronto. Giguere said after the 1st game with a laugh, “I'm not that old, people.” We’d have to agree with you there. Phil Kessel is leading the Leafs as expected but they are also getting help from unlikely sources like Clarke MacArthur. The true test for the Maple Leafs happens when the Leafs travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins tonight.

3. Cam Fowler making his debut against his hometown Red Wings for the Ducks. The Ducks got manhandled 4-0 but it wasn’t Fowler’s fault. The eighteen year old 12th overall section of the 2010 draft racked up 21:20 minutes in his first game with 5 blocked shots and a +/- of 0. Its unlikely Fowler will be sent down to the minors so Fowler will be a key component in the Ducks season this year and for the next decade. He did make a costly turnover in his 3rd game that led to a short handed goal but the future is bright for Fowler on a team that sorely needs defensive help.

4. James Wisniewski’s “inappropriate” gesture to Sean Avery. Personally I found it funny and I believe that hockey players are the most colorful athletes around. The ability to almost do what you want and not really get penalized (or just receive a minor) for it, is what makes hockey very unique. Wiz ended up getting suspended two games for it anyway. I think it’s a bit harsh since there are much worse offenses that don’t receive a suspension.

Things I don’t

1. Ondrej Pavelec collapsing on the ice just two minutes into the Thrashes vs. Capitals game. It is always a scary scene to watch any athlete collapse unprovoked. Pavelec regained consciousness later in the ambulance. The current cause is a fainting spell but more tests will be done as a precaution.

2. The Ducks “top” line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan have three Olympic medals and over 25 million in salary combined. However neither has produced any points so far through three games and they have a combined +/- of -12. Also new captain Getzlaf doesn’t seem to be keeping his composure or leading very well. In fairness the whole team, coach staffing and upper management deserve a huge F thus far for the product they have put on the ice.

3. I like fighting and I think it has a place in the game and that players should be able to defend themselves or retaliate. What I don’t like is when games get out of hand on scoreboard turn into UFC on ice. The Ducks against the Blues and to a lesser extent against the Redwings and the Capitals against Devils were games that were blowouts that basically just turned into fights in the 3rd period. Obviously it’s frustrating to be down by four or so goals in a game but the NHL needs to implement a rule that discourages players from trying to make a statement with their fists when they can’t make it with their stick. I’m thinking a one game suspension for any player involved would do the trick.

Stat Line of the Week

10/09/10 N.Y Rangers 6 vs. Buffalo 3

Skater

TOI

G

A

+/-

SOG

PIM

D. Stepan

16:50

3

0

+3

3

0

Rookie Derek Stepan in his first game recorded a hat trick on only three shots. He became the first to do it in his debut since Dallas’ Fabian Brunnstrom on Oct. 15, 2008. The feat was made all the more impressive coming against All World goalie Ryan Miller.

Did You Know?

As the Ducks pile up PIM at an alarming rate, did you know the most PIM for one game is 419 set by the Ottawa Senators vs. the Philadelphia Flyers on March 5th 2004. 409 of those minutes came in the final 11 minutes of the game. By the end of the game, 20 players had been ejected for their role in the brawl, leaving a total of five players left in the game. Officials took about 90 minutes to sort out all of the penalties that each team had received in the final brawl.

Numbers, Numbers

5 – PIM for Pavel Datsyuk in his first game

18 – PIM for Datsyuk in 80 games in the 2009-10 season

2 – Number of goals scored thus far by the Anaheim Ducks, the lowest in the league

145 – PIM for the Ducks, the league leaders by a wide margin

2 – Games in a row with a too many men on the ice penalty for the Ducks. Not the best way to start a season.

11 – Years since the last time the Maple Leafs started out 2-0

Carey Price vs. Jaroslav Halak

As if Carey Price doesn’t get roasted enough in the Montreal media, I thought I would give him some extra scrutiny in this column. This season we will see how Price does for the week and compare his numbers to Halak, the guy Montreal ran out of town because they still think Price is their guy. Who knows he still might be.

Halak has the edge so far with a .955 SV%, 0.99 GAA and 2 wins. Price has .919 SV%, 2.52 GAA and a 1-1 record. Price has also faced 18 more shots and he was able to beat the Penguins though game 2 of the regular season is much different than round 2 of the postseason.

This Week in Hockey History

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

October 07, 2001 Florida Panthers' goaltender Roberto Luongo recorded his 7th career shutout in a 5-0 win against the Lightning at Tampa Bay.

October 08, 2001 Alexander Mogilny scored :53 seconds into the game then added another to give him 400 goals in his NHL career, as the Maple Leafs won 6-1 against the visiting Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

October 09, 1997 New York Rangers became the first team in NHL history to tie their first four games of the season when they battled to a 1-1 draw against the Flames, at Calgary.

October 10, 1973 Montreal rookie Bob Gainey played in his first NHL game, when the Canadiens beat the North Stars 5-2, in their 1973-74 season opener, in Minnesota. The victory extended the Canadiens' opening night undefeated streak to 11 straight games (8-0-3).

October 11, 2000 Washington's Adam Oates became the 29th player in NHL history to record 1,200 career NHL points, when he picked up an assist in a 3-3 Capitals tie against the Atlanta Thrashers.

October 12, 1985 Charlie Simmer scored his 6th career hat trick (and his first with Boston) and added an assist as the Bruins extended their road undefeated streak against the Red Wings to 10 straight games (7-0-3) with a 9-2 win, at Detroit.

Rankings

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

Top 5

1. Toronto
2. Detroit
3. St. Louis
4. Edmonton
5. Philadelphia

Bottom 5

30. Anaheim
29. Ottawa
28. New Jersey
27. Minnesota
26. Florida

I'll leave you with my favorite comic strip talking about hockey.

Pearls Before Swine Hockey

I probably post this week's Between the Pipes and next week's over at the Checking Line. After that I hope you will head on over to PuckingAwesome.com if you want to read more.

3 Comments

George Prax's picture

Alex, this is really an incredible article that was a lot of fun to ready. Really informative and a really good rundown of all the action around the league in the first week. I wish we could see more of this on TCL lol.

As for the subject matter here, two things I would like to bring up...

Neuvirth has been really good so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up winning the starting job over Varlamov. Neuvirth has a new deal and Varly is going into restricted free agency and Neuvirth could be making a good case for himself.

As for Price/Halak, I'm sorry but the whole thing's been beaten to death. Habs fans didn't run Halak out of town, months after he was traded they lined-up by the thousands to get his autograph and to say goodbye. This was management's decision and a lot of fans haven't been able to swallow it yet.

But it is what it is, and there's really no reason to keep dwelling on it. Even after Price put up really one of the best tending performances of the season so far against Pittsburgh, people are STILL talking about Halak and trying to compare them. I know you're a Ducks fan and I don't mean any offense by this, but the last game each played, Halak made 13 saves and Price made 36 saves and ensured the Habs won. He's been really good so far and while 2 games shouldn't be a benchmark for anything, and the real test starts tonight at the Bell Centre, people REALLY need to lay off the Halak stuff.

Also, saying Halak was traded for "practically nothing" is unfair. Lars Eller is a top 15 pick and he's already made the team. The only reason he isn't in the top six is because there are other players making more money that he is.

Alex Mueller's picture

Haha thanks! It comes from reading lots of columns mostly NFL and they style of how I would like to read them. Maybe I'll just post them all over here too.

Neuvirth has played well and competition is always good so who knows. I know that the Price vs Halak debate has gone on a lot, maybe I'll just scrap that piece then. When I said ran out of town I meant the management did, not the fans.

George Prax's picture

lol sorry, didn't mean to lash out, obviously i'm really close to the topic and I'm just starting to get a little fed up. It's just beating a dead horse IMO, and while the comparison should be made at certain times throughout the season, 2 games in, let them play. Both are playing well and that's what matters.

And obviously Gauthier had his mind set on trading Halak the entire time, but keep in mind the guy asked for a trade in February...