NHL Recap Week 4 - Between the Pipes
You signed him for how long, for how much? – Any fans ultimate dream job is to be the GM of his or her favorite team. If I was ever a GM one thing I would never do is give anybody a contract longer than five years. There's too many things that could happen in even that short amount of time that the thought of giving a longer one makes no sense even if the player is a franchise talent. Some things that could go wrong include the player getting injured, no longer producing, not fitting in with a new system or teammates, not performing well in the postseason or the team just wants to rebuild. Certain players are not motivated to perform at the same level once they receive their mega deals. Also players with undesirable contracts make them harder to move if the teams decides they want to move in a different direction.
Ilya Kovalchuk's big money long term contract and subsequent problems in New Jersey with his healthy scratching and in many ways not fitting into their system, is just the latest example of big long term contracts gone wrong. Alexei Yashin was rewarded with a 10 year 87.5 million dollar contract which he never lived up to and was eventually bought out. Roberto Luongo was signed to a 12 year 64 million dollar contract that even included a no trade clause, though stipulations allow Luongo to wave it after the 5th year and the Canucks after the 7th. While Luongo is a decent goalie, he is not consistent and he generally doesn't preform well in the playoffs. I personally don't think the Canucks will ever win the Stanley Cup with Luongo as their goalie. But Luongo's contract makes it almost impossible to go in a different direction in net no matter how much he flounders. The Chicago Blackhawks have recently signed Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith to long term contracts, 12 years for 62.8 million and 13 years for 72 million respectively. Both contracts have so far worked out for the Blackhawks but I'm more than positive there will be a point where they regret one or both of them. Even Cristobal Huet's, who did not preform well enough to warrant retaining, smaller contract of four years worth 22 million severely handicapped the Blackhawks ability to re-sign the players they needed.
While I understand the need to lock up certain stars such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and so on, I think you can do it in a more responsible manner that gives your team the best chance to compete in the short term but also in the long term.
Niklas Backstrom – Minnesota Wild
Finnish born Backstrom played for HIFK, SaiPa and Kärpät in the Finnish SM-liiga league. He excelled playing for Kärpät leading them to league titles in 2004 and 2005. In both of those seasons Backstrom picked up the Urpo Ylönen trophy for best goaltender and the Jari Kurri trophy for best player in the playoffs. After two dominating years, Backstrom played another year with Kärpät in which he actually posted even better numbers. After that season the undrafted Backstrom signed with the Minnesota Wild in 2006.
He was slated to be the back-up to Manny Fernandez but Fernandez suffered a knee injury halfway through the season which opened the door for Backstrom. He lead the league in GAA (1.97) and SV% (.929) and shared the William Jennings trophy with Fernandez. He also tied Dwayne Roloson's franchise record of five shutouts in just 36 games. He later broke that record with eight shutouts during the 2008-09 season. Fernandez was traded shortly after and Backstrom followed it up with two more highly productive seasons including 2nd runner up to the Vezina trophy in 2009. Last season Backstrom took a step back but still posted somewhat decent numbers. Internationally Backstrom made the 2006 and 2010 Finnish Olympic teams but was not the number one goalie in either case. He was part of the Bronze medal winning team in 2010.
So far this season Backstrom is off to a great start. The Wild don't really possess the most talent in the league but Backstrom has helped the Wild allow the 3rd least goals in the conference so far. Backstrom will need to continue to play well for the Wild to compete for a playoff spot this season.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
David Liffiton vs. Tim Jackman
Decent fight, Liffiton won with some nice punches.
Mike Richards vs. Matt Cooke
Richards held his own against Cooke. I didn't care for Richards' cheap shots at the end.
Zenon Konopka vs. Daniel Carcillo
I didn't think this fight was that great but many people liked it so here it is. This was the 1st of two fights between these two in this game.
Goats of the Week
Cory Sarich – Calgary Flames
Sarich was, I guess, trying to pass the puck back to his teammate but inadvertently hit it in his own net on an unsuspecting Kiprusoff.
Tyler Myers – Buffalo Sabres
More on Mister Myers below but on this power play Myers has his pocket picked twice by Jamie Benn and Steve Ott hammers home the rebound. The video doesn't sync with the audio and it plays choppy but it was the best I could find.
Things I like
1. America's best goalie Tim Thomas, sorry Ryan Miller, keeps up his winning ways. Tops in GA%, SV%, shutouts and a perfect 6-0 record. In fact he has as many shutouts (3) as goals allowed so far this season. It's clearly his Vezina trophy to lose this season. It's a shame that his “rookie” season in the NHL essentially began when he was 31.
2. Everyone wanted to know when Taylor Hall would score his 1st goal. Well on the day Tyler Seguin scored his 3rd, Hall tipped in his 1st. Hall then had back to back games with a goal and an assist. He still has a long way to go but this mini streak might be what he needs to get going.
3. Tampa Bay has the best record in the Eastern Conference for the first time in October ever. It's like it's 2003-04 all over again. The Lightning can obviously score goals with the best of them. They key is whether the defense and the goaltending combo of Dan Ellis and Mike Smith can keep it up.
4. Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac reunited on the top line. Before Ilya Kovalchuk got there this was one of the best lines in the NHL and actually was the top line according to +/- halfway through last season. Of course it was short lived when Parise injured his knee against the Kings requiring surgery and sidelining him for three months. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery. The Devils will surely miss their team MVP.
Things I don’t
1. Tyler Myers had a stellar season last year and was awarded the Calder trophy. This year when you look up the term sophomore slump, you will find a picture of Myers. Myers goal production has been good but he currently only has one assist and an eye popping -10, which is tied for the league's worst. At this point Buffalo would be wise to take him off the top defensive unit. Myers has already made my Goat of the Week honors twice in just four weeks. Truly not a good sign.
2. Thrashers shootout shooters. Ondrej Pavelec played his first game back since suffering a concussion in a hard fought game against the Blues. Tied 3-3 the game went into the shootout. Atlanta selected their shooters. Who did they pick? Andrew Ladd their leading scorer? No. Stanley Cup hero Dustin Byfuglien? No. O franchise player and leading goal scorer Evander Kane? No. Rich Peverley and Alex Burmistrov. Neither came close to scoring and Pavelec didn't really come close in stopping the Blues on their attempts. I don't know who was going to shoot 3rd but there's a reason why Sidney Crosby shoots first, you want your best players to have a chance to score.
3. Antti Niemi has so for struggled as a Shark. He is 1-3 with a .854 SV% and 4.50 GAA. It's a shame Niemi hasn't been able to build upon last year's stellar season. He was also pulled against the Flames after giving up three goals on only five shots. On the other hand Antero Niittymaki has made the most of his starts and is running away with the starting job. If Niemi doesn't turn it around it's unlikely many teams will try and sign him when his one year deal expires.
Stat Line of the Week
10/30/10 St. Louis 4 vs. Atlanta 3
Jay McClement is not what you would call a goal scorer having never scored more than 12 goals in a season. However on this night he was the whole Blues offense. Scoring his first three goals of the season on three shots including two goals in the final six minutes of the game. This allowed the Blues to eke out the win in the shootout.
Did You Know?
Though it's still early since Tim Thomas is having such a magical year, let's take a look at the records he is chasing. George Hainsworth holds the record for lowest GAA at .921 set in 1928-29. Of course things were much different back then. Miikka Kiprusoff holds the modern era record at 1.69. Wins is held by Martin Brodeur at 48 set in 2006-07. Dominik Hasek holds the record for SV% at .936 set in 1998-99. George Hainsworth holds the shutout record of 22 also set in 1928-29. Dominik Hasek holds the modern era record of 13 set 1997-98.
6 – Misconduct or game misconduct penalties in the Islanders vs. Flyers game on 10/30
12 – Number of seconds between two Alex Ovechkin goals against the Flames
0 – Regulation losses by the Canucks at home in six games
2 – Goals by the Maple Leafs in the last three games
17 – Goals given up by the Flames in the last three games
-9 – Niklas Hjalmarsson's +/- rating to go with his 0 points produced and almost 3.5 million dollar salary
Quotes of the Week
“This is Avalanche hockey. We're so young, we don't know any better.
— Colorado right wing Chris Stewart, who had a hat trick Thursday when the team overcame 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 deficits in a 6-5 win at Calgary.
"It was inexcusable, and if you could take that moment back, you take it back."
— C Rick Rypien on reaching into the stands to grab a fan in Minnesota on Oct. 19, which earned the scrappy wing a six-game suspension from the NHL.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
October 28, 1976 Philadelphia goalie Bernie Parent led the Flyers to a 3-0 shutout over the Penguins at the Spectrum, with the 40th shutout of his NHL career.
October 29, 1942 Montreal Canadiens signed Maurice Richard to his first contract. He made his NHL debut two days later.
October 30, 1983 Chicago's Tom Lysiak tripped linesman Ron Foyt as the Black Hawks won 6-1 over the Hartford Whalers in Chicago. Lysiak was later susended 20 games for the incident.
October 31, 1975 Phil Myre recorded his 9th career shutout as the Atlanta Flames won 2-0 over the California Seals, in Oakland. Tim Ecclestone helped in all the scoring, with a goal and an assist.
November 01, 2000 Larry Murphy had two assists to give him 1,201 career points, making him the third NHL defenseman (along with Paul Coffey & Ray Bourque) to record 1,200 points. The milestone came in a Red Wings 4-2 win at Montreal.
November 02, 1978 After 8 games with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA, Wayne Gretzky was sold to the Edmonton Oilers (along with Eddie Mio and Peter Driscoll). Gretzky went on to score 104 points in 72 games and was named WHA Rookie of the Year.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
1. Los Angeles
2. Tampa Bay
5. St. Louis
30. New Jersey