Tag:Columbus Blue JAckets
Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:57 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Sanford, Jackets starting to roll

By Brian Stubits

Amid Columbus' awful, awful opening to the season, the only bit of defense the team and its fans had was something along the lines of waiting for everybody to be healthy. The team was built in the offseason around the additions of James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter and for the first month and a half of the season; they had not played in the same game. Now they are both playing and the Blue Jackets are now winning.

But it was another injured player returning that has been even bigger. And this one wasn't really on anybody's excuse radar.

Turns out the return of goaltender Curtis Sanford has been huge. Or at least it would appear that way. It was no mystery that Steve Mason in goal was as big an issue as anything else in Columbus' struggles, but I am not sure anybody believed there was a possible solution within the organization.

It wasn't long ago that in this blog we were discussing the possibilities of the Blue Jackets getting a major shakeup in the front office and coaching staff. Some were just saying give it more time, all they needed was to trade for a good goalie. The only problem was the Jackets are right up against the cap and have no flexibility.

This feels as good as a trade right now.

In the five games prior to Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Blues, all Sanford starts, the Blue Jackets picked up at least one point. His record is now 3-0-2 after Columbus' 5-1 beating of the Buffalo Sabres on Black Friday. He entered Sunday with a goals against average of 1.27 and a save percentage of .950. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The recent run has done what not long ago seemed laughable: the Jackets had climbed out of the NHL cellar. With the Devils' squeaker over the Devils on Saturday, the Jackets returned to the basement, but they are hot on the heels of the Isles, Ducks and Flames to move (or down) the draft lottery list.

But the big acquisitions have been doing their part, too. Carter, back after breaking his foot, is finally looking comfortable with his new team. With two beautiful assists against the Sabres, Carter brought his total to five points (3-2=5) in the last five games. Wisniewski has also recorded five points in that span as he also contributed two assists to the win on Friday.

However none of that would matter much if they weren't getting better goaltending. Now, with Sanford getting the bulk of the work, they are. It's not too late to crawl their way back into the picture, but a lot of that will ride on Sanford continuing to play at a level this high.

If he keeps those ice blue pads, maybe he will.

Hangover Part II

Much was made about the champion Bruins' hangover to start the season. They came out slower than any team not named the Blue Jackets. Of course, that's long-ago history as the Bruins have won 11 of the past 12 games, earning a point in all of them.

But not as much has been said about the Canucks' meager beginning. After all, this was the best team in the regular season last year and was within 60 minutes of winning the Stanley Cup. Like the Bruins, the Canucks returned the core of their team and were expected to be powerful once again. Yet they were merely average.

That might be changing. With a road trip that included a 5-0 domination of the Coyotes in a "packed" (with blue) Jobing.com Arena on Friday and a gritty 3-2 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Saturday, the Canucks have won four in a row.

With the eight points in four games, they are now two points behind the Minnesota Wild, two points from reclaiming their seemingly rightful position atop the Northwest Division (they have lived in the Northwest penthouse for a few seasons).

In goal for each of those four games? That would be Cory Schneider, not Roberto Luongo. Schneider -- who had back-to-back shutouts in the four-game run -- was already seen by many to be the best backup in the game, rumored constantly in trade talks around the league over the last season-plus. Now the only goalie that Canucks fans want to throw around in those conversations is Luongo, the Vezina finalist from just last season.

There was already a goalie controversy in Vancouver even before Schneider began playing so well. The controversy? The fact that Luongo was the starter. That was enough to cause a civil war among the fans in British Columbia. This just makes it more heated.

It's show time

We got a taste of the Winter Classic on Saturday with the Flyers and Rangers waging battle in New York, a 2-0 Blueshirts win. Brandon Prust fought not once, but twice, much to the pleasure of John Tortorella.

It was also the first time this season that the league's highest-scoring offense, the Flyers, were grounded. It should come as no surprise that it was Henrik Lundqvist who was first to do it. They don't call him King Henrik for nothing.

But over the weekend, we also got our first taste of the HBO 24/7 series that's set to debut on Dec. 14. No, I'm not talking about the game, but HBO's 12-minute preview of the must-see show for hockey (and non-hockey) fans.

Warning: If you don't already have HBO in your cable/dish subscription plan, the following teaser might make you change your mind (video courtesy of nyrangersblog.com).

There wasn't even an appearance from Jaromir Jagr or Sean Avery in this tease, so clearly they must be saving the best for the show, a refreshing change from movie trailers that show you the only good parts of the movie.

Glory Toews

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews isn't going anywhere anytime soon. If they have their way in Chicago, he'll retire in the black and red.

But if he were to change work addresses, he just might move to Southern California.

The Blackhawks took their turn at the SoCal double dip with a game Friday in Anaheim and Saturday in Los Angeles. What did Toews do? Oh just help the 'Hawks take both games with three goals and three assists. One of those goals came 1960s style with Toews parked in the crease without a helmet and scrambling to hammer home the loose puck.

I have no doubt that when this season is all said and done, Toews will have his say in the Hart Trophy conversation.

Real quickly on the Ducks, this is just too atrocious to leave out (from Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register: The Ducks have now lost six in a row, 12 of 13 and 15 of their last 17. No other word for that than horrendous.

Florida flurry

It's not even December yet and the intrastate rivals in Florida have already met five times. For the second time in the first two months, the Lightning and Panthers had a back-to-back set beginning in Sunrise and finishing in Tampa.

This time, it was the Bolts getting the better of the Cats. One massive reason was the play of Steven Stamkos. He had three goals, including the game-winner in overtime on Friday night, and an assist. He was the best player on the ice on Saturday, no questions asked.

It continues to amaze me how little attention Stammer seems to be generating. After all, he proved last year he's one of the top three scorers in the league. He has quietly amassed 14 goals and 10 assists this season. Yet there seems to be hardly a peep about him.

A few more four-point weekends for the Lightning and I'm sure he'll start getting his due.

Capital punishment

At this point I'm starting to think this will be a regular section in the Weekend Wrap. At least as long as the Capitals continue to play the way they have been.

With their 5-1 beating in Buffalo -- where the Sabres' Zack Kassian scored his first career NHL goal -- the Caps moved to 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. In the past eight, it's been particularly awful.

Check out this stat from Stephen Whyno at the Washington Post. The Caps have now been outscored 34-17 in their past eight games. Minus-17 in the past eight? That's worthy of one big OUCH.

The upcoming week for the Caps has dates with the Blues and Penguins. So things might not get better quite yet.

Quote of the weekend

After the Penguins destroyed the Senators 6-3 and Sidney Crosby continued his stellar return with three assists, Sens forward Nick Foligno attacked Crosby for taking a headshot at him late in the game. He wasn't too happy with Sid, saying he was disappointed and more or less called Crosby a hypocrite.

While Crosby was quiet about the criticism, his coach Dan Bylsma wasn't. Here's what he had to say in response.

"We're talking about a player that bumped into our goalie three times. With the score 5-1 and intentionally going into our goalie, he can expect more than Sidney Crosby coming at him and talking to him during the game. That's how we feel about those situations. He was in our net falling over our goalie, and I don't think there was any question about the intent."

Photo: US Presswire

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 16, 2011 1:13 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 1:31 pm
 

The best NHL All-Star Game write-in candidates

By Brian Stubits

The NHL All-Star voting has commenced on NHL.com and as usual, there are some fan campaigns trying to take the process over.

The first attempt to stuff the ballot boxes was launched well before the season even began. Considering this year's game is in Ottawa, some Maple Leafs fans (specifically a blogger from Pension Plan Puppets) had the idea to mock the Senators for their mismanagement over the years and to vote in all of the ex-Sens around the league. Names like Dany Heatley, Martin Havlat, Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa -- each with a good shot to make the All-Star Game to begin with -- are the targets. Even Sens fans are getting behind it.

But the second, most recent campaign that has been launched is from the New York Rangers fan base. They want to see their shot-blocking extraordinaire defenseman Dan Girardi get an honor they feel he so richly deserves. Thus, the #VoteForGirardi hash tag was born.

The New York Rangers Blog has been the driving force behind the movement, begging all the Rangers fans to use up their 30-ballot allotment and do their best to get Girardi an All-Star nod.

Girardi was so far off the radar when the ballot was put together, Girardi isn't even on the list to vote from. If he is going to make the ballot, it will be on a write-in basis.

It's not all that surprising, but Girardi has the support of his coach John Tortorella in his All-Star worthiness.

"This league," Tortorella said. "It's because he's not pedigree. There's no pedigree there. Our league is so ass-backwards when it comes to that.

"It's not just this year that he's underrated. This guy has been a really good player, but if you don't have the pedigree in this league, they don't look at you."

I might say he's not in the running because defense isn't something that translates to All-Star status very well except in the case of goaltenders, but I digress.

The Girardi ballot snub got me to thinking: What is the best starting six you can build out of names that didn't make the ballot cut? Here's my write-in submissions.

Forwards

Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins: No-brainer, right? The kid has been on fire and is two behind Phil Kessel for the league lead in goals scored. His plus-15 is also tops in the NHL.

Kris Versteeg, Florida Panthers: Nobody is talking about Versteeg, but he has to be in the conversation for biggest surprise. His 20 points (9-11=20) tie him for the fourth most in the league.

Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings: Hard to believe the Mule isn't on the NHL-generated ballot list, so he makes the cut here. Sixteen points in 16 games (9-7=16) and a plus-6 gets the third nod.

Defensemen

Girardi, Rangers: Considering this is the genesis of the idea, Girardi gets a spot. His 42 blocks are tied for the sixth most in the NHL. And his offense is showing this season with three goals and five assists in 16 games.

Jason Garrison, Panthers: Many people don't even know the Florida blueliner, but he leads all defensemen in goals scored with seven. His booming blast from the back has been a revelation for the Panthers.

Goaltender

Jimmy Howard, Red Wings: There are a lot of great candidates here (Brian Elliott, Jhonas Enroth, Mike Smith) but I give the nod to Howard based on the fact that he's been the best of the true starters (Elliott and Enroth have split) with a .935 save percentage and 1.69 goals against average.

How'd he make the list?

R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets: Unfortunately, somebody has to be the standout face that makes you say huh? The token choices of Marc Staal and Sidney Crosby jump out considering neither has played a game this season. But I'm going to go with Umberger considering he has one goal and four assists and is a minus-6 in 17 games.

So do your civic fan duty and vote. Just don't forget about that write-in section!

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:57 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:33 pm
 

Chicago's power play will improve

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Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the struggling Chicago Blackhawks power play that may not be as bad as its early season numbers indicate.

By: Adam Gretz


The Chicago Blackhawks power play has been struggling to score goals through the first month-and-a-half of the season, which is kind of surprising given the talent they have on the on their roster. Not to mention the fact they were one of the best teams in the NHL on the man advantage last season, finishing with the fourth best power play percentage in the league.

Entering last week's game against Columbus, the Blackhawks owned the worst power play percentage in the NHL, converting on just eight percent of their chances on the man advantage. Certainly not something you would expect for a team that boasts players like Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.

During that game against the Blue Jackets, which Chicago won 6-3, the Blackhawks used an interesting alignment on their second power play unit (which we wrote about here) sending three defensemen out on to the ice -- Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Steve Montador, with Montador positioning himself in front of the net as if he were Chicago's version of Tomas Holmstrom.

Not only did the seemingly makeshift line generate some offense, it scored twice for what was Chicago's first game of the season with multiple power play goals. Two games later in another 6-3 win, this time against the Edmonton Oilers, the same group of players scored another goal on the man advantage, with Montador again standing in the slot and re-directing a Leddy one-timer into the cage. In three games this week Montador scored two power play goals and assisted on another, after scoring just two power play goals over the first 11 years of his career. Crazy stuff.

Over that three game stretch (all Chicago wins) the Blackhawks power play has converted on four of its 11 attempts to help them climb from 30th in the NHL up to 24th. In the 15 games prior the unit was just 5-for-57.

Was the power play really that bad -- or underachieving -- over the first 15 games of the season? And was the presence of Montador in front of the net all they needed to get the ship going in the right direction?

Not exactly. Though, you have to give Montador credit for filling in and doing his job extremely well. (It's worth noting that Toews told Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday that Montador's experience on the PK may be serving him well in his new role. “He does a great job of boxing guys out on the penalty kill in front of our net, so he’s a workhouse ... He’s good at getting himself open when he’s on offense.”)

Small sample sizes early in the season can create some misleading percentages, and it's been found that one of the best indicators of future power play success is the number of shots on goal a team generates (you can read about it in part here). So far this season the Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in the NHL when it comes to getting shots on goal during 5-on-4 play, and prior to their recent three-game power play explosion, they had a shooting percentage of around 5 percent on the power play.

In three different games over the first month Chicago had at least 10 power play shots on a given night and failed to score. How long could that really continue? Kane and Hossa, for example, each have 17 shots on goal at 5-on-4 with no goals (Hossa's one power play goal this year came during a 5-on-3). That, too, will not continue.

We saw something similar take place with the Detroit Red Wings a couple of weeks ago during their panic-inducing six-game losing streak when their offense all but disappeared. They were still dominating their opponents in the shots department, but were going through a run where, as a team, they had an incredibly low (and unsustainable) shooting percentage. Eventually that was going to turn around (and it did. They've since won four games in a row, scoring 18 goals).

I'm not sure how long Montador is going to keep finding the back of the net on the power play, but I am confident that as long as heavy hitters in the scoring department (Kane, Toews, Sharp, Hossa) keep generating chances and shots, the goals will start to return.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Flyers chairman Snider expects total realignment

By Brian Stubits

It's been a while since our last realignment update. When last we left you, the Flyers and Penguins were sharing their displeasure with any proposal that had them in separate divisions/conferences.

All along, the reports have said the NHL was looking to do as little as possible in regards to moving teams. In a perfect world for the powers that be, the Jets would be moved into the Central, perhaps the Blue Jackets go in the Southeast and you call it a day.

But life isn't that simple. There is the pressure of the Red Wings to move East. There is also the looming uncertainty of the Coyotes in Phoenix and whether they might move to, say, Quebec City.

Throw all of the above angles into a crockpot with the other spices affecting the situation added in and you have "total realignment" cooking, according to Flyers chairman Ed Snider.

“There has to be,” Snider told Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly about total realignment. “But our traditional rivalries will always be with us no matter how it is realigned. I’m pretty confident of that.”

Perhaps the reason for his confidence in that is his belief that the Pennsylvania teams will remain together, something which the proposal that was reportedly gaining steam did not feature.

“We’ll be together without question, if under a four conference set-up,” Snider predicted of the Flyers and Penguins. “We will have all our traditional rivals and some others in a four-conference setup.”

The question begs: what is total realignment? Could that be a situation where conferences aren't divided by east and west but instead split seemingly at random like the NFL and MLB? Does it mean a return to the four-conference format, as Snider alludes to? Does it mean Florida is joining the Northwest Division?

I think about the only thing we can safely assume is that "total realignment" would include the abolition of the six-division format currently in use. I wouldn't rule anything else out at this point (OK, I guess I'd rule out that Florida-to-Northwest, too).

If I had to put money down I'd expect to see the four-conference format that we used to enjoy, and not just because Snider hinted at it. I think it could give the league the most flexibility in the case of a Phoenix move to the East.

The idea has been discussed already of having unbalanced conferences a la Major League Baseball (although it looks like that won't remain as the Houston Astros are reportedly moving to the American League). Assuming that enough franchises would be happy with that idea, the realignment starts with 15 teams per conference and then they could easily flip to the unbalanced, 16/14 look with simply switching the Coyotes franchise to the East after their hypothetical move. If they stay, then you keep balanced conferences.

When this is all said and done, I can't imagine everybody will be happy. But such is life, the teams with the most clout -- Philadelphia and Pittsburgh each fall into this category -- are much more likely to get their way.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 9:39 am
 

Kris Russell traded to Blues for Nikita Nikitin

By: Adam Gretz

After losing for the 13th time in 15 games to start the season on Wednesday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets made their second trade in the past three days by sending defenseman Kris Russell to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Nikita Nikitin. TSN's Bob McKenzie was first to report the trade.

Russell, who did not play during the Jackets' 6-3 loss to Chicago, was a third-round pick back in 2005 and has appeared in 12 games this season, scoring two goals to go with one assist. The obvious connection here is that Russell spent time playing for new Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock during his time in Columbus between 2007 and 2009, a stretch that saw Russll play some of the most productive hockey of his career.

When the rumor mill started to buzz on Thursday night about a potential Columbus trade, the obvious speculation was centered around whether or not any deal would involve a goaltender given the struggles of Steve Mason, who surrendered six goals on 36 shots against Chicago. That isn't going to help his .869 save percentage for the season.

Not only did Columbus not acquire a goaltender -- at least not yet -- it simply swapped defenseman, and arguably downgraded.

In exchange, the Blue Jackets receive Nikitin, a fourth-round pick by the Blues in 2004. He's appeared 48 games in his brief NHL career, scoring one goal to go with eight assists. He's appeared in seven games this season and recorded no points.

Perhaps the biggest (and only) advantage in this deal for Columbus is the salary cap savings it will get by moving Russell, who is signed through next season and carries a cap hit of $1.3 million. Nikitin counts $600,000 against the cap.

For Columbus, this move comes just a couple of days after it acquired Mark Letestu from Pittsburgh in exchange for a 2012 fourth-round pick.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 10, 2011 10:05 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 10:17 pm
 

Steve Montador is here to fix 'Hawks power play



By: Adam Gretz

The Chicago Blackhawks entered Thursday's game in Columbus with the worst power play unit in the NHL, converting on just five of their 57 attempts on the man advantage. That was not going to continue, simply because the Blackhawks have too many gifted playmakers and too much firepower on the roster to allow it to continue.

Perhaps all they needed was a game with the Columbus Blue Jackets to get things going in the right direction. Or maybe they just needed to give Steve Montador, of all people, a little bit of time on the power play.

During their 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets, who continue to secure their spot at the bottom of the NHL standings, the Blackhawks had a breakout game of sorts on the power play, going 2-for-3 during the win. It was the first time all season they scored more than one power play goal in a game, which is definitely good news. The surprising development isn't so much that they finally started to score, it's that it wasn't the usual suspects -- Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa -- getting the goals. And not only were they not the ones getting the goals, they weren't even on the ice.

Both power play goals came with the same group of players on the ice: Duncan Keith, Steve Montador, Nick Leddy, Andrew Brunette and Marcus Kruger. That's three defensemen and two forwards.

Montador is probably the most surprising name on the list, seeing as how entering Thursday night he had played just 8:32 of power play time during the regular season. That's an average of just 32 seconds per game. And not only did he play nearly two minutes on the power play on Thursday, the Blackhawks had him planted in front of the net, and he ended up recording two points, including his first goal of the season (shown above) as well as a helper on a power play goal scored by Brunette.

It was Montador's first power play goal since Jan. 29, 2008, and only the third of his career, so you probably shouldn't get used to seeing this.

Nice night for a struggling Blackhawks power play unit, and another ugly night for the Blue Jackets, whose record now stands at 2-12-1.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 7:50 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 8:29 pm
 

Mark Letestu traded to Columbus

By: Adam Gretz

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Tuesday evening that they have traded center Mark Letestu to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick. Given that Letestu is a center, and the Penguins made two other roster transactions on Tuesday by sending forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Steve MacIntyre to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on conditioning assignments, it's only sure to increase the speculation and discussion as to whether or not captain Sidney Crosby is getting closer to making his season debut, even if the two events aren't related.

In 11 games this season Letestu has yet to score a goal and has recorded just one assist as his production has dropped significantly from a strong 2010-11 season that saw him score 14 goals and record 13 assists in 64 games. It was a strong rookie season that saw him play a strong all-around game and excel in the faceoff circle, finishing 16th in the NHL by winning over 55 percent of his draws.

The 26-year-old was signed by the Penguins as an undrafted free agent back in March, 2007. He's currently in the first year of a two-year contract that pays him an average annual salary of $625,000.

Based on how much they've struggled in the early part of the season, currently owning the worst record in the NHL, it was only a matter of time until the Blue Jackets did something in an effort to reverse their fortune, but the addition of Letestu, another center, is an interesting addition given that it's probably one of the deepest positions on the roster.

General manager Scott Howson told Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline, via Twitter, "We like the player. It does not fill an immediate need, but you can never have too many centers. We think he's a top-9 talent."

Letestu's ability to win faceoffs, however, should be a welcome addition for a team that's currently 17th in the NHL when it comes to success in the circle.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:34 pm
 

Ken Hitchcock's defensive influence

Hithcock1Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the defensive improvement teams and goaltenders have seen under the coaching of new St. Louis Blues bench boss Ken Hitchcock.

By: Adam Gretz


Ken Hitchcock was recently named head coach of the St. Louis Blues, taking over for Davis Payne in what was the NHL's first coaching change of the 2011-12 season. 

Throughout his coaching career Hitchcock has developed a reputation for being one of the best defensive coaches at the NHL level. It's a reputation he's earned during three different stops with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets, a tenure that's seen him win over 530 games, reach the Stanley Cup Finals twice (winning one) and coach in the Conference Finals four times.

In the 10 full seasons he's coached in the NHL, his teams have finished in the top six in goals allowed seven times, including two seasons at the top of the NHL -- once with the Dallas Stars during the 1998-99 season, and once with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2002-03. It also helps that Hitchcock's teams are typically among the best in the NHL at not allowing shots on goal. Since 1997-98, every team he's coached for a full season, including those in Columbus, has finished in the top-nine in terms of allowing the fewest shots on goal in the NHL, with seven of them finishing in the top-six.

Of course, some of that defensive success comes from the fact that some of those teams, particularly the ones in Dallas, were loaded with defensemen like Richard Matvichuk, Derian Hatcher, Daryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov, as well as a three-time Selke winner in Jere Lehtinen. But every team he's coached, whether it's been in Dallas, Philadelphia or Columbus, has been a difficult team to score against, no matter what players have made up his defense or filled the net. And goalies seem to play better for his teams than at any other point in their careers.

Just looking at the season's that he coached a full season, here's a look at each team's overall save percentage (compared to the league average) and where they've ranked in total goals allowed:

Ken Hitchcock Defensive Record (Full Season Coaching Only)
Team Year Save Percentage League Avg. Dif. Goals All. Rank
Dallas Stars 1996-97 .906 .905 +.001 3rd
Dallas Stars 1997-98 .913 .906 +.007 2nd
Dallas Stars 1998-99 .915 .908 +.007 1st
Dallas Stars 1999-00 .920 .904 +.016 3rd
Dallas Stars 2000-01 .910 .903 +.007 2nd
Philadelphia Flyers 2002-03 .920 .903 +.017 1st
Philadelphia Flyers 2003-04 .912 .911 +.001 6th
Philadelphia Flyers 2005-06 .896 .901 -.005 17th
Columbus Blue Jackets 2007-08 .910 .909 +.001 9th
Columbus Blue Jackets 2008-09 .906 .908 -.002 9th

In eight of Hitchcock's 10 full seasons, his team has posted a save percentage above the league average, and in some cases significantly above the league average. And while it's true he's had some strong goaltenders over the years, he also had the best defensive team in the NHL in 2002-03 with a Flyers team that used Roman Cechmanek and Robert Esche as its two primary goaltenders.

But what about the individual goalies? How much of a boost do they see while playing in what has traditionally been a tight-checking, defense-first style of play?

When looking at Steve Mason's recent struggles in Columbus I made mention of how much better he performed during his rookie season, when Hitchcock was in charge, and how his play rapidly dropped following Hitchcock's exit from central Ohio. Let's look at seven goalies that spent significant time playing under Hitchcock's systems and saw an improvement in how they performed within them, compared to how they performed under other coaches throughout their careers.

Goalies With Hitchcock vs. Without
Player Team Save % With Save % Without Dif
Steve Mason Columbus Blue Jackets .908 .895 +.013
Pascal Leclaire Columbus Blue Jackets .908 .900 +.008
Robert Esche Philadelphia Flyers .905 .890 +.015
Roman Cechmanek Philadelphia Flyers .925 .916 +.009
Ed Belfour Dallas Stars .909 .904 +.005
Marty Turco Dallas Stars .922 .908 +.014
Roman Turek Dallas Stars .910 .906 +.004

Good news for Jaroslav Halak, perhaps?The Blues' goalie has been off to a dreadful start to the 2011-12 season (and has been outplayed by backup Brian Elliott) and if there's a goaltender in the league that could use any sort of a positive boost right now, it's definitely Halak, who gets the start on Tuesday night in Hitchcock's debut against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com