Posted on: November 5, 2011 9:40 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 9:48 pm
By: Adam Gretz
It would be unfair to blame all of the Columbus Blue Jackets problems on Steve Mason. When your team has won just two of its first 14 games that is not the fault of any one individual player or coach. It is an entire organizational failure from top to bottom.
But Mason is helping to put his team in an early hole nearly every single game he plays. Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline Tweeted one of the most unbelievable stats of the season tonight when he dropped this nugget of knowledge: Mason has allowed a goal on first four shots in 10 of 13 games this season.
Basically, whenever Mason starts a game it's almost as if Columbus is spotting the opposition a one goal lead from the start. They're starting the race with a car that's sitting on four cinder blocks. That is no way to win hockey games. That stretch, of course, continued on Saturday night when he surrendered two goals on the first two shots he faced during the first period of their embarrassing 9-2 loss in Philadelphia.
Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel finally pulled Mason after a Maxime Talbot goal made it 3-0 with less than seven minutes to play in the opening period. His backup, Allen York, didn't perform any better and promptly surrendered two goals on five shots to close out the period. In what can only be described as rearranging the deck chairs, Mason returned to the crease for the start of the second period and gave up another three goals.
The Blue Jackets have a lot of difficult decisions to make regarding the future of their team, and it's already been reported that the head coach and general manager could soon be replaced. But what are they going to do about Mason? Four years ago he led the NHL in shutouts and took home the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, helping lead Columbus to its first and only trip to the playoffs, and looked to be one of the up-and-coming goaltenders in the NHL.
Since then it's been all down hill, while his overall save percentage dropped all the way down to .901 in each of the past two seasons, well below the league average. His even-strength save percentages of .911 in each of the past two seasons have ranked 28th and 29th respectively out of goalies that have started at least 30 games in each season.
If it wasn't already obvious, it's starting to look like that debut season may have had more to do with the system of Ken Hitchcock than anything else.
This isn't meant to make Mason the scapegoat for all of the Blue Jackets problems, because right now the entire team is a mess. But not only has he been struggling, he hasn't played anywhere near the level of even an average (or even below average) starting goaltender, and it's hard to see where the Blue Jackets go from here in the crease.
Posted on: November 5, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 4:49 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Mike Keenan spent one season behind the bench coaching the New York Rangers, and what a glorious season it turned out to be.
It was the 1993-94 campaign, and it was the season the Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought thanks to a classic Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the Finals.
Keenan, however, did not return to the Rangers bench the following season, even with the championship, due to a dispute with then-general manager Neil Smith, and instead moved on to coach the St. Louis Blues for the three seasons.
On Friday, TSN's Darren Dreger reported, via Twitter, that Keenan will be returning -- sort of -- to the Rangers bench this December when he coaches the Rangers alumni during the Winter Classic alumni game that will take place on Dec. 31 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, against a team made up of Flyers alumni.
Here's hoping he makes four random goalie changes in one period, just for old times sake.
In stops with eight different teams throughout his coaching career Keenan recorded 631 wins with the Flyers, Blackhawks, Rangers, Blues, Canucks, Bruins, Panthers and Flames, making the playoffs 13 times in 20 seasons.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 11:04 am
Edited on: November 4, 2011 1:09 pm
Let's take you back to the summer for a second. The Philadelphia Flyers, after overhauling their roster, announced the signing of James van Riemsdyk to a brand-spanking new six-year, $25.5 million contract. It signified that with the departure of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, JVR was expected to be one of the big pieces moving forward.
So why was Van Riemsdyk scratched for Thursday's shootout loss to the Devils? It might not be the lower-body injury sustained in Philly's recent game in Buffalo that the Flyers gave as a reason.
Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports the reason could be of a much different variety: coach Peter Laviolette's doghouse.
The source also told Seravalli that Van Riemsdyk "could have played and expected to play."
Laviolette later said "it was poor reporting" on Friday when asked about the situation. Whether it's false or true, I wouldn't expect Laviolette to say anything to the contrary.
In the 12 games he has played this season, JVR has five goals and three assists. Not too shabby.
It would seem that Laviolette is either a) truly upset with Van Riemsdyk or b) trying to play some psychological games to get through to JVR.
I'll be interested to see any more on this down the line. I doubt the Van Riemsdyk angle is played out much in public moving forward and he'll probably be back in the lineup the next time out. But where it could have an impact is in the dynamics of the team. Unexpectedly scratching the team's second-leading goal scorer isn't always great for team morality and the views of a coach.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 3, 2011 10:39 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 10:42 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The New Jersey Devils picked up a 4-3 shootout win in Philadelphia on Thursday night, thanks to a goal from Patrick Elias in the third round of the shootout. Not only did it give the Devils an important win within the division, it also may have bailed out the NHL for potentially blowing a call earlier in the shootout.
In the second round, with the Devils already up 1-0 in the tiebreaking skills challenge, Philadelphia's Danny Briere beat Devils goalie Johan Hedberg with a nifty stop-and-start move. The play had to be reviewed because there was a question as to whether or not the puck came to a complete stop before he shot it, which is not allowed according to the NHL's shootout/penalty shot rules.
The puck must be kept in motion towards the opponent’s goal line and once it is shot, the play shall be considered complete. No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind (an exception being the puck off the goal post or crossbar, then the goalkeeper and then directly into the goal), and any time the puck crosses the goal line or comes to a complete stop, the shot shall be considered complete.
Here's a look at Briere's goal (.gif via HFBoards):
Did the puck stop? It's certainly close. And if you're wondering why the spin-o-rama move is allowed, which does not invovle the puck continuing to move forward, it's considered to be a legal move (Rule 24.2) because it involves the puck moving in a continuous motion. Did Briere's move involve a continuous motion?
After a brief discussion between the referees and the NHL's war room in Toronto (you don't often see shootout plays reviewed) it was determined that it was, in fact, a good goal. The NHL's situation room offered the following explanation: "On the second shootout attempt by Philadelphia, video review upheld the referee's call on the ice that Daniel Briere kept the puck in motion and that the puck never came to a complete stop and thus it was a good goal."
There appears to be plenty of room for debate on that one.
Posted on: November 3, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:26 am
Want to take part in NHL history when the first outdoor game is played in the City of Brotherly Love to open the new year? OK, but it'll cost ya!
Adam Gretz has already gone over the difficulties of buying tickets to the game through the official avenues, i.e. the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and NHL. People in Philly just a tad angry with the plan.
So what about Stub Hub? Sure, you can get tickets there ... starting at $522.90. Look again in 10 minutes and the price is probably higher.
I'm somebody who still loves to go to a sporting event live. Hockey in person? Love it. Football from the stadium? Can't get enough. NBA from the arena? I can at least watch that. Being at the event just makes things better.
But this? I don't see who would want to spend that kind of money to sit in freezing temperatures so far away from the rink that you can't probably even see the game.
Of course you could always sit in the Hall of Fame Club at Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park. Those seats are only going for $4,499.00.
H/t to NYRangersblog.com
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 3, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: November 3, 2011 3:57 pm
Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres was suspended four games by Brendan Shanahan on Thursday for head-butting. The play in question came on Wednesday night early in the first period when Kaleta hit Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek.
As has become standard procedure, Shanahan released a video explaining his decision in detail.
While using the term head-butt is certainly applicable, I'd like to describe it more as a battering ram. With a scrum on the boards about five minutes into the game, it appears as if Kaleta just became impatient. He doesn't have time to wait for the puck to be jarred free. So he essentially powers his head straight into Voracek's face.
The video clearly shows ... Shanahan notes that Kaleta has been penalized for thinking he was a torpedo before. One of the big contributing factors in these suspensions or lack thereof is prior history, and, well, Kaleta has a history.
Also, the new in word from Shanahan is intent. Judging Kaleta's past actions and Kaleta seemingly stepping back and addressing the situation with Voracek before the head-butt led him to conclude this was intentional.
It might seem rather innocuous at first. It was so indiscreet, fans were trying to guess what Kaleta did before the NHL officially announced what the hearing was for. I saw some guess a slashing, another for elbowing. For the vast majority of players, this might get them a stern warning or a one-game suspension/fine. Kaleta isn't in the vast majority.
I feel pretty safe in saying that Kaleta might now be the most hated player in hockey with Matt Cooke having turned a corner. With Shanahan calling for a hearing on the matter, it's only a matter of hours before Kaleta gets his first feel of the Shanahammer.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 2, 2011 4:13 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:36 pm
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: how big of a drop has Phoenix experience in goal with Mike Smith replacing Ilya Bryzgalov
By: Adam Gretz
A lot has been made about the early struggles of Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia to start the season, but there hasn't been much discussion about the goalie -- Mike Smith -- that's been asked to replace him in Phoenix, and how much of a dropoff there has been from one season to the next.
Bryzgalov had an outstanding run in Phoenix after being claimed on waivers during the 2007-08 season and proved himself to be one of the better goaltenders in the NHL. We know he's better than Smith, and that the Coyotes would have some large shoes to fill in his absence, but how much of an impact has the drop from him to Smith had on the Coyotes through the first 10 games of the season?
The answer so far: not that much.
When I spoke to Smith over the summer shortly after he signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes, one of the things we talked about was head coach Dave Tippett and his defensive system and how favorable such a system can be for a goalie. Said Smith back in July: "There are systems that are favorable to goalies because you're going to get more shots from the outside. There's not going to be as many scoring chances from the great scoring chance areas in the middle of the ice. For me, with my size and my ability, if I feel like I can get a lot of shots from the outside, I'm going to do my best and have a good opportunity to make those saves."
Of course, that's not really unique to the Coyotes. Every team in the NHL wants to keep the play away from the middle of the ice and limit the number of shots they allow to actually get on net. After all, you're never going to hear a coach say, "yeah, our goal is to give up a ton of shots and scoring chances and let our goalie try to bail us out every shift."
Still, under Tippett's watch the Coyotes have been a very smart, disciplined team defensively and not only have had some underrated defensemen, they've also had a lot of excellent defensive forwards, all of which makes a goaltenders job just a little bit easier. And goaltenders have had their share of success playing for Tippett in Dallas and Phoenix.
Bryzgalov's two best seasons in the NHL came while playing under Tippett's system in Phoenix. Smith had previous experience with him in Dallas for parts of two seasons in the mid-2000's, a stretch that also produced some of his best hockey at the NHL level. And while we're on the subject of coaches, don't discount the impact of goalie coach Sean Burke. I've had more than one Coyotes player tell me over the past year-and-a-half that Burke had a positive impact on Bryzgalov's development, while Smith himself said he was looking forward to the oppurtunity to learn from him.
So how much of a difference are we talking about this season with Smith in goal?
Here's a look at the performance of the Coyotes goalies at this point in the season over the past three seasons. The goalies in each season: 2011-12 -- Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera; 2010-11 -- Ilya Bryzgalov and Jason Labarbera; 2009-10 -- Ilya Bryzgalov and Jason Labarbera.
The 2009-10 gave up so few goals at that point mainly because they weren't allowing any shots on goal, taking quite a bit of pressure off the two goalies. So far this season there has been a slight been a drop from where they were a year ago, which should be expected (again, Smith isn't as good as Bryzgalov) but it hasn't been all that large.
Actually, it's been quite insignificant. At least not as large as the $8 million difference in salary for this season would indicate. At the current pace the Coyotes would only give up an extra two or three goals per 500 even-strength shots (which can be a more accurate measure of goaltending talent). And if that turns out to be the case, how much are they really going to miss Bryzgalov?
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:32 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The first month of the NHL season is in the books and we're still trying to figure out which teams are good, which teams are bad and which hot start is for real and which one is simply an early season mirage. Let's check in with a progress report on some notable players and teams for the month of October.
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's pretend, just hypothetically, that Phil Kessel is able stay near the top of the NHL's scoring list all.
Now, you shouldn't expect him to maintain his current pace (his shooting percentage is currently 26 percent -- that's probably not sustainable for a full season), but what if he were to do something completely unexpected like, say, win the NHL's scoring title and help lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Would that do anything to change your opinion of the the trade that brought him to Toronto? Should it? Brian Burke has already said Boston won the trade because it has a Stanley Cup, but that trade -- which landed the Bruins two first-round draft picks, including a No. 2 overall selection used on Tyler Seguin, and a second-round pick -- had little to do with that championship. Seguin played about 12 minutes a game and scored 11 goals during the regular season, and only appeared in two postseason series. It's not like he was the driving force behind that cup run. The steep price Toronto paid still overshadow the fact that Kessel is a pretty darn good (three straight years of 30-plus goals) player and still only 24 years of age.
Even if he doesn't maintain this current pace he's been the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL this season and one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs are off to their best start in a decade, and that's worthy of a top-grade for the first month.
Other players and teams earning A's for the month of October
Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) -- had one of the best months of any goaltender in the NHL, including three consecutive shutouts; James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- for a Penguins team that continues to deal with injuries, Neal has been their best overall player and looks to be the young goal-scoring winger they've been searching for for years; Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) -- He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average for what has been, so far, the toughest team in the NHL to score against; and the Dallas Stars -- winners of eight of their first 11 games, thanks in large part to the play of Kari Lehtonen.
Ottawa Senators: For the first two weeks of the season the Ottawa Senators looked to be every bit as awful as they were expected to be.
Over the next two weeks? They won six games in a row and end the month two game over .500. Even through the awful stretch to start the season the Senators were impressive with their determination to never quit in a game, regardless of the score, resulting in acouple of late come-from-behind victories (against Minnesota and the Rangers).
They've been outscored 27-15 over the first two periods but have outscored their opponents 21-18 in the third period. It's not likely they'll be able to continue to rely on huge third period comebacks to get wins, and they're going to have to start getting some better starts in games so they're not constantly trying to play catch up, but a 7-5 record at this point is more than could have (or should have) been expected.
Other players and teams earning B's for the month of October
Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) -- He's been the best player on a Nashville team that is losing the possession battle just about every single night and is facing more shots than any other goaltender in the league. He's keeping the Predators in it while they search for some offense; Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia Flyers) -- Three years away from the NHL and at 39 years of age Jagr opened the season and showed everybody that he can still play at the highest level with a point-per-game pace for the Flyers.
Detroit Red Wings: The A-plus honor student that brings home the rare and unexpected C. You know they can do better, and you expect them to do better. (And they will do better.) But after starting the season 5-0 the Red Wings dropped four in a row by a combined margin of 16-4. That streak includes a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, a game that was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first victory of the season. Their defense definitely took a hit when Brian Rafalski retired over the summer, and they're not the defensive stalwart they were a few years ago, but they should be better than they've looked over the first month.
Other players and teams earning C's for the month of October
Montreal Canadiens -- Injuries to their defense, as well as top forward Michael Cammalleri, didn't help, but a rather uninspiring start for the Canadiens that only started to turn around when an assistant coach was forced to take the fall.
Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula spent a ton of money this summer in an effort to make the Sabres a Stanley Cup contender, and one of his biggest investments, Ville Leino, has been a complete non-factor through the first month of the season. In 10 games the 28-year-old Leino has scored just one goal to go with one assist and has recorded just five shots on goal, or one every other game. He's definitely talented, but based on what he's actually produced at the NHL level the six-year, $27 million contract was, at the very least, one hell of a gamble. And so far it's a losing one.
Other plays and teams earning D's for the month of October
Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) -- And he's probably right on the line between D and F. Let's just say this: the only goaltender in the NHL that has a worse save percentage entering November is Ottawa's backup, Alex Auld.
Columbus Blue Jackets: An offseason with such excitement and a season that seemed to have so much promise was opened with … the worst start in franchise history and the worst record in the NHL. There is obviously time to turn it around -- and I still believe the Jackets can -- and the two big offseason acquisitions have been limited so far, which isn't helping things. James Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, while Jeff Carter, acquired from the Flyers, was limited to just five games in October due to a foot injury, scoring zero goals. Still … the worst start in franchise history?
Other players and teams earning F's for the month of October
The Boston Bruins -- Defending champs with the second-worst record in the league.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Gretz, Boston Bruins, Brian Burke, Brian Rafalski, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oilers, James Neal, James Wisniewski, Jaromir Jagr, Jaroslav Halak, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, Kari Lehtonen, Los Angeles Kings, Michael Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ottawa Senators, Pekka Rinne, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Seguin, Ville Leino