Tag:Matt Hackett
Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:52 pm

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

By Brian Stubits

This could be interesting. For people who like boring hockey, this Saturday's game in Philadelphia could be just for you.

Now that we've really sold the game, let me clarify. This weekend the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers will meet for the second time this season. And for some reason, the first game was a bit memorable -- or forgettable, depending on your viewpoint.

Who can forget when the Flyers refused to play into the Lightning's 1-3-1 trap and the Lightning refused to forecheck? What resulted was the biggest stalemate heard 'round the hockey world. Since then there have been discussions about the validity of Tampa Bay's defensive system. Should it even be allowed?

Here's a refresher on what that looked like.

Of course that's all silly talk. It obviously isn't hurting teams from scoring against the Lightning. The Bolts enter the weekend have surrendered the third-most goals in the Eastern Conference.

I highly doubt we'll see a replay of that ugly display in Tampa Bay from earlier this season, especially if Peter Laviolette wises up and remembers he has arguably the most explosive offense in the game. It's not the time to over-coach when you have Claude Giroux on your team.

There were a lot of questions about the Flyers entering this season. Would Ilya Bryzgalov be the missing piece? Can Jaromir Jagr still perform at a high level? (The answers are still undetermined and unequivocally yes).

But the one that everybody wondered about the most was who, exactly, was going to replace the scoring load that was carried by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards? Some assumed it would be James van Riemsdyk, others thought Danny Briere. I think the most popular answer, though, would have been Claude Giroux.

Well those folks were right, but I'm not sure they knew how right they would be.

Not only is Giroux leading the Flyers in points (by 14, no less), he leads the entire NHL in that category, passing early leader Phil Kessel.

It's a bit insulting to call this a breakout season for Giroux, after all, he did have 76 points last season, but it is just that. His 16 goals through just 27 games already brings him within 10 his career-best 25 one season ago. He's on pace for close to 100 points.

Oh, and he's only 23 (he turns 24 in January).

So here's a bit of a plea to Laviolette: let your offense go. Teams aren't having trouble scoring against the Lightning (the goalies share a good chunk of that blame, too). That's a particularly good idea with Giroux around.

Then again ...

"We might sit there for four or five minutes at a time," Laviolette was quoted as saying.

Be prepared for another night of non-action.

Oh my Michalek

Phil Kessel has received a lot of the early season headlines for his goal scoring. Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos haven't been getting the same amount of pub, but people know about their scoring prowess too.

Alex Ovechkin has received a lot of talk too, but for his lack of goal scoring.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to take this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, this time on the NHL's goal-scoring leader, Milan Michalek of the Ottawa Senators.

Maybe it's because he plays all the way up in Ottawa. Perhaps it's because the Senators had such low expectations this season. Whatever the reason, the player the Senators acquired in the Dany Heatley trade is blossoming into a major player and there's little attention being paid to him.

Michalek gets a bigger stage to make an impression on Saturday when the Sens will host the Vancouver Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.

How Wild is this?

The Minnesota Wild are the best team in the NHL based on the standings. It's impossible to give them enough credit right now.

Especially when they head to Phoenix having won six games in a row and completing the California sweep for the first time in franchise history.

Before the season began, how many people really, truly believed that when these teams met on Dec. 9, they would both be in first place in their respective divisions? That's simply ... wild.

Is there any doubt who the front-runner is for the Jack Adams Award in the NHL right now? Sure, Kevin Dineen of the Panthers has to be in the conversation, but as of this moment it's clearly Mike Yeo on the Minnesota bench.

Not even injuries have been slowing his team down. Lose two goaltenders? No problem. Just call up Matt Hackett from the AHL to make his NHL debut and watch him go more than five periods before allowing a goal. Have a defense few people outside of Minnesota can't recognize? No worries. The Wild are still incredibly stingy when it comes to giving up goals.

Pretty soon, people won't be able to ignore the Wild, no matter how much they might try.

Return of the matinee (and Kaberle)

Now that the college football season is done -- seems as convenient a reason as any -- Saturday matinees are returning to the NHL schedule. Last week it was the Canadiens visiting the Kings. This week it's again the Canadiens, this time visiting the Devils.

The game will also be the debut of Tomas Kaberle with the Canadiens. After being traded to Montreal on Friday for Jaroslav Spacek, this will be Kaberle's first opportunity to change the minds of fans of his new team: that he doesn't stink.

That's going to be a hard task, considering the view of Kaberle league-wide is so low. You know it's bad when a GM who signed you a few months ago essentially admits to it being a mistake.

It's also big for Jacques Martin, the Habs coach. The talk surrounding his job security had died down after the Habs had appeared to right the ship, but it's starting to leak again. And with that, people are wondering about Martin's status once anew. Beating the Devils, a team they are battling with at the bottom of the playoff picture right now, would be a helpful start.

We're going streaking!

These are your streaks at play going into the weekend.

Flyers: The Flyers enter Saturday's game with the Bolts having won four straight.

Florida Panthers: People are still stunned by them, and they take a three-game run into Buffalo and then, if it survives, Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Winnipeg Jets: Yes, another Southeast Division team. The Jets are starting to make a push to stay relevant all season and have won three in a row. Their weekend consists of a game vs. the Hurricanes and at the Red Wings.

Wild: No team is playing better than Minnesota in the NHL. None. As mentioned, they head to Phoenix with a six-game win streak in hand.

Vancouver Canucks: Don't look now, but the defending Western Conference champs are starting to roll. Their streak is three games going into Ottawa.

Los Angeles Kings: They are the only team who come into the weekend with a losing streak in the works. They'll have a chance to snap that against the Stars on Saturday.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 7, 2011 10:21 am

Wild see Setoguchi, Harding injured in win

By Brian Stubits

Somehow, the Minnesota Wild keep on winning. Outshot by the San Jose Sharks 42-21 in San Jose? No problem, Mike Yeo's team leaves the Bay Area with a 2-1 win. Losing a couple more key players to injury? We'll see if they can overcome that, too.

While they came out with the two points against the Sharks on Tuesday night, they didn't make it out of the Tank with two healthy goalies or a ready-to-go Devin Setoguchi. First on the former Shark, Setoguchi, from Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

But now the bad news: Devin Setoguchi looks like he suffered a serious right leg injury. I think knee, but we will see. He was wearing a soft cast on his right leg under his pants after the game, limping badly and being consoled by folks.

Yeo had no update after the game, but I'm sure we'll get one Wednesday. This will be the second consecutive visit the Wild lost a top-6 forward in San Jose. Guillaume Latendresse has missed 13 games with a concussion since being here.

If it's as bad as Russo thinks it might be, it's a tough blow for the Wild, who are still hanging strong atop the NHL standings. Setoguchi was acquired in one of a handful of trades this offseason between the Wild and Sharks. On the season thus far he has eight goals and five assists for Minnesota.

Amazingly, his eight goals are tied for the team high along with Dany Heatley, Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck, all of which makes this success for the Wild seem all the more unlikely. Two games shy of 30, the NHL's top team doesn't have a double-digit goal scorer. Only Clutterbuck, with 26 games played, is on pace to score more than 25 goals this season.

A large part of the success, then, has been coming from the defense, particularly the goaltending. The combination of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding has been stellar this season. The problem is, at this moment neither appears to be healthy. Backstrom was already out with a lower-body injury, so it compounded matters when Harding had to leave Tuesday's game with what might have been a concussion, or possibly a neck injury. It was a little friendly fire as he was hit in the head by Nick Schultz in the opening minutes of the game.

That brought on Matt Hackett, who was superb. He was unbeatable, stopping all 34 shots by the Sharks in his first NHL appearance. If the kid can play like that a couple more times, the Wild will have some tough choices to make. But for the moment, it's an amazing luxury to have when goalies are going down.

Next thing you know the Wild are going to bring in a 51-year-old beer league goalie or something.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: November 23, 2011 7:24 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 9:52 pm

Wild sign 51-year-old goalie for Wednesday game

By Brian Stubits

The Minnesota Wild found themselves in a pinch on Wednesday afternoon when it came down that starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom wouldn't be in attendance. Most teams would just call up a goalie from the AHL to serve as the backup.

Minnesota did exactly what most teams would do, and they called to Houston to bring up Matt Hackett to be the backup to Joshua Harding on Wednesday. The only problem? Hackett didn't even get into the Minneapolis airport until a half hour before the game. That's not entirely helpful with the pregame skate or any situation where Harding would go down.

That's where the pinch comes in. As a result, they turned to the beer leagues and signed 51-year-old Paul Deutsch to dress for Wednesday’s game against the Predators. Here is the full story of the signing from Michael Russo at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, complete with quotes like this:

“I actually was shaking while I was signing [the contract],” said Deutsch, who filled in “Minnesota Roosevelt Junior Varsity defenseman -- 1978,” as his previous team on the contract.

Unfortunately for those hoping for the underdog story, Hackett did make it to the arena just in time, meaning Deutsch was a scratch.

The Wild aren't complete stranger with Deutsch. He has been brought in to help the team in a tight situation before, serving as a goaltender in practices for the Wild. This time it will be in front of a little bigger crowd.

If he would have had the chance to play, he might have signed another contract by the end of the night: one for a movie. Deutsch is a screen printer for his day job. But making the story even more incredible? Deutsch didn't start playing goalie until he was 37 years old.

“When you play senior men’s hockey and you show up to the rink and there is no goalie, there is no game,” Deutsch said. “So that’s how I started playing. I was tired of coming, walking into the room and, ‘Oh rats.’”

The funny part is that Deutsch already planned to go to XCel Energy Center for the game anyway, just as a fan with a youth hockey team. Well, he'll come away with a pretty good souvenir.

Here is a story the Wild ran on their website from before profiling Deutsch.

Photo: Getty Images

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