Adam Proteau, currently the brand's columnist/writer, has worked for The Hockey News since 2002 and won the Professional Hockey Writers' award for best column in 2006. He also won the Esso Medal of Achievement for most improved player as a 13-year-old at the 'A' level in 1985, but he's less proud of that.
One of the things that keeps NHL GMs awake at night is the prospect of facing a white-hot goaltender in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Your team could be a President’s Trophy winner, but if you follow up regular-season domination with a showdown against a netminder who gets in your players’ heads via consistently outstanding performances, the only thing you can do is sit by helplessly and wish you had a goalie who had as much impact on the outcome of games.
This season, there are five (or so) of those type of performers quite capable of giving opponents nightmares in the playoffs. Here are the top five goaltenders to be absolutely petrified of (unless they play for your favorite team) in the 2015 post-season:
5. Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators. The man known as “The Hamburglar” has the city of Ottawa in the palm of his hand thanks to his unreal 14-0-1 record – and if he can lead the Sens to a Wild Card post-season berth, there’s every chance his magic continues and he plays an instrumental role with a special playoff run. People are going to be waiting for his Cinderella start to go full pumpkin, but the 27-year-old Hammond is playing with house money in this first chapter of his NHL career. As a soon-to-be restricted free agent, he’s also got a clear financial incentive to stay hungry and capitalize on the opportunity the fates have provided him.
The Coyotes are in the headlines these days mostly regarding their odds of drafting junior phenom Connor McDavid, but their players aren’t thinking about tanking the remainder of the season. And there was no better example of that than Yotes goalie Mike Smith, who made an astonishing pad save on Red Wings center Riley Sheahan late in regulation Tuesday and went on to deny Detroit a second point in overtime and the shootout in an improbable 5-4 Arizona win.
The Wings and Coyotes were tied at four goals apiece in Detroit with approximately three minutes left in the third period when Sheahan capitalized on a Coyotes turnover and snapped off a quick shot that wasn’t easy for Smith to stop. The rebound came back to Sheahan, and Smith’s second save – with his right leg stretching out to prevent what surely would’ve been the go-ahead goal – was simply spectacular: Read more
Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm did something Tuesday very few NHLers have been able to do this year – put a puck past Canadiens superstar goalie Carey Price – and he did so from his knees, moments after being tripped.
The teams had yet to score in Nashville as they approached the midway point of the first period. But Ekholm recorded the first goal of the night after picking up the puck just outside Montreal’s blueline, splitting through a pair of Habs defenders – and after one of them (center Tomas Plekanec) tripped him on the way by, he still managed to beat Price blocker side for his sixth goal and 16th point of the season: Read more
In a new interview with NHL.com, Wild winger Thomas Vanek says the New York Islanders’ pending move to Brooklyn played a part in his decision to leave that franchise as an unrestricted free agent and sign with Minnesota.
“It was close in February  and I thought about it long and hard,” Vanek said. “There was two factors; I made a choice that I really wanted to go to free agency. But after being here for a while I loved it here. The one thing I didn’t like was the move to Brooklyn. I think if the rink would have been built here, it should be here on the island. There was probably a good chance I still would be here.”
There are Islanders fans who no doubt read those words and began stretching their hate muscles in preparation for booing Vanek at Nassau Coliseum when the Wild come to visit. But given the way things have turned out, that’s the wrong approach. Isles fans should be thankful the team moved to Brooklyn, because if Vanek had stuck around and accepted the reported seven-year, $49-million contract offer GM Garth Snow put before him last season (before dealing the then-30-year-old to Montreal last March), the organization would have come to rue the decision. Read more
As evidenced by the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 loss to Minnesota Monday – their 11th defeat in the past 13 games – they’re staggering to the conclusion of the 2014-15 season. And with news the team failed to sell out the Air Canada Centre for the Wild’s visit with the lowest attendance for hockey (18,366) since that building opened in 1999, it’s clear fans in Toronto are tired of seeing them.
But don’t take that to mean Leafs fans are about to abandon this organization. There may be a handful of non-sellouts here and there (including a potential back-to-back non-sellout when Florida comes to town on Thursday), but this will not be Chicago in the dark Bill Wirtz years. The team has been smart enough to recognize how ludicrous a ticket price increase would look after this debacle of a season, so they’ve announced they’re freezing prices at current rates. And as team president Brendan Shanahan’s plan becomes more apparent in the months and years to come, fans will find reasons to fill the rink to the ACC’s officially listed 18,800-seat capacity for hockey games. Read more
Hamburgers and hockey are enjoying a mutually-beneficial relationship of late. And in a new ad for McDonald’s, Montreal Canadiens star left winger Max Pacioretty puts a fun twist on the trend by going undercover to sell burgers to fans of one of the team’s biggest rivals, the Boston Bruins.
In the ad (seen here in its Quebec version and via Reddit user Microdinosaurus and Youtube.com channel Grenierauxnouvelles), Pacioretty jumps on a private jet to Boston and manages to quietly get Bruins fans to say they enjoy the burger, then drops their jaws by revealing who he really is: Read more
Former NHL right winger Stephen Peat, who appeared in 130 games for the Washington Capitals from 2001-2005, surrendered to Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia last week and stands accused of arson in connection with an alleged attempt to burn down a Brookswood, B.C. home.
Originally from Princeton, B.C., Peat reported to the RCMP March 19 and has been in their custody since that time. The 35-year-old is charged with one count of arson with a disregard for human life, and one count of arson causing damage to property. He had a court appearance scheduled for the morning of March 23. Read more
Like every minor league team, the Los Angeles Kings’ American League affiliate in Manchester, N.H., is not above having a promotional night with non-hockey elements to draw in different groups of fans. But they got a little more than they hoped for Sunday against the Portland Pirates when one of the most iconic characters in movie history – Star Wars villain Darth Vader – took an unfortunate spill on the ice.
As part of what was billed as a birthday party for their mascot, Max the Lion, he was joined on the ice by Vader to help drop the puck in the ceremonial faceoff. Before he got there, though, this happened: (via AHL vice-president of communications Jason Chaimovitch)
Vader may be one of the film world’s all-time biggest bad guys, but his dark powers apparently can’t even keep him upright on a sheet of ice (or keep his helmet on his head). Bring your ‘A’ game next time, Anakin.