Success in the faceoff circle is a key element in today’s puck possession crazed NHL. The Bruins have the best in Patrice Bergeron, but the Blackhawks made a bold statement when they acquired Arizona center Antoine Vermette in a deadline deal to solidify their status as one of the deepest teams down the middle.
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.
As much as a story like the resurgent New York Islanders or the Andrew Hammond-led Ottawa Senators pleases us, there will always be teams or players that fail to meet expectations.
Be it simply a down year or a minor – or major, when it comes to a team – injury, no NHL season goes by without teams and players facing their fair share of difficulties. If they respond positively, they’re heralded for their efforts. But, if things go sideways in a hurry, we’re left wondering how exactly our predictions could have been so wrong.
And these are the predictions that were the farthest off — the teams and players still making us wonder how prognostications could have been so misguided. These are the 10 most surprising struggles of 2014-15:
The Calder Trophy is surely the most prized and special of NHL awards. If you plan on winning the trophy, you have to be spectacular at a young age and pretty lights-out right off the hop. And no matter how dominant you were in capturing the Calder, young man, you’ll never be able to win it again.
There have been a lot of exceptional freshman seasons over the years. Three first-year NHLers were so good, they won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. Wayne Gretzky, Nels Stewart and Herb Gardiner are the centerpieces of our all-time all-rookie team, because, quite frankly, you can’t do any better as a rookie than also being named best player in the league. Read more
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is having a year for the history books. Almost singlehandedly, with unthinkable saves and stellar play, he’s guiding Montreal to the playoffs.
For his efforts, there’s talk of Price not only taking home the Vezina Trophy as the season’s best goaltender, but the potential for him to earn the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. That Price is being recognized for what he has done this season is only right – if Montreal makes it deep into the playoffs, it might be one of the greatest goaltending seasons in modern hockey history.
But for every Carey Price, there’s a role player who has done their part to perfection, making the difference that doesn’t necessarily show up on the score sheet, but translates to victories in the long run. These are the NHL’s unsung heroes, and here are the top five this season: Read more
Thursday night, Jaromir Jagr further solidified his Hall of Fame credentials by passing Phil Esposito for fifth all-time in career goals.
By scoring his 718th career goal, a beautiful snipe from the far circle, Jagr moved 13 goals behind Marcel Dionne as the fourth greatest goal scorer in NHL history. It’s not unthinkable that he could surpass Dionne if he plays at least one more year, and, if he were to get incredibly hot, 23 goals would tie him with Brett Hull for third all-time.
To the matter at hand, though: when you score 718 goals, there are bound to be more than a few beauties. Jagr’s list of career highlights is nearly endless and these are the 10 best goals of his career, almost all of which came in a Penguins uniform: Read more
In Wednesday’s win over the New York Rangers, Chicago backup netminder Scott Darling showed exactly why the Blackhawks inked him to a two-year extension. And, with the win, he made the backup goaltending job in Chicago that much more interesting.
With the shutout – the first of Darling’s professional career – it adds more credence to the belief that Antti Raanta’s time might be up as Corey Crawford’s backup. But the move from starting AHL netminder to NHL second-stringer, which Darling made, is a common one. Next season, however, could see the rise of more than a few backup goaltenders to first-string duty.
Here are the five goaltenders you can most expect to challenge for a starting gig: Read more
With Ryan Kennedy
The NHL’s GM meetings yielded some interesting news from Boca Raton, Fla., Tuesday. General managers recommended a coach’s challenge for goalie interference calls and penalties for pucks shot out of play. The other proposed rule change generated even more buzz: 3-on-3 overtime.
Oh, the possibilities. We could see five minutes of 3-on-3 in overtime as soon as next season, or we could see an AHL-style format in which teams play four minutes of 4-on-4 and a maximum three minutes of 3-on-3. Per the USA Today’s Kevin Allen, GMs will ask the NHL Players’ Association and competition committee which they prefer. The 3-on-3 format has drastically reduced the number of shootouts in the AHL, about one-third as many overtime games decided that way versus last year, so the idea is extremely exciting for anyone who hates the shootout.
Dreams of 3-on-3 danced through our heads in the THN office. Colleague Ryan Kennedy and I started talking about which team would field the deadliest 3-on-3 trio. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith? Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang? We pitched a Steven Stamkos-Tyler Johnson-Victor Hedman trio to Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, too. The main challenge for teams would be deciding on what positions to deploy. Three forwards? A dominant center and two speedy D-men? Two forwards and a D-man? Does Yzerman know what he would do with the Bolts yet?
“No,” he said with a laugh. “It depends on our players, I guess. Ask the American League coaches what they think would be best. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but there are lots of options for the coaches.”
Lots of options indeed. We’ve taken our best shot at ranking the top 30 teams in 3-on-3 overtime situations. Keep in mind that games will end quicker this way, so there’s nothing wrong with loading up on your best players for the first shift. Also, we’ve factored out current injuries since the format would start next season.