The NHL has finally put to rest its debate about visors, but as we all know, there are still potentially life-threatening risks associated with playing hockey. Minnesota Wild left winger Jason Zucker got a scare in that regard Sunday when he narrowly avoided serious injury after L.A. Kings left winger Kyle Clifford accidentally kicked him in the face and had his skate blade graze Zucker’s throat.
It’s been the weekend of the stick save.
Last night, it was Minnesota Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper keeping the score knotted at one-apiece with a diving, swatting stick save on a puck that was redirected on goal by teammate Jonas Brodin’s skate.
Robin Lehner must have caught the clip because he tried his hand at one of his own.
In Saturday’s contest against Columbus, the Blue Jackets moved the puck around behind the net and right winger Jack Skille moved the puck to defenseman Fedor Tyutin. Savard let a shot go that deflected off of a Senator and landed right on the waiting stick of Alexander Wennberg.
Wennberg is going to want that one back.
The save was Lehner’s sixth of the game and kept the score at even at zeroes. For the remainder of the game, the Senators backup goaltender would remain stellar. He finished the game with 38 stops in the Senators 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.
The year has just begun, but already we’ve seen more than our fair share of surprises. Here’s your top-five before we enter the second Saturday of the season:
5. Gustav Nyquist continues to shoot out the lights
After the summer of Advanced Statistics, it would have been fitting if Red Wings’ sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist’s shooting percentage fell off.
In 2013-14, Nyquist shot an outrageous 18.3 percent and proprietors of so-called fancy stats said he was due for regression. You wouldn’t have gotten much disagreement from anyone about that, either. Extrapolated over an entire year, that would have been nearly 40 goals for the Swede.
So far – and yes, it has only been four games – Nyquist has already potted four goals on 11 shots, good for a 36.4 shooting percentage. Certainly, he’s due to regress to somewhere near the league average of somewhere between 8.5 to 9 per cent, but when? If he keeps this up, he might be throwing his name into the ring for the Rocket Richard. Read more
The American Hockey League came down hard on Adirondack Flames forward Trevor Gillies Monday, suspending him 12 games for viciously assaulting Rochester forward William Carrier Friday. But some would argue they didn’t come down hard enough, and that hockey as a whole still has a ways to go to give real teeth to their punishments and truly dissuade players from becoming repeat offenders like Gillies, who was suspended twice (for a total of 19 games) in his justifiably brief NHL career (57 games from 2009-11). But that doesn’t make it any less stomach churning to watch him snap and smash Carrier’s head into the ice. See for yourself:
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks is no fan of the current NHL draft lottery system, believing it rewards teams that perform poorly. He suggests some teams could attempt to tank the season in order to better their odds of landing the first overall pick.
Brooks wonders if the Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames or Carolina Hurricanes decide at the NHL trade deadline to trade their best player for a seventh-round pick if the league would reject such a deal. Given how lopsided that trade would be, one suspects the league would reject it based on proportionality. Read more
There’s no doubt Torrey Mitchell of the Buffalo Sabres is feeling a little badly this morning. Probably not as badly as he did more than six years ago when a reckless play he made almost ended Kurtis Foster’s career and helped inspire the NHL to change its icing rules, but pretty remorseful nonetheless.
If you need any further proof that some hockey players just don’t ever seem to get it, that no number of rules or suspensions will ever get them to change their ways, look no further Torrey Mitchell. Because if anyone should have realized the perils of pushing an opponent from behind into the boards, the way he did to Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson in a pre-season game Sunday night, it should be Mitchell. Read more
2013-14 record: 43-27-12
Acquisitions: Justin Falk, Jordan Schroeder, Joel Rechlicz, Stu Bickel, Thomas Vanek, Brett Sutter
Departures: Jake Dowell, Nate Prosser, Dany Heatley, Clayton Stoner, Steve Kampfer, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson
Top five fantasy players: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Mikael Granlund
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: It was a slow, steady progression for Minnesota last season, from 94 (pro-rated) points to 98 points, from a No. 8 seed to a No. 7 seed, from the first round of the playoffs to the second. None of it was a fluke. The Wild own one of the NHL’s elite farm systems, and it was only a matter of time before the young guns made significant impacts at the NHL level. Blueliner Jonas Brodin did it in 2012-13, and last season was Mikael Granlund’s turn to break out. He’s matured into a legit top-two center, and he’s nowhere near his ceiling. Charlie Coyle looks like a handy power forward and Nino Niederreiter, a high-end prospect acquired from the Islanders, scores in the clutch and hits like a truck. Bruising blueliner Mathew Dumba could make a leap this season, too. Read more
Since the Minnesota Wild first appeared on an NHL ice rink in 2000, they’ve been relatively free of out-of-the-ordinary drama. But their goaltending predicament is shaping up to be one of the league’s most intriguing sagas to monitor this season – and that was before Thursday, when the franchise suspended presumptive No. 1 Josh Harding after he got into an altercation with a teammate, kicked a wall and fractured his foot.
Harding is expected to be sidelined for months by the injury, and left the team with little choice but to come down hard on him. Details of the scuffle he engaged in (including the name of the teammate he clashed with) weren’t made public, but by suspending him, the Wild took his $1.9 million salary cap hit off the books and gave that money to restricted free agent Darcy Kuemper.
But even then, Minnesota’s goaltending saga is far from settled. Read more