Did you see the Ottawa Senators immediately after they beat Buffalo Wednesday night? Hockey players don't smile like that in November unless the pressure has been dialed up drastically.
I'm feeling the heat, too. And it's all your fault, good reader. You're diligently sending along your questions week after week, robbing me of the chance to ask a friend or relative to lob a softball query my way every so often. Many thanks, you work-creatin' so-and-sos.
Now, as Damon Wayans' infamous Â“HandyManÂ” character used to say, Â“let's get busy!Â”:
Do you think anyone will ever again score 50 goals in 50 games? If so, who do you believe can do it: Kovalchuk? Hossa? Eric Staal? Heatley? Malkin? Crosby? Ovechkin?
- Owen Perry
Yes, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, and yes.
I'm looking to pick up another goalie in my pool. My core already consists of Vesa Toskala, Marc Denis, Martin Biron, and Mike Smith. I'm looking for another backup who will win some games on a consistent basis when he starts. Who do you suggest out of the following: Johan Hedberg, Niklas Backstrom, or Johan Holmqvist?
- Drew Attridge, Stratford, Ont.
That's a toughie. All three players are off to pretty good starts, but their individual situations aren't all that similar.
Hedberg and Backstrom play on teams I believe to be playoff-bound, but both will get limited time playing behind Kari Lehtonen and Manny Fernandez. Holmqvist could steal away Denis' starting job in Tampa Bay and wind up playing more than the other two, but I think the Bolts are on the outside looking in come springtime. Seems like a wash to me.
I am a huge Minnesota Wild fan, and their start so far this season makes it all the easier and sweeter.
I am sick of seeing Marian Gaborik out of the lineup due to a Â“lower bodyÂ” injuries year after year. Last year it was his groin and now it's his quad/groin/the sun is out of alignment with the moon...whatever.
While we can't overlook the talent of the budding superstar, what's the deal? Is it poor conditioning, bad luck, bad ice? I would hope that with what he is getting paid, it is not a lack of pre-/in-season preparation. We need him back in the lineup!
Thanks for your time,
- Aaron Hoska, St. Paul, Minn.
When you're lucky enough to watch a fantastic star like Gaborik, I'm sure every game he misses must feel like 10. But labeling the 24-year-old as injury-prone is a stretch.
Through his first five NHL seasons, Gaborik has averaged 72 games a year. Sure, he's missed 17 games each of the last two campaigns, but it isn't as if every injury he's suffered has been a groin pull or strain. He doesn't have a reputation for Keith Tkachukian-like off-seasons, so I'd chalk his troubles up to bad luck.
Did the Boston Bruins have to take a salary cap hit for Alexei Zhamnov, since he is unable to play because of his injured ankle? This would mean an extra $4 million the Bs would have to spend to upgrade their goalie situation or get another proven scorer.
- Ken Lebert, Windsor, Ont.
When the 35-year-old failed his physical in the fall and retired, he was labeled a long-term injury exemption, and his $4.1 salary doesn't count against the Bruins' cap.
And wouldn't you know it Â– GM Peter Chiarelli did use some of that money this week. Just as you advised, he improved the team in net and on offense, with the acquisitions of goalie Philippe Sauve from Phoenix and ex-Ducks winger Stanislav Chistov.
Did I mention I have exceedingly low expectations of what qualifies as improved?
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