Ilya Bryzgalov has a 3.45 GAA and .870 save percentage. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
After a crazy night like Thursday, a guy couldn’t be blamed for waking up feeling a little like James Reimer. You know, with “concussion-like symptoms,” but not actually having a concussion. You know, being put on IR retroactive seven days in case it actually turns out to be a concussion, in which case we’ll let you know right away. But it’s not a concussion.
Anyway, some random observations from an eventful Thursday night in the best league in the world:
• After giving up nine goals on 25 shots for a sparkling .640 save percentage, Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Philadelphia Flyers can take comfort in knowing that their goaltending performance in a 9-8 loss to the Winnipeg Jets was not the worst single-game showing in NHL history. It only seems that way.
According to Bob Waterman of the Elias Sports Bureau, you only have to go back to last season to find a worse one. Last Feb. 19, the Anaheim Ducks lost 9-3 to the St. Louis Blues despite giving up just 23 shots. Curtis McElhinney allowed four goals on 11 shots and Timo Pielmeier five on 12 for the Ducks. There have been a number of others, most of them in the high-scoring 1980s.
McElhinney is playing this season in the Phoenix Coyotes system for the Portland Pirates of the American League and Pielmeier is being protected by former NHLer Craig Rivet with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. That fate is not expected to befall either Bryzgalov or Bobrovsky anytime soon, but you’d have to think the Flyers are once again very, very, nervous about their goaltending prospects, particularly after Bryzgalov laid the blame directly at his own feet.
“I have zero confidence in myself,” he said. “I’m terrible.”
• Dear Readers: Just so you know, yes, I do have an anti-fighting agenda. (But I’m a columnist and I’m supposed to have an agenda sometimes.) And no, it’s not because fighting offends me or that I would be happier if the games degenerated into 4-on-4 ringette.
Actually, it’s because I see no rational place for it in today’s game and I believe having it detracts from, rather than adds to, the spectacle. In short, I think it’s pretty stupid.
And nothing that happened between P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens and Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins will sway me from that thinking. Fighting apologists in the media will have you believe this dust-up simply had to take place because Subban and Marchand are two intense guys who play on the edge and that the tension had been building, therefore, it had to be fueled into a fight.
Too bad that after the game Subban basically threw cold water all over that notion, pointing out he and Marchand played on the Canadian World Junior team together and won a gold medal and that Marchand - whom he referred to as ‘Marchie’ - is a guy he’d happily sit down with and have a couple of drinks. He also said they were laughing about it and tapped each other on the pads.
Subban also acknowledged later that absolutely nothing happened between the two to provoke the fight. What ensued was an embarrassing display by NESN play-by-play man Jack Edwards, who called the fight like it was a title bout, describing every blow in enthusiastic detail, right down to saying, “Marchand spits!” at one point in the fight.
When it comes to fighting, I just wish people who advocate for it would dispense with all the flimsy justifications and admit they want to keep it in the game because they like watching people beat each other up.
• So Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders had to come in just for the shootout in the Islanders 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins because Evgeni Nabokov was fatigued? Really? Too tired to face a couple more breakaways after playing 65 minutes? Sure it didn’t have anything to do with the fact DiPietro had an 11-1 record in shootouts going into the game?
If Nabokov can’t make it through an entire game and a shootout without getting “fatigued,” that indicates he must have spent his time off after leaving the Kontinental League last season sitting on the couch eating cheese balls.
• The Phoenix Coyotes had an “announced” (a.k.a. bogusly inflated) crowd of 7,434 for a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils and, competing with the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series, the Dallas Stars had just 8,443 on hand for a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. That marked the 10th time already this season the league had a crowd of fewer than 10,000. The Stars have done it four times and the Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets three times each.
The most troubling is Phoenix, where the taxpayers are pouring money down the sinkhole to prop up a team that is clearly unwanted. The Coyotes have very little time to prove their relevance and their fans have little time to prove they want to keep their team. Both are failing miserably.
• A writer from a Swedish newspaper emailed me yesterday asking me what the best line combination in hockey has been this season. After Thursday’s 2-1 win by the Edmonton Oilers over the Washington Capitals, you’d have to go with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, wouldn’t you?
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.