Well, it appears that Jose Theodore at least had an excuse for his poor play in Game 1 of the second round of the playoffs. As it turns out he was too ill to stop more than three quarters of the pucks he faced and to even sit on the bench after he was pulled.
Nobody is suggesting that Theodore will never appear in the Avs net again, but after Budaj came in and stopped all 20 shots he faced and was clearly the best of the three goaltenders that appeared in the game, Avs coach Joel Quenneville clearly faces a difficult decision if Theodore is healthy enough to start Game 2 Saturday afternoon.
Of course, not having Peter Forsberg because of his persistent groin problems – gee, never saw that coming – and having Wojtek Wolski leave the game in the first period didn’t help at all. By the time Theodore left the game after giving up four goals on 16 shots, the Avalanche had lost three of its best players from the first round.
Budaj almost pulled off an upset in Game 1 thanks to his own strong play and a shaky performance by Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood, who managed to clamp down in the second half of the game. But still, the guy faced only 21 shots on the night and is clearly benefiting from a team that outshoots its opponent by ridiculous margins. In the first round, the Red Wings outshot the Nashville Predators by an average of 16 shots per game and in Game 1 against Colorado, the difference in shots was 15.
Osgood is not yet, however, losing games for the Red Wings and on a team as good as Detroit, that’s just as good as a goalie who wins them.
One of the reasons for Detroit’s fine play in the post-season has to do with the play of its Swedish star – which requires a few more specifics when you’re talking about the Wings.
Actually, Johan Franzen, who scored his third and fourth goals of the playoffs in Game 1, also added an assist and was the best player on the evening. Going back to late in the season, Franzen now has 19 goals in his past 23 games, which qualifies him as the hottest goal-scorer in the NHL these days.
That Franzen currently shares the lead in both goals and points for the Red Wings in this year’s playoffs is a testament to their depth, particularly since the Red Wings have had little trouble scoring goals in the playoffs. They are averaging three goals a game, which is a plethora by modern-day playoff standards.
If the Red Wings continue to outshoot their opponents by double digits in every game, there’s almost no chance they’ll lose a best-of-seven series.
The only thing that could stop them would be an out-of-the-world goaltending performance, which will require Theodore to either get well soon or Quenneville to make a very gutsy decision and for Budaj to reward him for it.
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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With the season all but lost and interim coach Doug Weight navigating through troubled waters, the Isles have an opportunity to put their kids to the test
Doug Weight got his first win as interim coach of the New York Islanders last night, as his charges took out their disappointing Western cousins, the Dallas Stars. Even with the win, New York finds itself mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. True, the team has games in hand over many squads, but they are still close to dead in the playoff race, with only Buffalo behind them in the East.
Here at THN, we had higher hopes for the Islanders heading into the season. Our pre-season predictions had them third in the Metropolitan Division, but clearly the loss of Frans Nielsen was greater than expected and the substitution of Kyle Okposo with Andrew Ladd did not quite work out. It happens.
So what do the Islanders do for the rest of the season? I would suggest they find out what they really have in their organization. New York has been criticized for not playing its young guys enough and while you can get into a pretty good circular argument about whether results come from ice time or ice time comes from results, this may be a golden opportunity to find some answers.
Ryan Strome has been the poster boy for the Islanders' development problems and for what it's worth, he was one of the team's best 5-on-5 possession players against Dallas. His 71 percent Corsi For percentage was much better than his season average of 44 percent. And sure; it's one game, the smallest of all sample sizes. But Strome also had more ice time than his season average (16:18 vs. 14:27, though he's been trending upward), so that's a positive sign. Rookie Anthony Beauvillier was also an even possession player and although he played just 11:28, I'm not as concerned with him, since he's still a teenager. In Strome, there are big questions about his future with the organization and I'm not going to come down on either side of the fence here, because I believe giving the youngster bigger, harder minutes (he already gets plenty of power play time) would be the perfect acid test. If he passes, then fired coach Jack Capuano may have been the problem. If he fails, then you trade him away to a team that believes Strome just needs a change of scenery. Get an asset in return – like the Isles did when they dealt Griffin Reinhart to Edmonton for picks, one of which became Matt Barzal – and move on.
And perhaps the Islanders call a couple kids up, just to see what they can do at the NHL level. Defenseman Devon Toews will be playing at the AHL All-Star Classic in his rookie pro season, so why not give him a look later in the campaign? Similarly, Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang are two of the bigger names in the pipeline, but we haven't seen either in the NHL yet. Admittedly, I've only watched Bridgeport once this season, but I don't think that giving them a couple of games in The Show would foment a sense of entitlement – think of it as motivation. A call-up in 2016-17 is no guarantee of a roster spot in 2017-18.
If the Islanders can find takers for some of their veterans at the trade deadline, perhaps these kiddie call-ups happen organically anyway. But for an organization that has a lot of money and roster spots tied up in a mediocre bunch, the Islanders need to figure out the next step. And this lost season is the perfect time to do it.
Michael Latta goes from L.A. to Chicago in exchange for Cameron Schilling.
The Kings and Blackhawks made a minor league trade on Saturday, which saw Michael Latta go from L.A. to Chicago in exchange for Cameron Schilling.
Latta had two goals and four assists along with 67 penalty minutes in 29 games with the American Hockey League’s Ontario Reign this season and will report to the Blackhawks minor league affiliate in Rockford.
The 25-year-old split the previous four seasons between the AHL’s Hershey Bears and Washington Capitals. In 113 NHL games with the Caps, Latta scored four goals and 13 assists.
The Kitchener, Ontario native was originally a 2009 third-round pick of the Nashville Predators.
Schilling was tied for second on the IceHogs in scoring with seven goals and had 17 points in 40 games. The Miami University product signed with the Capitals as a free agent in March 2012 and appeared in six games over three seasons in Washington registering four penalty minutes.
In 113 career AHL games with Rockford, the Carmel, Ind. native has 12 goals and 27 assists. Schilling is expected to join the Ontario Reign.
The Finnish forward extended his point streak to eight games with a goal of the year candidate.
Kalle Kossila may have been a little known prospect playing in the American Hockey League, but that changed on Friday night after the Finnish forward scored a highlight-reel goal in San Diego’s 5-1 win over the San Jose Barracuda.
Kossila’s first of two third period goals gave the Gulls a 4-0 lead.
“I’ve done it in practice, but obviously a game situation is way different,” Kossila told the team’s website postgame. “The puck happened to stay on the top of my stick, and their defenseman wasn’t pressuring me, so I tried it.”
The goal extended Kossila’s career high point streak to eight games and is the longest point streak in franchise history.
“Kossila’s goal was unbelievable,” said Gulls coach Dallas Eakins. “I’ve been in pro hockey for 30 years and I’ve never seen a player pull that off in a game.”
A native of Kauniainen, Finland, Kossila is in his first full season with the Anaheim Ducks organization after signing as a free agent out of St. Cloud State in March 2016.
The 23-year-old has nine goals and 18 assists in 32 games with San Diego this season.
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.