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Trending: Goalie protection, Bruins, quarter mark

Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 11:27 AM / NHL.Countdown

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Trending: Goalie protection, Bruins, quarter mark
Goalie protection, the Bruins, the Rangers and so much more in this week's list.
Protecting the most protected, a notable and positive trend, the defending champs, another Original Six squad, and those known as No. 2 all should be trending in the NHL this week. Take a look at what that means and why right now:

#GoalieProtection

This highly sensitive topic was brought up at the General Managers meeting on Tuesday in Toronto and it dominated the discussion once the managers met with the media. The GMs agree that protecting goalies is essential because there only are roughly 60 in the League (67 have played a game to date this season), only 30 that start, and not very many who are knocking on the door to get in.

According to Buffalo's Darcy Regier, the majority of managers also think Boston's Milan Lucic should have received a suspension for his hit on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller in last Saturday's game. Miller was far out of his crease and chasing the puck, just like Lucic. When they collided, Miller was left with a concussion and whiplash, and he's already missed two games. Lucic got a two-minute minor for charging.

Brendan Shanahan, NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, opted not to suspend Lucic because he saw nothing in the hit that warranted supplemental discipline. Shanahan reportedly stood up in front of the managers and explained his reasoning behind his decision.

That said, Shanahan did say to NHL.com and other news outlets that a major penalty could have been called on the play. In the future maybe it will be, but Shanahan said he'll review any similar incident on a case-by-case basis.

What does seem to be clear is the GMs don't want to have to deal with this issue again, and they will make sure to inform their coaches and players that the goalies are not fair game to be hit.


#ConcussionsDown

One of the under-the-radar announcements following the GM meeting Tuesday in Toronto is that concussions are down between 50-60 percent from this time last season. The reason likely has to do with the enforcement of the illegal check to the head rule, which now has a minor penalty element associated with it.

The minor penalty for an illegal check to the head has been called only nine times so far this season.

But what also should be mentioned here, and it was stated by Shanahan on Tuesday, is that the players have been educated on the effects concussions can have on a career and it is obvious players are being more respectful and careful with where they lay their hits. Not only do they not want a minor penalty with the potential for supplemental discipline, but they don't want to be known as the guy who gave someone else a concussion.

#RememberBruvember

Forgive me for giving myself a pat on the back here, but two weeks ago I wrote in this very column that the Boston Bruins were going to figure it out in November after a dreadful and forgettable October in which they went 3-7-0.

Well, last season's Stanley Cup champions have been perfect in November, with six wins in six games. They're still last in the Northeast Division, but they're only four points out of first place and have at least two games in hand on every team in the division.

Boston has outscored the opposition by a combined 34-13 this month. The Bruins are third in the League, averaging 3.44 goals per game and have scored roughly half of their goals (27) in the third period. Tyler Seguin had 8 goals in a span of six games before being held without a point Saturday against New Jersey.

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The Bruins have been doing it mostly at home, and with a win against Columbus on Thursday they can sweep a homestand of five or more games for the first time in a quarter-century. They hit the road for three straight starting Saturday on Long Island.

#BlueSeven

Oh, how long ago Oct. 29 must seem to the New York Rangers. It was that afternoon at Madison Square Garden that the Rangers blew a 4-1 lead to Ottawa by giving up three unanswered goals in the final 10:42 before losing in a shootout.

"You don't have to make it 8-1, but you still have to play your game like you're trying to score and do stuff offensively," Brad Richards said following that tough loss, "and we stopped doing that."

The Rangers haven't had any problems since. They've won all seven games that they've played since that game against Ottawa and have outscored the opposition 27-11, including a 2-1 shootout win against Anaheim. They've scored five goals in three different games and four in another.

The best part of it is Marian Gaborik (15 points) and Richards (13 points) are doing what they're supposed to be doing, which is leading the team in scoring. Sean Avery has scored in back-to-back games and Brandon Dubinsky has picked up his play with 3 points in the last two as well.

#BackupGoalies

Brian Elliott leads the NHL with a 1.43 goals-against average. Josh Harding leads the League with a .948 save percentage, and Elliott is second at .947. Until he allowed five goals on 19 shots in Wednesday's loss to New Jersey, Jhonas Enroth was fourth in both categories.

Thomas Greiss has a 2.15 GAA and .919 save percentage. Cory Schneider had a 2.38 GAA and .918 save percentage prior to Wednesday's loss to Chicago, and Johan Hedberg has a 2.45 GAA and .914 save percentage. Martin Biron has appeared in only four games, but he's 3-0-0 with a 0.95 GAA and .963 save percentage.

Backup goaltenders remain vulnerable, but they are once again are proving to be some of the most important players in the NHL.


Let's move on to next week and get a sneak peak at what possibly could be trending by the time Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving dinners:

#QuarterMark

NHL teams soon will be playing their 20th games, which essentially means their season is 25 percent complete. Ottawa will be the first team to get there when they play in Edmonton on Thursday.

Once the quarter-mark of the season is reached, news outlets such as NHL.com start putting out their award leaders. It's too early to give you mine, but here is a sneak peak at who I have as the leaders:

Hart Trophy: Phil Kessel and Claude Giroux
Norris Trophy: Kris Letang and Shea Weber
Vezina Trophy: Marc-Andre Fleury and Kari Lehtonen
Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar and Jordan Staal
Calder Trophy: Adam Larsson and Craig Smith
Lady Byng Trophy: Jason Pominville and Phil Kessel
Jack Adams Award: Dan Bylsma and Mike Yeo

#WhenWillItBeMillerTimeAgain?

Ryan Miller remains angry at the Bruins, angry that people are suggesting his teammates don't have his back, and angry at the NHL for not further disciplining Milan Lucic for his hit on him this past Saturday. But Miller also is dealing with concussion symptoms and whiplash that have kept him out for the past two games.

Could he be back as early as next week? There is no way for anyone, even Miller or his doctors, to know. However, the Sabres have three games between now and next Thursday and Miller undoubtedly will be a topic of conversation in each one of them, whether he's playing, in the press box or watching from his couch.

Enroth had his first bad start of the season Wednesday, ceding the net to Drew MacIntyre in the third period after giving up his fifth goal. The Sabres still lead the Northeast Division with 22 points -- the same as second-place Toronto -- but you have to wonder if a combination of Enroth and MacIntyre can keep them there.

#ChillyInEdmonton

The Oilers went 2-4-0 on their just completed six-game road trip. They ran the gauntlet in the final three games by playing in Boston, Detroit and Chicago -- and they lost all three, by a combined 15-6.

They're home Thursday to play Ottawa before hosting the Blackhawks on Saturday. It's pivotal the Oilers pick up at least three, if not four points, in these games because it's back on the road next week for four more, with stops in Dallas, Nashville, Minnesota and Colorado.

The Oilers were a good story in October, but they're on the verge of being a non-story in November. If I were a fan, I'd have legitimate concerns that they won't be able to stop the downward spiral, and that the hope they gave me in October soon will be gone.

#IslesGoalies

Evgeni Nabokov
Goalie - NYI
RECORD: 1-5-0
GAA: 2.89 | SVP: 0.910
There aren't enough nets for the Islanders to continue to carry three goaltenders, so don't be shocked if Evgeni Nabokov or Al Montoya moves out of Nassau Coliseum in the coming days. The team is too invested in Rick DiPietro, who is in the sixth year of a 15-year contract, to think about moving him either in a trade or by waiving him for the purpose of putting him in the minors.

The fact is one goalie has to go, but deciding who is not easy because the Islanders want to at least get something back, even if it's just a draft pick or two.

If the Isles choose to shop Nabokov, he would have to waive his no-trade clause to agree to a deal. Columbus needs a veteran goalie to help the struggling Steve Mason and Nabokov might be the right man for the job. You could say he wouldn't want to go to the Blue Jackets, but Nabokov is playing for a contract beyond this season and could get an opportunity to play a lot of games in Columbus.

Montoya's status with the team just seems so strange. He started the first three games, winning two and allowing only four goals. Since then, however, he's made only two starts and appeared in three games, and he hasn't won since Oct. 13. All of a sudden he was the odd-man out, but he's on a one-way contract so the Islanders can't just say he's going to the minors and that's that. He'd have to clear waivers, and that could be a problem.

#CrosbyWatch

You didn't really think I'd go through this entire column without mentioning his name once, did you? Come on, you know better than that.

Sidney Crosby is on the mend, skating in practice, taking contact, yada, yada, yada. Yes, I did just yada-yada Sidney Crosby (Seinfeld reference for those with a sense of humor).

We know all that, but we still don't know when he is going to play. We know it's not going to be Thursday in Tampa, but we have not been told that it won't be Saturday at Panthers. Crosby is with the Penguins on the Florida trip, but it is the team's annual father's trip, so it's one he wouldn't miss anyway.

The Penguins play three straight at home next week -- visits by the Islanders on Monday, the Blues on Wednesday and the Senators on Friday. If he's not back by Wednesday, odds are he won't play Friday because it's the front-end of a back-to-back with a game Saturday in Montreal.

No matter, we're still watching and waiting for No. 87.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions