A few thoughts as Chicago prepares for its biggest hockey night in years — the Hawks are honoring Bobby Hull
and Stan Mikita
before their game against San Jose.
Score four -- For a team like the Vancouver Canucks, four goals in a game is a lot. Four in a period is almost unheard of, so you can imagine how happy they were after getting four on 23 shots in the first period of a 6-2 blowout of the Nashville Predators.
”It was important to get us going a little bit, get the fans into it a little bit, and right afterwards we got another big power-play goal, so it got us going the right direction and we kept it going for 60 minutes,” said Alex Burrows, who started the big period with a shorthanded goal 37 seconds into the game. “It was nice to get one off the get go, get our confidence going.”
The Canucks, who rank 26th in the NHL in scoring, scored six goals for just the second time this season.
”We were a desperate team, we came out and generated lots, got pucks at the net and finally got an offensive output,” captain Markus Naslund said. “I think that will help a lot of guys get the confidence back.”
They’ll need all the confidence -- and goals -- they can find. The Canucks and Predators share eighth place in the West with 76 points, though the Canucks have a game in hand. But Vancouver starts a four-game road trip after Saturday’s home game against St. Louis.
Where’s the D? — The Boston Bruins’ defense picked the wrong time to spring a leak.
The Bruins’ defense and goaltending has been superb this season, making up for an underpowered offense and keeping Boston among the top eight in the Eastern Conference. But the B’s have had a miserable week, losing 10-2 in Washington Monday and allowing eight unanswered goals in Thursday night’s 8-2 rout by the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Banknorth Garden.
"I don't think it's time to panic," Boston coach Claude Julien said after his team’s third-straight defeat, including a 1-0 overtime loss to Florida Tuesday. "It's certainly time to make the adjustments and address. I don't know if it's we're totally out of sync or the pressure. We've just got to take a step back."
Goaltender Tim Thomas, the winning goalie for the East in the All-Star Game six weeks ago, has had an especially bad week. He was routed in Washington’s six-goal first period and KO’d again after allowing four second-period goals to Toronto.
"We're just a little fragile right now," Thomas said. "We haven't really been that all year."
Goaltending dilemma -- Florida coach Jacques Martin has the opposite problem of the Bruins -- one of his goaltenders has been playing almost too well. Craig Anderson wasn’t as flawless as he had been during back-to-back 1-0 shutouts, but he did stop 25 shots in the Panthers’ 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
nderson got a rare chance to play on Sunday against the Islanders when Martin wanted to give All-Star Tomas Vokoun a break. But Anderson has played so well that it’s going to be tough to justify taking him out of the lineup.
“We’ll see,” was Martin’s response when asked whether Anderson would play Saturday night against Atlanta. “We’ll wait and see, and make the decision in due time.”
Dubie, Dubie, don’t -- New York Islanders coach Ted Nolan had the same dilemma as Martin -- how long to go with a hot backup goaltender. Even with starter Rick DiPietro available again after missing two days following his grandmother’s death, Nolan opted to stick with Wade Dubielewicz against the New York Rangers Thursday night after the backup netminder beat the Rangers in a shootout Tuesday.
It didn’t matter. Dubielewicz made 24 saves and played well, but the Islanders’ defense didn’t in a 4-1 loss at the Nassau Coliseum.
"He's a hot hand," Nolan said. "You can second-guess yourself, ifs, ands, buts and everything else. Dubielewicz has been playing well. Ricky's had three or four days off. It's kind of unfair to put him into a situation like this. Now, he's got two practices, and he'll run with it from here on in."
The Rangers led 2-0 after one period on a breakaway goal by Brendan Shanahan and a shot from the slot by Sean Avery, who was left all alone. The Islanders never recovered.
"Two point-blank goals basically. You've got one guy that's scored 700 goals in this league just sitting by himself on the blue line, and then another guy wide open on the back door," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said of Shanahan, who has scored 649 goals. "In games this big, that can't happen. It's just mental breakdowns. It killed us."
Expect DiPietro back in the net on Saturday when the Isles begin a four-game trip in Philadelphia. But if the defensive coverage doesn’t improve, Ricky might wish for a few more days off.
Stepping up -- With forwards dropping like flies, the Philadelphia Flyers needed someone to step up. Jeff Carter is answering the call.
Carter has given a big lift to the battered Flyers as they try to hang onto a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. He had two goals, including the game-winner with 1:54 left in regulation, in Philadelphia’s 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay Thursday night.
"I just take it and run with it," said Carter, a third-year player who has five goals in his last four games. "I've never been in such a situation where you're relied upon so heavily. I kind of like it."
Carter has a career-high 25 goals and has provided an offensive boost to a team that’s without Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Joffrey Lupul.
"We need people to step up in the absence of some really good players, and Jeff has done that," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "Carts was really a determined individual tonight. He just seems to be the guy you want on the ice all the time."
Hurricane warning -- Don’t look now, but the Carolina Hurricanes are hot. Thursday’s 3-2 win over Minnesota was their third in a row; they’ve won six of seven and are 9-2-1 in their last 12, putting them five points ahead of Washington in the Southeast Division.
They blew a 2-0 lead to the Minnesota Wild, but recovered their poise and went ahead to stay on Eric Cole’s goal midway through the second period. The win improved the team to seven games over .500, matching the high-water mark last seen on Nov. 12.
”This is one of those games you’ll look back and mark it,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We traveled and they were sitting here waiting for us, guys had to step in and play different roles, and for us to play the way we did … I am proud of the way we played.”
And their reward? A day without hockey.
“It is a well-deserved day off,” said Laviolette, whose team hosts Buffalo Saturday. “I just think the most important thing is to find rest at this point. In back-to-back games you ask them to expend everything they had and they did that, so they get rewarded for that.”
Jose’s revival -- Jose Theodore may never be as good as he was in 2001-02, when he won the Hart Trophy while playing with the Montreal Canadiens. But he’s doing his best to make sure the Colorado Avalanche make the playoffs.
Theodore stopped 25 shots as the Avs blanked the Anaheim Ducks 1-0 for their fifth-consecutive victory, keeping them seventh in the West. He’s been in goal for all five wins.
Theodore has struggled for much of his time in Colorado, but he said he never doubted that he could return to top form.
”I've always believed I could be one of the top goalies in this league,” Theodore said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. So far, things are going well.”
The shutout was the 25th of his career, but he said he’s more interested in victories than shutouts at this stage of the season.
“I think it’s more about getting the two points,” he said. “You can get it with a shutout or get it with a 4-3 win in a shootout, whatever it takes. This time of year it’s only the two points.”
And why is he playing like it’s 2002 all over again?
“Overall I’m seeing the puck well,” he said. “They didn’t have too many second shots, which is good, so I could challenge a lot. That’s what I like to do -- challenge shooters. The last 25 games I pretty much approach it the same way every night.”
Red hot -- Carey Price gave the term “hot goaltender” a whole new meaning. The Montreal rookie stopped 37 shots in the Canadiens’ 4-2 victory at Phoenix despite playing with a sunburned face.
The Canadiens had some time off in the Phoenix area between Monday’s game in San Jose and the game with the Coyotes. Price said he got the sunburn during a four-hour fishing trip on nearby Bartlett Lake
”I wasn't feeling that hot, but all of a sudden we all got back into the van to go back to the hotel and we just started burning,” Price said. “We were out on the water, so all the light is reflecting off the water.”
Price, who wore a headband to prevent his mask from irritating the burned skin, was eager to atone for a poor showing in a 6-4 loss at San Jose Monday.
”I don't think anything would have kept him out of the game tonight,” coach Guy Carbonneau said. “We needed a big performance from Carey, and we got that. After the performance he had the other day in San Jose, he wanted to come back and play well. If it wasn't for him, I don't think the game would have gone this way.”
If he keeps playing like he did against the Coyotes, maybe Carbonneau will bring a sun lamp along on the Habs’ next road trip.
Who you gonna call? -- You’ve just earned your first NHL victory, a 40-save shutout win over the League’s highest-scoring team. So Erik Ersberg, who gets the first phone call?
“I don’t know,” he said after the Los Angeles Kings’ 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
The problem for the 25-year-old rookie was a simple matter of logistics.
“Everybody is asleep over there,” the native of Sala, Sweden, said after the game ended shortly after 10 p.m. in Los Angeles — the pre-dawn hours at home for Ersberg. “I guess it’s going to be someone over here.”
Captain Rob Blake has been impressed with the first Swedish goaltender in Kings history.
“I kind of relate it to being like a sponge,” Blake said. “Everything that hits him stays within him, and he covers it. He’s very sound. You know that if a shot gets through, he’s in position.”
You can e-mail John Kreiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.