Friday, March 8, 2013

Craig Anderson ahead in Vezina Race

Some of this season’s best goaltenders find themselves in an even time share. Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks has started 14 games and is second in the National Hockey League with a 1.41 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. Viktor Fasth of the Anaheim Ducks has come on strong in place of Jonas Hiller, posting a 9-1-1 record and 2.08 GAA with 11 starts.

Other goaltending leaders have dealt with injuries and haven’t played as many games as the season reaches the halfway point. Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators leads the League with a 1.49 GAA and .952 save percentage, but an ankle injury has limited him to 15 games. Kari Lehtonen has carried theDallas Stars this season with a 2.26 GAA and .930 save percentage, but has started 13 games because of a groin injury.

How will general managers decide on this year’s Vezina winner if the trend continues? As of now, Crawford, Fasth, Anderson and Lehtonen have played less than 65 percent of their teams’ games. Will GMs reward the flashy numbers, or the goaltenders who carry a far heavier load in this shortened season and have less-impressive numbers?

At this point, is awarding the Vezina to Anderson, who has been the best goaltender during the first half of the season. Anderson banked a lot of his numbers before getting hurt -- he's been out since Feb. 21 -- but he’s still been the most impressive to this point.

Jimmy Howard on Hot Streak

Jimmy Howard made 22 saves, and Jakub Kindl and Cory Emmerton scored in the second period to lift the Detroit Red Wings over the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Thursday night.

Howard made 36 saves in a win Tuesday against Colorado, but coach Mike Babcock wasn't all that impressed with his team's overall performance that night. The Red Wings were sharper defensively against Edmonton and took control in the second period, when they outshot the Oilers 15-7.

Detroit is 10-0-1 in its last 11 regular-season games against Edmonton.

The Red Wings have gone five games without allowing a goal in the first or second period, and the Oilers didn't do much to threaten that streak. Edmonton is 0-3-1 in its last four games.

Howard had to make a couple of terrific saves against the Avalanche and came within 90 seconds of a shutout in that game. He wasn't tested as much by Edmonton, even after the Oilers pulled their goalie with more than 2 minutes remaining.

Howards Stats this season:
SV% 0.915
GAA 2.50
W:10 L:7

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks Stellar Goaltending

The Chicago Blackhawks started the season with questions about their goaltending situation.
Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have changed the conversation.
Thanks to having perhaps the NHL's best goalie tandem, the Blackhawks have broken a league record by opening with at least a point in 22 straight games. They have matched Montreal's multi-season points run from the 1977-78 season and trail only the Philadelphia Flyers' streak of 35 straight games with at least a point during the 1979-80 season.
Chicago's next chance to extend its streak will be Tuesday at home against the Minnesota Wild.
"No matter who is in the net, the guys have been playing very well in front of them, and they give us confidence as well," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday, when his team extended the mark with a 2-1 shootout win at Detroit. "The consistency there has been one of the key factors to the start."
The Blackhawks (19-0-3) welcomed back Crawford against the Red Wings for the first time since he left last Thursday's game at St. Louis with an upper-body injury. He didn't give up a goal in the shootout and finished with 32 saves, including a spectacular one with his glove to prevent Detroit from taking a two-goal lead in the third period, helping Chicago win a ninth straight game.
When Crawford was not healthy enough to play, Emery has been perfect.
"Ray's been outstanding," Crawford said. "We're both kind of feeding off each other.
"It's a big confidence boost."
Emery is 9-0 in starts and is among league leaders with a 2.02 goals-against average in 10 games. But the 30-year-old backup insisted he doesn't mind sitting and watching his 28-year-old teammate play.
"I understand that there are roles and Corey's the guy," Emery said.
Quenneville said it has been a "healthy situation," on and off the ice.
"Both guys want to play and both guys have proven in this league they can be a top goalie," Quenneville said. "It seems like no matter what player you look at in our lineup, everybody is contributing in a meaningful way and it starts with our goaltenders."
How challenging is it to decide who plays, especially when Crawford is less than 100 percent healthy and Emery's record is unblemished this season?
"We don't mind tough decisions," Quenneville said with a grin.
The Blackhawks, though, didn't like the difficult, but necessary, call they had to make after the franchise won its first NHL title since 1961.
After hoisting the Stanley Cup three years ago, Chicago cut ties with its championship-winning goalie, Antti Niemi, in a salary-cap move and tried to keep winning with past-his-prime Marty Turco and Crawford.
It didn't work out too well when it mattered most: Chicago got knocked out of the playoffs in the opening round of each of the past two postseasons.
Crawford gave up 13 goals in losses during the first round last year to Phoenix, which won two games in overtime on soft goals against him with Emery as his idle backup. Crawford beat out Turco for the job two years ago and allowed 11 goals in setbacks against Vancouver in the opening round as Chicago's revamped team failed to defend its championship.
Crawford is coming through this season, allowing a league-low 1.41 goals per game and ranking second with a .945 save percentage. Emery ranks sixth in the NHL with a 2.02 GAA and with his .926 save percentage.
"They've got depth all over the place, but it's a particular luxury to have two goalies like they have," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "If they don't have one, they can put the other one in without missing a beat."