NHL Week in Review (Oct. 30-Nov. 5)

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A goalie is an essential part to e hockey teams as they are the last line of defence and can easily take over a game. There has rarely been a Stanley Cup Champion without a very good performance by a goalie. Whether it is Tim Thomas last year with the Bruins or Patrick Roy with the Canadiens and the Avalanche the common denominator has been a great goalie. This has become a big aspect to many teams as a lot of teams continue to look for goalies that can guide them to the Stanley Cup. Finding this goalie is a lot harder than one might think as there are plenty of goalies and limited spots. The issue for many is finding a goalie that can take one of these few spots and hold it for years. Many teams have thought they found their goalie but have had struggles after one great year like in Columbus where Steve Mason won the Calder Trophy for his performance in net but has fallen off in the last two years. Other teams have struggled to find a goalie especially one to replace a legend like in Colorado where Patrick Roy cast a shadow over Peter Budaj, David Aebischer, Craig Anderson, Jose Theodore, and Brian Elliott and none have been able to get out of the shadow. Then there are the teams that have found their goalies and have been successful because of it like the Vancouver Canucks with Roberto Luongo, until this year of course. The importance of goaltenders is so much so that teams sign them to major deals in order to keep them and provide a solid presence for a team to build around. This has been the case for many goalies over the years but something has happened when goalies get these big deals. Goalies tend to begin to breakdown when not playing for a contract and teams are left with massive contracts and a goalie that is not that great anymore or cannot play a full season. Look at Rick DiPietro for the New York Islanders who signed a record 15-year deal worth $67.5 million in 2006. DiPietro played very well in the first two years of his deal and seemed to warrant that big contract but since the 2007-08 season he has played a total of 42 games, not even a full season worth of games within 4 years. The same seems to be happening out West with Roberto Luongo who signed a 12-year $64 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks in 2009. Luongo has done well in the first part of this contract taking the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals last year but this year, in year 3 of the contract, he has looked like a backup more than a premier goaltender. With this history on big contracts for goalies teams might be a little hesitant to sing massive contracts but that did not stop the Nashville Predators from doing just that this past week. The Predators believe that they have found their goalie and many would agree as Pekka Rinne is the most underrated goaltender in the NHL. He is one of the best goalies in the league but he plays in Nashville which hurts his standing among the top goalies in the NHL. Even though playing in Nashville may hurt his reputation Rinne and the Preds agreed to a 7-year $49 million deal. This deal is nowhere near the level of a Luongo or DiPietro deal but for a small market team in the south $49-million over 7 years is a big deal. The biggest question for Nashville is whether or not Rinne can play to his usual level throughout the 7 year deal or will he only last for two and begin to fall in the dreaded third year. The question for NHL fans and media is whether or not the Predators overpaid for their goalie? I for one believe that they did exactly what they needed to do and that the money is fair. Rinne is becoming more known in the NHL, finishing 2nd in Vezina voting last year, and locking him up for 7 years is a smart move to keep him away from the free agent market. Not only does it keep him a Predator for the foreseeable future but it also provides the Predators with a constant force in the net for a team that struggles to find offence year after year. As for the $49 million it is not even close to some other goalies that he matches up with and the fact that they did not front load the deal but chose to spread the deal out over the 7 years, it will pay Rinne $7 million every year for seven years. This will ensure that the Predators only take that hit every year instead of the $11 million that Luongo takes up in Vancouver. This deal makes sense for the Predators as without it Rinne might have been out the door very soon but by signing him the Predators have ensured that they have a base to build on for the next 7 years.

While the Predators have seemingly found their goalie the Maple Leafs are without their newfound superstar in net. James Reimer has been out of the lineup for a few weeks now and after a big start for the Leafs many assumed that the loss would begin the fall. The Leafs did not get the memo as they moved on with Jonas Gustavsson in net and continued to play well. Then recently Ben Scrivens came in as another option and the Leafs have done just as well. It is not just the goalies however as the entire Leafs team seems to be putting every team in the NHL on notice. The Leafs are at the top of the NHL with a 9-4-1 record, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Leaf supporters are in heaven. With the great performance of Phil Kessel and the host of supporters that the Leafs have put together they are finally looking like the team that fans have been hoping for since they last won the Stanley Cup in 1964. That is just the thing though as the Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1964 and every year they have come close something seems to go wrong. Leafs fans have always ignored the problems but it seems to be getting to them this year. With the performances of the past some Leafs fans seem to be cautiously optimistic as they have seen this before. Last year the Leafs were one of the best teams in the beginning of the year but quickly fell off in the middle of the year. With the stretch of bad play the Leafs were forced to scratch and claw themselves back into playoff contention but they could not finish it off. The similarities are palpable this year as many Leafs fans are having flashbacks to last year and not crowning the Leafs yet. This is especially true after their loss to Boston on Saturday that saw the Leafs completely outclassed by the Bruins. This could be a sign of a start to the fall but it is only one game. There is a lot of season left and having a good start can help you in the future but the play must be kept up if the Leafs hope to make the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. The Leafs are currently the best in the NHL but the reality is they will probably not stay their all season. The positive to be taken from this great start is that these wins can go a long way to a realistic playoff push and that the Leafs are actually a better team and a playoff contender if they can keep up their performance.

 

Standings

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (21)

2. Philadelphia Flyers (18)

3. New York Rangers (15)

4. New Jersey Devils (13)

5. New York Islanders (10)

Northeast Division:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (19)

2. Buffalo Sabres (16)

3. Ottawa Senators (15)

4. Montreal Canadiens (12)

5. Boston Bruins (10)

Southeast Division:

1. Washington Capitals (18)

2. Florida Panthers (14)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (14)

4. Carolina Hurricanes (13)

5. Winnipeg Jets (12)

 

Western Conference

 Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks (19)

2. Nashville Predators (16)

3. Detroit Red Wings (13)

4. St. Louis Blues (12)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (5)

Northwest Division:

1. Edmonton Oilers (18)

2. Minnesota Wild (17)

3. Colorado Avalanche (15)

4. Vancouver Canucks (13)

5. Calgary Flames (11)

Pacific Division:

1. Dallas Stars (18)

2. Phoenix Coyotes (16)

3. San Jose Sharks (15)

4. Los Angeles Kings (15)

5. Anaheim Ducks (13)

 

Key Scores

Ottawa Senators 3 – 2 Toronto Maple Leafs

– The Battle of Ontario started off this season with two teams that are streaking at the beginning of the year and the Senators took the first blow of the year

 

Minnesota Wild 2 – 1 Detroit Red Wings

– The Detroit Red Wings continued their slide against the Minnesota Wild who are a surprisingly good team this year

 

Dallas Stars 7 – 6 Colorado Avalanche (OT)

– Matt Duchene has woken up and scored his first hat trick but it was not enough to overcome the 7 goals by the surprising Stars

 

Boston Bruins 7 – 0 Toronto Maple Leafs

– The Leafs seemed to be in a different league against a Bruins team that looked to be back from their Stanley Cup Hangover with a big 7-0 win

 

Key Matchups Next Week:

Vancouver Canucks vs. Chicago Blackhawks (November 6th; 7:00 pm)

– The rivalry between these two teams has continued to grow with both teams facing off in two heated playoff matchups and they will take each other on for the first time this year

 

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks (November 7th; 10:30 pm)

– In a battle of California Teams the Sharks and Kings will battle it out with both teams looking to make an impression this season

 

Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings (November 8th; 7:30 pm)

– The rivalry that was may be dead but with the Avalanche playing better hockey and the Red Wings struggling this game could be another close matchup

 

Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (November 12th; 7:00 pm)

– The Battle of Ontario hits the main stage on Hockey Night in Canada as both teams try to continue their strong starts to the season

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