For sixteen teams, this morning signaled another practice as the “second season” begins. The other fourteen spent the past two days saying goodbye and thank you to their fans for sticking by them. Here’s to remembering the teams that ended their seasons too soon.
As the regular season winds down and playoff dreams are on the verge of coming true, pausing to recognize one of the biggest milestones at the start of any player’s NHL career seems like a fine idea. So far this season, 86 rookies have hit the twine behind goaltenders across the league, each with their own story to tell about the goal they scored, and each with a smile as big as the moon when they realized the puck was in the net.
The stars aligned for Dallas Stars forward Alex Chiasson when he scored his first goal in his second NHL game on April 5 against the Anaheim Ducks. It was the beginning of a five game scoring streak that saw him rack up a total of 7 points in his first six games, concluding with the game winning goal in the April 13 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Not only was it a fantastic personal feat, but it set a new franchise record for the Stars.
Today we’re going to do something different for this feature. Usually we mention the best player tweets from the past week. While I’m sure some players have said some crazy things, I want to focus on what some official team twitters have been saying. Apparently there are a couple of teams that want to be like the Los Angeles Kings.
Speaking of the Kings, let’s start with their tweet to the New Jersey Devils last Monday:
I have no idea what happened but this week we’ve had no problem finding awesome player tweets. In fact, we found so many that we couldn’t decide which to use and therefore made the executive decision to use all of them. You’ll understand why soon enough.
If they were to hold a draft for hockey analysts and colour commentators, you’d see a goaltender go first. I know you’re thinking “Oh, yes. I could listen to Ilya Bryzgalov talk all day about “space danger” and bears in the forest. He’s just so strange and entertaining.” Let me tell you two things. First, Bryz has nothing on Gilles “Gratoony the Loony” Gratton and second, not while I’m here.
But what is it that makes goalies such standouts as the talkies behind the microphone? The analysts who break down the games for us after we’ve done nothing but curse at the television for two and a half hours? Darren Pang, whose NHL career saw 3 seasons with the Blackhawks (alright, his first season consisted of one game) and 5 seasons of goaltending experience in the IHL and AHL, sums it up nicely and rather simply. Goaltenders “have the ability to see a lot of things from [their playing] position.” [x]
“I think more than anything else, your goalies are pretty much individuals on team sports… We all have different thoughts and we all handle things differently. I don’t think you have to be the best goalie to be an analyst, just the ability to put it across the air and have people understand it better.” [x]
Oh, and he also adds this detail to the mix: “At the end of the day, a lot of us are yapping guys, a lot of us are talkative people and outgoing people.” [x]
Maybe that’s closer to the truth?
Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets)
The Columbus Blue Jackets are only two points out of the playoffs for the first time in years and it is all in thanks to this man. Sergei Bobrovsky has been playing like a man possessed – or, in short, like a very, very good NHL goalie. The Jackets currently have the lowest goal/game ratio, with a large portion of their recent games going to extra time. Yes, they’re playing much better defensively than in years past, and are a hard-working, grinding team, but the real reason? Sergei Bobrovsky. After wilting in a back-up role in Philadelphia, a town notoriously hard on the position between the pipes, Bobrovsky has flourished in Columbus and firmly taken the #1 starter role. Philadelphia’s got to regret letting this one go.
After being named the NHL’s First Star of the Week with 0.77 GAA, .972SV%, and a shutout in four games, Bobrovsky has improved this week to a staggering 0.62 GAA, a .982SV%, and a shutout in three. I didn’t know that was actually possible.
The thing is, the Jackets probably didn’t even have the playoffs in their sights. This is a short season for the team before everything goes topsy-turvy with a move to the East and two changes in higher management that are sure to begin improving the franchise. But if Bobrovsky gets them there, he’ll deserve free dinner from his teammates for a very long time.
Ray Emery (Chicago Blackhawks)
The Chicago Blackhawks have it all. The Blackhawks have shown an astounding depth this season, rolling all four lines and having the defense contribute offensively on their way to a historic, record-breaking game winning streak. I mean, even ESPN talked about it. But it wouldn’t be possible without the dynamic duo of Chicago’s goaltenders, Ray Emery and Corey Crawford, keeping Chicago’s GA second lowest only to Ottawa. After a worrisome sophomore season, Crawford is also a candidate, but Emery is the story in the Windy City.
Ray Emery has stepped up in unimaginable ways. Last season, goaltending was Chicago’s weakest link. Nowadays shows quite a different tale. Emery has been the perfect back-up, playing reliably and backstopping Chicago even when Crawford was down and out with injury. After a potentially career-ending hip operation, Emery has bounced back and established himself among the best of the best. He is the first NHL goaltender in history to start a season 11-0. Yeah, this guy is still undefeated in regulation.
And the Blackhawks’ streak? Could very well have been broken in February 2nd’s game against Calgary, where the Hawks played some spectacularly uninspired hockey. Emery stole the win for the team, stopped 45 of 47 shots and somehow managed to remain standing through the shootout. Four for you, Ray Emery.
In case you haven’t heard, the NHL officially approved realignment today. Although let’s be honest – as soon as the players put their okay on this it was basically done. Above is a pretty little chart that shows the new divisions courtesy of our fabulous Blackhawks writer Kat Velez. For those who still aren’t sure which team is now where, you can read all about it here.
I, for one, love the new division names. (I know, I know. They’re temporary. At least they aren’t calling Division C the Central Division anymore.)
Anyway, so what does this have to do with our weekly They Said What post? Because some official twitter accounts decided to voice their opinions and it was…well it was amazing if I’m being honest.
Sure, tweets from hockey players are a great thing, but it’s even better when they tweet photos. Mostly because they’re hilarious.
Last nights’ rumors have been made official as the Columbus Blue Jackets announced this morning that Jarmo Kekalainen will be the new General Manager of the team. He will be the first European GM in NHL history, although he doesn’t care about that:
“It’s an honor to be 1st European GM. But I think I’m pro, not just European. I don’t think this is not advantage or disadvantage.”
Kekalainen is currently still in Finland where he had been managing Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League but will be making his way to Columbus once immigration issues are resolved. (Those pesky visas always hold things up!)
Shocking news broke earlier this evening when the Blue Jackets announced they had fired GM Scott Howson. Oh, you weren’t surprised? Yeah, I don’t think anyone was.
In the “news that should’ve happened months ago” (CBJ fans might even say years ago) department, John Davidson in announcing the change told the Columbus Dispatch:
“It’s something I said when I got here, that I’d watch and evauluate,” Davidson told The Dispatch tonight. “I wanted to make a change in that area. I’ve been thinking more and more about it in recent days. It’s a hard thing, but something I felt in my gut I needed to do.”
Rumor is the Blue Jackets are close to hiring a new GM, hence the reason for the change tonight. The name appearing on most peoples’ list appears to be Jarmo Kakalainen, who is currently managing Jokerit over in the Finnish Elite League. He does have an out clause if a NHL job becomes available. While nothing is confirmed, it is possible the new GM will be announced some time tomorrow.
To follow the latest news, see the article linked to above (which will be updated throughout the night) or follow Aaron Portzline, who is number one for anything dealing with the Blue Jackets, on twitter here.