2/18/12- Studs & Duds
The Sedins and Alex Burrows- Frankly there have not been enough nights recently that the Sedins and Alex Burrows have taken over a game. The line combined for 10 points in the 6-2 win over the Maple Leafs. The emergence of players like Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen have made up for some of the more mediocre nights for the Sedins but if the top line in Vancouver can keep clicking they'll be at a whole different level of dangerous offensively.
I Kip You Not- Jonathan Quick was good last night against Calgary, but Flames netminder, Miikka Kiprusoff was on his game. The Finnish goalie picked up win number 27 and his fourth shutout of the season with a 1-0 win over the Kings. Talks of a Leland Irving or now longshot, Henrik Karlsson usurped the starting role in Calgary are stymied since Kiprusoff has been excellent; often times with little offensive help. His peripherals are very strong with a 2.23 GAA and a .924 SAV%.
After a slow start to his second tour in Calgary, another Flame that caught my attention is Michael Cammalleri. With Backlund injured for awhile, his value increases as the second line center and the results have followed. He has a point in 4 straight games and 5 points in his last six games. Worthy of a buylow if you can.
Ken Hitchcock: The Master of Defense- The St. Louis Blues had an all-round dominant showing against the Minnesota Wild yesterday afternoon. The Wild only managed 13 shots on Brian Elliott and the Blues won 4-0. When St. Louis is at their best, they are give few chances on net, are solid defensively and come in waves offensively. They are a roster that is physical, deep, and smothering on many nights.
In short they are the prototypical Ken Hitchcock coached team. The Hitchcock teams in Dallas which lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999-2000 to the Devils and won the season before against the Sabres, were deep offensively (not just at the forward positions) and had a world class goalie in Ed Belfour of strong stay at home defensemen to help them to their success. In the Hitchcock formula, as with many, if you miss one ingredient like the teams he coached in Philadelphia, which lacked a truly strong number one goalie, the team will lose in the playoffs at some point. His days in Columbus missed many parts to the puzzle which makes his defensive strategy a nightmare with no scoring and even worse, no defense or goaltending.
The current Blues are fitting the Hitchcock plan like a glove with the talent and effort they bring to the ice. Despite, neither Jaroslav Halak nor Brian Elliott being in the realm of an Ed Belfour yet the tandem has put up the kind of numbers that makes Hitchcock teams so frustrating as the Minnesota Wild's Warren Peters exemplified with his crosscheck to the side of David Backes' head in an ugly third period.
Honorable Mention- The Chicago Blackhawks got back on the right track with a 6-1 domination of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Philly Quarter of Minus-Three- For a team that many rightly consider to be a strong contender come playoff time, the Philadelphia Flyers have got to learn to play smarter hockey, especially against other good offensive teams. The Flyers managed four goals but allowed six goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even worse it was not fault of young players like Sean Couturier or Eric Wellwood, who were both plus-one players that game. Those two especially actually know how to play defense but the foursome of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek failed to find a balance between attack and timely caution. Giroux and Hartnell are good physical players but need to be leaders to their team by showing smarter hockey on a consistent basis against the league's top offenses, especially with how their goaltending has been this year.
The Whole Blue Jackets Team- It happens way too often that a compelling case could be made that any and every aspect of a team's play was utterly awful. However the Columbus Blue Jackets were equally bad defensively, offensively and in net. The goaltending and defense rarely put in a strong enough effort and even if they do, the offensive players can't get on the scoreboard or simply keep the puck at the other end of the rink often enough for it to matter. Most Columbus wins, in my opinion, are just as much a product of the opposition being on an off-night as it is any thing Columbus does to earn it. It is a sad point when a team has to rely on the competition not to be at their best or some times even at their typical level of play in order to have a frequent chance of winning.
Maple Leaf Goaltending- It seems to be that at least one of Jonas Gustavsson or James Reimer are generally on their game, hence a large part of why Toronto is a better team this year. However neither goalie has been able to tie down the starting role and as a tandem lack a sturdy enough foundation where a regular cycle of starts can be distributed with much certainty. All season it has just been the Maple Leafs riding the hot hand which gets dangerous if neither goalie has a hot hand over even a short stretch of a few games. They need at least one to be on his game and if they don't have that, Toronto will disappear into the woodworks again.
Dobber Hockey Columbus Blue Jackets Forum Writer
Co-Commish of DTDL and UNFHL
Member of UHL, UDHL and LOFHL