Thoughts Are My Own: Lots of Highlight-Reel Stuff

Thoughts as we sit exactly one week away from Black Friday:

*He didn’t get much help, but James Reimer turned in what will likely be one of the more putrid goaltending performances of the year. Sometimes it’s just about making that save. He made none of them.

*On the other hand, great night for Steve Mason in the Flyers 5-2 win over Winnipeg. Thirty-save effort, his stoning of Nikolaj Ehlers midway through the second period was game-changing.

*A nice goal by Sean Couturier got things going for the Flyers, as Couturier walked right in after puck-carrying Mark Scheifele lost his feet, leading to the turnover. It looked like Jakub Voracek got away with a trip on the play.

*The Flyers have won six straight against the Jets. Winnipeg hasn’t won in Philly since January 2012, a 2-1 shootout win.

*A play you missed gazing over Mitch Marner’s highlight-reel goal: Matt Read’s diving pass to set up a Michael Raffl goal. Read, in a puck battle with Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey, makes a great read (no pun intended) on the play, seeing Raffl streaking down the middle of the ice, left alone after Morrissey gave chase to the puck after Dustin Byfuglien made a bad pinch that led to the two-on-one. Read’s dive shuffled the pass over to Raffl, who went in and beat Connor Hellebuyck for the easy score.

*Nice gesture by the Senators to acknowledge Mike Fisher’s 1,000th career game (which he did this past March, to clarify). The Predators captain played 675 of those games in Ottawa, from 1999 to 2011. Fisher was a key piece in those great Senators teams of the 2000s, and was integral in Ottawa’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2007.

*Nashville is 5-1-2 in its last eight. Pierre LeBrun wrote earlier this week the Preds appear to be hitting their stride. It would seem that way.

*Devan Dubnyk might be the best player in the NHL nobody talks about. Dubnyk’s league-leading fourth shutout of the season in Minnesota’s 1-0 win over Boston was his 14th since joining the Wild. He has a .952 save percentage and 1.47 GAA this season.

*Another play you missed gazing over Mitch Marner’s highlight-reel goal: Ben Bishop makes a diving save on a Kyle Okposo shot that looked like a no-doubter goal. That said, it was Bishop who threw the puck out into the big ice from behind the net, which met the tape of Okposo. It’s like he wanted the Sabre to score.

*Predators top goaltending prospect Juuse Saros made 35 saves in Milwaukee’s 1-0 win over Cleveland on Thursday night. Saros had a 1.74 GAA in eight games for the Admirals, which trails only Michael Leighton (1.62) in the AHL. His .940 save percentage is bested only Wilkes-Barre/Scranton netminder Casey DeSmith, who has a .963 save percentage but has played only four games.

*A big win for No. 6 UMass-Lowell, who went out to visit ninth-ranked Notre Dame and came out with a 4-1 win. The River Hawks are on the back end of a two-weekend stretch that includes trips to Orono and Indiana.

Mitch Marner’s Goal

As nice a goal as you’ll see. He does a good job getting a step on Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson as he gets the pass from James van Reimsdyk breaking out of the zone. From there, he’s able to create space for himself while outmuscling the big, strong Matheson as broke for the net, dancing around James Reimer and burying the puck.

Game to watch Friday night

N.Y. Rangers at Columbus: A pair of teams that account for two of the three-highest goal differentials so far this season; the Rangers leading at plus-34 while the Blue Jackets are third at plus-14. The Blueshirts do it by scoring (league-high 72 goals) while the Jackets play good defense (Eastern Conference-low 33 goals allowed).

Hat Trick Pick

Sidney Crosby: Sid has 96 points in 55 games against the Islanders, the Penguins opponent on Friday night. Crosby’s 30 goals against the Isles are second only to the Flyers (35). He has 10 goals through 10 games, the closest he’s ever come to a goal-per-game in his NHL career was in 2010-11, when he had 32 goals in 41 games.

Advertisements

UConn Win over Notre Dame Another Sign of Program Moving in Right Direction

This year marks the third season for UConn in the Hockey East. The Huskies were 13-23-8 in league play over its first two seasons in the conference. They started 1-0 with a 4-2 win over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night.

The 14-23-8 record in UConn’s first 45 games in Hockey East suggests exactly what was expected of the program when it entered the league two years ago. The friendly rivals down Interstate 84 would be, well, doormats. Maybe they’d pick up a win over a Providence here, tie a BU there, pick up a weekend sweep with an unsuspecting team once in a blue moon. And to be fair, the record suggests just that – a team that beats up on the Maines, New Hampshires, and Vermonts but can’t compete with the BCs, BUs, and Providences.

But it’s been the exact opposite. While talk of playing at the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals or qualifying for the NCAA tournament have been few and far between, the Huskies have been a respectable club, a formidable foe to conference opponents.

The Huskies win over the Irish on Thursday was its first. They’ve beat UMass-Lowell three times since joining the league. BC and BU have suffered defeats at the hands of the Huskies, while two of their eight ties have come against the two standard bearers of the conference. UConn is 8-12-4 against ranked opponents since entering the league.

This season, UConn is out to a 3-1-3 start through seven games – its lone loss to then-fourth ranked Quinnipiac – allowing just two goals per game, among eight teams in the nation to allow two goals or fewer. That group includes Army, BU, Bemidji State, Miami, North Dakota, Minnesota State, and Denver.

When factoring out odd-man situations (i.e. powerplays, shorthanded, extra attacker), the Huskies are outscoring opponents, 16-10, a goals-for percentage of .615. That’s good for sixth in the Hockey East. That said, Vermont is second in the conference in that category, where BC is the standard-bearer at .72. UConn is tied with UMass, and Maine is fourth. Meanwhile, UMass-Lowell and Providence lag along in the bottom five.

The centerpieces of the Huskies are a pair of Blues prospects, Maxim Letunov – a second-round pick by St. Louis in 2015 – and Tage Thompson, who was taken 26th overall by the Blues this past June. The duo combined for 30 goals and 72 points as freshmen last season, and are off to strong starts yet again in 2016-17; Thompson leads the team with eight points in seven games, Letunov has seven in six.

This year’s freshman class is headlined by Slovakian goaltender Adam Huska, a seventh-round pick by the New York Rangers. He was in net on Thursday, stopping 47 of 49 shots in the upset win. He compliments Rob Nichols, who has been among Hockey East’s most consistent goalies over the past three seasons.

Two of UConn’s three wins have come against Alabama-Huntsville while the Huskies tied American International out of Atlantic Hockey – a conference that has been pushing over the apple cart all season – but the Notre Dame win is more of a sign that this is a team going in the right direction. Expect to hear more about them as the season goes along.