Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States and it is an important date in the National Hockey League. Many pundits use the holiday as the date for when we are no longer “early in the season” and the playoff races begin for real. Over 75% of the teams who are in a playoff spot on American Thanksgiving end up playing in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs come April.
Thanksgiving eve was a busy night with 13 games on the NHL schedule. We had a strange game in Detroit, which included a shutout, and even more history in New York. We also have a birthday for one of this generation’s best goaltenders and we will look back at a pair of historic moments.
Maple Leafs Dominate Weird Night in Motown
Sheldon Keefe became the first coach in Toronto Maple Leafs history to win the first three games of his NHL career when his team rolled over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. The Maple Leafs had 54 shots on goal in 6-0 whitewash of their Original 6 rivals.
Frederik Andersen made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season. He now has 11 shutouts as a member of the Maple Leafs and 17 in his career. The Red Wings have been shutout in back-to-back games, the first time this has happened since January of 2004.
Former Maple Leaf, Jonathan Bernier, was scheduled to start the game, but he was a late scratch due to illness. Things got very interesting when Jimmy Howard had to leave with an injury halfway through the opening period. Bernier toughed it out to play the final 50 minutes of the game.
“We knew [Jonathan Bernier] was sick, so we didn’t know what was going to happen when [Jimmy] Howard got hurt,” Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie admitted after the game. “There was that long delay, and we thought they might have to bring in their emergency guy. We were kind of excited about that, but Jonathan finally came out.”
The Red Wings recalled Calvin Pickard from the Grand Rapids Griffins to replace the injured Howard on the roster.
Pickard, a veteran of 104 NHL games, has a 7-6-2 record with a 3.00 goals-against average (GAA) and 0.898 save percentage (SV%) in 15 American Hockey League games this season.
Big Week Continues for Lundqvist
On Monday night, Henrik Lundqvist became the fifth most winningest goaltender in NHL history with his 455th career victory. He made more history just by taking the ice on Wednesday night.
Lundqvist became just the second goaltender in NHL history to play in 1000 or more games (regular-season and playoffs combined) for one franchise. His old rival, Martin Brodeur, is the only other netminder to accomplish this with his 1,464 games played for the New Jersey Devils.
Lundqvist had a pretty good night on the ice by making 41 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hockey Hall of Fame should be clearing off a space for his plaque in the near future.
Happy Birthday, Flower
Speaking of goaltenders who will be enshrined in Toronto one day, today is Marc-Andre Fleury’s 35th birthday. We have talked a lot about the Vegas Golden Knights’ top netminder this season because he is playing some of the best hockey of this career.
Fleury is one of just three goaltenders to have drafted first overall and he is the only one to ever live up to the hype. He has played in 818 games and posted a 2.56 GAA, .913 SV% and 58 shutouts. His 450 career wins have him seventh all-time in league history and he needs just five more to pass Curtis Joseph for sixth place. He has been part of three Stanley Cup-winning teams and played in two other Stanley Cup Finals.
In case you’re wondering, the other goaltenders drafted first overall, Rick DiPietro (2000) and Michel Plasse (1968), played in a combined 616 NHL games.
Nov. 28 in Goaltending History
Back on this date in 1925, one of the NHL’s first great goaltenders played in his final game. Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Georges Vezina collapsed during a 1-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The following day he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He made one final visit to the Canadiens locker room on Dec. 3 to say goodbye to his teammates. He passes away on March 27, 1925.
Vezina was the only goaltender to play for the Canadiens between 1910 and 1925 and won the Stanley Cup in 1916 and again in 1924. He played in 327 consecutive games and an addition 39 playoff games, appearing in five Stanley Cup Finals.
At the start of the 1926-27 season, the Canadiens donated the Vezina Trophy to the NHL as an award to the goaltender who allowed the fewest goals during the season. It is still given out today to the most outstanding goaltender as voted on by NHL general managers.
Check out the THW Goalie Page for everything between the pipes.
On Nov. 28, 1979, Billy Smith of the New Islanders became the first goaltender to be credited with an NHL goal. Smith made a save during a delayed penalty and was the last Islanders player to touch the puck before Colorado Rockies’ defenseman Rob Ramage put it into his own vacated net.
Since this historic moment, 10 other goaltenders have lit the lamp. Brodeur scored three goals while Ron Hextall had a pair of goals, include the first in the playoffs. Chris Osgood, Damian Rhodes, Jose Theodore, Evgeni Nabokov, Mike Noronen, Chris Mason, Cam Ward and Mike Smith are the other netminders to have a goal in their careers.