Sunday was Hockey Day in America and the National Hockey League celebrated with a day full of great action. In addition to our Monday morning staple, the “Week in Review,” we will take a look at a big game in New Jersey.
Blackwood Steals the Show
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the better stories of the 2019-20 season. After dealing with a mass exodus of free agents during offseason and many key injuries since opening night, they are right in the middle of the playoff race.
However, their road to the Stanley Cup playoffs has gotten a little rockier with their recent 0-3-2 stretch. They lost their fifth in a row on Sunday thanks to the efforts of New Jersey Devils’ netminder Mackenzie Blackwood.
The Devils, who traded away captain Andy Green and forward Blake Coleman before the game, gutted out a 4-3 shootout win thanks to Blackwood’s gallant effort. After making 52 saves in regulation and overtime, he stopped six of the seven shots he faced in the shootout.
“This team has no quit, no matter what the score is,” Blackwood said on Sunday. “We’re going to keep playing, so as long as we kind of find a way to settle things down, we know we’ll be alright and keep playing.”
The 52 saves were a new career-high for Blackwood and they were the third-highest single-game total in franchise history. William McKenzie made 53 saves on Jan. 1, 1978 and Bill Oleschuk holds the record with his 54 saves on Jan. 17, 1978. Both of those performances came when the franchise was still the Colorado Rockies.
Week in Review
We have written so much about Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy lately that we should rename this column “THW’s What Andrei Vasilevskiy Did Last Night.” He had another huge week as he continues to prove that he is the best goaltender in the league.
He started his week with a 35-save effort to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime on Tuesday night. He allowed just one goal on 30 shots against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. On Saturday, he had a rare slip up by allowing three goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, but still picked up his league-leading 32nd win on the season.
He finished the week with a 1.64 goals-against average (GAA) and .949 save percentage (SV%). Vasilevskiy has not lost in regulation since he was defeated by the Washington Capitals on Dec. 14.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner wasn’t the only goaltender to pick up three wins last week. Carter Hutton guided the Buffalo Sabres to victories over the Detroit Red Wings, Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs.
His best game of the week came on Thursday night when he made 28 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Blue Jackets. His week ended with a 2.30 GAA and .915 SV%.
For much of the season, it appeared that the New Islanders were a lock for the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, they have slipped to third place in the Metropolitan Division and are in a dogfight for a postseason berth.
Thomas Greiss had been having a pretty good season until he missed some time due to injury. After making 40 saves against the New York Rangers on Jan. 21, Greiss was placed in injured reserved with a lower-body injury and has struggled since getting back on the ice.
In his four games since returning on Feb. 1, he has allowed 13 goals on 86 shots for a 4.03 GAA and .849 SV%. His low point came this past Thursday when he was pulled midway through the first period after giving up three goals on just eight shots against the Nashville Predators.
Backup of the Week
Things have not gone as planned for the Predators this season. They entered the season as one of the favorites in the Central Division, but if the Stanley Cup playoffs started today, they would not be in them. The firing of head coach Peter Laviolette and replacing him with John Hynes has not provided the spark they wanted as the Predators have gone 8-7-0 since the move was made.
One of the biggest reasons for the team’s struggles this season has been the play of their goaltenders. Pekka Rinne, just two years removed from winning the Vezina Trophy, is having the worst season of his career with a 3.11 GAA and .895 SV%.
While backup Juuse Saros’ numbers have not been great, they have been better than Rinne’s. He had himself a nice week by appearing in three games and winning both of his starts.
After relieving Rinne in Vancouver on Monday, he had a 31-save shutout on Thursday night against the Islanders. He followed that up with a 23-save performance in 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues. His week concluded with a 1.89 GAA and .931 SV%.
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