October can be a bit of funky month in the National Hockey League. A lot of players and teams who were expected to do well get off to slows starts, while other players and teams who had low expectations heading into the season surprise us. We are starting to see some of those who got off on the wrong foot begin to turn things around now that the calendar has turned to November.
Hart Returns to Form in Philly
If there was one goaltender in need of huge performance to turn things around it was Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers. The former second-round draft pick had been struggling of late as he entered the Tuesday night’s contest against the Carolina Hurricanes with a 3.23 goals-against average (GAA) and .867 save percentage (SV%). In his last five games, he gave up 16 goals on 78 shots for a .794 SV%.
Hart was the man of the hour at the Wells Fargo Center by making a season-high 33 saves in a 4-1 victory over the visiting Hurricanes. Lucas Wallmark had the only goal for Carolina on a play that should have been reviewed for goaltender interference. Wallmark clearly skates by Hart and knocks the stick out of his hand moments before tying the game. For whatever reason, head coach Alain Vigneault elected not to challenge to the goal.
After the game, Hart revealed that he had been getting in some extra worth with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh the last few days.
“Just getting back to what I was always doing,” he said. “Last year, I made sure that I made the most of every practice we had because we don’t get a lot of practice time. That’s something Kim has been stressing, something I’ve been really focusing on, is I’m making the most of every minute in practice.”
Devils Get Revenge on Jets
The last the New Jersey Devils faced the Winnipeg Jets, on opening night, they built up a second-period 4-0 lead only to lose 5-4 in a shootout. The Devils were in Winnipeg for the rematch on Tuesday night and they returned the favor with a 2-1 shootout win for their second straight road victory.
Both MacKenzie Blackwood and Connor Hellebuyck were on their games. Blackwood finished with 32 saves, one more than Hellebuyck. The difference came in the shootout when Blackwood stopped both Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine while Nikita Gusev and Jesper Boqvist scored to earn the extra point.
On his way off the ice, Blackwood did a little shimmy to celebrate his fourth win in his last six games.
Goaltending Leading the Charge in Dallas
The Dallas Stars were one of the biggest disappointments over the first couple of weeks of the 2019-20 season. They were only able to win once in their first nine games. Since Oct. 19, they have gone 7-1-0 to get themselves right back in the Central Division race and have been looking more like the playoff team many predicted them to be before the season began.
The biggest reason for the Stars turnaround has been the play of goaltenders Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. In those seven wins, they have outscored their opponents 24-8. On the season, Bishop and Khudobin have combined for a 2.33 GAA and .921 SV%.
For years, the Stars were known for a high-powered offensive attack with the likes of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin leading the way. However, goaltending was their downfall and led to quite a few disappointing seasons in Dallas. That does not seem to be the case this season as their veteran backstops have been playing great since opening night and the rest of the team has apparently caught up with them.
A Historical Age Gap
When your league has been around for over 100 years like the NHL has, you are going to have your fair share of fun stats. One such stat happened on this date way back in 1943 at the old Madison Square Garden.
During the second period, 42-year-old Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers scored on the Chicago Blackhawks’ 19-year-old netminder Hec Highton. This marked the first time in NHL history where a player of a least 40 years old scored a goal against a teenaged goaltender. However, Highton would get the last laugh as he held on for the 4-3 victory, the first of his NHL career.