We only had two games on the National Hockey League schedule on Friday night, but we got another road win from a top rookie. Also, the Pacific Division gets a new netminder for the All-Star Game and one of the top goalies in the league gets a big honor.
Fleury Declines All-Star Game Invite
Vegas Golden Knight goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was selected to be one of two netminders for the Pacific Division earlier this week. However, he will not be making the trip to St. Louis for the festivities as he announced on Friday that he will not play in the All-Star Game.
Due to league rule, Fleury will now have to serve a one-game suspension for skipping out on the annual event. The veteran netminder will sit out for either the Golden Knight’s game at the Boston Bruins on Jan. 21 or the game at the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 31.
The Pacific Division team is not getting a slouch, by any means, to replace him. It was quickly announced that Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks will take his roster spot.
Markstrom is 14-11-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average (GAA) and a .917 save percentage (SV%). He becomes the first Canucks goalie to play in an All-Star game since Roberto Luongo in 2009. Markstrom will join his teammate, forward Elias Pettersen, in St. Louis, making this the first year since 2012 where the Canucks had multiple players in the All-Star Game.
Samsonov is a True Road Warrior
The Washington Capitals became the first team to reach 60 points this season with a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night. Rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov was the star of the night with 38 saves.
He is now a perfect 8-0-0 in road games this season with a 2.19 GAA and .919 SV%. He is just the second first-year goaltender in NHL history to win his first eight starts on the road. Brent Johnson hold the record when he won the first 10 road starts of his career between 1999 and 2001.
Samsonov was under heavy fire during the first period as the Hurricanes bombarded with 18 shots and he stopped all of them.
“That’s OK, I like it with the shots at my net,” Samsonov said about the very busy opening period. “It doesn’t matter where (the game) is played. I’m feeling comfortable playing at home or on the road.”
Lehner Honored and Injured
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner has been spectacular this season while forming quite the formidable duo with Corey Crawford. While the team is not piling up victories as they had hoped, you can’t blame their overall lack of success on the goaltending.
On Friday, Lehner was named as the second annual Unmasked Goalie of the Year. It wasn’t just his great performance on the ice over the past 12 months that earned him this honor, but also his tireless efforts raising mental health awareness.
Lehner was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2019 and he won the Masterton Trophy where he delivered a very emotional acceptance speech. He has never been afraid to discuss his own mental health publicly and he has been supportive of others who are in dark places. He has been an advocate of the “SameHere” movement which lets those struggling with mental health know that they are not alone.
“Why I like the SameHere organization and their message is realizing that we’re all struggling with something,” Lehner said. “Everyone in every team I’ve been on, every person I’ve ever met, everyone has some type of battle in their life and we like to put these mental aspects or addiction in certain pockets of society, which is just not right. So it’s a starting point. But if people can just be more open about it, I think it can help change the situation long term.”
While Lehner and Crawford essentially played every other game for much of the season, Lehner has started the last seven games in a row for the Blackhawks. That streak will come to an end Sunday night versus the Detroit Red Wings.
Lehner suffered a right-knee injury during Thursday night’s loss at the Canucks. While the injury wasn’t serious enough for him to leave the game at the time, he is now considered “day-to-day,” according to head coach Jeremy Colliton.
The Blackhawks recalled American Hockey League All-Star Kevin Lankinen from the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday morning.