The National Hockey League had a very light and early schedule on Sunday as there was some sort of “Big Game” on later in the evening. Before the sports world focused their attention on Miami, FL, a pair of goaltenders kept their personal streaks alive. Also, it’s Monday and that means its time for our Week in Review segment.
Elvis is Still in the Building
If the Stanley Cup playoffs were to start today, the Columbus Blue Jackets would be in them. Despite all the big names lost during the offseason and a slew of key injuries, they keep finding ways to win. The Blue Jackets beat the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday afternoon to extend their current point streak to eight games.
Goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made 27 saves in a 4-3 victory to help the Blue Jackets leapfrog over the New York Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division. He has won his last six starts and the winning streak is the longest by a rookie netminder in franchise history.
Since picking up his first career NHL win on Dec. 31, Merzlikins has gone 10-2-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average (GAA), .947 save percentage (SV%) and three shutouts. Those 10 wins have him tied with Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the most during that span.
Murray Regaining his Top Form
Matt Murray played a big role in back-to-back Stanley Cup championships for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. Early-season struggles caused him to lose his starting job to Tristan Jarry, but he has been returning to his old form over the past few weeks.
Murray made 29 saves in 4-3 Penguins win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday, his first start since Jan. 19.
“[Murray] was unbelievable,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “He was great in every area, looking through traffic to pick up pucks, some quick plays in and around the net. They’ve got some shooters, so he made some big saves for us.”
Since Dec. 28, Murray is 6-0-0 with a 2.63 GAA and .922 SV%. His current winning streak matches the six-game streak Jarry had during the month of December. Pittsburgh sits in second place of the Metropolitan Division and if Murray keeps this up, they are going to be very hard to beat down the stretch.
Week in Review
The Buffalo Sabres only won one of their three games coming out of the All-Star break, but that wasn’t the fault of goaltender Carter Hutton. He appeared in all three games, starting two of them, and gave up just three goals on 56 shots.
He finished his week with a 1-1-0 record with 1.42 GAA and .946 SV%. This was a nice week for Hutton who has had a disappointing season so far. He currently has a 3.13 GAA and .897 SV% which are both well below his career averages.
Hutton played the final seven minutes of Tuesday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators, stopping all four shots he saw. He lost to the Canadiens on Thursday night after giving up just two goals on 29 shots. He finished his week on Saturday by beating the Blue Jackets 2-1, in overtime, with another 22 saves.
Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich has been having a good season with 20 wins to go along with a 2.87 GAA and .910 SV%. He took part in his very first All-Star Game in St. Louis and helped the Pacific Division to a victory.
However, he had a rough go of it coming out of the break in his two starts against the rival Edmonton Oilers. Wednesday’s overtime loss was not a terrible performance as he gave up three goals on 34 shots. Saturday night’s rematch was Rittich’s worst game of the season as he was pulled, early in the third period, after giving up a season-high six goals on 28 shots. He finished the week with 4.97 GAA and .855 SV%.
The Flames are right in the thick of a very competitive playoff race in the Pacific Division. Their rough week dropped them down to fourth place, but they are still just five points out of the top spot. They hold the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. If they want to hold on to a postseason berth, they cannot afford many more weeks like this out of their starting goaltender.
Backup of the Week
We have written a lot lately about the recent hot streaks of Vasilevskiy and the Lightning. Vasilevskiy has points in his last 15 starts, but he was given the night off at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
The Lightning didn’t miss a beat without their Vezina Trophy-winning netminder as Curtis McElhinney made 30 saves in a 3-0 shutout of the Sharks. The shutout was McElhinney’s first with the Lightning and 11th of his NHL career.
“It’s great,” McElhinney said on Saturday night. “Obviously it’s been kind of up and down for me personally, but it was nice to get in there and solidify this trip with two points.”
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