The city of Raleigh, North Carolina is planning to celebrate the incredible and historic story its team told on Saturday night in Toronto. Plus, Jordan Binnington is red hot, and we’ll look at the week in review.
David Ayres Day in Raleigh
David Ayres, the Emergency Backup Goaltender (EBUG) that made history with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, is having the kind of sports week they make movies about. Facing his hometown team in over half a game of hockey action on Hockey Night in Canada, the 42-year-old Zamboni driver with a transplanted kidney made eight saves on 10 shots to help the Hurricanes hold onto a 6-3 victory exactly 40 years after the Miracle on Ice. It is and will forever be a legendary hockey story, the kind Gord Downie would sing about if he was still with us.
The Hurricanes are already selling Ayres t-shirts. He has a full day of media ahead of him on Monday. But Tuesday will be a very special day in the state capital of North Carolina because Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin announced that Tuesday will be “David Ayres Day” in Raleigh. The team will also invite Ayres down to be part of the festivities during their game that night against the Dallas Stars. Ayres spoke to ESPN in that same article about what it meant to him to rejoin the team.
They’re flying me down to Carolina for their game on Tuesday, so I’ll get to spend more time with the guys, which is good. They’re a great team, great organization.David Ayres speaking to ESPN
Of course, in the meantime, general manager Don Waddell may have work to do. With James Reimer and Petr Mrazek still hurting, the Hurricanes called up both AHL goalies: Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg. But with the NHL trade deadline approaching at 3:00 PM ET today, Waddell is running out of chances to add to his roster, and he is expected to look for goalie help in the hours remaining. Ayers may be joining some other new faces in Carolina on Tuesday, but all eyes will be on him, no question.
Binnington Stays Hot
As recently as a week or two ago, there were serious questions about Jordan Binnington’s performance for the St. Louis Blues. For the first time in his young but historic NHL career, he was going through an extended slump, and there wasn’t an obvious end in sight. But that slump disappeared just as quickly as it appeared. In fact, it appeared just as quickly as Binnington took the league by storm this time last season.
In his last four games, Binnington is 3-0-1 with a .966 save percentage (SV%) and two shutouts. Perhaps Marco Scandella has made that big an impact on the team since the Blues acquired him, but this seems to have more to do with Binnington himself. He looks more confident and controlled in the net.
The Blues as a whole are playing substantially better in front of their goalie, emerging from the worst stretch of their season to go on a four-game winning streak. They are outscoring their opponents 13-2 in that time. Whether or not general manager Doug Armstrong adds to his team before the deadline, they look as threatening as anyone as they attempt to defend their Stanley Cup championship.
Week in Review
In addition to Binnington, there are a number of players performing well right now in net as their team approaches the trade deadline. MacKenzie Blackwood has been absolutely sensational in February, even though interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald is tearing the team down around him. Blackwood is 6-0-0 and has allowed only seven goals, good for a .970 SV% along with two shutouts. Antti Raanta is also on fire, with a .944 SV% in nine games.
Meanwhile, a number of Vezina Trophy frontrunners are trying to make their case this month. Tuukka Rask is 5-2 with a .930 SV%, Connor Hellebuyck is 5-3 with a .921 SV%, and while Andrei Vasilevskiy has cooled down somewhat from his magmic streak last month, he is still 6-2 with a .912 SV% in February.
If Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan hadn’t already come out in support of Braden Holtby, he’d now have good reason to. While Ilya Samsonov has a very bright future, he’s had a dark February, going 0-3-0 with an .855 SV% and a 4.55 goals-against average (GAA) this month. Thatcher Demko, another future starter, has joined him in the cellar. He’s 0-1-1 in three games and has an .867 SV%.
The most troubling goalies this month are Canada’s own. Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs helped Ayres make his moment by allowing six goals on 47 shots. He’s 1-4-0 this month with an .873 SV%. Meanwhile, further west, David Rittich of the Calgary Flames hasn’t made as many “big saves” as fans expect him to. His .872 SV% comes with a 2-3-0 record and a 4.15 GAA.
Backup of the Weak: Pavel Francouz
He may effectively be a starter right now, but how can we not give Pavel Francouz the backup of the week honors? He is 3-0-1 in his last four starts since taking over for the injured Philipp Grubauer, and in his last three games, he’s allowed two goals with one shutout in between. All told, he has a .941 SV%.
To top everything off, the Colorado Avalanche signed Francouz to a two-year extension on Friday before he allowed one goal across two games on back-to-back nights. He may be getting all the starts right now, but he’s still the team’s backup (at least for now), and if that’s not backup of the week material, we don’t know what is.
Deadline Excitement? Stay Tuned
Will goaltenders move at the trade deadline? What massive chips will have new homes come Monday evening? The Hockey Writers will be covering every move throughout the day, so stay tuned for every update you need.
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.