In a sparse night of NHL action, Pavel Francouz stood out among one-goal goalies. Plus, today marks the anniversary of the debut of a Hockey Hall of Fame goalie.
Avalanche Have a Gem in Francouz
The Colorado Avalanche took a chance when they signed an unproven, 27-year-old Czech goalie in 2018. While Francouz came in and earned his stripes in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Colorado Eagles, there was still no certainty what he could do as a full-time NHL backup, entering the league at age 29.
Fortunately for the Avalanche, he is proving his doubters wrong very quickly. Francouz entered Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks with incredible numbers: a 9-2-1 record with a 2.26 goals against average (GAA) and an incredible .932 SV%. Would he be able to keep that momentum going against a division opponent?
He certainly would. Francouz was strong all night, stopping 31-of-32 shots by the Blackhawks. His only other misstep of the evening was a second period interference penalty against Ryan Carpenter. Both teams generated eight high danger chances, but the Avalanche were able to take advantage of theirs and won the game 4-1.
Francouz has now collected 17 of 18 possible points in his last nine contests, more than justifying the Avalanche’s faith in him. The team entered the season with two questions in net, as Philipp Grubauer would be starting regularly for the first time as well. These goalies’ ability to step up to the challenge is a large part of the reason why the Avalanche are second in the Western Conference as we approach the new year.
Allen Conquers Demons at Home
Jake Allen is having a resurgent season with the St. Louis Blues, stepping perfectly into the role of backup after losing the starting job to Jordan Binnington last season. But one major hurdle remained largely avoided during the 2019-20 season: his woeful record at home.
A goalie who cannot be trusted to guard his home net isn’t much of a goalie at all, and in the last three seasons, Allen has been woeful in St. Louis. In the 2017-18 season, the cracks began to show, as he managed to go 14-12, but posted a SV% of .901. 2018-19 was a disaster: he was 8-9-2 at home, with a .878 SV% and a 3.65 GAA.
With that record, the Blues have been hesitant to start Allen at home this season. He’s only gotten two chances, only one of them a start, and he lost it. He’s made 35 saves on 40 shots and has an .875 SV% and a 2.94 GAA. So it was with some consternation that fans received the news that Allen would be starting over Binnington on Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
Allen proved that he was more than up to the task. With NHL scoring leaders Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl coming to town, it wasn’t an easy request, but he made 35-of-36 saves, with the only goal coming on a controversial play that was ultimately ruled not to be goalie interference. After his massive performance, Allen was the consummate teammate and professional.
You have to give a lot of credit to our D. Obviously [Blues Defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko] go up against those guys every night, and they shut them down. It’s impressive to watch. You can’t replace that.Jake Allen on how he shut down top players like McDavid and Draisaitl
Obviously, one strong start does not erase or disprove two seasons’ worth of evidence that Allen struggles at home; however, it does compliment his much stronger performance overall this season. Head coach Craig Berube will still likely hesitate to start Allen at home more than necessary, but at least now he knows it is an option.
Young Lumley Debuts
Now, we close with a special moment in hockey history. On this date in 1943, the youngest goalie in the history of the NHL debuted for the Detroit Red Wings. His name was Harry Lumley, and his debut was a brutal 6-2 defeat, but it was the start of a Hockey Hall of Fame career. He was just 17 years and 38 days old that night.
Nicknamed “Apple Cheeks” due to his babyface and his cheerful complexion, Lumley would bounce back from the rough debut to build an incredible resumé. He won 330 games with four of the Original Six teams and captured two All-Star nominations, one Vezina Trophy, and one Stanley Cup. He retired at the age of 33 (after the 1959-60 season) and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1980.
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.