One of the hottest goaltenders in the league stayed perfect against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, rumors are beginning to spread about some veteran netminders that might be on the move at the trade deadline.
Merzlikins Stays Perfect
Elvis Merzlikins has been a revelation since taking over for Joonas Korpisalo in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ net. Despite recording his first NHL win just over two weeks ago, he has been incredible since. He had won three of his last four games entering Tuesday, all on the road, culminating in a 27-save shutout against the Vegas Golden Knights, his first in his NHL career.
The Blue Jackets called on Merzlikins again in Tuesday’s home start against the Boston Bruins, and once again, he was more than up to the task. The Riga, Latvia native made 34 saves in total, six of them on four Bruins’ power plays, for his second consecutive shutout.
The Atlantic Division-leading Bruins mustered 10 high danger chances and 2.61 expected goals (xG) in the performance. But the red-hot Merzlikins remained perfect, and now has a shutout streak dating back to the early third period of their Jan. 9 game against the San Jose Sharks. He’ll look to extend that streak this coming Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Hellebuyck’s Flawless Evening
Merzlikins wasn’t the only goalie in the shutout parade. Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets has been fantastic all season, leading the league in goalie point shares by a good distance. And on Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks, he sealed his fourth shutout of the season.
Hellebuyck made an impressive 41 saves against the Canucks, including an incredible 10 on their four power plays. They generated 11 high danger chances and 2.61 xG, and yet could get nothing into the Jets’ net. Kyle Connor’s goal just 82 seconds into the contest ultimately sealed the victory for the home team.
Hellebuyck will advance to 21-13-4 with the victory, as the Jets seal an all-important win over the team that was one spot ahead of them in the standings. Now, they have secured the first wild card spot in the Western Conference for the time being, and it’s safe to say that Hellebuyck is the primary reason why.
Goalies on the Move
The rumors are beginning to swirl in advance of the NHL’s trade deadline on Feb. 24, and they involve some big-name goalies potentially being on the move. Here’s a look at two veterans who might have new teams by season’s end.
By far the less surprising of the two, the 40-point Ottawa Senators will likely try to trade anything that isn’t nailed down for future assets as they continue to rebuild in the post-Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone era. 38-year-old goaltender Craig Anderson is certainly a potential victim, especially in the final year of his contract, but there is some concern whether his performance even warrants interest from another team.
If the Ottawa Senators are serious about moving the 38-year-old goaltender before the Feb. 24 trade deadline at 3 p.m. EST then Anderson is going to have to get back into the net and prove he can help a contender down the stretch.Bruce Garrioch (from ‘Anderson has to improve if he has any hopes of being dealt at deadline,’ Ottawa Sun, 01/13/20)
While his 3.27 goals-against average (GAA) could be forgiven, given the team he plays for, Anderson’s .897 save percentage (SV%) will be tougher for interested parties to swallow. Worse yet is the minus-6.95 goals saved above average (GSAA), which puts him twelfth worst amongst all goalies in the league. To deal for that, a team would have to be convinced he is both the player and the locker room presence to help their team, and even so, the Senators likely could not expect a high return.
The far more surprising name on the list is Henrik Lundqvist, the future Hockey Hall of Fame member who is synonymous with the New York Rangers. General hockey consensus says the man affectionately known as “King Henrik” is more concerned with finishing his legacy on Broadway than pursuing a final shot at the Stanley Cup, but one wonders if the right suitor could change his mind. If it could, the rumor that the Colorado Avalanche are interested in Lundqvist certainly might do just that.
At present, the rumor seems like more speculation than substance, but the Avalanche are exactly the kind of team that might lure Lundqvist away from Madison Square Garden. If they are indeed interested, could the King look to follow his fellow Swedish legend Peter Forsberg in reaching hockey’s pinnacle in the Mile High City?
Related: Top 10 Swedes in the NHL Today
It may seem like a pipe dream. But the NHL is unpredictable. And Lundqvist’s last chance at a Cup is the kind of playoff narrative any hockey fan could get behind.
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.