By Stu Hackel
In soccer they call it an “own-goal.” In hockey, it’s called something unfit for public consumption. Last night in Detroit, Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak tried to clear the puck and inadvertently batted it into his own net, giving the Red Wings the first score of the game.
Mickey Redmond on the Detroit telecast said “goaltenders make this move 100 times a night in the NHL,” and while that’s a slight exaggeration, it does happen — with better results — pretty regularly. In fact, the Sabres’ Ryan Miller made that exact move last night against the Capitals (sorry, can’t find video of it) in the second period, making a stop and sending the puck safely to the corner.
But it didn’t work out so well for Halak. In fact, the game didn’t work out so well for Halak. That goal didn’t doom the banged-up Blues — they were eventually tied 3-3 through 50 minutes and were the better team thanks to the line of Andy McDonald, David Backes and Brad Boyes and a strong forecheck. But they got sloppy down the stretch and the Wings scored four, three in a span of just over three minutes. And so St. Louis has now lost five straight after a 9-1-2 start and Halak has surrendered 19 goals in his last four starts, including one in which he was pulled early in the second.
It’s not all on Halak. When defensive zone coverage is this slack…
…most goalies’ stats will balloon.
Hockey historians will recall the tale of WWII-era goalie Steve Buzinski, who the Rangers were forced to employ at the start of the 1942-43 season after Sugar Jim Henry enlisted in the military. The bowlegged Buzinski was a character, but a lousy NHL netminder, hence his nickname “Puck Goes Inski”, who surrendered 55 goals in nine games, including one where he gloved a shot, flamboyantly waved his arm to toss the puck into the corner of the rink, and ended up tossing it into the corner of his own net.
He was gone from the NHL shortly afterward. Not much chance of that happening to Halak, the former Montreal playoff hero on whom the Blues are staking their playoff hopes. But before his star turn last spring, two of the things that plagued Halak in Montreal were poor rebound control and less-than-sharp outings when he played too many games in succession. Both of those tendencies may be re-emerging and surely bear watching while the Blues try to work their way out of their funk.
Lonely Avalanche: Trailing 3-1 with about 12 minutes remaining in regulation, the Avs beat the Sharks 4-3 in overtime at the Pepsi Center last night, a win that Mark Kiszla in The Denver Post called “a rousing comeback, not that anybody noticed. It’s hard for this team to feel at home. As a hockey town, Denver has no heartbeat…Although the crowd was generously announced at 12,436, the eye test made it extremely hard to believe there were more than 10,000 people in the joint. Did Denver ever really love the NHL? Or did the bandwagon stop when Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg got off?”
Kiszla puts part of the blame on hockey culture which, he writes “abhors the star system. All the boys in the locker room were created equal, eh? This laudable adherence to old-school values has left the Avalanche a faceless group of strangers to the guy clicking through channels on his sofa.”
He adds that while the team has “resisted the urge to gouge their season- ticket holders with price hikes,” they also “stubbornly refused to put the faces of rising young stars such as (Matt) Duchene and (Chris) Stewart on billboards, buses or 99-cent glasses available with a purchase of a cheeseburger.”
Given the shaky state of the economy, the Avalanche, like many franchises across sports, have to work harder to attract fans and extract their hard-earned discretionary dollars. (Even without being gouged, attending a game is still a pricey proposition, especially for a family.) Raising the profiles of their young stars seems, at least, like a logical place for the Avs to start.
Speaking of attendace woes… The Islanders coaching change didn’t help on the ice or at the gate last night. The Lightning sent the woebegone squad to their 11th straight defeat, 4-2, in Jack Capuano’s maiden voyage. The crowd was announced as 8,025 which, Arthur Staple in Newsday writes, “was only the second time since the 2004-05 lockout that an announced Coliseum crowd was less than half the building’s capacity of 16,234; the last time was Dec. 19, when 7,842 were announced for a game with the Canadiens.
“Of course, nearly two feet of snow fell on Long Island that day. Wednesday was a pretty nice day, a pretty nice night. But it seems a great many Islanders fans have abandoned their team as it tried to change its fortune.”
Who can blame them for not wanting to spend good money to watch losses pile up? But on the other hand, they missed a better show by the Isles, especially goalie Dwayne Roloson…
…who made 36 saves and continues to battle regardless of the circumstances. That’s the sign of a real trooper, a true pro.
And finally: The Kings lost their first home game of the season last night, 5-3 to Columbus, with Rick Nash getting the late game winner and the empty net goal. L.A. now goes on a four-game Eastern trip to Buffalo, Boston, Montreal and Ottawa.
And while Nash may have gotten two, there were a pair of hat tricks last night, one by Eric Staal in Carolina’s 7-1 win over the Senators (who had a rough day emotionally) and one by the Blackhawks “Captain Serious,” Jonathan Toews, in Chicago’s 5-0 win over the Oilers.