Monday Musings: Canadian Olympic crease concerns | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMonday Musings: Canadian Olympic crease concerns

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014 | 08:46 AM

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Roberto Luongo, right, makes a kick save on Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker in a 5-4 Canucks victory in overtime on Sunday. (Ben Nelms/Getty Images) Roberto Luongo, right, makes a kick save on Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker in a 5-4 Canucks victory in overtime on Sunday. (Ben Nelms/Getty Images)

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This week's Monday musings takes a look at the recent poor play of the Canadian Olympic goalies, the surging Jets, the compassion of Jaden Schwartz and the St. Louis Blues, the Edmonton OIlers struggles and 48-game comparisons from this season to a year ago.

Some Monday morning musings from the NHL and rest of the hockey world to prepare you for the upcoming week that will see:

  • The hottest team in the league, the San Jose Sharks, will try to win their seventh in a row when they entertain the rival Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
  • The outdoor game series continues at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, when the New York Islanders clash with the New York Rangers.
  • The Vancouver Canucks on Friday make their first regular-season visit to the Winnipeg Jets since Feb. 21, 1996. The Canucks used to house their farm team in Winnipeg.
  • The Super Bowl Sunday tradition continues in Montreal with a matinee between the Canadiens and the red-hot Winnipeg Jets.

Canada's crease

Canadian Olympic team executive director Steve Yzerman and head coach Mike Babcock must be concerned.

There still are two weeks of NHL action before the Olympic break, but the last 10 days have not been kind to Canadian Olympic goalies Carey Price and Mike Smith. Roberto Luongo has returned to form after his recent injury, but even his outing - a 5-4 overtime win at home against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday - was disconcerting.

Here is how the trio has fared in its past four games:

  • Roberto Luongo: 3-1-0, .927 save % (112 saves on 121 shots)
  • Carey Price: 0-4-0, .833 save % (85 saves on 102 shots)
  • Mike Smith: 1-2-1, .874 save % (104 saves on 119 shots)

Flying high

Initially, when Paul Maurice replaced Claude Noel behind the Winnipeg bench, you noticed how much better defensively the team was under Maurice. They reduced their shots on goal to 19, 22 and 22 in the first three games. The Jets have gone 6-1-0 under their new bench boss and slightly reduced their shots-against average from 30.7 to 30.4 per game.

But that attention to defence was shortlived. In the last three four outings, the Jets have allowed 42, 32, 28 and 35 shots against. However, goalie Ondrej Pavelec has been much better and his backup Al Montoya followed suit with an impressive 34-save performance in a 3-1 road win against his hometown Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

"This is very special," said Montoya, who, in his third start in Chicago, finally beat the Blackhawks.

"I've been waiting for this one since I was a kid, so I can't even describe it. All my friends and family [were] in the stands. I've had some close ones, some good games in here, but this one takes it."

For Mandi

Instead of spending an off day in Manhattan on Friday, the St. Louis Blues boarded a bus for a three-hour return trip to Yale University in New Haven, Conn., in support of teammate Jaden Schwartz.

Three years ago, Jaden lost his sister, Mandi, at age 23 to leukemia. She was a Yale University player when she passed away. Friday was the annual "White Out for Mandi" evening to raise awareness about the disease.

The Blues practiced at Yale on Friday afternoon and then stayed to be among the school record crowd of 1,125 to watch Mandi's old team tie Brown 2-2. Jaden dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff.

"I didn't know really what to expect, to be honest with you," Jaden told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's pretty special seeing how many people showed up.

"It definitely raises a lot of awareness. When Mandi got diagnosed, I didn't know a whole lot about it.

"We started going through the process and you learn how much you can help. Hopefully, we can do that to other people."

At the other end

The Edmonton Oilers are destined to extend their playoff drought to eight consecutive seasons. But can they avoid their third last-place finish in five years? The Oilers won for only the third time in 2014, when they beat the Nashville Predators 5-1 at home on Sunday.

The 30th-place Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, have made a move to get out of the basement. They have gone 3-4-3 in 2014, which is slightly better than the Oilers' 3-8-1 record in 2014.

Here are the Oilers overall finishes since their run to the 2005-06 Stanley Cup final:

2006-07 - 25th

2007-08 - 19th

2008-09 - 21st

2009-10 - 30th

2010-11 - 30th 

2011-12 - 29th 

2012-13 - 24th 

A year later

Because of the four-month lockout last season, the NHL played a shortened, 48-game schedule. The Sabres became the final team in 2013-14 to play their 48th game last week.

Which teams have made gains and which teams have strained in terms of points after 48 games this season compared to a year ago? You may notice that each of the seven Canadian clubs is worse off than a year ago:

Plus teams                     Minus Teams

Colorado, +28                 Buffalo, -17

Tampa Bay, +19             N.Y. Islanders, -12

St Louis, +11                  Edmonton, -10

Anaheim, +9                   Chicago, -7

San Jose, +9                  Florida, -7

Carolina, +7                    Winnipeg, -6

Nashville, + 6                  Toronto, -6

Phoenix, +4                    Ottawa, -5

Los Angeles, +4              NY Rangers, -5

Philadelphia, +4              Washington, -5

Dallas, +2                      Calgary, -4

New Jersey, +2               Detroit, -4

Boston, +1                     Montreal, -4

Minnesota, E                  Columbus, -3

                                     Pittsburgh, - 2

                                     Vancouver, -2

By the Numbers

2 - Wins in two outdoor games for the Rangers, when they beat the New Jersey Devils 7-3 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. They became the first NHL team to win twice outdoors.

7 - Rangers goals against the Devils was an outdoor record, surpassing the six the Detroit Red Wings scored against the Chicago Blackhawks in their 6-4 win in the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.

692 - Wins Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been stuck on for a couple games. His victory total has him tied for third on the all-time list with the late Dick Irvin Sr. Scotty Bowman leads the way with 1,244 career NHL wins. Al Arbour is second at 782.

54,099 - In attendance to see the Anaheim Ducks shut out the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 at Dodger Stadium on Saturday. It was the fifth largest crowd of the 10 outdoor NHL games.

50,105 - Fans inhabited Yankee Stadium on Sunday to watch the Rangers' come-from-behind win.

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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