The Toronto Maples Leafs took the league by storm last year with their youth development and Fredeick Andersen, the long awaited answer in goal. This season the Leafs came out strong, but have leveled off as of late. They are comfortably settled into a playoff spot, with a 12 point cushion over Detroit in a largely polarized Atlantic Division. Barring some very unlikely factors, they are likely to make it to the postseason for a second straight year. Andersen is quietly having a solid season with 41 starts and a .920 save percentage, however Toronto is in the bottom half of the league in goals against. Andersen leads the league in shots against and saves meaning he could greatly benefit from a less porous D core. A guy like Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba or Vancouver’s Chris Tanev would be welcome additions and could put Toronto in a position to make some noise this spring.
Islanders Need Goalie Help ASAP
The New York Islanders are one of the most intriguing teams in all of the NHL this year. From firing their coach last year to the John Tavares contract situation to a new arena in Belmont Park, the Isles could have easily gotten distracted and struggled this season. Contrary to many predictions they have, for the most part, flourished. Tavares is having a great season, after 10 years Josh Bailey is finally playing like a top 10 pick, and rookie F Mathew Barzal is leading rookies in assists and points, and is now the favorite for the Calder Trophy. The Islanders are also leading the NHL in goals scored. The major reason the Islanders are not #1 in the NHL has everything to do with their underachieving goaltenders, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss with .908 and .886 save percentages respectively. The NY goalie tandem leads the league in goals against and hasn’t shown any signs of getting better.
There are likely three main options, Red Wings’ Petr Mrazek, Sabres’ Robin Lehner, and Senators’ Mike Condon. Mrazek has struggled this season, but is hot as of late, coming off two straight shutouts. Lehner is probably begging Sabres GM Jason Botterill to get him out and a Islanders team in a playoff hunt could spark his play. Condon is also a solid options probably looking for a more playing time. If its one of these three or someone else, its pretty obvious the current goaltending strategy is not working.
All Star Competition Offers Two New Events
This year’s NHL skills competition will remain largely the same this season, with a few minor additions.
- Save Streak – New Event – The Hockey News Explains:
A new event for the masked men and one that’s actually quite welcome. In past years, the shootout relay has turned into an event that’s dominated by the goaltenders, so instead of thinking too hard and overcomplicating the event, the NHL has simply turned the goalie-versus-shooter competition into one that’s based on saves and not goals. Five goalies will take part with each facing an opposing division’s nine-skater roster. The goalie with the longest streak of saves will be crowned the winner. One quick note, though: if a netminder pieces together, say, a seven-save streak, allows a goal on shot eight and then stops shot nine, he keeps going. The round can’t end with a save, so this competition could see one goaltender make an unexpected push for the win even if he’s beaten early on.
- Accuracy Shooting – New Wrinkle – The Hockey News Explains:
Another classic event, but this time with a new wrinkle. In the past, players were allowed to work their way around the four targets, one located in each corner, as they saw fit. This time around, though, the shooters will be guided around the five — yes, five — targets. When the timer starts on each player’s round, a target will be illuminated for three seconds, during which time the player will have to take aim and attempt to destroy it. If they break the target or fail to hit it within three seconds, another target will be lit up. This will continue until all five targets, which one assumes will be in the four corners and in the vicinity of the five-hole, are blown to smithereens.
Check out the Full Article on The Hockey News for all information as well as their favorites for each event. The NHL All Star Skills Competition is Saturday January 27th at 7pm.