InGoal Daily Update: Thomas keeps All Star streak alive
… Plus Henrik Lundqvist’s All Star survival guide (it sounds a lot like a shinny goalie talking), Braden Holtby hurt during all star break, Roberto Luongo toughest to beat in player’s poll, and more in the Jan. 31 Daily Update
Few goaltenders compete as intensely as consistently as Tim Thomas, which makes the weekend’s NHL All Star Game both perfect and the perfect nightmare for the Boston Bruins’ standout stopper.
Much like any game of shinny, the annual all-star contest does little for targets, who are faced with endless odd-man rushes and players that suddenly look to pass uncharacteristically out of perfect shooting opportunities, always looking for that late trailer no matter how good that original 3-on-1 may appear.
Fortunately Thomas never stops battling to make every save, even long after most of his more technically inclined peers would have committed to what should have been, under normal game circumstances, the first, second or even third shot. Maybe that’s why Thomas won for a third time in as many appearances Sunday – a record.
Of course asking assistant captain Martin St. Louis to play the third period, when most of these mean-nothing all star outings are decided, didn’t hurt either.
“It meant something to me,” Thomas told reporters after stopping 11 of 15 in the final frame of Team Lidstrom’s 11-10 victory over Team Staal. “I was hoping to play the third period so I would be in a position to get that on my record.”
While some players balked at coming to Carolina, Thomas made it clear how much being an All Star again meant to him, admitting it was one of the personal goals after enduring a horrific last season during which he lost the Bruins’ starting job to Tuukka Rask while trying to play through a hip injury that required surgery over the summer. Maybe that’s why, despite being competitive throughout, the smile never seemed to leave his face (except for those first few seconds after each goal went in – after one it looked like the emotional goalie might even smash his stick), even after volunteering to take part in a comical goalie race with Cam Ward:
The many reasons for Thomas having a bounce-back season were already well documented here at InGoal Magazine, with stories on everything from his rebuilt hip and overlooked attention to technical improvements, to improved visibility with a new mask, to better flexibility through yoga and how it helped him win the Vezina Trophy two years ago. But his All-Star appearance provided other outlets another chance to weigh in on a great story, including thoughts from his hometown Boston Herald on why Thomas had some doubts of his own about coming back, why he is already being talked about as a Hart Trophy candidate, and how much the All Star Game appearance means to him after last season’s injury.
As for the rest of the All-Star goaltenders, Carolina’s Cam Ward, who was made the first pick in the player draft by Hurricanes teammate Eric Staal, told the hometown media that he enjoyed the game despite giving up four goals in the first period – but only after the Versus crew he was chatting with through a remote microphone ushered the word “shutout” halfway through what was then a perfect period. But the best description of what it was like to play goal in such an unstructured environment – and, yes, it sounds a lot like most beer league goalies after a bad game of shinny – went to the goaltender’s All Star Game wrap up done by NHL.com, including Henrik Lundqvist’s thoughts on taking one off the mask:
“For a goalie going into a game like this you have the mindset that they’re going to score on you,” Henrik Lundqvist told NHL.com. “But I told Carey (Price) after his period, and he played really well, that you have to appreciate the good saves and forget about all the goals. That’s what we did.”
Holtby demoted but still won’t play as AHL All-Star Game host
Talk about adding injury to insult. Literally.
After being sent down by the Capitals during the NHL’s weekend All Star break, Braden Holtby suffered a minor knee injury in the third period of a Saturday shutout over the Charlotte Checkers, and was forced to pull out of the two-day AHL All-Star event being hosted by his team in Hershey on Sunday and Monday.
“If it was a game that kind of meant something, I guess it would be something I could easily battle through,” Holtby told The Patriot-News for their All Star Game preview. “I would definitely be kicking myself if I hurt myself more. As much as I’d love to play in the all-star game as a personal honor, I have a team to be responsible for. You’re put into so many different positions because you’re always stretching into weird positions in order to try to save these highly skilled guys.”
As for which team he’s “responsible for” right now, it appears Holtby will be playing in Hershey again now that both Semyon Varlamov and Michael Neuvirth are healthy again. Given the frequency with which one or the other has been hurt this season, and the success Holtby has had in the NHL – he was 2-0-1 and gave up just three goals on 90 shots while filling in for Neuvirth last week – there’s a good chance he’ll be back with the Capitals before the season ends. In the meantime, the Bears will be counting on him to keep up the form that made him in AHL all star, including a .937 save percentage and 11-5-2 record in 18 games in Hershey.
Roberto Luongo hardest to score on, say NHL players
Roberto Luongo earned a “most overrated” label on an ESPN.com poll of his peers last season, but the Vancouver Canucks starter was atop a different poll of his peers this season. In a joint effort between the Canadian Broadcast Corporation and NHL Players’ Association – and with a much, much larger sample size – Luongo was named the “toughest goaltender to score on” in a poll of 318 players, winning with 17 per cent of the vote.
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres was second at 16 per cent, while this year’s favourite for the top goalie award, Tim Thomas, was third at 15 per cent, just ahead of New York Rangers No.1 and fellow all star, Henrik Lundqvist at 14.8 per cent. Things dropped off considerably from there, with Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff finishing fifth with just 4 per cent of the votes.
When the goalies were asked to pick which player is hardest to stop, it was Russians that topped the lost, with Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin finishing first with 27 per cent of the vote, edging out Sidney Crosby (24), Steven Stamkos (14) and Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Semin (5 each).
One-timers from around the Goaltending World (Wide Web):
~ The Maples Leafs goaltending glut continues to be a hot topic in Toronto, where the struggles of Jonas Gustavsson, the presence of veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and the emergence of James Reimer may mean similar problem in the AHL, where Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas were battling Reimer – and soon maybe Gustavsson – for playing time, says the Toronto Sun.. Making matters worse – or perhaps better when the Leafs eventually do make up their mind moving forward – is a
“Goalies have to play,” General Manager Brian Burke told The Post. “When three goalies are up, that means one is not playing. So as a long-term solution, it’s not a good one.”
~ Speculation and analysis surrounding Evgeni Nabokov’s standoff with the New York Islanders continues, but it’s hard to argue with the take offered by Larry Brooks in The New York Post, which essentially lays the blame at the disgruntled Russian’s goalies skates for now, but points out the Islanders will be wearing the bad guy hat if they try to force Nabokov to play next season by having the contract “tolled” because he hasn’t honoured it this year.
~ The Atlanta Thrashers sent Peter Mannino back to Chicago of the AHL and recalled journeyman Drew McIntyre from the Wolves after the NHL all star break. With Chris Mason still trying to come back from a right knee sprain – he skated and faced some shots before the Thrashers’ practice Monday – McIntyre should stick around at least a little while. Whether he gets into any games likely depends on the play of Ondrej Pavelec. Mannino only played just over half a game in relief of a struggling Pavelec on Jan. 17.