Kukla's Korner Hockey
SPARKS SHINES FOR MAPLE LEAFS IN NHL DEBUT . . .
Garret Sparks stopped all 24 shots he faced to record a shutout in his NHL debut and help the Maple Leafs snap a three-game skid (0-2-1).
* Via Elias, Sparks became the 25th goaltender in NHL history to post a shutout in his League debut – and the first to do so with the Maple Leafs. The last goaltender to achieve that feat: San Jose’s Troy Grosenick on Nov. 16, 2014 at CAR (45 SV in 2-0 W).
* Sparks, a seventh-round selection (190th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, spent the majority of the past two seasons with the Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL). He also compiled an 8-2-1 record (1.90 GAA, .938 SV%, 2 SO) in 11 appearances this season with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) prior to his recall last week.
* “It all went according to plan,” joked Sparks, a 22-year-old native of Elmhurst, Ill. “After I came out of the first period unscathed, I wanted to have a good second and I got a couple of lucky posts there. Going into the third period, [the shutout] was definitely on my mind, and I just wanted to be sure that if they are going to beat me, they really had to beat me. The guys in front of me kept everything to the outside and kept everything manageable. I really have them to thank for this.”
from Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports,
As it heads out on yet another lengthy road trip, Arizona is 13-9-1. Its 27 points are good for third place in the Pacific Division, two behind the Los Angeles Kings and one behind the San Jose Sharks. If the season had ended Sunday, the Coyotes would have faced the Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you just 23 games into the season, but it means something to the players who staggered through last season’s 56-point nightmare.
“Where we are in the standings, that alone makes you feel a lot better but I think we’ve been improving and we have real reasons to be optimistic in here,” forward Kyle Chipchura said. “It’s right there for us. We have a chance, if we keep playing well, to lead the pack. There’s a lot of hockey left and there will be a lot of ups and downs but we feel like we can compete with any team in our division now.”
The Coyotes’ current five-game trip through Nashville, Detroit, Buffalo, Carolina and St. Louis is their third road trip of four or more games and seven or more days already this season. By the time it is over, Arizona will have played 18 of its 41 road games (44 percent) one week into December.
Couple that with five sets of back-to-backs and it’s fair to say that the worst of the schedule will be behind Arizona until a brutal four-game road trip to close the season through St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville and San Jose.
from Dan Rosen of NHL.com (5 questions),
What is your feeling on Ryan Johansen?
"It's going to be a process. Joey wants to learn, and he does have a lot to learn. It's great, the points, and I don't want to begrudge him that.
In St. Louis the other night, he made some really good plays. We didn't score a lot, but he was close.
But it's the other part. The other part is how you handle yourself in practice and how you prepare yourself for the practice. Your preparation for games. It's the little things you do as you're trying to become a pro, because Joey has a lot to learn as far as what it is to be a pro. I say that and that shouldn't surprise anybody because he's still a fairly young man in this game. The points are great. That's great. But I don't judge him on the points.
I watch his game and we're going through a teaching process. We're trying to get the right type of foundation on what it is to be a pro and what's the definition of competing, what's the definition of hardness, what is the definition of engagement. It's all those things. He's right in the middle of it with us."
four more questions and answers...
The Avs lost 5-3 to the Islanders...
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
It was an especially tough night for the Avalanche's third defensive pairing, Zach Redmond and Brandon Gormley. Both were minus-3.
"They've been playing some good hockey for us," said Avalanche coach Patrick Roy. "Tonight was maybe a mismatch for them in some ways. But it's back-to-back games and we just needed to use everybody tonight. Obviously when they are out there, we need that extra save from our goaltender."...
Varlamov made 23 saves.
"It's not easy for him," Roy said. "Obviously, we need that extra save and we didn't get it on the road. It's hard to win if you're giving four goals on the road. We just need more from him. Like I said, he's our number one guy and we're behind him, but we need and expect more from him."
more on the game...
I am past the mad stage with Oiler W-L record. It is beyond numbing they can be like this year after year. Hall is trying his butt off
Jordan Eberle is heckuva player playing very poorly but even if Chiarelli wants to move him now wouldn't get enuff for him
Nugent-Hopkins looks like Sidney right now. Neither playing anywhere near like they can Mystifying.
-Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal via Twitter after the Oilers lost 3-0 to the Leafs.
from Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News,
Tyler Seguin is tearing it up on the road this season. He leads the league with 20 points in 12 road games, including 11 of his 13 goals this season. On Saturday, he started the Stars’ four-game road trip off on the right skate when he popped in the overtime winner against Minnesota.
It was the kind of thing that has happened to him on the road more this season, where he received a perfect pass from linemate Jamie Benn, and he pretty much had to shoot. At home, he has tried to be more cautious, more selective, but things have just clicked on the road.
“I think maybe I shoot the puck more on the road, it is a simpler game,” Seguin said. “Honestly, though, it really doesn’t seem that different to me. I think maybe they’re just going in on the road.”
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
McLellan didn’t specifically call out Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins by name, but it doesn’t take much more than a glance at the scoresheets to figure out whom he was referencing.
The Oilers limped back to Edmonton with a 1-3-1 record on their Eastern Conference excursion. They managed just two goals against two teams buried at the bottom of the standings - Carolina and Toronto - including Monday’s lifeless shutout loss to Sparks.
“When I look at this trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really underperform on the trip,” McLellan told reporters. “Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be [the top line] that provides that.”
Eberle, 25, has been invisible since returning from injury on Nov. 6. He went without a point in five games and was a staggering minus-8 on the trip.
Nugent-Hopkins, 22, did help generate two of the Oilers’ six goals on the trip with two assists. But he didn’t score a goal and was also minus-8 on the road swing.
Watch McLellan postgame below...
from Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province,
- There was a delay in opening the locker-room door after the stinging shutout loss and the body language of Willie Desjardins when he finally addressed the media said it all. He wasn’t happy and he should’t have been. The Canucks had only one two-goal and one three-goal loss this season. Monday was the worst of the season in so many ways.
“They (Ducks) let one slip away against Chicago and you knew they would pay hard,” he started. “Saying that, it’s a game we’ve got to be ready for and play hard in as well. For whatever reason, we just didn’t have our best. I don’t think our first periods have been great and we talked about that before the game.”
- Welcome to the NHL. Jake Virtanen was felled by a Ryan Getzlaf cross check halfway through the first frame and called it a night, but the good news is that the injury to the rookie winger may not be as bad as feared and there’s no fracture.
“I don’t expect he’ll be in tomorrow (Tuesday) and I don’t know how long he’ll be out, but it’s not serious,” said Desjardins.
more on the Canucks 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks
Below, watch the Getzlaf hit on Virtanen...
from Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune,
So with Tampa Bay falling well below expectations to this point and the Lightning seemingly needing a jump-start to get back on track, all eyes will be on Yzerman. Does he stay the path while remaining patient with a group that has shown it can succeed, or has the time for change arrived?
“I’m not going to make a trade just to say I better do something,” Yzerman said. “You are constantly looking at ways to improve your team, whether you have won 10 in a row or lost 10 in a row. You are willing to listen and always looking at options while paying attention to what is going on around the league. Any way I can improve the team, I will try to do that.
“We assess our team, we know what we have and what areas we would like to improve on, we know what our assets are. You check around the league to see if there is anything that makes sense and would be a fit.”
There remains a strong belief that the same group of players that helped lead Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Final, a group that led the league in scoring a season ago, is capable of steadying the ship.
“We have, I believe, good people. They are very competitive, they are competing hard and for the most part we are generating chances,” Yzerman said. “Ultimately they will start to go in for us. Obviously we hope for sooner rather than later.”
from Damien Cox of Sportsnet,
Unexpected and unscripted. It happened just that way. The best way.
Young goalie, chubby and seemingly exiled to the low minors less than a year ago, gets a chance out of the blue to start an NHL game for a very famous team fallen upon hard times. Few imagine this as a solution to anything.
Goalie’s parents sit in the stands watching. Goalie gets a shutout. Makes history.
Goalie cries when interviewed.
Rocky Balboa did something along those lines after being pummelled by Apollo Creed the first time, and I seem to remember Todd Gill weeping a bit after the Toronto Maple Leafs upset the Detroit Red Wings in the 1993 playoffs.
But this was just simple and perfect — certainly too perfect for Toronto’s rarely-anywhere-near-perfect NHL franchise.
Below, watch Garret Sparks when told he was the first Toronto goalie to post a shutout in his first start in Leafs history...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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