There were six games on the NHL slate last night, a rather heavy amount for a Monday, and we saw at least one display of fine goaltending in every matchup.
There were three shutouts (almost four) in what quickly turned into a league-wide netminder clinic on Monday night. Amidst all the strong play from netminders across the country, two goaltenders were not nearly up to the challenge facing them at the other end of the ice.
Ryan Miller's tough year continued as his homecoming to Joe Louis Arena was spoiled in a 5-0 thumping at the hands of the Red Wings. Miller was pulled after his younger brother Drew set up Darren Helm 4:32 into the second period, just 13 seconds after Todd Bertuzzi stretched Detroit's lead to 4-0.
Miller, who allowed five goals on 14 shots, has seen his save percentage drop to under .900 for the season, the lowest it's been since 2003-04, when he only played in three games. Though he was again the victim of horrid defensive zone play by the Sabres, he was still unable to erase the mistakes being made in front of him.
"It's embarrassing," said Miller. "I got family, friends … everybody came to watch Drew and I play and, you know, at least they got to watch Drew perform."
His counterpart, Detroit's Jimmy Howard, made 27 saves for his fifth shutout of the season. Howard, who's 27 wins lead the NHL, was stellar again, making Miller's fall from grace this season all the more prevalent.
After the jump, we'll take you around the league and highlight some other noteworthy goaltending performances and what Ryan Miller thinks about a potential shake-up in Buffalo.
- The highest-scoring loser from last night's action, the Florida Panthers, mustered only two goals in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. Patrice Bergeron scored both goals for the B's in regulation, who moved three points ahead of Ottawa in the Northeast Division with 59. Tuukka Rask got the start for Boston and was impressive again, stopping 38 of the 40 shots he faced.
Rask now has a league-leading 1.61 goals against average and .946 save percentage. He's on pace to break Tim Thomas' record of .938, just one season after Thomas broke Dominik Hasek's mark that stood for 12 years. Claude Julien's ability to spell Thomas with Rask without losing any productivity has been key to the Bruins resurgence to the league's elite after a slow start to the season.
- The Predators downed the Islanders in an afternoon affair in Uniondale, winning 3-1. Pekka Rinne made 36 saves, but had his bid for his fourth shutout of the season foiled when John Tavares scored with just over four minutes to play. But it was saves like this one that frustrated the Islanders for the duration of the game:
- In the other afternoon contest, the Coyotes floored Colorado, 6-1, in a game that muddled the Western Conference playoff picture even further. Shane Doan had two goals for Phoenix and Mike Smith continued his surprisingly strong campaign, making 35 saves in the win. While Minnesota is currently holding on to the final playoff spot in the West by a thread with 51 points, they are being chased by Colorado (50 points), Dallas (49), Phoenix (49) and Calgary (47), who stubbornly declared they're "going for it" over the weekend.
- Jaroslav Halak and Kari Lehtonen put on a show in St. Louis in front of a national audience on NBC Sports Network. The pair of goaltenders took shutouts into the third period before T.J. Oshie finally solved Lehtonen. It would prove to be the only goal of the game as the Blues held on for a 1-0 victory, tying them with the Blackhawks and Rangers atop the NHL standings. The Blues inspired defensive play since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench has been met with a resurgence from Halak, who now has shutouts in two of his last three games.
- The shutout trend continued in Ottawa, where Chris Mason and the Jets blanked the red-hot Senators, 2-0. Mason withstood all 25 Ottawa shots, including 14 in the third period, but was not even named one of the game's three stars. Jim Slater and Tobias Enstrom provided the offense for Winnipeg, who suddenly finds themselves just three points behind Pittsburgh for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Craig Anderson also played admirably in a loss for Ottawa, stopping 33 of 35 shots. His strong play has been a driving force behind the Senators impressive season to this point.
As for the Sabres, fans in Buffalo have been calling for heads to roll, starting with long-time head coach Lindy Ruff, all season. The additions of Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino to lucrative contracts, coupled with untimely injuries, have disappointed immensely.
When asked if a major shakeup would help change the Sabres fortunes, a frustrated Miller vehemently disagreed:
"That's not my decision. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen in the locker room. If you guys really think there's going to be any kind of trade made anywhere that's going to affect this team any more than we can affect it in this locker room, you guys are just … I don't know what to think, because there's no such trade.
"There's not ever going to be a trade in the history of the NHL that's going to affect anything like that. There's no chance anybody comes into this team and just shakes it up or we can even move multiple players and get any kind of return … If you want to just destroy a team and just go out and be reckless and do something, yeah.
"But then there's going to be new guys in here, but other than that, this locker room's going to be pretty much the same, if not completely the same, and we've got to find it from in here. [Points to chest] We can't sit and wait for somebody else to f--king do it."
Currently sitting seven points out of a playoff spot, and much farther down in the standings than most "experts" predicted, the Sabres are entering desperation mode. While Miller may be right that there's no quick fix for this team, one of it's biggest problems lies where they expected quite the opposite and where so many teams enjoyed success on Monday: between the pipes.