While it seemed that everybody’s focus was on Monday’s grudge match between the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues, there was plenty of action around the rest of the National Hockey League. Some of the highlights include a historic win on Broadway and the end of a streak out west.
The King Cracks the Top Five
Henrik Lundqvist will go down as one of the best goaltenders of his generation when his great career comes to an end. He added to his Hall of Fame resume by making 26 saves in the New York Rangers overtime win over the Minnesota Wild. Monday’s victory was the 455th of his career, the fifth-most in NHL history.
“It was a good night for sure. For many reasons. But I just like the way we played tonight,” Lundqvist said afterward. “We kept pushing; in the end, we don’t give up. It’s a great sign for this group.”
The win broke the tie with Curtis Joseph and puts Lundqvist all alone in fifth place. Depending on how much longer he plays, Lundqvist could find a way to crack into the top three in all-time goaltending wins. Ed Belfour is next on the list with 484 wins. The recently retired Roberto Luongo is ranked third with 489 wins. The top two of Martin Brodeur (691 wins) and Patrick Roy (551 wins) seem to be out of reach at this point in Lundqvist’s career.
Gibson is Becoming a Streak Killer
The New York Islanders had not lost in regulation since a 5-2 defeat at the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 11, their fourth game of the season. Since then, the Islanders have gone 15-0-2. That franchise record-setting streak came to an end on Monday night in a 3-0 loss at the Anaheim Ducks.
Goaltender John Gibson made 26 saves for his first shutout of the season and the 19th of his career. He was busy early by stopping all 16 shots he faced in the first period, but then only had to make 10 saves over the final 40 minutes.
“I think everybody stepped up,” Gibson said of the effort in front of him. “We talked a lot about being better in front of the net and blocking shots, and the [defense] did a great job in front of the net and the forwards did a great job of blocking shots.”
This wasn’t the first time Gibson and the Ducks have ended a long point streak. Back on Jan. 30, 2018, Gibson made 25 saves to snap the Boston Bruins’ 18-game point streak.
Gibson became just the fourth goaltender in Ducks’ history to shutout the Islanders, joining Ron Tugnutt (1993), Jean-Sebastian Giguere (2008) and Curtis McElhinney (2010).
Lehner Holds Court in Chicago
As we talked about on Monday, Chicago Blackhawks’ goaltender Robin Lehner addressed his career-long struggles with the shootout via his Twitter account. He used the combination of sarcasm and brutal honesty following his shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
Lehner’s locker stall was a popular place after Monday’s morning skate and if there is one thing he is good at, besides stopping the puck, it is talking about whatever is on his mind.
“I honestly see what the guys [on] Twitter will have to say,” Lehner said in a nearly 10-minute session with the local media. “I actually got some good ones. It was a Harvard Study sent [to] me yesterday on shootouts. I looked – that was interesting. Just kind of liven it up a little bit. But it’s incredibly annoying.
“You know we went head-to-head against one of the best teams in the league last game (2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars at Dallas on Saturday). What are they, 10-1 last 11 games? [Joe] Pavelski, Corey Perry, [Jamie] Benn, Tyler [Seguin], [John] Klingberg, [Ben] Bishop, [Anton] Khudobin – all these guys.
“We lose that game and all the headlines – DeBrincat can’t buy a goal; Robin can’t stop a shootout; we can’t get a call. The negativity’s overwhelming. I think we’ve been playing a little bit up and down, but we’re getting better and we’re in the race.
“We played a great game against one of the better teams; we lost in the lottery. And then it turns all negative. It’s what it is. We believe in each other in here. I just wanted to see what all the good guys have to say.”
The veteran netminder when on to clarify that his comments were not geared towards the fans, but rather towards the media.
Lehner’s shootout struggles should not be a major concern when you consider he is currently leading the NHL with a .938 save percentage (SV%). However, a team like the Blackhawks, who will be right on that postseason bubble all season long, dropping too many points in the shootout could cost them come April. Lehner said he would have no problem if head coach Jeremy Colliton were to pull him in favor of Corey Crawford in a future shootout.
A Debut in New Jersey
We already touched on the Wild’s loss at the Rangers and they will not have much time to stew as they will be back on the ice tonight at the New Jersey Devils. With Devan Dubnyk taking a leave of absence for personal reasons, Kaapo Kahkonen will make his NHL debut in the second half of games in back-to-back nights.
The 23-year-old Finnish-born goaltender is just in his second year of playing in North America. He has been one of the better goaltenders in the American Hockey League since the start of last season. He is 24-16-9 with a 2.72 goals-against average (GAA) and .908 SV% in his time with Iowa Wild.
He led the AHL with six shutouts during the 2018-19 season and already has two more this season. His eight shutouts are an Iowa franchise record which is pretty amazing considering he has only played in 49 games for them.