Hockey

If you were to guess which goalies had the best save percentage since 2015, you might get Ben Bishop. He’s been really good, played behind some good Lightning teams, and then behind the trapping Stars last year. You’d figure Andrei Vasilevskiy would be there too, given that he pushed Bishop out of Tampa. Robin Lehner would be a surprise, but that’s the case. Wouldn’t shock you that Corey Crawford is fifth, even though he hasn’t played behind a good defensive team since before this stretch. Sergei Bobrovsky scans as well.

Did you know John Gibson is tied for first?

Yep, and there’s an argument that he’s the best goalie in the league. Because while the others have played behind at least competent teams for most of that stretch, Gibson was forced to prop up the Randy Carlyle led Ducks team, and remember that was a coach that couldn’t make toast. Last year, he even had to deal with a Bob Murray led Ducks team, and you can pretty much how that goes.

Last year, Gibson was the Vezina front-runner until he basically collapsed due to exhaustion. He was seeing 32 shots per game, but faded in January and February with SV%s of .900 and .822 in just three Feb. starts after getting hurt. He rebounded in March with a .922, while still facing over 33 shots per game.

He might have been even more impressive the season before, as he put up a .926, and according to HockeyReference.com saved 25 goals over average that year. That’s something like 12-14 points in the standings, which would be the difference from finishing second in the division as the Ducks did and not even coming close to the playoffs. That’s how important Gibson has been to the rebuilding Ducks. Sadly…well, not sadly because fuck Anaheim, he couldn’t do much about the rest of his team being severely outplayed by the Sharks as they were swept out quicker than you can say, “Orange County Needs To Be Blown Up.”

And that’s probably Gibson’s last frontier to break, as he doesn’t have a signature playoff run. He backstopped the Ducks to the conference final three seasons ago, where they were pulverized by the Predators, but hardly anyone remembers that. The collapse against the Kings five years ago is still fresh in the mind.

The other thing about Gibson, and it’s hard to believe because it was signed by Murray, is that he might have the best contract in the league. He signed an eight-year extension before last season that kicked in this one, and at 26 for the next eight years he’s making only $6.4M. Vezina goalies can make close to twice that, though that’s not going all that well for Carey Price or Sergei Bobrovsky. Gibson has time on his side, of course.

Whether the Ducks can give Gibson the support in front of him anytime soon, who knows? There are some kids that are promising, and Ryan Getzlaf seems to be summoning up a death rattle this season so far. And yet the Ducks remain one of the worst possession teams or goals-share teams, which means Gibson and backup Ryan Miller are getting shelled most nights. They won’t have to worry about that tonight obviously, but for the next eight years, Gibson will provide a baseline for this team they can build from that’s ahead of most bottom-feeders.

Murray actually got something right. What a world.

Everything Else

It is well covered on this fair blog how stupid and self-defeating the concept of GRIT and FART is in this league, and yet it persists because of players like Milan Lucic. Where people should be lampooning this guy for being an oaf and a menace, instead he’s got a “physical style of play.” My ass. If you make your name by fucking up unsuspecting players AND manage to fuck up yourself half the time while doing it (see: broke a finger while hitting a guy), you need to re-evaluate. Or more importantly, your team’s GM needs to re-evaluate.

Maxim Lapierre, Freddy Meyer, Ryan Miller—these are just some of the guys who have been cheap-shotted by Lucic over the years, often resulting in an injury (e.g., Miller’s concussion after Lucic steamrolled him in 2011). The fact that Miller called him, and I quote, “a gutless piece of shit” will forever endear Miller to me. But just a few games later, he pulled something similar with Zac Rinaldo, and yet what did all this result in? A one-game suspension. One. Fucking. Game. And it was for the Rinaldo hit, because the NHL had already made themselves look like total jackasses by letting the Miller hit slide.

And this is why these dumb ideas about tough guys still exist in this league. Prior to those dirty hits I just mentioned, Lucic was part of the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins in 2010-2011, and the shine from that cup hides all manner of sins, both on and off the ice (hello, Patrick Kane), and it blinds coaches, GMs, officials, and league staff to the pointlessness of this type of play. Did having Lucic act out short man fantasies and be Mr. Tough Guy really help the Bruins win? No, his 62 points that year did. But being able to score doesn’t require you to be a piece of shit. You only do that because 1. you want to and 2. you know you can get away with. And he does.

I’m not saying that Milan Lucic ruined Miller’s career or the careers of any of the other guys I mentioned (or all the other dirty hits not mentioned here), but if the NHL wants to act like they give a rat’s ass about player safety, this is exactly the type of guy who needs to be reined in. Letting assholes like Lucic run amok while claiming to care about concussion protocols proves that the proverbial emperor really has no clothes. And now I just pictured Gary Bettman with no clothes and I’m going to be sick.

Anyway, I just hope that Top Cat and Schmaltz can stay out of his orbit tonight because they’re just the type of fresh-faced youngsters this goon will go after.

Game #37 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Our friend Jen has been our Ducks outlet for more years than she’d probably like to remember. She’s a former contributor to Puck Daddy as well, but is much more pleasant than Wyshynsky. You can follow her on Twitter @MsJenNeale.

Everything Else

250px-Ozymandias at 

Game Time: 9:00PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, SportsNet, SportsNet 1, WGN-AM 720
A Literal Statue Of A Coach Bitching At A Ref: Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

blackhawks-lineup-card

canucks-lineup-card

As the Hawks continue westward to the edge of the continent, tonight they will make their usual first Saturday night stop on the Circus Trip in Vancouver for a late tilt against whatever the hell it is the Canucks are anymore.

Everything Else

Lumberjack_Song vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Dude, Is That Thing Cashed?: Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

Instead of playing up the blood feud between these two teams as has been customary during pieces like this over the years, what is now hot to do is lament how there is neither any sizzle or any steak to these matchups. Realignment and Mike Gillis torpedoing a perennial contender have made these games now just another date on the calendar for the most part. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a critical game for both squads tonight.

Everything Else

Lumberjack_Song vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Dude, Is That Thing Cashed?: Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

Instead of playing up the blood feud between these two teams as has been customary during pieces like this over the years, what is now hot to do is lament how there is neither any sizzle or any steak to these matchups. Realignment and Mike Gillis torpedoing a perennial contender have made these games now just another date on the calendar for the most part. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a critical game for both squads tonight.

Everything Else

bluestrumpet_jersey vs AltLogo

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, CNBC, CBC (Angl0), RDSI (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Moral High Ground From Below Sea Level: SLGT

With the series now turning north and back to the west side tonight, the Hawks find themselves in an unfortunately familiar spot, down two games to an opponent, something that has happened each of the last three playoff years. And this go-around might be the most rancorous yet.

Everything Else

oldschool at Imo's St. Louis

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, CBC (Anglo), RDS2 (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Mung: St. Louis Game Time

When the new playoff format was announced under the plans for realignment, even dating back to the first iteration of the plan nearly two years ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Hawks and Blues would collide in the playoffs on an annual basis. In fact, creating and amplifying that kind of rivalry was basically the point of the new format. However, it’s unlikely that anyone had this series pegged for the first round, including these two teams themselves.