I remember like two weeks ago or something the Sens fired Eli Wilson, their goalie coach for the previous two seasons. The Sens had just lost five straight and allowed 26 goals in their previous six games, which is of course a crazy-ass number. But people still snickered.
“Fire the goalie coach?!” they scoffed. “Fire the goalies!”
The move was most often compared to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic in such a way that they are all precariously stacked on top of each other before being dropped directly off the back of the ship. A real who-cares move from a floundering franchise desperate to scapegoat someone in no real position of authority.
I get that sentiment.
But maybe Wilson was putting thalium in the water bottles of Mssrs. Brian Elliot, Pascal Leclaire and Mike Brodeur because now, and in the previous six games, the Sens’ netminders have been nigh unsolvable. Remember, they’d given up 26 in six before Wilson got the ol’ heave-ho. Since then? Seven in seven games.
I’ll say that again: The Senators have allowed seven goals in their last seven games, and obviously won all of them. The turnaround has been nothing short of spectacular.
Most of that is down to Brian Elliot, who has started each of the last five games (Brodeur started the first two games after The Firing, stopping 62 of 64 shots he faced and shutting out the Rangers, not that that’s kinda big deal these days). Including tonight’s shutout win over New Jersey, Elliot has stopped 134 of the last 139 shots he’s faced. That’s a save percentage of .964.
These aren’t exactly outstanding goalies either. Elliot was never better than a slightly-below-average backup in his previous 50-something NHL games and had never displayed any overwhelming skill at the AHL level either. Likewise, Brodeur was playing in the ECHL as recently as last season. But now they’re both playing like Dryden in his prime and the Sens are surging up the standings. They’ve gone from something like 12th to fifth, elbowing past division opponents Montreal and (especially) Boston.
Is this going to last forever? No. But are the Sens now comfortably out of the drop zone? Hell yes. They’re seven points clear of the big logjam of mediocrity at spots 6-12 and I don’t exactly see anyone coming for their heads any time soon.
Los Angeles 5, Toronto 3
Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist. That must’ve made the press box at the ACC look like one of the seedier Times Square theaters in the pre-Giuliani years. I can’t wait to read the breathless articles comparing him to Bobby Orr and Jesus Christ tomorrow. They’re going to be great.
Washington 7, New York Islanders 2
Jose Theodore got hurt. Washington is quickly running out of goalies. Not that it’ll matter. They score seven goals just every night these days.
Atlanta 2, Anaheim 1
Ilya Kovalchuk: zero points. Trade value: plummeting.
Columbus 3, Nashville 2
Pekka Rinne was the first Nashville goalie to start two games in a row in a good long while. He conceded three goals on 17 shots. Back to the rotation then.
Phoenix 5, Detroit 4 (OT)
Shane Doan with the game-winner after Phoenix battled back from a late 4-2 deficit with two goals in the last 90 seconds of regulation. Phoenix rules. They’ll be ready come playoff time. Maybe.
Florida 2, Montreal 1
Client Jaroslav Halak did well but not so much for the Habs offense. One goal on 17 shots will win you exactly no hockey games. I can’t imagine a team has ever in the history of the sport won with a total like that.
Chicago 4, Edmonton 2
My friend’s dad works in Las Vegas and got a hot tip to pick Washington and Edmonton to win. I don’t know who gave him this hot tip, but they were clearly a moron. Also, he listened (and therefore predictably lost) so I don’t know what that says about him. Who would ever bet on Edmonton to beat an AHL team, never mind the best team in hockey, which came in pissed off that it got embarrassed by Vancouver on Saturday.