Saturday, February 4, 2023

Today In NHL History - Bieksa Saves And Scores

On February 4th in 2012, Vancouver Canucks blueliner Kevin Bieksa made a spectacular diving save to prevent an empty net goal by T.J. Galiardi with 48 seconds to play, then fired a stanchion-deflected puck past goalie Jean-Sebastien Gigeure 14 seconds later to tie the game.
A complete analysis of the stanchion-assisted effort, courtesy of The Province's The Legion of Blog, may be found here.

Bieksa's history with stanchion-deflected goals is well-documented, the most famous of which came in double overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference Final eliminating the San Jose Sharks and advancing the Canucks to their first Stanley Cup Final in 17 years.

After a scoreless overtime, Mason Raymond collected the shootout's only goal to complete the Canucks unlikely 3-2 comeback against Colorado.

That's today in NHL History.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Today In NHL History - Burrows Snaps Streak

On February 3rd in 2009, Vancouver Canucks undrafted forward Alex Burrows snapped the club's 8 game losing streak (and 9 game home losing streak) in dramatic fashion converting a shorthanded breakaway with his signature forehand-backhand move against the Carolina Hurricanes unlocking a 3-3 tie with 82 seconds to play.

Burrows celebrated the crucial marker mimicking the snapping of his stick over his knee, acknowledging the end of the streak. The Canucks killed the remaining 25 seconds of Carolina's powerplay and held on for the final 57 seconds of the game to win by a score of 4-3.

During their 2009 win-less span, the Canucks' win-loss record slipped from 22-15-5 to 22-20-8. Burrow's shorthanded goal, however, sparked the club to win 23 of their remaining 32 games, finishing the season with a 45-27-10 overall record and clinching the Northwest Division title.

Likely saving Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault's job with the win, Burrows was tested on the team's top line with twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin two games later. Sensing the chemistry between the trio, GM Mike Gillis wisely quadrupled Burrows' $525,000 salary three weeks thereafter with a four year contract paying $2 million per year.

The top-line experiment proved fruitful for all involved, with Henrik and Daniel Sedin leading the NHL in points in successive years (2010, 2011) and Burrows posting four consecutive 25+ goal seasons (2009-2012).

This streak-snapping celebration was repeated three years later when Burrows scored a game-winning shootout goal on Jimmy Howard with the same forehand-backhand move to beat the Red Wings 4-3 at the Joe, ending Detroit's NHL record setting 23 game home winning streak.

That's today in NHL history.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Today In NHL History - Johnson Fights DiPietro

On February 2nd in 2011, New York Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro shoved Pittsburgh Penguins pest Matt Cooke setting off a scrum with 17 seconds to play. In response, Pittsburgh's backup backstop Brent Johnson skated the length of the ice to engage DiPietro in some fisticuffs.

Johnson won his first NHL fight dropping DiPietro with one punch, earning 17 penalty minutes for his efforts. The Islanders oft-injured $67 million dollar man was less fortunate, sustaining facial fractures and knee swelling that sidelined him for six weeks.  DiPietro played in only 15 more NHL games after the now-famous goalie fight before being bought out by the Islanders for $24 million on July 1, 2013. Johnson appeared in 25 more NHL games, his last being on April 15, 2012.

Amazing, DiPietro and Johnson ended their respective careers with nearly identical numbers. DiPietro appeared in 9 more regular season games (318 vs. 309) and 5 fewer playoff games (10 vs. 15) than Johnson, managing a marginally poorer goals against average (2.87 vs. 2.63) and save percentage (.902 vs. .904), though with a far lesser team.

Financially, DiPietro's NHL contracts ($71.1m) paid 20 times more than Johnson's estimated earnings ($3.35m), a distinct advantage that continues with annual payments of $1.5m scheduled through 2029.

Pittsburgh beat New York 3-0, though Johnson's ejection cost him the shutout with Marc-Andre Fleury entering to complete the game.

That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - Wideman's Shootout Miss

On February 2nd in 2006, St. Louis Blues defenseman Dennis Wideman famously flubbed a shootout attempt against Chicago Blackhawks rookie goalie Corey Crawford, awkwardly falling before managing a shot on net.

The shootout miss remains a favorite among NHL hockey bloopers. The Blues eventually beat the Blackhawks that night by a score of 6-5.

That's today in NHL history.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Today In NHL History - Gary Bettman

On February 1st in 1993, former NBA senior vice-president and general counsel Gary Bettman was appointed Commissioner of the NHL. As clever as he is unpopular, Bettman has brought tremendous change to the game introducing and alienating fans alike.

During his 30 year tenure, Bettman has presided over the:

When not working to improve the game and line owners pockets with increased revenues, he can be found being booed in arenas league-wide.

That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - LA Kings Clock Stoppage

On February 1st in 2012, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty scored a game winning powerplay goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets with 0.4 seconds remaining in the third period. A closer look confirmed the Staples Center game clocked stopped for a full second moments before the goal was scored. Absent the stoppage, the match would have been tied 2-2 upon completion of regulation time and headed to overtime.

The NHL's video room reviewed the goal, but somehow didn't notice the clock had stopped until minutes after the game. Colin Campbell later confirmed the goal should not have counted and the league would conduct an investigation to determine what caused the error. However, the result of the game would remain. And with that, Clockgate was born. Amazingly, a similar glitch went unnoticed eleven nights earlier.  Afterwards, an irate Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson wrote:

It is an amazing coincidence that with the Kings on a power play at Staples Center and with a mad scramble around our net in the dying seconds of the third period of a 2-2 hockey game that the clock stopped for at least one full second. I can only think of two ways in which this would have happened. Either there was a deliberate stopping of the clock or the clock malfunctioned."
Kings GM Dean Lombardo claimed the delay was due to the clock moving too quickly during the game, citing science as the cause:
"Those clocks are sophisticated instruments that calculate time by measuring electrical charges called coulombs – given the rapidity and volume of electrons that move through the measuring device the calibrator must adjust at certain points which was the delay you see. The delay is just recalibrating for the clock moving too quickly during the 10–10ths of a second before the delay. This insures that the actual playing time during a period is exactly 20 minutes. That is not an opinion -– that is science -– amazing device quite frankly."
Commissioner Gary Bettman acknowlegded if the clock had run straight through "the game would have been at a tie at that point, would have gone to overtime." Bettman continued, "if we had any reason to believe that this was intentional we would deal with it in a whole different way, but we're going to investigate it, get to the bottom of it."

Ultimately it was determined that human error caused the pause, as the clock was found to have been manually stopped. Despite Lombardi's quasi-scientific explanation, the NHL's investigation revealed that "clocks do not know how to stop on their own".

The Los Angeles Kings finished 8th in the western conference, snagging the final playoff spot with a five point cushion above the 9th place Calgary Flames. The Columbus Blue Jackets finished the season in last place, with the next closest team nine points ahead. The Kings won the Stanley Cup and the Blue Jackets selected 2nd overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

While the final standings and playoff picture were not directly affected by the debacle, it's safe to say the integrity of the game and reputation of timekeepers in Los Angeles suffered a significant blow.

The Kings recorded a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.

That's today in NHL history.