NHL’s best and worst this week

Maddie Rooney will play at Madison Square Garden on February 28 as part of the Professional Hockey Association’s Dream Gap Tour.

For the 23-year-old goalkeeper, it is an “incredible opportunity” to play in New York in the world’s most famous arena. Unfortunately, his preparation for the match is far from ideal. Since the March 2020 pandemic turned our daily lives upside down, there has been a lack of competitive action. “To be precise,” says Rooney, “I have played exactly seven field hockey games since March 2020. These were PWHPA games against local boys, high school and youth teams. Then at [National Team] camp, we played six games, but as a goalie, I had to share.

Compare that to last season, when Rooney, as an alumnus of Minnesota-Duluth, usually played two games a weekend. The landscape of women’s field hockey is an exaggeration, but lack of time for goalies is a problem we see all over field hockey, including in the NHL for the 2021 season.

This is one reason why the league-wide protection rate is around 0.900 in the first month of the season. With the exception of the 1995 and 2013 seasons shortened by the lockout, the last time the protection rate was below 0.900 was in October (normally the first month of the season), when it was 0.894 after a one-season lockout.

A few statistics may explain the goalie’s slow start. The goalies are struggling on penalty kicks (the worst first month in the league since 1985-86), and according to Evolving Hockey, the percentage of shots fired is unusually high (about 8.5% at even strength, we’re at the highest level since the 2007-08 season). All of this follows a significant reduction in training camp and the elimination of all preseason games.

“The usual ease of getting into the game, from my perspective looking at the league, was a little bit slower,” said Jim Corsi, the NHL goalkeeping coach who now oversees the development of goalkeeping programs with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2 Connected

It is important to understand why live action is so important in goalie training. “The game is very different from training or puck field hockey,” said Anaheim Ducks veteran goaltender Ryan Miller. “In field hockey, the guys are trying to play dumb, hold them down, make extra passes. The NHL game is usually more direct, more powerful. Of course there are some good games, but as a goalie you have to stay in the game to get some of those games and make it hard on your opponent. You can’t get so involved in the first situation and give them something else”.

According to Corsi, “playing without pucks” is the hardest part of the game to get used to after a long cut.

“On a penalty kick, for example, you have to be in a certain position when you’re at the bottom of the circle and cut off a certain approach to the net,” Corsi said. “If you’re only five inches away, the guys will put this in.”

To explain why New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin experienced unusual difficulties early in the season, longtime NHL goaltender and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weeks found fault with his positioning. “The only thing that’s changed is that he’s scoring goals with his body,” Weeks said. “It’s like [opponents] are finding holes that most NHL goalies can’t find – unless they’re going down a tough road.” But normal NHL goalies don’t often allow that. That’s why he looks smaller in net, even though he’s not small. I think it’s a safe bet.

“I know when you’re in position, you know you’re in the right place and somehow the puck finds a hole. If that happens once, you take it for granted. If that happens two or three times, you start doubting yourself, and before you know it, you’re playing bad pucks, which usually hit you in the body.”

Misunderstanding. The name of the game is not meant specified.for goalies from teams that didn’t make it to the 2020 postseason – like the Ducks’ Ryan Miller – they haven’t seen a live show in over 10 months. Deborah Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images

To make up for the lack of practice, the guards had to find extra time to train during the pandemic, which proved difficult given the level of mastery. “Some goalies can’t find sharpshooters because they’re only allowed two guys on the ice,” Corsi said. “If you have a goalie and a shooter, the shooter is exhausted after 15 minutes. And I have to sit on the bench because they only allow two men on the ice.”

Corsi advised some of his players to seek out the ice outside. Recently, Corsi sent one of his students, a 17-year-old goalie, and his father to train at a local ice rink. The police came and pulled them out. In that jurisdiction, wearing hockey equipment on the ice was prohibited as a game-prevention measure.

Rooney lives in Minnesota, where ice rinks were closed for some time during the pandemic. His teammate on the U.S. team, goalkeeper Nicole Hensley, took time off for the second half of the summer and they were able to get on the ice with the goalkeeping coach.

NHL field hockey is back! Get a pass to all 2021 games for just $99.99. Click here for more information ”

One of seven teams not on the bubble, Miller last played in the NHL in March – meaning his first game of the season came after a hiatus of nearly 10 and a half months. The 40-year-old said he tried as hard as he could to “find game simulations in training.” “We have so little practice, you just try to find situations and take advantage of them,” Miller said. “Get on the ice early, stay on the ice late.” If a penalty or a power play does something that would normally be a little exhausting, I stay and practice.”

Corsi saw the pandemic as an opportunity for goalies to focus more on image work. He has long believed in it, and feels that “it should be a big part of what we do.”

In the Blue Jackets organization, they asked goalies to watch their own videos of good and bad plays and ask themselves the question, “Can you do better?

“A lot of this work involves visualization, using images and seeing yourself do something; that can be very rewarding,” Corsi says. “Psychologists have shown that you can go through this visualization and see yourself succeed; it’s very valuable. It can make you less stressed and better prepared mentally. So when a situation arises on the ice, your head has already seen it, so your body reacts without you having to do anything about it.”

That’s something Rooney began to realize, too. In 2018, she helped the U.S. team win its first Olympic gold medal in 20 years. It’s unfortunate that the Women’s World Cup was canceled last year. The women hope it can be held again in March 2021. But as Rooney enters her best sports years, she is doing her best to keep growing while fighting the pandemic that has halted her momentum.

She visits many goaltending schools on Instagram, where she finds new exercises for speed and flexibility. Although gyms in Minnesota were closed for a long time during the pandemic, Rooney’s friend owns a gym, which has allowed her to do strength, flexibility and rehabilitation exercises.

“I also integrated three visual and motor coordination exercises with three sticks and did a lot of exercises that I’ve gotten from other goalies over the years – from what they’ve posted on social media,” Rooney said. “But the main one was Visual Edge, which is training for the eyes. You wear one of those red and blue glasses that interfere with your normal vision, and it helps you follow your run and have global vision.

Rooney spent more time than ever training his eyesight. “COVID allowed me to look at the resources at my disposal that I wouldn’t have used in the past,” Rooney said. “I can’t wait to see if it helps with actual performance.”

Error. Don’t film specified.Rooney and Team USA defeated Canada to win the gold medal at the 2018 Olympics. EPA/SRJAN SUKI

With this month’s game in MSG where the Minnesota Rooney PWHPA squad takes on New Hampshire, she knows that an adjustment in intensity will be necessary. She travels to Florida before coming to New York City, where the PWHPA plays local boys teams (although Rooney is one of four PWHPA goalkeepers in Florida for five scheduled games, so “who knows how many games I’m really going to get,” she says).

“Team USA and PWHPA rely on a lot of goaltending and puck play behind the scenes,” Rooney said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been pressured by controllers. So making those quick decisions can be challenging at first.”

She hopes the delay is not too long.

“Honestly,” she says, “I’m really excited to play a competitive game again. It will be great to be a part of it.

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1. Miller, whose contract with the Ducks expired last summer, was uncertain about his future when the 2019-20 season was suspended in March 2020. He decided to treat the hiatus as a rebuild. “I followed the bike,” he said. “I cycled on the trails and hiked in the area; I tried to stay active, but at the same time I tried to do really minimal things. I had been through so many years that I wanted to see how I would get over it.” I was off the ice for about five months, which is the longest time I’ve been off the ice since I learned to skate.”

2. Eventually Miller returned to the Ducks for a one-year contract and a million dollars. I asked him if he was considering retirement. “Probably,” Miller said. “Given the current state of the league, and this sudden end with no clear path, I didn’t know how it was going to play out. I was trying to think of what else could happen. But after taking some time and thinking about it, I wanted to give myself a chance to move on if I could, and it worked.

3. The Ducks’ 2020-21 season is a transition to youth. And that’s why fans are excited about Trevor Zegras, the hero of the 2019 World Junior Championship, who won a gold medal with the U.S. this winter but hasn’t had the chance to play in the NHL yet. Zegras, 19, shined in his AHL debut this week with a goal and two assists.

Trevor Zegras invited to the NHL yesterday pic.twitter.com/sJJAhK0KrV

– Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) February 6, 2021

Miller said the Zegers came to Anaheim at the beginning of the summer and have been traveling together for a few months. I asked Miller about his impressions of the Ducks’ prospect. “Talented player; easy going when he wants to try something and he’s not afraid to try something,” Miller said. “I think he was trying to measure me in the beginning, trying to figure out how to score at a different level. He was really creative, doing some unexpected things. But it was also fun to show him that some things that are easy for you are not so easy.

Austin Matthews came into the conversation with the MVP. The 23-year-old American, who has already scored 10 goals in 11 league games, had a flying start.

Some interesting notes on Matthews’ entrance this season. First, he feels like he is at the top of the superstar list (which he probably would have been in the United States by now if he were playing for an American team). Forbes ranked Matthews as the highest paid hockey player this year, with a salary of about $13 million and $3 million in subsidies. I checked with a few people I know, and they found this list to be generally accurate, with some minor inflating or estimating here and there. Matthews still has room to grow; Alex Ovechkin leads all hockey players with $5 million according to Forbes, a figure that is still derisory compared to NBA and NFL athletes. The key for Matthews in 2022 will be how badly he wants to make a name for himself, because the marketing potential is there.

One more thing about Matthews: we’re still talking about his speed on the ice. This season Matthews began working with Ian Mack, coach in Chicago, whose workouts are exercise-based and focus on muscle elasticity and regularity of movement. Patrick Kane began working with Mack before the 2018-19 season and scored 110 points, the highest score of his career. It was Kane’s 30th season and he also recorded the best ice time per game of his career (22:29).

“I play a lot more, but I feel pretty refreshed every night,” Kane said of his work with Mack in 2019. “I honestly think I feel better now than I did in my 20s. I really do.

Three stars of the week


David Pasternak, RW, Boston Bruins.

Pastrnak surprised many last season by matching Alex Ovechkin’s goalscoring record. But after he underwent hip surgery this season, some have suggested that the 24-year-old is a perfect candidate to return to 2021. That doesn’t seem to be the case after he scored five goals (including a hat trick against Philadelphia) in just three games this week.


Jeff Petrie, D, Montreal Canadiens.

He is the star of the Canadiens team. Petry has scored six goals in 12 games this season – including four in four games this week – the most goals scored by a defenseman in 12 games in the last 20 seasons. This is even more impressive when you consider that Petry only scored his sixth goal in the 41st game of the 2019-20 season.


Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks were more competitive than expected and have three legitimate Calder Trophy contenders. But Kane continues to lead the way. He had a fantastic week with three goals and six assists for nine points in three games (while averaging nearly 23 minutes of ice time per game). That includes helping him win Sunday’s extra time game:

Patrick Kane feeds Alex DeBrincat for the win in the extension. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/pb4GvuLQ

– Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 7, 2021

What we enjoyed this week.

1. At age 37, Duncan Keith is proving that he is still one of the elite daredevils. After a two-game series this week in which he registered 10 shots (normally he allows only two shots per game), the defender told reporters, “When I raise the Corsi, you think I’m good.

2- The Pittsburgh Penguins are having a strange start to the season, but the positive is the development of rookie defenseman Pierre-Oliver Joseph, who is making a major breakthrough on the blue line thanks to a string of injuries. Joseph, whose older brother Mathieu is also playing a big role with Tampa Bay this season, has the biggest plus-minus of any Penguins player this season (plus-5) and scored his first NHL goal Saturday.

One way to thwart your first goal in the NHL.

Congratulations, Pierre-Olivier Joseph! pic.twitter.com/qenWMaIJ2q

– NHL (@NHL) February 7, 2021

“He was great,” said teammate Jake Guentzel. “It was fun to watch, to be honest. His composure and the way he held the puck – how confident he was with the puck.” It was a shot on goal… Being part of that first goal is pretty cool.”

3. I honestly didn’t know Justin Faulk had it in him. The former Hurricanes quarterback has started his second season in St. Louis well and seems more confident now that he has a more defined role.

Justin Falk puts the Coyotes to shame pic.twitter.com/Riwk3LmWwk

– Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 3, 2021

4, According to Elliotta Friedman of Sportsnet, his Senators seasoned buyer, Derek Stepan. Although he was brought in (as part of the Arizona salary swap) as a veteran of the rebuilding team, I have every respect for management to understand what is truly in a player’s best interest. Hopefully they can come up with a solution.

As I noted Thursday on @TSNHockey, Derek Stepan was excited to be treated by the #Senses, but the fact that he won’t see his family until May 8 complicates matters. The couple has three children _ including a newborn _ and need about 14 days for the visit.

– Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) February 7, 2021

What we didn’t like this week.

The Buffalo Sabres were forced to temporarily end their season due to a series of issues and an indictment by COVID-19, including against coach Ralph Kruger, and they were very upset about it. The problem lies primarily with the NHL office and the New Jersey Devils and revolves around the issue of transparency.

According to Bob McKenzie, Sabres players contacted the NHLPA to express their concerns before the January 30 game against the Devils, where several New Jersey players were placed on COVID’s short list. Kyle Palmieri played on January 30 and was placed on the list the next day. It was a turning point in a league that had already seen its first weather flashes in Dallas and Carolina. Vegas also struggled, while Minnesota and Colorado had to rest this week. NFL doctors don’t think the coronavirus has crossed the line this season, but it’s unclear if that’s the case in field hockey – which is intrinsically different because it’s played indoors with less ventilation. Detroit coach Jeff Blashill suggested this week that his team was infected from playing in Carolina earlier this season.


Watch live (and time-shifted) NHL games every night this season on ESPN+. Click here to see the upcoming schedule and how to subscribe.

The NHL will continue to follow the advice of its medical advisors. Assistant commissioner Bill Daley told me this week that the league plans to have faster testing “as we go forward,” which will help reduce the backlog of PCR testing we saw in the fiasco between the Devils and Sabres. The NHL and the NHLPA are working on faster testing – with the understanding that even if the results are available within 15 minutes, which is fine, there is a greater chance of false positives.

I am told that several teams have negotiated with their players to remain cautious. Even if bars or restaurants are open in the team’s local market, players are advised to stay away from there and continue to limit communication. We’ll see how it goes.

The league tends to adjust. As many people in the front office have said in recent days, more attention needs to be paid to the team’s point percentage and the fact that teams in the same division play about the same number of games, with the understanding that not everyone is able to play all 56 games.

Second, it’s a sad, sad statistic:

It has been 464 days since a goalie other than Jonathan Bernier has won a game for the Detroit Red Wings, and I sincerely fear that it will never happen again.

– Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) February 3, 2021

3. both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers. While it is incredibly fun to watch them dominate (McDavid has scored two or more points in seven consecutive games), the question is to what extent the Oilers rely on them. For example, the duo played their final game against Calgary on Saturday night at 5:45 p.m. Yes, there were a few stops scheduled. But 5:45 p.m.! That’s how Alex Kovalev feels five minutes into his shift. It’s just crazy.

The best games of the week

Please note that all times are eastern.

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Thursday, February 11: New Jersey Devils against the Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m. (ESPN+).

New Jersey returns to action after a VIDOC hiatus. Philadelphia, meanwhile, welcomes back Selke Trophy winner Sean Couturier for every game. Centre No. 1 came out after suffering a costochondral separation in the second game of the season on Jan. 15, but was activated Sunday at the expense of the injured reserve.

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Saturday, February 13: Carolina Hurricanes against the Dallas Stars, 7 p.m. (ESPN+).

The Central Division is surprisingly competitive, especially at the top of the standings. The two teams hoping to make the playoffs are battling for a place in the standings in this double confrontation.

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Sunday, Feb. 14: Washington Capitals to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3 p.m.

It’s the national game show of the week. This match is perfect for Valentine’s Day, because there’s nothing NBC loves more than a duel between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

Social media post of the week

Only an experienced coach can make such a scolding. Lindy Ruff is a legend.

ICYMI: Our coach is a savage. pic.twitter.com/InKKphxlPu

– New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 1, 2021

Frequently asked questions

What is the best field hockey team right now?

2020 NHL Rankings: All 31 teams are ranked “best in class” in the …

Who is the best NHL team in 2020?

NHL Team Strength Rankings 2020-21 – NHL.com

What is the worst team in the NHL?

Maple Leafs lead all NHL franchises in terms of losses (2,815). As a new NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights have the fewest games of all existing NHL franchises (235) and the fewest wins (133), losses (80), ties (0) and points (288).

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