Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Two interesting things coming out of today's NHL that's emailed daily.

"Of course, he's the best ever. But you know what I like best about him, at 35 years old? The passion for the game that he still has." - Flyers goaltending great Bernie Parent, on the Devils' Martin Brodeur.

Interesting choice of words from the ex-Flyer who led them to back-to-back Cups. Again, there's no definitive way you can really conclude that without trying to compare what the goalies who played in other eras had to deal with. I still say today's game has much better team oriented defense. Players are more schooled in backchecking and aren't afraid to get in the path of shots. Goalies have better equipment and are much better coached. You watch the old highlight films and you would frequently see goalies have no chance on hard shots from 20 feet out. There was a lot more net for shooters to work with. Now, goalies can cover much of it and make it very difficult. I have a hard time putting Brodeur over Terry Sawchuk, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy. Less we forget that his boyhood idol won Cups in three different decades and had to play in the high scoring 80's when the game was more back and forth. All that said, by the time his brilliant Hall of Fame career concludes, Brodeur will have shattered almost every record with one team, making it a good argument.

And now for item two:

From Elias: Jordan Staal's shorthanded goal spurred the Penguins' third-period comeback from a 4-1 deficit and Pittsburgh went on to a 5-4 shootout victory in Ottawa. Staal's goal was his seventh short-handed goal of the season -- the most by any rookie in NHL history. The old record of six was shared by Gerry Minor (with Vancouver in 1980-81) and John Madden (with New Jersey in 1999-2000).

The last time that the Penguins earned a road win after overcoming a third-period deficit of three or more goals was on Oct. 15, 1991, when they overcame a 6-2 Islanders' lead to take a 7-6 decision in overtime on Long Island. (Mario Lemieux had two goals during that comeback, while Mark Recchi, Jaromir Jagr and Phil Bourque added the others.)

There's little doubt that what Staal has accomplished here is pretty remarkable. It's very difficult for any player selected in June to enter the league at the age of 18 and make an immediate impact unless your name is Mario or Crosby. The Pens weren't even sure they'd keep the former second overall selection up with the club. But he worked his way up the ladder from fourth line penalty killing duty to a top six forward who can be trusted in any game situation. If you've seen his rookie record seven shorthanded goals on the highlight reel, then you know how special they've been. This guy has supreme skill to go with great defensive instincts and breakaway speed. I still marvel at the great patience he showed to beat the Leafs in OT last month to complete his first career hat trick. That kind of poise is rare for a player that age. There's no question that Staal will be a very special player. It's amazing to think he might not even get nominated for the Calder. But with teammate Evgeni Malkin, Colorado's Paul Stastny and the Kings' Anze Kopitar all in the running, it's a distinct possibility. I still say Staal belongs in the top three. Regardless, he's going to get to 30 goals this season and might even challenge 10 shorthanders before it ends. What an exciting player!

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