March 04, 2015

Three Goalies In One Game Has Happened Before

There was a bizarre occurrence in the Florida Panthers 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

Starting goaltender Roberto Luongo left the game after the first period after taking a shot high in the shoulder. Things got really interesting when back up goalie Al Montoya also had to leave the game with a lower body injury. The Florida Panthers were suddenly out of goaltenders in a game with serious playoff implications for them.

Montoya's injury caused a long delay of game while the Panthers tried to find a goalie. Montoya returned again, with goalie coach, former NHL goalie Rob Tallas, dressed and signed to an amateur contract and sitting on the bench. Tallas, by the way, also served as an emergency back up goalie for Florida in the 2012-13 season.

Montoya was clearly unable to continue, but instead of the 41 year old Tallas getting into his 100th NHL game, Roberto Luongo shocked everyone by rising from the dead to return to the net. He put in an admirable performance but the Panthers still lost the game.

No one seems to remember this ever happening in the modern day NHL. I found two relatively recent occurrences.

On May 16, 1995, the Washington Capitals tried three goalies to stop the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 7-1 playoff loss. Tomas Sandstrom, Luc Robitaille and Jaromir Jagr each scored two goals. Thankfully for the Caps that was the year Mario Lemieux sat out due to injury!

Starting goalie Jim Carey was pulled due to a bad start, only to return after back up Olie Kolzig tore cartilage in his right knee. But to start the third period spare goalie Byron Dafoe was in Washington's net.

Now this was a playoff game and teams always have a spare goalie around. And they are permitted to dress the third goalie should another goalie get injured. But he's not supposed to play unless both of the other goalies are injured. Carey obviously came down with some sort of a suspicious ailment in that intermission.

But I found another regular season occurrence.

On December 5th, 1991 the San Jose Sharks were blown out 8-0 by, you guessed it, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mario Lemieux was there that time, and he scored 2 goals and 4 assists that night.

The Sharks goaltending trio of Jeff Hackett and Arturs Irbe were unable to stop Pittsburgh that night, and got injured in the process. Veteran goalie Brian Hayward came out of the stands that night to finish off the game.

The St. Louis Blues twice used three goalies in a game and it came about a month apart in 1968.

On November 13th, 1968 Glenn Hall was actually ejected from the game. Robbie Irons replaced him briefly while Jacques Plante got dressed to finish off the game. It was Irons only NHL appearance.

A month later, on December 11th, Plante had to leave the game against Chicago after taking a Stan Mikita shot to the head (yes, Plante was wearing a mask at this time). Gary Edwards took over, but Glenn Hall somehow finished the game.

The coach for St. Louis back then was . . . Scotty Bowman! Because he had aging legends Hall and Plante for goalies, he gave the non-starter the complete day off, and had others like Irons and Edwards sit on the bench. After these two incidents the NHL cracked down on Bowman's sneaky ways.

The only other example I can find came on April 2, 1966, the Toronto Maple Leafs used three goaltenders in a 3-3 tie against the visiting New York Rangers. Each of Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk and Bruce Gamble played one period and allowed one goal. Of course there was no regular season overtime in 1965-66.

Hartford Whalers Wednesday: Burke's Law

Swedish Grit: Samuel Pahlsson

In the spring of 2007 Samuel "Samme" Pahlsson was the toast of the National Hockey League. That's pretty amazing considering much of his career up to that point was spent in relative anonymity.

Born in Ange, Sweden, Pahlsson, the son of teachers Olle and Inger, played his junior hockey with Modo where he was overshadowed by teammates Henrik and Daniel Sedin. While the twin brothers were tagged for NHL stardom from an early age, Pahlsson had to work hard for a chance. The Colorado Avalanche drafted him 176th overall in the 1996 NHL draft.

Yet nobody really knew this Pahlsson kid was. They certainly never would have guessed he would one day be packaged in a trade for Raymond Bourque. And no one ever expected him to blossom into a NHL star in a Stanley Cup playoff run that ended with him getting consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Not to mention he would be runner up for the Selke Trophy as the league's defensive forward.

Before Pahlsson left Modo the Avalanche traded the unheard of Swede, along with Brian Rolston, to Boston in the deal that saw Ray Bourque join the Avalanche and cap his career with a Stanley Cup.

The following season Pahlsson came to North America but the Bruins only used him for 17 games before sending him to Anaheim in a deal for Andrei Nazarov and Patrick Traverse. Pahlsson finished the season with 59 more games with the Mighty Ducks, but remained an unknown entity. He scored just four goals in his first NHL season but was quietly hinting at becoming a good shutdown center.

Pahlsson spent the 2000-2001 season in Anaheim but continued to underwhelm. He had six goals and 20 points -- nothing spectacular. The following season he was initially cut by the Ducks new coach Mike Babcock, and demoted to the minor leagues.

Pahlsson was not happy with this turn events. He actually packed his bags and flew home to Sweden. He felt he was good enough to play in the NHL.

"It wasn't the best time of my life," he said.

Little did he know good times were not that far away. But he needed the time at home to reflect on his situation.

Pahlsson returned and reported to the AHL. Soon enough he was recalled to Anaheim. He
He had four goals and 11 assists in 34 regular-season games. He then quietly helped the Ducks surprise with a trip to Stanley Cup final, where they eventually bowed to the New Jersey Devils.

Pahlsson was setting his status as one of the league's better checking centermen that spring. He not only accepted his role, but he relished in it.

"I would love to score 50 goals every season but I can't do that," he said. "I have a role out there and I try to do my best at that."

The Ducks returned to the Stanley Cup final in 2007. Pahlsson flourished under coach Randy Carlyle. Still an unknown player in many parts of the league, Pahlsson held a coming out party of sorts that spring. Playing on a hard checking line with Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen and played an instrumental role in helping the Ducks win their first Stanley Cup championship.

Though voting results are never revealed, Pahlsson was said to have landed strong consideration as the Conn Smythe trophy winner as playoff MVP. He played more average minutes than any other Ducks forward except Ryan Getzlaf. He also finished with a team high +10 rating. He only scored 3 goals that spring, as he was too busy preventing goals instead, but he did score the Western Conference championship clinching goal against Detroit as well as the game winning goal in game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals.

When all was said and done the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Ottawa Senators to win their first Stanley Cup championship.

To cap off that magical 2007 season Pahlsson was runner-up to Rod Brind'Amour in balloting for the Frank Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward. It should be noted Pahlsson actually had more first place votes than Brind'Amour but still finished second in overall voting.

Incredibly strong on his feet with a surprising first step of acceleration, Pahlsson was far from a flashy player. But he was well respected a tenacious worker and an intelligent defensive player.

Mind you, Pahlsson said the secret to his success was pretty simple.

"You try to scout every player to get a sense of what they like to do," he said. "I always want to be in their face. You want to get some hits in to stir things up. You don't want them to have a good time out there."

"Samme's a Swede, but he thinks he's from Red Deer," said the always quotable Ducks general manager Brian Burke. "He's gritty and tough as nails to play against. A definite impact player."

That 2007 playoff did toll a high price for Pahlsson. He played through a sports hernia that never healed on it's own in the summer. He required surgery early in the next season, causing him to miss a lot of time. Try as he might, he never returned to the same celebrated status in the NHL again.

With his contract set to expire the Ducks traded Pahlsson to Chicago for James Wisniewski in 2009. He helped Chicago reach the Western Conference finals as a playoff rental that spring, but then was off to return to relative anonymity in Columbus for three years. After a brief appearance with Vancouver he quietly returned to Sweden in 2012 to continue playing overseas.

March 03, 2015

Leo Bourgault - a.k.a. Leo Bourgeault

Leo Bourgault was a 5'6" defenseman way back in the 1920s, when a defenseman could get away with being 5'6". The Sturgeon Falls, Ontario native was a steady defender who spent 10 years bouncing around the NHL, most notably with the New York Rangers (with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 1928) but also with the Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Much of recorded hockey history has Leo's last name as Bourgeault, though, as confirmed by his son, the family name is actually spelled Bourgault.

Bourgault is part of the answer to one of the great trivia questions in hockey. He, Desse Roche and Joe Lamb, both teammates of Bourgault in Montreal, Rick Dudley and Wilf Paiement are the only players in NHL history to wear number 99 aside from Wayne Gretzky.

Nobody quite knows the story, but Montreal carried several extra sweaters that season with "football numbers" in the 1934-35 season. They were very unusual at that time. Roger Jenkins wore 88. Several players shared #48 and #75. And, at various points in the season, Roche, Lamb and Bourgeault wore 99. Lamb is believed to be the first player in NHL history to wear 99.

Bourgault retired near Quebec City and he became very involved in the minor hockey scene, helping kids learn the game. One of his pupils was a fellow named Michel Roy. He never made it to the big leagues but the two families stayed connected for many years. Michel Roy's son did make it to the NHL. His name is Patrick Roy.

Leo Bourgault played in 307 NHL games, scoring 24 goals and 44 points. He passed away in 1978.

Hockey Is Bad For Your Teeth

Not all innovations in hockey equipment catch on . . .

March 02, 2015

Back Czeching: Jiri Novotny

Jiri Novotny was a late-developing Czech player who blossomed in his fourth season in the American Hockey League. He led the Rochester Americans in scoring that season, 2005-06, and resurrected his status as a NHL prospect.

Drafted 22nd overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2001 NHL Draft, Novotny did not leave his native Czech Republic until 2002-03 season. After four seasons in the minor leagues he finally got his first taste of NHL action in 2006, playing 14 games with the Sabres.

A big reason for Novotny's slow development was his tough adjustment to life in North America.

“I remember my first year here. It was so tough because I didn’t speak nothing. I taught myself just by watching t.v.”

While he dreamed of playing in the best league in the world, Novotny probably never realized just how possible it was that he would one day play in the NHL.

He started playing hockey at the age of 6, and quickly showed promise thanks to his natural skating skills. He was soon was playing against boys older and bigger than he was, and he continued to thrive. But it wasn't until he made the Czech's World Junior squad in 2000 that he though maybe he had a chance.

"I grew up cheering for Teemu Selanne but I never really thought I would get to play against him one day."

Novotny's break out season in the minor leagues did allow for him to play in the same league as Teemu and all the world's other best players. In 2006-07 league rule required Novotny to clear waivers if he was returned to the minor leagues. Fearing they would lose him for nothing, the Sabres committed to him from the beginning of the season.

"It's a long, long time to stay in Rochester. This is big time for me. This is a dream for every hockey player, to play in the NHL. It's an unbelievable feeling," he said.

He filled in nicely in a depth role with the Sabres, but by the end of the year he was traded to Washington in a trade deadline deal for Dainius Zubrus.

"I just remember my phone ringing and it was (Sabres coach) Lindy Ruff and he told me to come to his (hotel) room," Novotny said. "I was disappointed because I had put in so much time there."

The Caps did not qualify Novotny contractually that summer, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. A lot of European bubble players may have packed up and gone home at that point, especially since his wife and newborn baby opted to stay in Europe for a long stretch after the child birth.

But Novotny continued to look to fulfill his dream of becoming a regular NHL player. In 2007-08 Novotny signed as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He would play two seasons in Ohio, his best stretch in the NHL.

The Jackets were hoping Novotny could blossom with veteran centers like Sergei Fedorov, Michael Peca and Manny Malhotra to help shoulder the load.  They also hoped he could provide some leadership for fellow countrymen David Vyborny and Rostislav Klesla, two young players on the team.

Novotny over came a concussion early on to and put up some healthy numbers (7-10-17 in 31 games before a disastrous mid-season slump (just 2 assists in a 20 game stretch).

Described as a tall, lanky playmaker who did not use his powerful shot nearly enough. He got tagged with the underachiever label, which never really shook. He could have benefited from better upper body strength and balance on his skates, Novotny Was a good speedster who was dogged on the forecheck in pursuit of the puck. He also was a regular on the penalty kill.

Novotny left for Russia's Kontinental Hockey League in 2009 where he continued to play for many seasons. He also jumped at every opportunity to play for his country, helping the Czechs a World Championship in 2010. He was also part of the Czech Olympic team at the 2014 Sochi games (scoring a big goal against Canada).

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