Hot and not
James Neal, Nashville Predators
Neal provided all the offense the Predators needed against the Edmonton Oilers, netting his sixth career hat trick in the Preds' 3-2 victory. He now has seven points in seven games during March, and a career-best plus-22 rating overall.
Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey Devils
Kinkaid allowed six goals on 24 shots before being pulled midway through the third period of a 7-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. He has now allowed six goals in two of his past four outings.
Is Jonathan Quick the best American goalie ever?
@CraigCustance: In the Kings' 5-0, statement-game win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, Kings netminder Jonathan Quick set a record for most career shutouts by an American goalie with his 41st. One more shutout in the playoffs and Quick will hold the same record for American goalies in the postseason (he's currently tied with Mike Richter). Last night's convincing win by the Kings raises all kinds of questions surrounding Quick and Los Angeles, including this one: Is there a goalie in the Western Conference you'd rather hitch your playoff hopes to right now more than Quick? And where does Quick fit among the best American-born goalies of all time? He still needs more than 100 regular-season wins to catch John Vanbiesbrouck for the American record, and perhaps an international moment at the coming World Cup, to really cement his legacy among the American greats. What do you guys think?
@ESPNJoeyMac: Craig, I'm so glad you started this topic today. While watching that game Monday night, it was evident from the opening drop which goaltender would have a better night. After the Kings quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in an 18-second span on Chicago's Corey Crawford, the early cushion helped Quick in his 32-save shutout performance. He made some timely and spectacular saves, but the best part was his postgame comments. We all know goaltenders are a different breed, but Quick proved why hockey players are the best to deal with in pro sports. It didn't matter to him (at least publicly) that he reached a milestone or was mentioned in the same breath as Vanbiesbrouck and Richter. Quick was humble and credited his teammates for the effort. Quick is well on his way to becoming the best American to play the position and he has plenty of career ahead of him to reach that monumental status.
@ESPN_Burnside: Given that fellow Team USA netminder Cory Schneider (currently injured) won't be playing postseason games this spring (Schneider's Devils were crushed 7-1 by the Anaheim Ducks on Monday to further erode their faint playoff hopes) it would take a monumental playoff showing from Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Ben Bishop to dislodge Quick as the starter next fall at the World Cup. And twin Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy are pretty good for a guy who just turned 30. Still, given Richter's star turn in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, it's fair to hold off anointing Quick the best American netminder of all time. At least for a few more months. Of course, another long playoff run and a trip to the finals (or more) in the World Cup or more might change the storyline.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: It's hard to compare eras because of the discrepancy in goal scoring from decade to decade. Not to take anything away from Quick, but he's playing in an era where getting shutouts is a lot easier than when Richter and Vanbiesbrouck -- not to mention fellow American great Tom Barrasso -- were on the ice. So shutouts are a bit of a misleading stat. I still think Quick has the chance to be known as the best American goalie ever, but that will come once he has the most wins among U.S.-born goalies.
Around the league
After the defeat at the hands of the Kings, the Blackhawks have lost three straight, all to Western Conference foes, but the team is not panicking as it begins the stretch run.