Holmqvist Inconsistent In 2nd NHL Start

By Brandon LeBourveau
As was the case last Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers’ rookie
goaltender Johan Holmqvist was forced to start another NHL game. The doctors
have stated that starting goalie Mike Richter can’t play in consecutive
games, so the choice for last night’s game against the Ottawa Senators would
have been Kirk McLean, leaving Holmqvist as the backup. However, McLean was
still feeling the effects of back spasms and couldn’t play in the game. So
Holmqvist got the emergency call last night as the starter.

Holmqvist was impressive at times, but also looked shaky as the Senators came
back to win 6-5, as they scored three goals in the third period to erase a
4-3 Rangers’ lead. Holmqvist finished with 32 saves on 38 shots, and now has
lost both NHL games he has played in. Let’s take a look back at some of the
ups and downs of Holmqvist last night.

Right away Johan got off on the wrong foot as Martin Havlat, the 19 year old
rookie sensation of the Ottawa Senators, got the puck in the neutral zone off
a turnover and used his blazing speed to go right by Rangers rookie
defenseman Mike Mottau and snapped a shot through Holmqvist’s legs, at 2:42
of the 1st period. It was a soft goal that Johan let up and one he should
have had. He was caught going down to soon and the puck slid through his legs
just as he went down. I find it very ironic that before the game started they
showed footage of Holmqvist working with the Rangers goalie coach on trying
to stay on his feet more, and then he gets beat in the game on the same thing
he was trying to fix. The Rangers owned the 1st period from that point on as
they came back to take the lead 2-1 on goals by Theo Fleury and Adam Graves.

Holmqvist clearly made his best save of the game 11 minutes into the 2nd
period as Alexei Yashin came in all alone and was robbed with the glove by
Holmqvist. But Rangers’ defenseman Brad Brown slashed Yashin right before he
took the shot leading to a Senators power play, one that they would
capitalize on 28 seconds into. It all started with Sami Salo taking a wicked
slap shot from the blueline that was deflected by Alexei Yashin. The puck
squirted through Holmqvist’s legs, and Marian Hossa was able to tip in the
rebound before Holmqvist was able to swipe it away. Holmqvist kept the team
in the game by robbing Alexei Yashin with the glove on a wrist shot from the
bottom of the right circle. Michal Grosek then gave the Rangers the lead
again, this time 3-2, but sloppy play led to the Senators tying it up. The
Rangers couldn’t clear the puck out of the defensive zone, and Senators
defenseman Jason York passed the puck from the corner to Rob Zamuner in the
slot, who rifled the puck past Holmqvist top shelf to tie the game at 3. This
goal couldn’t be blamed on Holmqvist, as it was one of those goals you could
really do nothing about. It was a perfectly placed shot, right under the
cross bar, and it happened so fast that Johan didn’t have enough time to get
in position for the shot. The 2nd period ended still tied 3-3.

The Rangers once again got the lead back, as Jan Hlavac forced a turnover in
the defensive zone, which led to a 2 on 1 with Hlavac and Dvorak, resulting
in Hlavac rifling the puck past Senators rookie goalie Jani Hurme. It was all
Senators from that point on though, as they scored 3 straight goals to take a
commanding 6-4 lead. Johan Holmqvist showed his feistiness in goal as he
slashed the Senators played in front of the net, and then gave him a shot to
the head with his glove, resulting in Holmqvist’s 1st NHL penalty. I’m sure
he wishes he could have that one back, as Marian Hossa scored 10 seconds into
the power play. Again it was Sami Salo taking a slap shot from the point, but
this time it deflected off Rich Pilon’s leg and right to the side of the net
where Hossa was waiting to tap it in. You can’t blame Holmqvist on this one
either, as the Senators got a lucky bounce that went their way. The game
stayed tied at 4 until Magnus Arvedson deflected a puck over the shoulder of
Holmqvist to give the Senators a 5-4 lead with a little less than 5 minutes
remaining. Again this one wasn’t Holmqvist’s fault, as he did the right thing
and played the shot, but lucky for Arvedson he deflected the puck to the
opposite side of the net. 33 seconds later the Senators scored again, and
this one could be blamed on Holmqvist. Sens defenseman Igor Kravchuk skated
in and took a shot a few feet over the blueline that sailed top shelf over
the blocker of Holmqvist. John Davidson, the Rangers color-commentator,
blamed this one on the young goalie and so will I. Although it was a perfect
shot, it was one that should have been blockered away into the corner, but
instead it turned out to be the game winning goal, as the Senators held on,
despite a late goal by Petr Nedved to make the final score 6-5 Senators.

Notes: Once again I’ll state that Holmqvist was both impressive and
shaky…..I do believe that he should spend the year in the AHL getting some
experience, but with Richter’s injury, it will be hard for the Rangers to
keep Johan in the minors for a long period of time…..He does look to be a
future starter and possible all-star goalie, but he’ll have to wait a year or
two to get his turn…..Two defenseman were injured last night for the
Rangers. Rich Pilon is sidelined day to day after blocking a slap shot from
Sami Salo (he’s got one helluva shot) and Kim Johnsson is sidelined for 2
weeks with a hand injury. This has prompted the Rangers to recall (Yes!
Finally!) Tomas Kloucek, a steady stay at home defenseman who will be a solid
NHLer. Kloucek will likely play Saturday night against the Canadiens, as will
Dale Purinton, who will be seeing his 1st action of the season. If things go
that way, the Rangers will have 3 rookie defenseman in the lineup (Mottau,
Purinton and Kloucek) and it should be fun to watch…..It was interesting to
listen to Rangers assistant GM Don Maloney talk about the Rangers’ prospects
during the 1st intermission last night…..Only once before can I recall the
Rangers talking about their prospects during the regular season on
TV…..Maloney had some good stuff to say, and he mentioned how Pavel Brendl
has went back to Calgary with a great attitude and for the 1st time he will
be participating in the 2000 World Junior Championships for the Czech
Republic. Fellow Rangers prospect defenseman Filip Novak will also be playing
for the Czech team…..Now here’s some news on Jamie Lundmark and Pavel
Brendl…..Brendl has 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in 11 games so far for
the Calgary Hitmen (WHL), while Lundmark has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in
3 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)… Isn’t it great that the Rangers
were able to find 2 great players in the 7th round of the ’97 draft? Both
Holmqvist and defenseman Mike Mottau were the Rangers selections and both are
currently on the team…..