Elliott back in net for Senators as carousel continues

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Elliott.jpgThe Ottawa Senators have some issues. For a team that sat in third
place in the East coming out of the Olympic Break, they’re certainly
facing a series of problems that proves just how improbable it was they
were winning so much. Ottawa cannot score (three goals in three games)
and the goaltending is becoming a bit of a concern.

Pascal
Leclaire, who was so good for the Columbus Blue Jackets just two years
ago is having an extremely sub-par season this year. The Senators
starter for much of the season, Brian Elliott, won nine straight games
in January and February but has allowed 15 goals in his last four
starts.

Neither goaltender has been able to stay in net for very
long, with both being pulled once in the past three games for the
Senators; Leclaire especially has struggled, allowed two goals on five
shots in the first six minutes against Carolina before being pulled.

So
now we have a team with aspirations of going deep into the playoffs,
yet cannot figure out just what the heck to do in net. Forget about the
Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals issues in net; they have
the offense to cover up for goaltending mistakes on most nights. The
Senators have no such luck: their offense is certainly not horrible but
nowhere near the powerhouses those two teams possess.

The Senators
are now switching back and forth between goaltenders, with Elliott
starting tonight against Edmonton
despite Leclaire actually putting a
decent game together in his last outing. But the team is struggling and
sliding down the standings and they need to find some combination in net
that can be relied upon. Elliott certainly has shown to be the better
option for most of the season, but he’s struggled lately.

Copper & Blue breaks it down further, and says it’s much more than just an issue with the goaltending:

Even though they are mired in goaltending problems, Ottawa has other
troubles.  Ottawa’s big money players are facing the tough minutes and
being slightly outshot and outscored at even strength.  The bottom of
their lineup is outshooting the opponents, and except for Nick Foligno’s
outstanding goalie luck, being outscored at even strength.

Silver Seven blames Spezza a bit as the article said “Spezza’s game
seemed to decline until fairly recently, when he finally realized he
could shoot the puck.”
but in reality the Senators are flawed from
top-to-bottom.  The goaltending is bad, the defense is thin and
the best forwards on the team can’t handle tough minutes, even in the
East.

The
Senators will play both goaltenders on their current three-game road
trip. So much for stability in net headed into the playoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.