Roberto Luongo pleased with playoffs performance

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Jason
Botchford has a defiant article up today
for The Province, slamming
those who chose to rip apart Roberto Luongo after yet another
disappointing postseason. While there are many parts of his article I
don’t necessarily agree with, there is one thing I can understand his
point about: there’s been so much ripping on Luongo the past few days
there’s nothing left to take apart.

The buzzards have come and
gone and there is hardly anything left. Yet Luongo will keep on doing
what he loves, being one of the most maddeningly inconsistent
goaltenders in the NHL, and claiming that being the team’s captain is in
no way a hindrance.

Before I get to Botchford’s article, here’s
what Luongo had to say about his performance:

“Honestly, I felt good in the playoffs,” he said.

“I felt
energized. I felt sharp. I felt aggressive. I battled a lot because of
the traffic and the bumping. I adjusted certain things about my game to
try and deal with it. I did a pretty good job. There was one game in
there, I think it was Game 3, where they had a lot of rebounds and
jamming. But the games in Chicago, I fought hard to see the puck.”

Listen, Luongo was far from the only problem on the
Canucks in the second round. That being said, he was far from the
miracle worker in net that most teams need as you get deeper in the
playoffs. He wasn’t horrible, but he was far from the captain of the
team that elevates his play to the level that inspires the rest of his
team to play harder and stronger, overcoming adversity in the face of
elimination.

Of course, if Sami Salo playing with one a half
testicles isn’t inspiring enough for the team, I don’t know what Luongo
could have done.

I digress. I’m not here to preach on how Roberto
Luongo shouldn’t be captain (he shouldn’t) or how he wasn’t the great
goaltender the Canucks needed him to be (he wasn’t). What I am saying is
that there is something inherently wrong with the emotional makeup of
this team, something we’ve seen the past two seasons and something
that’s led to their disappointingly early exits.

Mr. Botchford
says this about those who claim Luongo shouldn’t be captain:

He’s
already been ripped for being an overrated, average Pez dispenser.
What’s left? Oh right, his captaincy. The cupboards must be bare for
people to be this worked up over that. Especially, considering he’s the
first Vancouver captain in 16 years to lead the Canucks to the second
round in consecutive seasons.

Well, I counter by
saying that while Luongo has “led” the Canucks to the second round in
two straight seasons, they’ve completely fallen on their faces once they
got there. Not because they were outclassed or outplayed, but because
they lacked the emotional fortitude to overcome the adversity they faced
once they got there.

Is that Luongo’s fault? Not directly, but a
hockey team generally takes on the persona of it’s captain. I don’t
claim to know or understand the inner workings of a NHL locker room, but
you have to think that having your team captain stationed 100 feet away
from your bench for 98% of the game is not exactly how you need your
team taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference
semifinals.

Especially when said captain isn’t exactly playing at
the top of his game, no matter what he might say.

If the Vancouver
Canucks hope to build on this season and move deeper in the playoffs,
things will have to change. The Sedins aren’t getting any younger and
the team is on the verge of going into a bit of a “youth movement
phase”. They have Roberto Luongo tied up the next 12 seasons, so he’s
not going anywhere. Is it a good idea to give the captaincy to someone
else? Is it really that big of a deal for this team, when it seems there
might be other issues to focus on?

Perhaps, but having the leader
of the team outwardly appear to emotional and inconsistent, all at the
wrong times, isn’t exactly a model for success.

In his defense, Luongo did say that he’ll be quieter next season and not take questions on the mornings of games. That he admits these were a bit of a distraction speaks to the inherent issues when you have your goaltender become the captain.

Ok, so maybe this
was about Roberto Luongo and the invisible “C” on his chest.

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

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In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

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Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

It didn’t go especially well.

Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

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The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.