Flames' reasons for signing Olli Jokinen do and don't make sense

ollijokinen3.jpgThe Flames foray into free agency this year is one that has mostly driven Flames fans insane. The signing of Olli Jokinen has been the focus of most of the attention of fans not only in Calgary but also around the league. The two sides parted ways on such poor terms before thanks to Jokinen being thoroughly unproductive (75 GP, 19 G, 31 A over two seasons) and with the Flames losing a first round pick to the Coyotes in the process when they traded him away.

So what would motivate Darryl Sutter to invoke public outcry and sign back the one time Flames pariah for failure? It turns out, it’s got a bit more to do with the health of Daymond Langkow according to the Calgary Herald.

Centre Daymond Langkow is struggling to recover from a season-ending neck injury suffered in the spring. His status for next season is unknown.

“It’s still an issue,” said the Calgary Flames general manager. “We’re 100 days post-injury. We thought he would be further along that he is, and he’s still not.

“We’re still 100 days away (from the start of the season), but it is a concern.”

Back on March 21, medics wheeled Langkow off the ice in Minnesota via stretcher after taking an Ian White slap shot off the base of the neck. From the impact of the blast, Langkow suffered what Sutter calls a “slight” fracture of the vertebrae at the base of the neck.

“To be quite honest, it ties big into Olli too.”

This year’s free agency class at center wasn’t exactly teeming over with stellar talent and another center the Flames could’ve been looking at was yet another former Flame in Matthew Lombardi (he signed with Nashville yesterday). The Flames, however, made their move first and it was to Jokinen. What is Sutter’s justification on Jokinen? It’s interesting to say the least.

“We felt in discussing it with the players — Jarome and Olli and Alex — that’s what they felt they missed was a playmaker with them,” Sutter said. “Certainly Tanguay is capable of that.”

As for the reaction to the Jokinen signing?

“Actually, it’s been really, really positive,” Sutter said.

From whom?

“From the people who are important.”

The season-ticket holders?

“Including them,” Sutter said. “Especially them.”

Signs you know you’ve made a questionable signing: When you’re instantly defensive when being asked questions as to why you made it in the first place. That said, ending up on Darryl Sutter’s bad side can’t be all that difficult as he always looks to be so pleasant.

Making Alex Tanguay the linchpin that will supposedly make the the line with Jokinen and Iginla work is an intriguing call on its own. Tanguay’s 09-10 season in Tampa was less than stellar (80 GP, 10 G, 27 A) while playing alongside Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. Banking on Tanguay to be the missing link to provide success for both Jokinen and Iginla is almost the definition of “putting all your eggs in one basket.” Whether Tanguay can be the setup man or not may determine whether or not Darryl Sutter gets to keep his job in the front office.

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    The Buzzer: Bolts send Devils packing, Caps jump ahead, Leafs extend series

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    Three games on Saturday

    Tampa Bay Lightning 3, New Jersey Devils 1 (Lightning win series 4-1)

    The Devils were one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, but their 2017-18 campaign officially came to an end on Saturday. They’ll be disappointed, but this season was a success for the group. As for the Bolts, they’ve punched their ticket to the second round after a terrific regular season. The Lightning received point-per-game production from Nikita Kucherov (1o points), Steven Stamkos (6 points) and Alex Killorn (5 points), but they also had 14 different players pick up a point during the series.

     Washington Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT) (Capitals lead series 3-2)

    Four of the five games in the series have gone to overtime. Game 5 was a typical back and forth affair, as the Jackets scored first before the Capitals went up 2-1. Columbus tied the game, Washington went ahead, again, 3-2, but a dominant third period led to the Blue Jackets forcing overtime. Nicklas Backstrom tipped-home the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Capitals the first home win of the series. This has clearly been the best first-round series of the playoffs.

    Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Boston Bruins 3 (Bruins lead series 3-2)

    The Maple Leafs jumped out to 2-0 and 4-1 leads, but the Bruins managed to make things interesting in the third period. Boston had a number of power play opportunities, but they couldn’t cash in. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they’ll have to go back on the road to try to put the Leafs to bed. The Leafs managed to keep Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand off the scoresheet on Saturday. Replicating that two more times won’t be easy.

    Three Stars

    1. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

    Backstrom scored two goals, including the overtime winner against the Blue Jackets in Game 5. He also added an assist on T.J. Oshie‘s go-ahead goal late in the second frame. The win gave the Caps a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. The 30-year-old has two goals and eight points in five games this postseason.

    2. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

    The Capitals had a one-goal lead heading into the third frame, but they were badly outplayed in the third period. Holtby is the biggest reason why Washington was able to make it to overtime at all. The Blue Jackets outshot the Capitals 16-1 in the third frame. Holtby had a rough season, but his play in Game 5 was very encouraging.

    3. Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs

    The Maple Leafs had to kill a number of penalties during their Game 5 win over the Bruins, and Andersen was one of the key reasons they were able to do so. The Leafs netminder faced at least 40 shots for the third time in five games (he’s 2-1 in those contests). If Toronto wants to force a seventh game, they’ll need him to turn in another fantastic performance on Monday night.

    Factoid of the Night

    Sunday’s Schedule

    Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 3:00 p.m. ET

    Nashville Predators vs. Colorado Avalanche, 7:00 p.m. ET

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Leafs chase Rask, hold on to win Game 5

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they managed to force a sixth game, thanks to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

    The Maple Leafs built up a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission with goals from Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson. They would increase it to a 4-1 lead in the second period. That’s when the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.

    After the goalie swap, Sean Kuraly managed to cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end of the frame.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Toronto did their best to blow their lead, as they took penalty after penalty in the second half of the game. The Leafs took the final four penalties, but the Bruins failed to convert on their opportunities on the man-advantage. They even gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play for over 1:30 before Kuraly scored moments later.

    Goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 42 of 45 shots. This was the third time in five games that he faced at least 40 shots in this series.

    The Leafs will now return home for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ll need to perform more like they did in the first half of Saturday’s game if they want to force Game 7 in Boston.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

    Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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    The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

    Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

    It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

    Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

    Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

    Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

    In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

    The promise has been made.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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    One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

    Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

    It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

    Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

    Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

    Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

    The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

    But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

    Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

    For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

    The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck