Pascal Leclaire hopes to rebound after two horrid seasons

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for leclaireagain.jpgWhile appearing on The Program Podcast Wednesday, I discussed the Northeast Division and made some (tentative) predictions. When the Ottawa Senators came up, we all agreed that one of the team’s biggest weaknesses will probably be in net.

There’s nothing especially wrong with Brian Elliott, but let’s face it, he’s average at best on most nights. The team might be able to scrape by with the decidedly average* goalie, but deep down, many Sens fans (and probably a few suits) hope that Pascal Leclaire will “figure it out.”

*People assume “average” is an insult, but it’s not meant to be … to a point. Elliott really is making the most of his career and talents, so I don’t begrudge him for being so-so. That just happens to be the only honest way to describe him.

Glass half-full types will point to Leclaire’s breakout season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he went 24-17-6 with a 2.25 GAA, a 91.9 save percentage and an outstanding nine shutouts during the 2007-08. They might also point to the fact that he helped the Senators win a ridiculous three-OT game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs. Negative Nancys, however, will call it the “One Year Ken Hitchock Effect,” pointing to Steve Mason’s flash-in-the-pan rookie year and also the fact that Leclaire has been atrocious since then (88.7 save percentage in 09-10 and 86.7 in only 12 games during 08-09).

However you slice it, Leclaire admits that he needs to improve next season. He spoke to the Canadian Press about how he feels about 10-11.

But after having a full off-season to prepare, the native of Repentigny, Que., is back and ready to take another run at proving that he’s capable of being that guy, or at least something close to it.

“I worked hard during the summer and we’ll see what happens,” Leclaire said Friday from Scotiabank Place, where the Senators opened their training camp with medicals and fitness testing. “The injuries — you guys are going to have new questions this year because it’s always the same stuff. I’m going to repeat the same thing all the time. Things happen and I can deal with them as best as possible. It’s a new season every year, you always have to start over and this year’s no different.”

Unlike a year ago, when he was coming off ankle surgery that had kept him out for the better part of eight months leading up to his Ottawa debut, he’s had a full off-season to prepare and is ready to work with Brian Elliott, the player who took over the Senators’ No. 1 role during last season.

“The big thing is to be feeling good on the ice and in the last month or so, speaking for myself, I felt good out there, even if it’s only summer hockey,” said Leclaire.

Well, he’s not exactly promising the world, but this season could be a pivotal one for the highly paid (and highly disappointing) former Blue Jacket. The Senators are banking on Leclaire and Elliott to help them grind their way into the playoffs, so a healthy and focused would increase their chances substantially.

And, really, he can’t be much worse than he was in the last two seasons, right?

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    Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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    Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

    An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

    After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

    You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

    Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

    Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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    Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

    Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

    Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

    Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

    Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

    An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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    Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

    Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

    Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

    Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

    “It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

    Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

    People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.

    Video: Beagle’s perfect shot dogs Murray for early Caps lead

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    Matt Murray was just on another level in Game 3, giving the impression that the Washington Capitals would only beat him with perfect shots.

    Jay Beagle got that memo … and maybe added a little element of surprise on top of that.

    As you can see from the video above, Beagle beat Murray from an unexpected angle with a pretty resounding goal. It was one of those “Wait, did that just happen?”-type moments.

    The Capitals saw their lead go away moments before this post was completed, so it’s now 1-1.