boothstrugglestoscore

David Booth and the Florida Panthers find goals difficult to come by

When you think of the Florida Panthers, “explosive goal scorers” aren’t exactly the first thing that come to mind. My guess you either think of Tomas Vokoun, plastic rats/John Vanbiesbrouck or nothing at all.

But if the Panthers employed one player who seemed to be on the verge of becoming a genuine goal scoring threat, it would be David Booth. (At least now that Nathan Horton wears a Boston Bruins sweater.)

Some may argue that Booth cannot ask for much more than decent health after suffering from two concussions during a disastrous 2009-10 season, but the bottom line is that he is struggling to score goals. Booth only has five goals in 22 games with a pitiful 5.6 shooting percentage this season and hasn’t lit the lamp in 11 appearances.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the Panthers are similarly snake-bitten. Aside from a nice 4-3 shootout win, Florida has been particularly punch-less in the last four games, only scoring six goals (not counting that fake shootout tally) in that span.

Harvey Fialkov discussed the team’s struggles and how much Booth is pressing to improve, in particular.

Assistant coach Jim Hulton has joked that if and when they score their next power play goal (0 for 37) that they’ll stop play and present a plaque at center ice. David Booth might do the same for his next goal after going the last 11 games without lighting the lamp. That matches his longest slump since his 2008-09 season when he scored a career-high 31 goals. He stayed late after practice just taking wrist shot after shot into the empty net, aiming for different spots. He told me after that he needs to shoot more on the goalie’s stick side just above the pads. Coach Pete DeBoer dropped him to the second line with speedy youngsters Michal Repik and Mike Santorelli (who’s been with Booth alot over the last month). Stephen Weiss, who only has one goal in his last seven, but had the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay, is now with Shawn Matthias and Michael Frolik – who is also in an 0-for-9 drought. DeBoer is grateful that his secondary scorers like Santorelli, Radek Dvorak and Marty Reasoner have helped compensate for his expected top guns.

Perhaps the most disturbing number of all is the fact that Booth hasn’t scored a goal on the power play since what seemed like a breakthrough 31-goal season in 2008-09. His last PP goal came on April 5, 2009 according to Hockey Reference’s game logs.

Let’s not glaze this in too much doom and gloom, though. After all, those injury concerns limited him to only 53 games since then. It’s still a troubling number, but Booth is only 26 years old. The truth about Booth’s game is somewhere between his 31 goal season (with by far a career high shooting percentage at 12.6) and this tough start with that aforementioned 5.6 rate.

Booth just needs to keep plugging away while the Panthers need to keep adding promising young talent and hope that the future ends up sunnier than the present in Sunrise.

Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Getty
4 Comments

If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Getty
4 Comments

Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.