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Dion Phaneuf returns to Calgary for first time since trade

Dion Phaneuf was once the great hope of the Calgary Flames. A devastating hitter with a big shot, Phaneuf was seen as the second coming of Al MacInnis. While the slap shot wasn’t as big as MacInnis’, Phaneuf made up for that with his intimidating physical presences on the ice. Paired up with Jarome Iginla, Flames fans figured they had the modern day equivalent to the MacInnis and Theo Fleury. Somewhere along the way, Phaneuf lost his way and he wasn’t quite the same player he started out as in his first couple seasons.

Whether the expectations for him were set too high because of his monstrous debut is up for debate, but eventually time waiting for Phaneuf to snap out of his funk ran out and he was packaged up in a mega-deal to Toronto. Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie packed their bags to head to Toronto in exchange for Matthew Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White, and Jamal Mayers. The latter two players are now in other locations and for Calgary, some, like Sun Media’s Steve MacFarlane, have called the trade a definitive win for the Maple Leafs.

Tonight, Dion Phaneuf make his first appearance in Calgary since the January trade. Fortunes have changed a lot for both teams. Phaneuf is now the captain of the Maple Leafs, Ian White is now in Carolina and Jamal Mayers is in San Jose. Matthew Stajan has been a healthy scratch a few times this season.

The Leafs and Flames both are mired in inconsistency and both fan bases are frustrated. Leafs head coach Ron Wilson found an interesting way to help Phaneuf prepare for his Calgary homecoming, one expected to see Phaneuf met with boos: Wilson opted to boo Phaneuf in practice.

Phaneuf told reporters last week he did not expect “any negativity” during the trip to Calgary, which will be his first game there since the blockbuster deal.

“Oh he’ll hear [boos],” Wilson said. “I think he’ll be cheered … but it’s like Toronto, if 500 people boo, you guys write that 18,000 booed. Most of the people don’t want to boo, and there’s always a small amount of people who do. And a little bit of booing sounds like everyone is booing.

“Hopefully it doesn’t happen. He gave a lot of great years to Calgary and I think the fans appreciate what he’s done.”

Phaneuf, who spent 4½ seasons with the Flames, is not worried about how the fans in Calgary may treat him.

“I don’t know [what] the reaction is going to be. I never asked to be moved out of there, it’s part of the business and I have no hard feelings. I enjoyed my time there in the city.”

Phaneuf is right, he never asked to be moved out of Calgary, but in the eyes of some fans it just doesn’t matter and unless you brought the team a Stanley Cup, that’s just not good enough for them. Phaneuf didn’t spend a lot of time in Calgary, but his impact was huge while he was there and a lot was expected of him. Fans will do what they want, but booing him comes off looking rather petty. Phaneuf was a solid contributor while he was in Calgary but ultimately not a winner. If not winning it all is the issue, then booing might be the right thing. As it is, both of these teams hear enough booing on the road and at home as well, perhaps the message is just lost in voicing your disapproval.

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)
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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)
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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 ***
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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.

Greiss blanks Stars as Isles win in first game of post-Capuano era

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19:  Doug Weight of the New York Islanders handles his first game as head coach against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 19, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders began the Doug Weight era in the same way Jack Capuano’s ended: with a shutout.

Yeah, it’s easy to forget that the Islanders actually won their last game under Capuano, consider all that’s happened since.

They blanked the Boston Bruins 4-0 on Monday and generated a 3-0 shutout against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. It’s quite a feather in the cap of goalie Thomas Greiss, who owns these back-to-back shutouts.

(It’s worth mentioning that, for all the Bruins’ and Stars’ flaws, they can be very explosive on offense …)

That Monday shutout wasn’t enough for Capuano to save his job, and the Isles still have a long way to go after this encouraging outcome. The East’s second wild card spot still seems like a long shot for Weight & Co.

Even so, the Islanders will take it. They play their next five games at home and seven of eight in Brooklyn, so if there’s ever a time for movement, it would logically come now.

If nothing else, maybe life will be a bit better for John Tavares. He scored another goal on Thursday to add to his beautiful 1-0 tally.

Baby steps, right?