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Riding the Zamboni – Tuesday, December 21st

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Los Angeles 5 – Colorado 0

Kings captain Dustin Brown made sure the Avalanche’s six game win streak came to an end with a thud. Brown’s two goal, two assist night lead the way while Jonathan Quick had another special game earning his third shutout of the season stopping 23 shots to do it. Colorado’s Craig Anderson stopped 27 of 32 shots he faced and had an uncharacteristically bad game. Perhaps it’s time to dust off Peter Budaj off the bench to get Anderson a break as he’s started their last eight games in a row.

Dallas 5 – Montreal 2

Take your choice of story line here. Either you focus on the Stars winning another game in impressive fashion and vaulting themselves to the top of the Western Conference. Five different players potted goals for the Stars while Stephane Robidas had three assists and Steve Ott had two helpers.

The not-so positive story line are the problems Habs goalie Carey Price is having of late stopping pucks. In his last five starts, Price has allowed 18 goals an average of just over three a game. For a guy playing goal behind a team that pays strict attention to defense he’s both not getting the same help he was earlier this year nor is he doing his part to bail them out. With just one win in their last six games, expect some fans in Montreal to start looking towards the panic button.

San Jose 2 – Edmonton 1

We think it’s high time we start pushing Logan Couture’s bandwagon for Calder Trophy. The rookie forward scored yet again for the Sharks, his 18th goal of the season. Couture’s goal was followed up just three and a half minutes later in the second period by Dan Boyle’s fourth of the year to seal the deal for San Jose. Dustin Penner scored a goal late in the third to spoil Antero Niittymaki’s shutout bid. Niittymaki stopped 26 shots in the win while Nikolai Khabibulin saved 28 for Edmonton.

Washington 5 – New Jersey 1

It’s an official win streak for the Caps. Back to back wins for Washington after humbling the hapless and pathetic Devils. Of concern for the Caps is that it wasn’t the stars leading the way but rather the guys fresh out of the AHL doing damage. Andrew Gordon scored his first career goal while Jay Beagle and John Carlson also added goals. Veterans Jason Chimera and Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals. Caps fans were so excited about beating the second-worst team in the NHL they began chanting, “We want Pittsburgh.” They’ll get their wish as the Caps host the Penguins on Thursday. Chances this becomes a focus of the story line on 24/7: 100%

Columbus 3 – Calgary 1

The Jackets have been hoping for better goaltending and Mathieu Garon stepped up and delivered tonight stopping 29 shots to earn the win for Columbus. Jakub Voracek, Jared Boll, and Rostislav Klesla each had goals for Columbus. Olli Jokinen was the only Flame to put one past Garon. Meanwhile, Miikka Kiprusoff was the hard luck loser saving 34 shots.

Buffalo 5 – Anaheim 2

The Sabres were able to take advantage of facing Curtis McElhinney instead of Jonas Hiller and lit up McElhinney for three goals in the first and got out to a 4-0 lead before the Ducks could get on the board. Tyler Ennis had two goals for Buffalo while Craig Rivet had a goal and an assist. Corey Perry had both goals for Anaheim. Ryan Miller had a relatively peaceful night all things considered saving just 21 shots.

St. Louis 4 – Atlanta 2

Atlanta’s hold on first place in the Southeast Division was short lived as they weren’t able to hold off the Blues. Vladimir Sobotka and Alex Pietrangelo each had a goal and an assist for St. Louis while Ty Conklin was stellar in goal saving 37 shots to earn the win. Dustin Byfuglien scored his 12th goal of the season in the third period giving him 36 points on the season, a new career high. Yes, it’s still just December. Chris Mason had a relatively poor outing stopping 23 shots for Atlanta.

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)
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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)
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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.