Jimmy Howard

Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, January 8th

Philadelphia 2 – New Jersey 1

Brian Boucher did his job in holding off the woeful Devils. It was a game effort from the NHL’s worst team, but much like most of their other games it would turn out to be a loss in the end. James van Riemsdyk and Daniel Briere scored for Philly while Boucher saved 34 shots in the win. The two quick first period goals from Philly chased Johan Hedberg from the game and Martin Brodeur came off the bench to shut things down to the tune of 19 saves. The win was Philly’s third straight while the Devils dropped their fourth in row.

NY Islanders 4 – Colorado 3

John Tavares kept the Islanders from losing a heartbreaker by scoring his 14th goal of the season in overtime to give the Isles the win. Rookie Jeremy Colliton scored twice, his first two goals since 2005-2006, for the Islanders to help lead the way. The Isles had three power play goals on the night while Kevin Poulin earned his first NHL victory by stopping 34 shots. Milan Hejduk scored twice, including a goal with four seconds left to tie it up to lead the Avs. Enforcer David Koci also scored his first goal of the year to make sure that we all keep an eye out for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Tampa Bay 2 – Ottawa 1

Dwayne Roloson made up for his bad night against Pittsburgh in a big way tonight to hold off the spunky Sens. Roloson made 31 saves and the Lightning came back from a 1-0 hole in the third thanks to goals from Adam Hall and Martin St. Louis.

Minnesota 4 – Pittsburgh 0

Of course you predicted this outcome. Jose Theodore stops all 26 shots he faces en route to shutting out the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins. Martin Havlat scored his 10th goal of the year while Cal Clutterbuck scored his 13th to help lead the Wild to the win. Very quietly now the Wild are taking care of business coming off of wins over Boston and now Pittsburgh and winning four in a row. The Penguins, meanwhile, have lost four of their last five and fall behind the Flyers in the Atlantic Division.

Washington 3 – Florida 2

The Caps big guns came out to play as Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin each tallied goals en route to the win over a tough Florida squad. Winter Classic hero Eric Fehr continued his hot play of late scoring the Caps’ first goal of the night. Semyon Varlamov stopped 25 shots to earn the win. Florida’s most pleasant surprise this year, Mike Santorelli, scored his 11th goal of the year in the loss.

Montreal 3 – Boston 2 (F/OT)

The Bruins had a 2-0 lead in the third period. Key word: had. Goals by Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, with Gionta’s coming with under a minute to play, tied it up for the Habs. In overtime, it was Max Pacioretty putting home the game-winner before kicking off a post-game fracas with Zdeno Chara who took exception to Pacioretty’s presence on the ice. Whether it was frustration or not, the Bruins found a way to lose another tough game and fell into a first place tie in the Northeast Division with the rival Habs.

NY Rangers 2 – St. Louis 1

The Rangers offense was still somewhat absent, but they got enough with goals from Derek Stepan and Sean Avery to hold off the Blues. Martin Biron stopped 24 shots on the way to the win. The victory marks the Rangers’ third in a row and pulls them to within three points of Pittsburgh for second in the Atlantic Division.

Buffalo 2 – Phoenix 1 (F/OT)

Jason LaBarbera’s luck as an emergency starter ran out tonight as Drew Stafford’s overtime goal propelled Buffalo to their fourth win in five games. Ryan Miller stopped 33 shots on the way to the win while Jordan Leopold added a goal and an assist. Scottie Upshall scored his 12th goal of the season. LaBarbera stopped 30 shots in the tough loss.

Nashville 2 – San Jose 1

Pekka Rinne stood on his head in leading Nashville to victory. Rinne stopped 42 shots and allowed only a Logan Couture goal, his 19th of the season, on the way to a road trip sweep for the Predators. Sergei Kostitsyn’s third period goal was the game-winner early in the third period. The Predators close out their west coast swing going 3-0-0 and maintaining their five game win streak.

Detroit 2 – Vancouver 1 (F/SO)

Call it a statement game from the injury-laden Red Wings. Without Brad Stuart, Chris Osgood, and Dan Cleary the Wings were able to ride incredible goaltending from Jimmy Howard and a goal by Johan Franzen to get to the shootout. Jiri Hudler’s shootout goal was the only one of the skills competition part of the game and earned the Red Wings the victory. Daniel Sedin had Vancouver’s lone goal in regulation for Vancouver. For Detroit, the win is a big one and keeps them holding strong in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles 6 – Columbus 4

The Kings were able to snap their five game losing streak by jumping out to a 4-0 lead on the Jackets and fighting off a late surge by the Jackets to win 6-4. Jarret Stoll scored two goals while Jack Johnson added three assists to lead the Kings to victory. Justin Williams and Ryan Smyth each had a goal and an assist for the Kings while Jon Quick stopped 30 shots in the win. Rick Nash had two goals for Columbus in the loss while Mathieu Garon had30 saves.

Poll: Will the Flames be a playoff team in 2016-17?

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 7: Johnny Gaudreau #13 (L) of the Calgary Flames confers with his teammate Sean Monahan #23 during a break in play against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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This is part of Calgary Flames day at PHT…

When the Calgary Flames reached the second round of the 2015 playoffs there were a lot of concerns about whether or not they could repeat that level of play the following season. Even after adding Dougie Hamilton to their blue line in a trade with the Boston Bruins they were still a popular pick to see a big regression in 2015-16.

They not only regressed and missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, they finished as one of the worst teams in the NHL standings and fired Bob Hartley, the NHL’s coach of the year from the previous season.

Along with hiring a new coach this summer — former Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan — they also added Troy Brouwer in free agency from the St. Louis Blues and overhauled their goaltending by trading for Brian Elliott and signing Chad Johnson in free agency. If the Flames are going to rebound in 2016-17 the latter additions are going to have to be the biggest reason why.

Even though the Flames have Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Hamilton leading their defense, a top-three that can be as good as any other top trio in the NHL. As a team, they only allowed teams to get an average of 29 shots on goal per game, a number that was good enough for the top-10 in the NHL. But because they received the absolute worst goaltending in the NHL and were the only team that couldn’t collectively top a .900 save percentage, it sent the team to the bottom of the goals against leaderboard.

If their goaltenders could manage even a .910 save percentage, which would still be below the league average, on the same number of shots it could shave as many as 40 goals off of that total over the course of an 82-game season. That alone could help close that gap in the playoff race.

Along with what should be an improved goaltending situation and their excellent trio on defense, the Flames also still have that exciting group of young forwards led by Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, and could potentially be adding No. 6 overall pick Matthew Tkachuk to it as well.

Expecting them to catch Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose at the top of the Pacific Division definitely seems like a long shot, but the bottom half of the Western Conference has taken a big step backwards over the past couple of years. A team made the playoffs last season with 87 points, and while that number should increase this season, once you get beyond the top five or six teams in the West the field is pretty wide open, and if the Flames can get that improved goaltending from Elliott and Johnson they should be able to be right in the thick of that race.

So, can they do it?

Under pressure: Brian Elliott and the Flames’ goalies

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues tends net against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2015 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Blues 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This is part of Calgary Flames day at PHT…

The Calgary Flames had their share of flaws during the 2015-16 season. None were more damaging than a goaltending situation that produced the worst team save percentage in the entire league.

That, perhaps more than anything else, contributed to the team giving up the most goals in the NHL and going from a team that was in the second round of the playoffs the year before, to a team that finished with the fifth worst record in the league.

To help address that glaring weakness the Flames completely overhauled their goaltending over the summer by acquiring Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues and signing Chad Johnson in free agency.

The Elliott move is obviously, the big one, but the pressure is going to be on both of them to solidify a position that was one of the worst in the NHL a year ago.

For Elliott, it is going to be a huge opportunity because he is finally going to be the No. 1 guy without having somebody else constantly looking over his shoulder. During his time in St. Louis he consistently put up great numbers, including a .925 save percentage that was among best league between 2011 and 2016. But even with that strong play the Blues never seemed willing to fully trust him to be their top guy and and were always going out of their way to take playing time away from him, whether it was with Jaroslav Halak, Jake Allen, or acquiring Ryan Miller in a deadline trade.

That is not going to be an issue for him going into Calgary.

That also means a little added pressure. Because he’s almost always been a part of a goaltending platoon during his career (he played more than 38 games one time in five years in St. Louis), and because he spent the past few years playing behind a Ken Hitchcock coached defensive team, he is going to have to prove that he is not only capable of sustaining that level of play as a full-time starter, but also that his success in St. Louis wasn’t the product of a system.

If he can do both and come even close to performing the way he did in St. Louis it is going to go a long way toward helping the Flames erase the memory what was pretty much a lost 2015-16 season and get back closer to the postseason in 2016-17.

Looking to make the leap: Matthew Tkachuk

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Matthew Tkachuk celebrates with the Calgary Flames after being selected sixth overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This is part of Calgary Flames day at PHT…

Even though the 2015-16 season was a disappointing one for the Calgary Flames, they still have a great young core of young forward talent. They added to that group at the 2016 NHL draft when they selected Matthew Tkachuk with the No. 6 overall pick, immediately making him one of the team’s top prospects.

The 18-year-old forward is coming off of a monster season for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League that saw him score 30 goals and add 77 assists in only 57 games.

When you combine his skill, size and strength he has the potential to add a power forward dimension to the Flames lineup that none of their young forwards currently possess. That could make him an intriguing candidate to make the NHL roster as early as this season, and even though he did not skate at the team’s prospect evaluation camp (something the Flames were OK with given how much hockey he played last year) he is entering camp with the mindset that he is going to make the team right away.

Because of his age he is not yet eligible to play in the American Hockey League, and as he showed last season during his time with an incredible London team he doesn’t really have much left to prove at the junior level after putting up absolutely massive numbers as a 17-year-old.

If nothing else a nine-game look in the NHL to start the season seems like a very real possibility.

It’s not like the Flames are opposed to giving recent draft picks an early look in the NHL if they show they belong. Sean Monahan made the immediate jump to the NHL after being selected in 2013, while Sam Bennett played a role in the 2014-2015 playoffs after he was selected with the No. 4 overall pick that year. There is no reason to think that Tkachuk can’t do the same. Especially when Brian Burke has already referred to his style of play as “kind of a pain in the ass” and that the Flames don’t have enough guys that are like that.

With Monahan, Bennett and Johnny Gaudreu already in place the Flames have an exciting young group of forwards that have already shown they can be top-line players in the NHL.

It is not going to be long before Tkachuk joins them.

It’s Calgary Flames day at PHT

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 29: Sean Monahan #23 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his goal with teammates against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center on February 29, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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If you want to boil the Calgary Flames’ past two seasons down simply, you could do worse than this:

In 2014-15: Bob Hartley won the Jack Adams Award.

In 2015-16: The Flames fired Bob Hartley.

The Flames finished this past season with 77 standings points, missing the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years.

While Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan survived the sophomore curse, the Flames couldn’t survive in their own end. No team allowed more goals than the 260 Calgary surrendered last season. It cost people some jobs, most notably that of Hartley.

Off-season

Naturally, the first big change in Calgary comes with Glen Gulutzan replacing Hartley behind the bench.

Much like the team he’s coaching, Gulutzan needs to get over some past failures (he failed to make the playoffs during his two seasons coaching the Dallas Stars) but is young enough (45) to argue that the best days are ahead.

To little surprise, the Flames decided that Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller and Joni Ortio isn’t necessarily the group of goalies to get things done. The Flames brought in two-time All-Star Brian Elliott to try to right the ship.

The Flames didn’t stop there, adding Chad Johnson as Elliott’s backup. With a .917 career save percentage, Johnson could very well keep Elliott on his toes.

Aside from big improvements behind the bench and in the net, the Flames’ most noteworthy work came in extending Sean Monahan,* picking up Troy Brouwer and landing Matthew Tkachuk in the draft.

Calgary is making a lot of strong moves, but did they make enough to climb back into the postseason in 2016-17? PHT will explore these factors on Saturday.

* – Naturally, the biggest move needs to come soon: also handing an extension to Gaudreau.