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Gamesmanship or bulletin board material? Bruce Boudreau calls Steve Stamkos a diver

It’s a fine line a coach draws when they speak to the media about the actions of opposing players. For Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, he tossed all regard for that line out the window today when speaking about the Caps opponents tonight, their rivals in the Southeast Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boudreau addressed reporters today and had a few choice words for Lightning superstar Steve Stamkos as well as agitator extraordinaire Steve Downie. Erik Erlendsson of Tampa Bay Online gets word from Boudreau that he thinks there’s a bit more embellishment going on in each of their games.

When asked about the rivalry that has built up between the teams this season, Boudreau accused Tampa Bay’s players – specifically naming two – of embellishing calls in an attempt to earn penalty calls.

“With Steve Downie, if I were a referee I would never give a call when he’s out on the ice,” Boudreau said. “Stamkos, he dives every two seconds. Downie, he dives every two seconds, so you see that and you start to get a little hatred on.”

Is it gamesmanship from Boudreau or is it prime bulletin board material for the Lightning? It’s both.

Boudreau obviously wants to see a few more calls go his team’s way but lighting a fire under the Lightning and specifically Stamkos might not be the greatest idea. Stamkos has been without a goal in five straight games and without a point in his last four. That kind of lull doesn’t stay that way for a long time when you’re one of the premiere forwards in the NHL and getting a player like that even more focused is dangerous to do.

Unfortunately for Boudreau, Downie won’t be playing tonight as he’s out with an injury which puts the focus squarely on Stamkos for what he said. As for Lightning coach Guy Boucher, the way he sees things with Boudreau is pretty obvious to him. More from Erlendsson:

“I’m not going to try to get an edge off ice, I’m not going to try to do that, I’m going to let the guys play and I believe that our players and their players, they fight with everything they’ve got. I have more respect for the players than just to say their players or our players dive or whatever,” Boucher said.

That’s as artful of a parry as you’ll see when it comes to a war of words between coaches and Boucher keeping a stiff upper lip on this one reflects better upon him. Stamkos isn’t exactly regarded through the eyes of fans and observers as a diver so Boudreau’s accusation seems to come out of nowhere. It’s also a bit curious that Boudreau would call him out when he’s got Alexander Semin on his roster, a guy who’s been known to take a poetic fall or two in his career.

The real upside to all this verbal jousting is that perhaps, finally, we’ve got ourselves a tried and true rivalry in the Southeast Division. With the Capitals and Lightning set to battle the rest of the way for the division title, adding some heat to their games is a great thing to see. Of course, if the Caps can figure out a way to score on Dwayne Roloson they’ll have a bit more to work with against the Lightning apart from snarky words from their head coach.

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.