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Claude Julien responds to Luongo’s comments about Tim Thomas’ goaltending

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One of the stories that filtered out of Rogers Arena in the aftermath of Vancouver’s 1-0 Game 5 victory was Roberto Luongo’s comments regarding the game-winning goal. It was a little surprising to hear the Canucks’ goaltender say anything controversial after he’d given up 12 goals in the 5+ periods he played in Boston—yet there he was walking the line with reporters after his shutout victory.  After the Canucks escaped with a thrilling 1-0 victory to put Vancouver on the edge of their first championship, Luongo rubbed salt in Boston’s wound by commenting: “the save would have been easy for me.”

In a series where both teams have been talking more than usual, Claude Julien was asked if he was surprised with Luongo’s comments. More importantly, he was asked if the Bruins would use the perceived slight directed towards their goaltender as a rallying cry for Game 6.

“To be honest with you, this series has been a lot about that, and I know you guys are probably loving it, but we’re down to the wire here and have to focus on our game and what it means, a lot more than what is being said.” Julien continued: “Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Anybody can say what they want. Right now my focus is on getting this team back in this series. The last time we came back here we were down two games and we got ourselves back into it and I see no reason at all why we can’t do that with just the one game.”

Bruins’ agitator Shawn Thornton had comments of his own:

“Whatever, man — people go about things one way and we go about it another. It is unfortunate, because I think Timmy has been our best player definitely throughout the whole and through the playoffs. I love the way he plays. I think he’s only allowed [six] goals this whole series. He’s been unbelievable for us. Comments are comments — some people make them but we choose to go the other route.”

All things being equal, Claude Julien must love any focus on goaltending this series. Despite trailing the series 3-2, Tim Thomas has only given up 6 goals in 5 games.  In fact, there are those in the media who think Tim Thomas may win the Conn Smythe Trophy even if the Bruins fall in the Stanley Cup Final.  Goaltending certainly hasn’t been the problem in this series. No, losing a pair of 1-0 games and a miserable power play have been the Bruins problems throughout the Final.

There have been a ton of intriguing story lines and psychological games between the two teams in the Stanley Cup Final, but everything can be distilled to one fact: when Roberto Luongo has played well in the Finals, the Canucks have won. When he’s struggled, they’ve lost. He has only given up two goals in the Canucks three victories against the Bruins—yet his goals against average looks like the gross national product of Belize in his two loses. Twice he’s outdueled Thomas, earned shutouts, and led his team to victory.  Today he stood behind his post-game comments when he said, “I’ve been pumping his tires ever since the series started. I haven’t heard any one nice thing he’s had to say about me, so that’s the way it is.”

If he shutdown the Bruins again in Game 6, the comments to the media won’t mean anything while he’s raising the Stanley Cup. But if he struggles in Boston again, I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about it.

Goalie nods: Backups battle as Kinkaid faces Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.

In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.

It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?

Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.

Elsewhere …

Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner

Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek

Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop

Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist

Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.

Outdoor game rumors: Jets host Oilers, Red Wings at Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings face off during the first period of the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.

A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.

Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.

(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)

Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.

The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.

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Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.

Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.