Ottawa Senators v Florida Panthers

Ryan Shannon signs with Lightning; A new Sean Bergenheim?

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the free agent market on Thursday as they signed speedy Ryan Shannon to a 1-year, $625,000 contract. Shannon is expected to immediately compete for a bottom six role on a team that was one game away from the Stanley Cup Final last year. What he lacks in size (he’s only 5’9”), he makes up for his elite level skating and a strong understanding of the game.

The Lightning will be Shannon’s fourth NHL team in the last five years. He bounced between the AHL, Ducks, Canucks, and Senators before he finally solidified his place in the NHL in 2009-10. His versatility was one of the major sales points for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman:

“”He can really skate. He’s a smart player. He’s got good skills and he can play any of the three forward positions, and his contract fits in with what we’re trying to do right now.”

Just take a quick look at their roster and it certainly looks like he’ll be filling the role Sean Bergenheim played a season ago. Last year, Yzerman and the Lightning signed Sean Bergenheim away from the New York Islanders with a 1-year, $700,00 contract offer. He rewarded the team’s optimism by scoring 29 points and playing solid two-way hockey on Tampa’s third line. More importantly, he caught fire in the playoffs as he netted 9 goals in only 16 games. For the first time in his career, he started to show the world why the Islanders used a first round pick on him back in 2002. He parlayed the breakout performance into a 4-year, $11 million contract from the Florida Panthers. But for one year, the Lightning got a tremendous bang-for-the-buck value.

This season they’ll hope to replicate their success with former-Senator Ryan Shannon. His 11 goals and 27 points are similar to Bergenheim’s regular season stats—albeit without the successful playoffs that lead to Bergenheim’s huge payday. Also like Bergenheim, he’s struggled to find his way in the NHL—but has the skill set to be a good depth player on a good team. The Lightning aren’t acquiring him to be a star forward that fills up the net; they’ll expect him to play good two-way hockey, get in on the forecheck, and play responsible hockey for head coach Guy Boucher. Shannon is excited to join the Lightning and show them what he can do:

“”The impression I got from playing against them and then watching them in the playoffs is like a boxer always hitting the body and then just pouncing on teams as the game went along,” Shannon said. “It’s a winning culture and to be part of that, there really is nothing better in the league. I think it’s a great fit the way they team plays.”

Sure, the Lightning would be pleasantly pleased if Ryan Shannon explodes in the playoffs like Bergenheim did this year. However, the main reason the Lightning are bringing Shannon into the fold is because he’s the right kind of player for their system. Like Bergenheim, he’s a very good skater who’s just a good hockey player. The Lightning hope he scores approximately 30 points like he did last season and be a dependable player that Guy Boucher can put on the ice in any situation.

If he can play responsible hockey for about 15 minutes per game, he’ll be a great acquisition for only $625,000 next year.

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.”

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 game with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity (it was bad), 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 thd 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?