Pascal Leclaire

Pascal Leclaire’s ailing hip leaves him longing for a NHL job this summer

We’ve seen most free agent goalies find their way this summer save for a pair of guys. Marty Turco and Pascal Leclaire are the two NHL-experienced guys we haven’t seen land a new job around the league and while a guy like Ray Emery gets a shot to win a spot with the Blackhawks, both Turco and Leclaire are left wondering what’s going on.

While Turco’s case is a bit more curious given that he’s healthy and able to play, Leclaire’s free agency is a bit more perilous. Leclaire’s season came to an end last year thanks to an injured hip and while injuries are nothing new in his career this time around it’s keeping him from staying involved in the NHL.

Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen catches up with Leclaire and finds out that his surgically repaired hip isn’t responding the way he’d like it to.

A free agent offer in July from an NHL team — he won’t say which one — fell through when he couldn’t pass the medical tests. Considering the small world that is the NHL, it didn’t take long for the word to spread.

“It’s frustrating, but it will be much more frustrating when (training camps) get started,” Leclaire said Tuesday, following an informal scrimmage with some of his former Senators teammates and other NHL players who call Ottawa home.

“There has been some progress [with his hip], but it’s not good enough to play at the NHL level,” he said. “The league is too good to try and go at 80 per cent … I don’t even know if I’m 80 per cent.”

Seeing Leclaire deal with this problem while another guy like Ray Emery continues his comeback from a degenerative hip condition that saw a radical surgery get him back on the ice makes for a bizarre coincidence for the former Senators goalies. Making it even harder for Leclaire is seeing that he had an offer to play but wasn’t healthy enough to get the deal done. At his age (29 years-old) and his status as a former first round pick of the Blue Jackets (8th overall in 2001) makes it a bit sadder to see his career essentially wind up in a stand-still.

That said, it’s not as if his career is over it’s just that his chances of earning an NHL team’s confidence in him take another hit thanks to his struggle in coming back from this latest setback. His injury history in the NHL is extensive from his time both in Columbus and Ottawa and with how slow his rehab is taking him now, a team will need to be in a tough spot to rely on him as an NHL-level guy again. You certainly can’t view him as a potential starter without proof he can handle the workload and wanting him to be a backup is tough because if he gets hurt again his team would be back at square one.

For now, Leclaire will just have to stick to it and keep trying to get back to 100%. If he can do that, he’ll find a way back in the league. If not, his story might end up being an unfortunate one.

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

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Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.

Dupuis, Jagr, Zuccarello are Masterton Trophy finalists

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Florida’s Jaromir Jagr, and the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello have been selected as the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” In 2015 it went to Devan Dubnyk, who struggled mightily in 2013-14, but dramatically turned his career around the following season and led the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in the process.

Dupuis attempted to play in the 2015-16 campaign while taking blood thinners, but on Dec. 8 he announced that he would stop playing “because of a medical condition related to blood clots.”

Jagr celebrated his 44th birthday in February, but despite his age he managed to score 27 goals and 66 points in 79 contests this season. With that, he became the oldest player to reach the 60-point mark in a single NHL campaign.

Zuccarello played in 81 games and set career-highs with 26 goals and 61 points this season after suffering a skull fracture and brain contusion during the 2015 playoffs that left him temporarily unable to speak.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

“First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.