Alexander Semin

Alexander Semin responds to comments about how much he cares

Few players as talented as Washington Capitals sniper Alexander Semin receive as much flack as he does, although his prodigious skills are part of the “problem.” On one hand, there’s an impulse to feel sympathy for Semin simply because the criticism he receives can get downright excessive. That being said, it’s a bit tougher to feel bad for him once you realize that he’ll earn a $6.7 million salary in 2011-12.

In a way, Semin is almost the Carrot Top of hockey. Both carved out successful and lucrative careers with an unusual bag of tricks (Semin’s all-world shot; Carrot Top’s props), but taste makers cannot stand the way they go about their business. Carrot Top is the antithesis of the “comic’s comic” and Semin seems to draw similar ire among his peers.

Earlier this summer, former teammate Matt Bradley made headlines for expressing a belief that many sportswriters and hockey fans share: Semin just “doesn’t care.” It’s one thing to hear some random message board pundit lambaste the winger for his perceived lack of effort, but it was startling for a teammate of six years to reiterate those critiques.

With training camp kicking in, Semin will face the first round of awkward questions about that tirade. Puck Daddy’s Dmitri Chesnokov caught up with the oft-criticized forward, who mostly avoided the subject.

Q. Could you give us your comments about the words of your former teammate Matt Bradley who said that Semin plays for Washington and ‘just doesn’t care?’

SEMIN: “I don’t pay absolutely any attention to his words. I don’t even understand what Bradley meant. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You should say what you want.”

Did Bradley ever accuse you to your face?

“No. There is no point to discuss it now. He said what he said. That’s all.”

While he admitted that it’s “unpleasant” to hear his name come up in trade gossip, Semin more or less shrugged his shoulders at the rumor mill. Without hearing the inflection of his voice, there’s almost a sense of weariness from Semin’s answers, which actually is pretty reasonable considering the fact that he’s a frequent scapegoat.

Do these rumors affect you psychologically?

“Of course it is unpleasant to hear about it. But what can you do? The sport is full of rumors of who gets traded, who gets bought and who gets sold.”

Only Semin knows for sure, but it seems absurd to assume that he doesn’t care. Perhaps the more appropriate discussion is whether or not he cares “enough” to please the hockey world. Hockey teams are often successful because they have a mix of different players, with some playing more of a finesse game and others providing a more inspiring injection of hustle. Not every player needs to wear his heart on his sleeve for a team to turn out victories.

This season could end up being the last phase of an experiment to see if Semin could be part of a championship formula in Washington since his one-year deal expires next July. Even if they part ways, my guess is that plenty of NHL teams would be glad to add his supposedly indifferent game to their rosters.

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.