Scott Arniel

PHT presents: Three Duds of the Week

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Every Monday, we’ll highlight (lowlight?) three of the NHL’s biggest duds from the past week.

1st Dud: Pick a Jacket, any Jacket.

Key Stats: Columbus is 0-4-1, 24th in goals for, 25th in goals against, 28th on the power play and 28th on the penalty kill.

It’s hard to pin the Blue Jackets’ woes on a single individual, but not because there’s a lack of candidates.

— Steve Mason has an .889 save percentage and already been hooked once in favor of Curtis Sanford.

— RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard have combined for one point and a minus-6 rating.

— With James Wisniewski suspended, the defensive workload has been forced upon Grant Clitsome (team-high 23:15 a night) and Radek Martinek (22:39). Just to clarify: Columbus GM Scott Howson spent $74 million on his defense this offseason, yet the high-minute blueliner is Grant Clitsome.

— After the Jackets put a season-low 15 shots on goal in a 4-2 loss to Dallas on Saturday, head coach Scott Arniel bag-skated them for an hour, a tactic that, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch, “hasn’t been used in Columbus since Gerard Gallant stood behind the bench.” Good times in C-Bus.

NB: Rick Nash (2G-3A-5PTS) and Vinny Prospal (3G-2A-5PTS) could be exempt from being picked, although Nash is the captain of this mess and Prospal has been a real penalty magnet.

2nd Dud: Marco Sturm, LW, Vancouver Canucks

Key Stats: Sturm has zero goals, zero assists and zero points. He is minus-4, however.

Vancouver’s lone notable free agent signing on July 1, Sturm was brought in on a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the hopes of 1) Recapturing the form that made him a seven-time 20-goal scorer, and 2) Being a top-six forward to start the year, given the injuries to Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond.

In retrospect, these expectations might’ve been a tad high given 1) Sturm’s torn his ACL twice since 2008, and 2) The Canucks are his fourth team in 12 months. But neither of those facts prevented the always-compassionate Vancouver media from eviscerating him after just five games!

The Province: “How much time is Marco Sturm going to get to make something happen?”

Vancouver Sun: “Sturm, a free-agent acquisition signed largely because second-liners Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond were injured in the Cup final, may be the most disappointing forward so far.”

The Province (again): “It’s nearing mid-October and we’re still unsure what it takes to get Marco Sturm going.”

The Province (yeah, again): “Marco Sturm, who had two knee surgeries the past three years, has been a bust with no points, two shots and a minus-4 rating after five games.”

On the bright side, Sturm was Vancouver’s best German-born player this past week.

[Update: One of our top-secret inside sources in Vancouver says Sturm is “likely” to be scratched tomorrow night against the Rangers.]

3rd Dud: Bryan Little, C, Winnipeg Jets

Key stats: Little has zero goals, zero assists, zero points and is also minus-4. Sound familiar?

Much like in Columbus, there are numerous people to blame for Winnipeg’s awful start (in no particular order: Ondrej Pavelec, Johnny Oduya, Dustin Byfuglien, anyone wearing a Jets jersey.) But right near the top is Little, the only member of the Jets’ first line without a point. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd got theirs on Saturday in Phoenix.

Little’s struggles aren’t for a lack of opportunity, as he’s Winnipeg’s No. 1 centre on the power play, most active faceoff man and playing over 17 minutes a night. He just isn’t getting anything done. Case in point: Little’s only registered three shots on goal through three games, with two of ’em coming in the season opener against Montreal.

If you’d like to weigh in with your duds of the week, add ’em in the comments section below.

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percenate in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.