Bobby Ryan

Under Pressure: Turris, MacArthur & Ryan

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With the off-season departure of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, the Ottawa Senators top line heading into the 2014-15 season will feature Kyle Turris between Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan.

The team’s best line during the 2013-14 season, the trio now has the pressure of getting it done against other team’s top checking units and shutdown defensive pairings.

With Turris leading the way netting 26 goals last season, the trio scored nearly 32 percent of the Senators goals in 2013-14.

“I think we learned a lot from last year,” Turris told NHL.com this week. “I think the previous two years before that was kind of a step forward, and I think last year was a step back. We really got to evaluate everything and it was a great lesson because we learned a lot, we took a lot out of it.”

MacArthur, who scored a career-high 24 goals and 55 points in 79 games last season while riding shotgun with Turris, signed a new five-year, $23 million contract extension on Thursday and is looking forward to a second season playing alongside Turris.

“I think Turris would click with anyone, if they want to say I’m the guy who’s good with him I’ll take it,” MacArthur told the Sens website. “He does everything well. He’s a centreman with great speed, he’s got a great shot, he sees the ice.

“As far as making things easy out there, we obviously have to keep working at it, there’s things we want to improve for sure, but he’s got a good attitude and he’s a player willing to listen to other people’s ideas.”

MacArthur, who spent three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the Senators, knows about playing under pressure.

“I think when I was in Toronto I came off of a million dollar contract and ended up taking two years at $6.5 million and that was big money for me at the time and you feel a little bit of the pressure. Just because I got a five-year deal doesn’t mean I have to change a whole lot. I want to play the same game.

“As far as what I need to do on the ice, I want to do similar to last year — obviously we want a better result — but for myself I want to try and bring a similar game every night.”

Behind the MacArthur-Turris-Ryan combo is a line likely to feature Milan Michalek, Mika Zibanejad and newcomer Alex Chiasson. Zibanejad and Chiasson have a combined 42 career NHL goals.

The Michalek-Zibanejad-Chiasson trio along with Colin Greening, David Legwand, Mark Stone, Erik Condra, Zack Smith and Chris Neil will all have to pick up the slack as Ottawa looks to return to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

The Senators finished just five points back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot last season with a 37-31-14 record.

The lack of goal-scoring prowess behind the first line also puts pressure on the Turris combo. Ottawa finished 11th in the NHL in goals for last season.

Ryan, 27, who scored 23 goals and 48 points in 70 games will be expected to have a bigger contribution. His first season in Ottawa was a career-worst for the forward, who averaged over 30 goals a season while with the Anaheim Ducks.

It helps that the New Jersey native is a pending unrestricted free agent and has the added motivation of playing for a contract.

MacArthur admitted he’d be having a conversation with Ryan about re-signing long term in Ottawa.

“He’s a player you want on your team,” said MacArthur. “If I can nudge him towards staying I’m definitely going to try to. He’s definitely a complement to our team.”

Murray doesn’t believe contract talks will begin until next month.

“We’ve talked to Bobby at length through his agents,” he told the Sens website. “I believe it will take until he comes to Ottawa for training camp to continue the discussions. He’s one of the next guys we’re definitely going to try to keep here.”

According to Turris, the team needs to get back to the mindset of two seasons ago, where the injury-plagued Senators surprised many by qualifying for the playoffs.

“We need to bring back that consistency and kind of getting back to our pesky ways that we were before,” Turris said. “There are lots of things that we’ve taken into account that we’re going to work on moving forward. We’ll make those corrections and be back to where we want to be this year.”

It’ll have to be a big season for Turris and Co. or else Ottawa will once again be sitting on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Robin Lehner

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.