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With three goals in past 26 games Claude Giroux says he has to be better

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Since winning their 10th game in a row on Dec. 14 the Philadelphia Flyers have hit a pretty massive slump in the two months that have followed.

They are just 7-12-4 in the 23 games that have followed, and recently have been done in a by slumping offense that has managed just 13 goals over its past 10 games. They enter play on Saturday one point out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Bruins.

At the center of those recent struggles offensively has been Claude Giroux, who is currently going through a lengthy goal scoring slump that has seen him score just three goals in his past 26 games.

On Friday, he said that he has to be better.

“The bottom line is, the team’s got to be better. I’ve got to be better,” Giroux said, via Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Personally, I have to be better. I’ve got to play up to my standards and, right now, it’s not the case. It’s frustrating. You want to give everything you can to help the team, and that’s not the case right now.”

Like all great players Giroux has gone through extended goal droughts before and always bounced back. Remember he opened the 2013-14 season without scoring a single goal in 14 games and still finished the season with 28 goals and 86 total points in 82 games. So it’s not like the slump itself is something that should be overly concerning. It happens.

But What might be a problem for Giroux and the Flyers is him playing to the standard he has set for himself in the past, because as much as he and the Flyers would like to see that level of production again, he is simply not a 24-or 25-year-old forward anymore.

His career is following the aging curve (a point per game average that has dropped a little in each of the past three years) you would expect to see for a scorer that just turned 29 a few weeks ago. At a 0.75 points per game entering Saturday he is on pace for 61 points this season, which would be his lowest total since the 2009-10 season. Still top-line production in the NHL, but not the same level we saw from Giroux when he was in his prime.

That is what the lesson here should be: Not necessarily that he is slumping, but what the expectation and new standard for him should be going forward. As he gets closer to age 30 (and beyond) his overall production is going to drop. He is still going to have stretches where he catches fire and scores in bunches and can carry the offense, but there are going to be more stretches like we have seen lately where the scoring dries up. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality that comes with being an NHL player.

VIDEO: Bruins take three delay of game penalties in first period

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The delay of game-puck over the glass rule is the one call in the NHL that gets made pretty consistently. It might get missed on occasion, but it’s a pretty black and white rule.

If you shoot the puck over the glass in your own defensive zone without it hitting another object, it is a penalty. Really nothing to argue about there.

The Boston Bruins had some issues with it in the first period of Sunday’s playoff game against the Ottawa Senators when they took three — three! — delay of game penalties in the first 15 minutes of Game 6, giving the Senators plenty of opportunities to draw first on the scoreboard.

It all started 17 seconds into the game when Sean Kuraly, the Bruins’ Game  5 overtime hero, was guilty of it. Twelve minutes later, Joe Morrow was guilty of it. Then three minutes after that, Colin Miller sent one over the glass. You can see them all in the video above.

Fortunately for the Bruins they were able to kill off all three penalties and keep the game scoreless.

Because hockey can sometimes be a random, unpredictable and maddening game, the Bruins got a power play of their own late in the period when Mark Stone was sent off for tripping. It took the Bruins less than a minute to capitalize when Drew Stafford scored his first goal of the playoffs to give his team a 1-0 lead.

So through all of that — three penalties and a 12-6 shots disadvantage that included a clear breakaway on Tuukka Rask — the Bruins went into the first intermission with the lead.

The lead did not last long into the second period, however, thanks to Ottawa goals from Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris.

The Bruins’ issues keeping the puck in play in the period was very reminiscent of that Penguins-Capitals playoff game a year ago when the Penguins, when trying to protect a third period lead, took three consecutive delay of game penalties in the third period of Game 6, opening the door for a Capitals comeback that sent the game to overtime. The Penguins ended up winning the game anyway to clinch the series.

Couture wants Sharks to re-sign Thornton, Marleau

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The San Jose Sharks 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night was not only the end of their 2016-17 season, it could have also been the end of an era.

With veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, their future with the team remains uncertain, and neither one seemed prepared to talk about it in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s defeat.

Sharks forward Logan Couture was asked if he wants to see the two players return next season and made it pretty clear that he does.

“You’re asking a guy who’s played with those guys for eight years,” said Couture, via Paul Gackle of the Mecrury News. “I love those guys. They play hard. If you guys only knew what they play through. The respect level that I have for those two guys is just through the roof.”

There are a number of variables that are going to play a role in whether or not the two leading scorers in franchise history will be back.

Along with their willingness to return is the fact that both players will be entering their age 38 seasons and already showed some signs of slowing down this season. How much cap space are the Sharks going to be willing to invest in the duo when they already have $55.7 million in salary cap space committed to 16 players for next season, especially given their ages.

If this does turn out to be the end for Thornton and/or Marleau in San Jose their time will be remembered more for not winning a Stanley Cup and probably not for how much success they have actually had on the ice, both individually and as a team. Not only have Thornton and Marleau been two of the NHL’s best and most productive players over the past decade, but the Sharks have been one of the NHL’s best teams. Since the 2005-06 season, when Thornton first arrived in San Jose, the Sharks have won a league best 547 regular season games (11 more than the team with the second-most wins, the Pittsburgh Penguins) while their 64 playoff wins are tied for the fourth most (Anaheim Ducks) behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Red Wings.

WATCH LIVE: Maple Leafs, Bruins facing elimination on Sunday

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It is a win or go home situation for the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, as both teams enter their respective Game 6s facing elimination in their first-round playoff series’.

The Bruins need to beat the Ottawa Senators to force a Game 7 on Tuesday night, while the Toronto Maple Leafs need a win to extend their series against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals to a decisive seventh game on Wednesday.

Both games will be shown on the NBC Networks and streamed online.

Here is all of the information you need for Sunday’s games.

Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)

David Krejci out again for Bruins; Matt Beleskey will play

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The Boston Bruins will once again be without forward David Krejci on Sunday afternoon when they face the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series, coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed.

It will be the third game that Krejci has missed in the series due to a lower-body injury.

Matt Beleskey, who has only played in two of the first five games of the series, will draw into the lineup in his place.

Krejci’s absence still leaves the Bruins shorthanded as they are still without defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Cassidy said on Sunday that Krug has resumed skating but is still not ready to return to the lineup.

The Senators have a couple of lineup questions of their own. Forward Viktor Stalberg is a game-time decision, while Guy Boucher is making one change on defense with Chris Wideman coming out of the lineup for Fredrik Claesson.