Jason Brough


The Flames are starting to grasp their new system, and it shows

For the past month and a bit, the Calgary Flames have been one of the best teams in the NHL.

They’ve done it somewhat under the radar, with most of the league’s attention on a certain team from Columbus.

And to be sure, the Flames are still only just in a playoff spot, thanks to the rocky start they had under new head coach Glen Gulutzan.

But there’s no doubt that the potential Gulutzan saw when he got the job is starting to be realized. With Saturday’s 3-1 win over Vancouver, Calgary improved to 12-5-0 in its last 17 games.

“We’ve gotten accustomed to the way we want to play,” Gulutzan told PHT Friday. “We’ve had some success in the last 15, 16 games. We still got lots of work to do; we got young guys. But I think the grasp of the system is there certainly.”

The Flames were not a good puck-possession team under their last coach, Bob Hartley, who was fired for partly that reason.

Under Gulutzan, their possession stats have improved.

Another reason Hartley was let go was special teams.

And again, under Gulutzan, there’s been improvement. The power play has jumped from 22nd to 12th, the penalty killing from 30th to 17th.

Read more: Mikael Backlund can’t stop scoring

Even Calgary’s goaltending, which remains poor relative to the rest of the NHL, has been better, thanks to the savvy signing of backup Chad Johnson by GM Brad Treliving.

In fact, calling Johnson the backup is probably unfair the way things have played out. He’s been far better than the guy everyone thought would be the starter, Brian Elliott.


The Flames are in Winnipeg tonight, after which they’ll play five of their next six at home.

Of note, two games against the Oilers are on the horizon later this month, representing an opportunity for Calgary to possibly move out of a wild-card spot and into third place in the Pacific Division.


Related: Gulutzan sees great promise in the Flames, a ‘team that’s on the cusp’

Capitals’ Oshie to miss tonight’s game in Montreal


T.J. Oshie has been sidelined again. The Washington Capitals’ winger will not play tonight in Montreal due to an upper-body injury.

Oshie logged just 9:00 in Saturday’s 1-0 win in Ottawa.

From the Washington Post:

Oshie absorbed a hard hit by Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf in the second period, skating to the bench in pain before briefly going back to the locker room.

Oshie returned to the game, and on a power play in the last six minutes of the second period, he fell to the ice after a cross-check to the back by Phaneuf. Oshie stayed on the ice for the power play before returning to the bench and then going back to the locker room for a second time that period. He did not return to the game.

Oshie has already missed seven games this season due to injury. He has 13 goals and seven assists in 32 games.

The 30-year-old did skate this morning, so at the very least, it doesn’t seem like he should be out for long.

Washington’s next game after tonight’s is Wednesday at home to Pittsburgh.

The Gustavsson signing has been a predictably bad one for the Oilers (Updated)


The decision by Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli to sign Jonas Gustavsson is looking more and more like the bad one many felt it would be.

Gustavsson, 32, fell to 1-3-1 with an .878 save percentage after allowing four goals on just 17 shots in last night’s 5-3 loss at Ottawa. It was his first start since Dec. 8, when he allowed six goals in a 6-5 loss to Philadelphia.

Gustavsson’s struggles as a backup have forced Cam Talbot to make 37 starts, the most in the NHL. And there’s not much in the way of help down on the farm, where the only goalie with NHL experience, Laurent Brossoit, is 8-8-0 with a .909 save percentage for Bakersfield.

Read more: Uncertainty about the Oilers’ goaltending remains

Chiarelli signed Gustavsson on July 1, bringing aboard a goalie that had already put up below-average numbers in Toronto, Detroit, and Boston. Gustavsson’s career save percentage in the NHL now sits at just .901.

Edmonton’s next game is Tuesday against San Jose.


Gustavsson was placed on waivers this morning.

Pre-game reading: The NHL wants to play some games in China


— Up top, relive the best moments of the Blue Jackets’ winning streak, which came to an end last night in Washington.

— The NHL wants to play some games in China. So says deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who will visit the country later this month. “I think it’s fair to say we hope to be in a position to stage NHL games there, probably initially preseason games and then potentially on a longer-term basis, regular-season games. We’re working on that possibility potentially as early as next year and with this visit, we’ll know a lot more about whether we can pull that off or not.” (Yahoo Sports)

— Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion, on the state of trade talks around the league: “I’ve been on the phone all day pretty much with my other counterparts. As quiet as it was before Christmas, I think talks are heating up, but it’s very difficult to make trades. Sometimes budget comes into it for other teams, sometimes it’s the number of contracts … So, working hard at it, I’m always looking to improve our team but there’s nothing imminent or at the forefront right now.” (Ottawa Sun)

Patrick Maroon had a hat trick last night in Boston, and he threw in a fight with Zdeno Chara for good measure. The big Oilers winger now has 14 goals on the season, all for the low, low cap hit of $1.5 million. And in case you’re wondering, no, he doesn’t always get to play with Connor McDavid. (Edmonton Journal)

— Pierre LeBrun continues his series on the upcoming expansion draft, this time with a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning. “The Bolts have four players on a list of 66 guys who must be protected in the expansion draft (unless the players agree to waive them) as per the memo that the league sent to all 31 teams in November: Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan. The last two players are an issue, to be sure — quality guys but players whose contracts have outgrown their actual value on the ice these days.” (ESPN)

— It wasn’t long ago that Nikita Tryamkin couldn’t get into a game for the Vancouver Canucks, and there was pressure on the big Russian defenseman to accept an AHL assignment. He never did go down to the AHL, but it’s turned out pretty well all the same. These days, Tryamkin is playing regularly and making a positive impact for the Canucks. “He wanted to play,” said coach Willie Desjardins. “He did not want to sit. He was not happy when we didn’t play him. I felt, for him to be his best, he had to change his (fitness) to be ready. It’s not that he ever accepted it, but he worked at it and did it.” (The Province)

Enjoy the games!

The Blues had their ‘worst game of the year’ last night

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The St. Louis Blues have not been able to win back-to-back games in over a month.

They failed again last night, losing 4-2 at home to Carolina. Three days prior, they’d beaten Chicago in the Winter Classic.

“I thought that was our worst game of the year,” goalie Jake Allen said last night, per the Post-Dispatch. “We need to look ourselves in the mirror after that game. Unfocused, (didn’t execute), just didn’t play our game at all. … I thought we had a lot more to give coming off the Chicago game, from all of us. I think we all need to get back real soon. We’ve got a huge divisional game coming this weekend.”

The Blues (20-14-5) host Dallas Saturday, and the Stars (16-15-8) have been playing better lately, with just two regulation losses in their last nine.

St. Louis, meanwhile, has been mostly floundering. The Blues are only 7-7-2 since the beginning of December, and they are regularly finishing games with between 22 and 25 shots. Against the Hurricanes, they were outshot 29-23.

In case you’re wondering, the Blues have not been hampered by injuries. That being said, they don’t have David Backes or Troy Brouwer anymore, and those two combined for 39 goals last season. David Perron (10 goals) has helped fill some of the offensive void, but it’s still been a struggle to score at times.

And scoring goals isn’t even their biggest issue.

In goals against, the Blues have fallen from fourth last season (2.40) to 24th (2.92). Jake Allen’s .904 save percentage is one of the lowest among NHL starters, and Carter Hutton (.890) hasn’t been any better in the backup role.

Not to pin it all on the goalies.

“This is attitude consistency,” head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You can’t play the game when you’re losing as many races to pucks and battles — that’s the game.”

The Blues still have a four-point playoff cushion, but with Nashville, Winnipeg and Dallas not far behind, finishing top three in the Central is no guarantee.