Jason Brough

Kari Lehtonen

Goalie nods: Stars turn to Lehtonen, with netminding worries on the rise


Some facts:

There have been 36 goalies that have started at least 25 games this season in the NHL.

Of those 36, Kari Lehtonen ranks 33rd with a save percentage of .906.

Antti Niemi ranks 35th at .903.

Both those goalies play for the Dallas Stars.

Both combine for a cap hit of $10.4 million.

No other team has committed that much cap space to goaltending.

The playoffs are just over a month away.

Yes, the high-scoring Stars have still managed to go 38-20-7, good for third overall in the NHL. But they’re 1-5-2 in their last eight, and the goaltending is getting much of the blame.

From Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News:

Your Stars have sprung a sizable leak and, yes, I fully realize that Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen are merely the last line of defense in these equations that add up to too many goals. They play behind an undersized and occasionally mistake-prone defense in a system in which coach Lindy Ruff stands out as the rarity in today’s NHL, thinking “attack” more than “defend.”

But you know what?

They are the goalies, and they’re both fully salaried, and in this final stretch of 17 games that starts here Friday night against New Jersey, and then on into the playoffs, they understand their role in the accountability of these things.

Lehtonen is expected to be between the pipes tonight against the Devils. He’s been the better of the tandem lately, but that’s not saying much. His save percentage was a mere .898 in February. Niemi’s was .870.

For the Devils, it’ll be Cory Schneider. He’s had his own struggles lately, but his save percentage remains impressive at .924.


Antti Raanta for the Rangers in Washington, versus Braden Holtby for the Capitals. (Henrik Lundqvist is not expected to dress for New York due to neck spasms. Magnus Hellberg has been recalled on an emergency basis. )

— Laurent Brossoit for the Oilers in Columbus, versus Joonas Korpisalo for the Blue Jackets.

Related: The Dallas Stars might have a goaltending problem

With Lundqvist hurt, Rangers recall Hellberg on emergency basis

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, of Sweden, skates off the ice after an informal NHL hockey workout, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Greenburgh, NY.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

WASHINGTON (AP) The New York Rangers have recalled goaltender Magnus Hellberg from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.

The move comes the morning after starter Henrik Lundqvist left New York’s game in Pittsburgh with neck spasms. The Rangers visit the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Antti Raanta, who replaced Lundqvist for the third period of the 4-1 loss to the Penguins, is expected to start against the NHL-leading Capitals. Hellberg’s recall suggests Lundqvist may not be available for backup duty.

Hellberg has appeared in two NHL games, one with the Nashville Predators and one with the Rangers. The 24-year-old is third in AHL appearances this season.

Related: Fleury calls Lundqvist’s meltdown ‘baby stuff’

The Flames are having a tough time

Buffalo Sabres' Sam Reinhart (23) celebrates a goal by Jack Eichel as Calgary Flames' Jonas Hiller (1) reacts during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo won 6-3. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

The Calgary Flames may still have a bright future, but the present has gotten to be a real struggle.

The Flames lost their seventh in a row last night, falling 6-3 in Buffalo. Dating back to mid-February, they’ve only won once in their last 11.

“We’re a proud organization and obviously we’re showing up — whether it’s in our rink or visiting rinks — with the firm intention of winning games,” head coach Bob Hartley told reporters Thursday. “And we leave some good efforts on the table. If we wouldn’t work, there would be something for concern.

“But obviously, right now, we need some practice time. We need a little time off also to re-focus and re-fuel, because our focus is not at the right place.”

Practice time, unfortunately, may be hard to come by. The Flames play tomorrow afternoon in Pittsburgh, before flying home to face San Jose on Monday. They don’t have consecutive days off until next weekend.

The Flames’ biggest problem has been keeping the puck out of their net. In their last 11 games, they’ve allowed at least four goals on seven separate occasions. Three times they’ve surrendered six goals.

That’s not all on the goalies, but some of it is. Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, and Joni Ortio have combined to give Calgary the lowest team save percentage (.893) in the NHL.

With no netminder signed for next season, speculation has the Flames targeting the likes of Frederik Andersen or James Reimer in the summer. They’ve reportedly inquired about Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, to no avail so far.

On the bright side, the Flames had two players, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, named to Team North America’s first 16, and they could have one more in Dougie Hamilton.

They should get a pretty good youngster in the upcoming draft as well, possibly even Auston Matthews.

Linden claims ‘complete autonomy from ownership,’ but perception says otherwise in Vancouver

Former Vancouver Canucks captain Trevor Linden, left, shakes hands with team owner Francesco Aquilini in Vancouver on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Linden has been hired as Vancouver's president of hockey operations. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

For the second time in less than a month, Canucks president Trevor Linden was forced to address the ownership-management relationship in Vancouver.

This time, it followed the team’s inability to make a single trade prior to Monday’s deadline.

Various reports have hinted that ownership meddling may have been partly to blame for defenseman Dan Hamhuis not being dealt to Dallas.

Not so, Linden told a collection season-ticket holders this morning, insisting that the reason Hamhuis is still a Canuck is that the Stars preferred Calgary’s Kris Russell.

“We had complete autonomy from ownership to make the decisions we needed to make,” Linden said, per the Canucks’ Twitter account.

The first time Linden was forced to address the issue came in mid-February, after Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had suggested during a Hockey Night in Canada segment that ownership and management were not on the same page.

To which Linden responded: “The 20 months that I’ve been here, it’s been an excellent working relationship (between management and ownership). We’ve been completely aligned on where we are and where we need to be and have a good understanding of what we have to do.”

But Friedman’s segment led to the following being written in The Province newspaper:

The Aquilinis’ involvement in hockey ops is the stuff of legends in back channels.

Mythical stories ooze from the city’s elite and from the city’s in-the-know hockey community, about trades which were vetoed , trades which were demanded, and supposedly that time all the defencemen were to be moved.

All of them.

If we dip into the not-too distant past, the former regime had final say and total control of all hockey decisions until the 2011 Game 7 loss in the Cup finals.

After that, power was whittled away, one shaving at a time.

Indeed, the problem for the Canucks is that no matter what Linden says — and, really, no matter the actual reality — the perception has become that ownership is overly involved in making the hockey decisions.

That perception really took hold after the hiring of coach John Tortorella in 2013.

And ownership is clearly bothered by it.

From a Globe and Mail article in April of 2014:

On Monday, Francesco Aquilini sent a Globe and Mail reporter a text message warning of legal action after the newspaper published a story discussing the family’s involvement in the hiring.

“I read your article today. You are a prick,” it said. Two hours later, a legal letter from the family’s counsel arrived by e-mail. It alleged defamation, sought a retraction and an apology, and threatened further action.

“The facts are that while the Aquilinis supported the decision of the General Manager, the hiring decision was his and not theirs,” lawyer Howard Shapray of Vancouver-based Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP wrote in the legal letter to The Globe.

The legal push also took aim at The Province newspaper in Vancouver, which several weeks earlier in a column had mentioned the Aquilinis’ role in the Tortorella hiring. Mr. Shapray on Monday sent a legal letter to The Province and made similar demands as were made of The Globe.

Now, granted, not everything that’s been said or written by the media has been true. Monday’s deadline alone produced myriad conflicting reports, which means at least some of the information put forth was inaccurate. In the past few days, both Linden and GM Jim Benning have uttered the phrase, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

But perceptions don’t die easily.

And like the saying goes, perception is reality.

A costly loss for the Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers' Nick Cousins skates off the ice as the Edmonton Oilers celebrate after winning an NHL hockey game, 4-0, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Flyers’ playoff hopes took a pretty big hit last night against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

The 4-0 loss to Connor McDavid‘s crew was a disappointing result, to say the least.

“We didn’t show up from the start of the game,” winger Wayne Simmonds told reporters. “I don’t think we played horrible, but it wasn’t our best game. We got to put a better effort forth.

“We have 19 games left. Pittsburgh won. I saw that scoreboard watching a little bit after the game, so that hurts for us. Can’t really dwell on it.”

According to Sports Club Stats, Philly’s postseason chances fell from 36.6 percent prior to last night’s action to just 20.1 percent after.

The Flyers still have two games left on their six-game home stand — Saturday versus Columbus and Monday against Tampa Bay. They’ll need to win both of them in order to match their goal of 10 points out of a possible 12.