Columbus’ Scott Hartnell and a pair of goalies — the Rangers’ Cam Talbot and Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond — have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Mar. 15, the league announced on Monday.
Hartnell led the NHL with five goals and shared second in the League with five points to power the Blue Jackets (30-35-4, 64 points) to three wins in four starts.
Talbot went 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .969 save percentage to backstop the Rangers (44-17-7, 95 points) to the No. 1 overall position in the NHL standings.
Hammond posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.30 goals-against average and .957 save percentage to pull the Senators (33-24-11, 77 points) within five points of the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
March has been a pretty good month for Hammond and Talbot. The former was also named the league’s first star of the week back on Mar. 2, and Talbot was named third star last week.
With the Philadelphia Flyers — barring a miracle — set to miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, it’s inevitable that the talk surrounding the team will be centered on what’s wrong and, to an extent, who is to blame.
A recent NJ.com article argued that while Giroux is clearly an elite player, he might not be the right choice for captain going forward. Among other things, Giroux was criticized for seemingly not feeling “comfortable answering tough questions during tough times.”
Wayne Simmonds didn’t appreciate those assertions.
“That’s [expletive],” Wayne Simmonds told the Philadelphia Daily News. “It has nothing to do with team leadership or how good of a captain he is. He goes out there every single shift and plays his heart out. For (that writer) to even speculate that ‘G’ is not a good leader is a joke. It’s embarrassing.”
This comes at a time when Flyers GM Ron Hextall has openly stated that the Flyers locker room leadership needs to be reevaluated, given the team’s inconsistency this season. However, Hextall made it clear he wasn’t singling out Giroux.
“No, leadership doesn’t come down to one guy anymore,” Hextall said, per CSN Philly. “Those days are gone. It’s a group. It’s typically your older players.
“Middle-age guys can add to it. It’s five, six, seven guys on a team that typically depend on the bulk of your leadership. Not one guy or three guys for that matter.”
Perhaps the solution is to add one or more players that can help support Giroux and the existing leadership group given that veterans Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell are no longer with the squad. That’s just one of the options available for Hextall to consider as he tries to turn the Flyers back into a serious playoff contender.
The Flyers acquired R.J. Umberger from the Columbus Blue Jackets along with a 2015 fourth-round draft pick in exchange for Scott Hartnell over the summer and so far that move hasn’t worked out for Philadelphia. If you want evidence of that, you need only watch tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars and notice the absence of Umberger, who will instead be in the press box.
Umberger, who initially broke into the NHL as a Flyer before spending six seasons with Columbus, has reached or surpassed the 50-point mark on three separate occasions, but he’s been limited to nine goals and 15 points in 67 games in 2014-15. Meanwhile, Hartnell has 43 points and 88 penalty minutes in 60 contests with Columbus.
“When things aren’t going well, that’s [the comparison to Hartnell] added pressure. You feel that,” Umberger told the Courier-Post. “I think the biggest thing that’s bothered me is that I feel like I’ve let (general manager Ron) Hextall down. He believed in me bringing me here and I feel like I just haven’t been the player for him that he needs.”
It’s worth noting that while he’s being regarded as a healthy scratch, he doesn’t appear to be 100 percent. He has been seen moving with a limp and has a somewhat bloodshot eye. Umberger, who has set an unwanted career-high by going 18 games without a goal, doesn’t want to use that as an excuse though.
“Everybody has injuries,” Umberger said.
Vinny Lecavalier will be inserted into the lineup as a fourth liner while Zac Rinaldo will move up to the third line due to Umberger’s absence.
Umberger comes with a $4.6 million annual cap hit and is signed through 2016-17.
Take Cam Atkinson’s name off the trade deadline target list.
On Monday, the Jackets announced they’ve signed Aktinson to a three-year, $10.5 million contract extension, one that carries a $3.5M average annual cap hit.
Atkinson, 25, has been a solid contributor in Columbus over the last two seasons. He was a pending RFA — carrying a $1.15 million cap hit — and looked to be in line for a raise; Atkinson scored a career-high 21 goals and 40 points last year and is averaging over 17 minutes a night this season (another career-high).
The new salary breakdown, per ESPN:
In 58 games this year, Atkinson has 13 goals and 25 points. This new deal will keep him in Columbus through the 2018 season, making him a long-term guy along with the likes of David Clarkson, Scott Hartnell, Nick Foligno, Brandon Dubinsky, Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson.
The Columbus Blue Jackets started the night by honoring forward Scott Hartnell for playing in 1,000 games and finished it by diminishing his former squad’s playoff chances with a 4-3 overtime win against Philadelphia.
The Flyers enjoyed 1-0 and 3-1 leads thanks to Wayne Simmonds, who scored his 20th and 21st goals this season.
He wouldn’t end up being the hero tonight though as Jared Boll managed to find the back of the net for the first time since Nov. 12, 2013.
That turned the tide in favor of Columbus. Cam Atkinson tied the contest with 4:40 left in the third frame and then Artem Anisimov provided the overtime winner. It was the first time this season that Columbus successfully staged a comeback after trailing through 40 minutes.
“It was nice to finally get on the board, but it feels even better to win,” Boll said, per the team’s Twitter feed.
The Flyers have still managed to secure at least a point in eight straight contests, but losing back-to-back games in overtime has to sting given how much ground they have to cover in the playoff race. Philadelphia is six points behind Boston in the battle for the second Wild Card spot, but has participated in one extra contest. The Bruins are playing against Vancouver tonight.