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  • try to snap out of funk against Blue Jackets,Panthers remain on the road

    Ottawa is looking for its third straight win following to high-scoring victories on home ice. After spotting the Sharks a three-goal lead on Friday, the Senators stormed back to defeat San Jose 6-5 in overtime. The next night,adidas Henrik Sedin jersey, Ottawa coughed up a 3-0 lead of its own, before scoring three more unanswered goals to defeat the first place Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3.

    "It's been like that all year," Boucher said. "Whenever we've gotten those good stretch games and we're playing good, to be honest with you,Authentic Bo Horvat jersey, all of a sudden, the same thing. We've had injuries, and it's been tough to battle all year, and guys sick, yes, to be honest with you."

    kicked off by the Great Glen Gulutzan Stick-Tossing Incident of 2018.,Authentic Braden Holtby jersey,Plenty of goings on in Calgary this weekend

    He was, apparently, unhappy with the way the Flames were practicing on Friday and launched into an F-bomb-laden tirade that included both the phrase “check the standings” and impressive distance on the stick toss itself.

    It was a bit of a surprise because the Flames are generally playing really well and, had picked up two straight wins. So maybe this was an outsized reaction to guys maybe playing at 75 percent intensity in practice, at the time, but his point about the standings should be well taken by everyone on that roster: This Flames team has the talent to be cruising in the Pacific, and isn’t. It’s a criticism that could apply to a few other teams in the division, they had just 20 wins, of course, but through 40 games, and have also played in five three-point games against Western Conference teams. Which is to say they’re giving away a decent amount of points and the team was about to enter a bit of a tough stretch, with a home game against Anaheim before a four-game road trip.

    So the motivation for the meltdown is apparent enough: If the Flames didn’t keep up their recent winning ways, they maybe come back from that road trip three, four, or five points back of the last wild card spot.

    There was some amount of handwringing about how performative the display was, especially given that there were national TV people in the building, and you’ve certainly seen less scenery chewing in local dinner theater productions of Death of a Salesman. But sometimes you need a bit of scenery chewing. It’s not always a bad thing. Jack Nicholson isn’t exactly going for “subtle” in The Shining, right?

    And certainly with the Flames dramatic win on Saturday night — which barely avoided gifting Anaheim at least an OT point — maybe people will say it worked. It’s difficult to draw that correlation; the Flames dramatically outplayed a team in the midst of a five-game roadtrip which they are, frankly, better than. There were some problems in the third period and drama throughout, but on the balance the Flames deserved the win. Is that Gulutzan’s doing? Probably not, but he’s done a pretty good job with this club after coming in with plenty of question marks about why he got hired over, say, Bruce Boudreau.

    The Flames are currently fourth in the NHL in possession but have a surprisingly low shooting percentage that has almost certainly cost them a number of games. The special teams are wanting, especially the power play. And that doesn’t make sense for a team with as much top-six talent as the Flames have on hand. Even Micheal Ferland seems to have developed into a nice little skill player — check that pass to Dougie Hamilton for the game-winner — and when you have that luxury, it doesn’t make sense that the Flames should have a minus-3 goal difference, especially because they draw more penalties but commit fewer than the league average.

    And as to the possession thing, the Flames have five defenseman who have played at least 500 minutes halfway through the season. Only Hamilton and Mark Giordano are north of 50 percent in possession , and the rest are a smidge below it. So while this club seemingly has an elite process, that’s only because their top pairing are beyond dominant, and everyone else is relatively pliable. The problem is, those five guys are only on the ice for about a third of the game, so that leaves a lot of time in which the Flames aren’t doing anywhere near as well as the overall numbers would lead you to believe.

    The roster problems aren’t Gulutzan’s fault, of course. The Flames have a great top-six forward group and probably the best top pair in the league. After that, adidas Bo Horvat jersey, the third line is doing okay, you run into issues. The first two lines are pushing around opponents quite well, and the fourth is getting caved in most nights.

    Things may only be complicated by what is perceived as a failed experiment with Jaromir Jagr, who is now reportedly working with Calgary management on an exit strategy despite some solid underlying numbers in his 22 games. This seems more like an issue of both “fit” — the Flames play fast, as does most of the league these days — and “fitness” — Jagr seemingly can’t stay healthy this year — than the sport’s elder statesman being not good enough to play in this league any more. Calgary’s goal difference per 60 rate when Jagr is on the ice at 5-on-5 is among the highest on the team, albeit against lower-end competition. Still, without Jagr, the Flames’ forward depth is just a little more exposed, and that’s not going to help them win games long-term.

    Meanwhile, special teams problems are,adidas Ryan Miller jersey,to me, a coaching issue. Gulutzan’s job is to figure out those problems specifically. That he seemingly can’t or hasn’t yet is an issue. The club just played Game 41 and it’s still not in the playoffs. They’re close and there’s plenty of runway left, but this club needs a middling winning streak or three to really cement any sort of playoff position. You have the high-end talent, so to not get results like this in what seems to be a fairly fixable way may speak to larger limitations.

    Broadly speaking, it’s tough to get a read on this team. What “should” they be? Probably top-three in their division,Authentic Alex Ovechkin jersey, on paper, but it’s also not hard to see why they’re not. Maybe the stick toss is a turning point for them. Maybe it’s not. The point is it was probably necessary because, this team shouldn’t have to count on a few winning streaks to solidify their playoff bona fides.

    The best thing the NHL has ever done for the All-Star Game, whether you love it or hate it,adidas Alex Ovechkin jersey,Authentic T. J. Oshie jersey, the game doesn’t have as much meaning as it used to, has been the addition of the 3-on-3 tournament into the mix. Sure, but molding the 3-on-3 overtime format to fit the staleness that has become the All-Star Game has added new life to the weekend.

    Adding this format has given players like Wayne Simmonds of last All-Star Game the chance to shine, and it has given hockey fans some incredible moments in the process. With such a glut of talent on the ice, it’s no wonder we get better action and more creativity with all that extra space out there.

    With the release of the upcoming rosters for the 2018 All-Star Game,adidas T. J. Oshie jersey, we thought it’d be best to start dreaming up the most tantalizing 3-on-3 lineups we can possibly ice. Who knows if they’ll come true by the time the game rolls around on Sunday, Jan. 28, Authentic Henrik Sedin jersey,but let’s have some fun thinking about the lines we really want to see.

    First and foremost, let’s get the Tampa Bay Trio out of the way. Considering Andrei Vasilevskiy also made the Atlantic Division squad, the All-Star Game may not look too dissimilar from a Lightning game at Amalie Arena. There’s a reason the Lightning have four players on this team,adidas Braden Holtby jersey,and Kucherov and Stamkos have 60 and 52 points, respectively, so far on the season. Hedman’s 33 points as a defenseman ain’t half bad either.

    A pair of the NHL’s young stars in Matthews and Eichel pairing up with the veteran Karlsson would be a formidable line. Karlsson is perhaps the best offensive defenseman in the league, and alongside two creative playmakers in Matthews and Eichel, opponents are likely going to have a hard time trying taking the puck away.

    The NHL’s young players get a lot of praise, as they should, but the league’s veterans aren’t slouches either. Stamkos and Marchand are NHL leaderboard staples, but fans outside of Detroit may not know who Green is. The defenseman has 24 points for the Red Wings this year and is on pace for one of his best seasons in recent memory. Not a bad bunch to put together at the end of the day.

    It will be a rare sight should all three Metropolitan Division stars play in this tournament, as we’ve never had a year where all of them have been on the All-Star roster! Sure, there’s no defenseman on this list, but given the overall skill of Crosby, the shooting presence of Ovechkin, and Giroux’s playmaking, getting them on the ice should be a top priority.