Coyotes take aim at top seed in West

Doan.jpgLet’s forget all of the nasty rumors about the Phoenix Coyotes
possibly being on their way to Winnipeg*. The Coyotes are just four
points behind the San Jose Sharks and the top seed in the West,
something that is incredibly impressive considering the state of the
franchise just months ago.

*I don’t want to step on Jets fans,
either. It’s an ugly situation all around.

Someone who
has to be most proud about the turnaround is Shane Doan, who has been
with the franchise since 1995 — when they were the Winnipeg Jets. From
Justin Piercy of CBC Sports:

“It’s special for us
as a team,” said captain Shane Doan, who started
his career with the team before it was relocated from Winnipeg in 1996.
“Obviously there were a lot of doubts coming into this season by a lot
of people. It’s nice to answer those doubts and have an opportunity to
do even better than that.”

Now, not to rain on the
Coyotes parade here, but this season’s magic will just go up like a puff
of smoke if the team doesn’t get out of the first round of the
playoffs. We’ve seen Dave Tippett’s teams before; always great in the
regular season, shaky in the postseason.

Hence, getting as high a
seed as possible would be ideal. Except if they nail down #2 and
Colorado get #7. Those first round exits against the Avalanche will
haunt Tippett forever.

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    Predators’ Kevin Fiala taken off on stretcher, hospitalized after scary fall

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    The crowd in St. Louis was sent to stunned silence at the scary sight of Nashville Predators rookie Kevin Fiala crashing feet-first into boards during the first period of Game 1.

    Fiala was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he awkwardly hit the boards following a hit by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. An arena announcement indicated that Fiala will be taken to a nearby hospital.

    It’s a cruel twist for the 20-year-old forward, whose high-end speed stands out most when you first see him. A bit longer than a week ago, he scored the biggest goal of his career as he ended Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks with the overtime-clincher. Now one has to wonder about his health.

    Video will be added soon. Until then, here’s a GIF of that frightening moment:

    Colin Wilson: still far more productive in playoffs (Video)

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    When you put together a list of “clutch” players, do you put Colin Wilson on it?

    Before you laugh that question off – which, really, that’s kind of mean – consider how productive the under-the-radar Nashville Predators forward is during the postseason.

    In 33 career playoff games, Wilson had 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points. He’s now at 12 goals and 21 points in 34 games after the first period of Game 1, and there is time to add to those totals.

    That’s already pretty solid, but consider his regular season: 12 goals and 35 points in 70 games. He’s only scored 20 goals once in his career.

    Yet … for whatever reason, when the games get bigger, the 27-year-old has developed a knack for scoring at a much higher clip. In the case of Game 1 against the Blues – his first game of this postseason thanks to injuries – he deflected P.K. Subban‘s booming shot for the 1-0 goal. Watch it above.

    And wonder: is it hasty to consider him clutch?

    Video: Erik Karlsson gets Jeremy Roenick’s seal of approval

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    Jeremy Roenick is so impressed by Erik Karlsson, he almost likes him as much as Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion does.

    As a reminder, Dorion … didn’t exactly go the humble route in his praise of the all-world defenseman. When speaking of Karlsson’s play through ridiculous injuries, he provided quite the quote, as the Ottawa Citizen reports.

    “Was I surprised? A bit,” Dorion said. “What do you say? I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this but, you believe in whatever you believe in, and they always say God rested on the seventh day, I think on the eighth day he created Erik Karlsson.”

    Surely Karlsson’s critics will love this.

    Anyway, Roenick and Keith Jones had some fun with such comments, as you can see in the video above.

    For more genius Swedish fun, enjoy the Henrik Lundqvist video above. That’s a bonus, folks.

    Babcock, McLellan and Tortorella are 2017’s Jack Adams finalists

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    The NHL Broadcasters’ Association named the three finalists for the 2017 Jack Adams Award on Wednesday: Mike Babcock, John Tortorella and Todd McLellan.

    The Jack Adams is given to the head coach who “contributed the most to his team’s success.”

    It might tickle some to realize that Babcock and McLellan once coached together on the Detroit Red Wings’ staff. All three coaches share the distinction of bringing teams to the playoffs who failed to make the postseason in (at least) the previous season.

    The Maple Leafs missed from 2013-14 to 2015-16. Columbus failed in its previous two seasons. And, of course, the Oilers hadn’t seen the playoffs since falling in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

    One could make an argument for each coach in a number of ways.

    Babcock molded a Maple Leafs team topped by young players, showing a refreshing willingness to take the good with the bad (especially for a guy who’s known for his scowl). McLellan broke that Oilers slump, gradually finding a lineup that could be “more than just Connor McDavid.” The Blue Jackets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NHL to the point that they’d get Torts fired; instead, they boasted a power play that baffled opponents for much of the season and Tortorella enacted some (gasp) progressive ideas to help Columbus compete.

    Now, you could critique all three in different ways – barely making the playoffs, riding hot goaltending, deploying Connor McDavid – but that’s part of the fun, right? There are certainly some cases to be made for snubs (Bruce Boudreau, perhaps even Joel Quenneville?), yet this trio of finalists is strong nonetheless.

    The NHL has a more traditional rundown of each coach’s credentials, by the way.