Roberto Luongo pleased with playoffs performance

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Jason
Botchford has a defiant article up today
for The Province, slamming
those who chose to rip apart Roberto Luongo after yet another
disappointing postseason. While there are many parts of his article I
don’t necessarily agree with, there is one thing I can understand his
point about: there’s been so much ripping on Luongo the past few days
there’s nothing left to take apart.

The buzzards have come and
gone and there is hardly anything left. Yet Luongo will keep on doing
what he loves, being one of the most maddeningly inconsistent
goaltenders in the NHL, and claiming that being the team’s captain is in
no way a hindrance.

Before I get to Botchford’s article, here’s
what Luongo had to say about his performance:

“Honestly, I felt good in the playoffs,” he said.

“I felt
energized. I felt sharp. I felt aggressive. I battled a lot because of
the traffic and the bumping. I adjusted certain things about my game to
try and deal with it. I did a pretty good job. There was one game in
there, I think it was Game 3, where they had a lot of rebounds and
jamming. But the games in Chicago, I fought hard to see the puck.”

Listen, Luongo was far from the only problem on the
Canucks in the second round. That being said, he was far from the
miracle worker in net that most teams need as you get deeper in the
playoffs. He wasn’t horrible, but he was far from the captain of the
team that elevates his play to the level that inspires the rest of his
team to play harder and stronger, overcoming adversity in the face of
elimination.

Of course, if Sami Salo playing with one a half
testicles isn’t inspiring enough for the team, I don’t know what Luongo
could have done.

I digress. I’m not here to preach on how Roberto
Luongo shouldn’t be captain (he shouldn’t) or how he wasn’t the great
goaltender the Canucks needed him to be (he wasn’t). What I am saying is
that there is something inherently wrong with the emotional makeup of
this team, something we’ve seen the past two seasons and something
that’s led to their disappointingly early exits.

Mr. Botchford
says this about those who claim Luongo shouldn’t be captain:

He’s
already been ripped for being an overrated, average Pez dispenser.
What’s left? Oh right, his captaincy. The cupboards must be bare for
people to be this worked up over that. Especially, considering he’s the
first Vancouver captain in 16 years to lead the Canucks to the second
round in consecutive seasons.

Well, I counter by
saying that while Luongo has “led” the Canucks to the second round in
two straight seasons, they’ve completely fallen on their faces once they
got there. Not because they were outclassed or outplayed, but because
they lacked the emotional fortitude to overcome the adversity they faced
once they got there.

Is that Luongo’s fault? Not directly, but a
hockey team generally takes on the persona of it’s captain. I don’t
claim to know or understand the inner workings of a NHL locker room, but
you have to think that having your team captain stationed 100 feet away
from your bench for 98% of the game is not exactly how you need your
team taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference
semifinals.

Especially when said captain isn’t exactly playing at
the top of his game, no matter what he might say.

If the Vancouver
Canucks hope to build on this season and move deeper in the playoffs,
things will have to change. The Sedins aren’t getting any younger and
the team is on the verge of going into a bit of a “youth movement
phase”. They have Roberto Luongo tied up the next 12 seasons, so he’s
not going anywhere. Is it a good idea to give the captaincy to someone
else? Is it really that big of a deal for this team, when it seems there
might be other issues to focus on?

Perhaps, but having the leader
of the team outwardly appear to emotional and inconsistent, all at the
wrong times, isn’t exactly a model for success.

In his defense, Luongo did say that he’ll be quieter next season and not take questions on the mornings of games. That he admits these were a bit of a distraction speaks to the inherent issues when you have your goaltender become the captain.

Ok, so maybe this
was about Roberto Luongo and the invisible “C” on his chest.

J.T. Miller might be breaking through for the Rangers

New York Rangers center J.T. Miller celebrates after scoring his second goal of the game against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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Don’t look now, but J.T. Miller might just be “getting it.”

By “it” you can mean a number of things: New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault’s confidence, his own confidence and that scoring touch at the NHL level.

He’s been on particularly hot streak for the last three weeks or so. While he failed to score in Saturday’s win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Miller reeled off a run in which he scored five points in three games and eight goals during a nine-game span.

His teammates and coach have taken notice, too, as Denis Gorman of Metro New York reports.

“The first practice I saw him, his strength, the way he shoots the puck. He has good hands, vision, he has everything to become a great hockey player,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “He’s getting there. He’s improving so much, but the biggest thing is probably just confidence, realizing that he is that good and he can use all these tools to be a great player.”

The Rangers aim to be a regular contender, and sometimes staying in the picture is all about developing prospects like Miller.

At the moment, it looks like he’s trending in an impressive direction.

Isles clobber Oilers, Okposo nabs second career hat trick

New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) reacts as he sits beside right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) on the bench after scoring his third goal for a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. The Islanders defeated the Oilers 8-1. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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NEW YORK (AP) After two disappointing road losses, the New York Islanders needed to face a last-place opponent like the Edmonton Oilers.

Kyle Okposo had his second career hat trick after the Islanders opened a commanding lead with three first-period goals and New York routed the Oilers 8-1 on Sunday.

Thomas Greiss made 30 saves for the Islanders (27-18-6), who moved within three points of the New York Rangers for second-place in the Metropolitan Division.

“It was good. Good to put up eight. It was a pretty good team effort,” Okposo said. “I thought we were going on all cylinders. It’s definitely nice to get rewarded.”

Johnny Boychuck, John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin scored in the opening period, chasing former Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson, who was replaced after Kulemin’s goal by former Ranger Cam Talbot.

Boychuk, in his first home game after missing 11 games overall with an upper body injury suffered on Dec. 31 at Buffalo, ripped a slap shot past Nilsson at 2:57 for his fourth goal of the season.

“It’s always good when you strike early,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We did a lot of good things and got two points.”

Tavares made it 2-0 at 9:12 with his 19th goal before Kulemin added his sixth at 11:24. Oilers coach Todd McLellan then pulled Nilsson, who stopped only seven of the 10 shots he faced.

Okposo made it 4-0 at 2:32 of the second, then scored again at 6:09 of the middle period.

After Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid finally put Edmonton on the board with his seventh goal at 6:50, Josh Bailey made it 6-1 at 9:36.

Cal Clutterbuck increased the margin to 7-1 at 16:04 of the middle period with his 11th goal. Talbot raised his arms in frustration after Clutterbuck’s goal, seemingly exasperated with the defensive effort in front of him.

Okposo completed his hat trick at 7:27 of the third, when he whipped a shot on the power play past Talbot for his 15th goal of the season. The goal made it 8-1 and led to a cascade of hats tossed onto the Barclays Center ice. It was a season high in goals for the Islanders.

“Kyle has been playing awesome,” said defenseman Nick Leddy, who had three assists. “His contributions have been felt all year. He has been one of the best players on the ice game in and game out.”

The defeat following Saturday night’s 5-1 loss at Montreal left McLellan fuming.

“I don’t think we were prepared to play for those first few goals against,” McLellan said. “I’m very disappointed in the preparation and the approach to the game. We got our butts handed to us in Montreal and came here and responded in a very inappropriate way. ”

The 19-year-old McDavid – the first overall pick in last June’s draft – returned after missing 37 games with a broken collarbone for the opening game of the Edmonton’s four-game trip. McDavid scored once and added two assists in a 5-1 win at Columbus, then had two assists in a 7-2 victory at Ottawa.

Playing his first game since Jan. 12, Greiss was his usual stellar self. He didn’t have an especially tough game despite the litany of offensive skill on the Oilers roster in addition to McDavid.

“It always helps when we score a bunch of quick goals. It seemed like it was going our way tonight,” Greiss said. “That would be awesome if we could score eight goals every game. We have to be realistic. It’s not going to happen too often.”

Greiss improved to 14-6-2 this season, his first with the Islanders.

The Islanders improved to 17-8-3 at Barclays Center in their first season in Brooklyn after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum.

The Oilers haven’t won in New York against the Islanders since Dec. 14, 1999, when they beat the Islanders 4-2 at Nassau Coliseum.

NOTES: Former Islander Griffin Reinhart played against the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2012 for the first time. … The teams meet again in Edmonton on Feb. 28.

Habs grab rare back-to-back wins this weekend

Montreal Canadiens goalie Ben Scrivens falls after making a save while facing the Carolina Hurricanes during first-period NHL hockey game action, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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The Montreal Canadiens were a bit like Ben Scrivens (in his near-ideal state) this weekend: not always pretty, but they got the job done.

A day after Scrivens thwarted his former team in the Edmonton Oilers in a 5-1 win, the journeyed goalie was integral in Montreal scraping out a 2-1 shootout win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now, it’s easy to scoff at two wins against two teams who are – let’s be honest – pretty unremarkable.

The Canadiens aren’t really in a position to laugh off any victory, however. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that this is their first set of consecutive wins since late November.

Even through all this frustration, certain top Canadiens stand out as keeping the team afloat. Andrei Markov hit an impressive milestone:

… While Max Pacioretty scored his 20th goal in emphatic fashion:

As P.K. Subban‘s numbers argue, Montreal’s biggest problem has been getting results from more under-the-radar players. In Sunday’s case, Scrivens delivered.

Montreal still faces an uphill battle, but perhaps a weekend like this might serve as a catalyst for a nice climb?

Malcolm Subban in stable condition, suffered fractured larynx

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The Boston Bruins updated Malcolm Subban‘s condition a day after the goaltending prospect was hospitalized after being struck in the throat with a puck.

“Malcolm Subban was struck in the throat with a puck Saturday night during pregame warmups. He was transported to Maine Medical Center and was diagnosed with a fractured larynx. He stayed overnight at Maine Medical Center and was transported to Mass General Hospital on Sunday for further evaluation. He is in stable condition and will be sidelined indefinitely. The team will provide additional details when they become available.”

Awful news, although at least he’s in stable condition.

PHT will stay tuned for further updates regarding the 22-year-old.

Subban did tweet a thanks for support:

A little context makes that a little sad, too.

P.K. Subban seems confident his brother will bounce back.