The St. Louis Blues are going back to the guy who got them this far.
Brian Elliott will start in goal tomorrow in San Jose.
Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock made the announcement Tuesday, the day after Jake Allen allowed four goals on just 25 shots in a 6-3 loss that put St. Louis on the brink of elimination.
Allen also started Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. The Blues won that contest, 6-3, with Allen stopping 31 of 34 shots.
But those were the only two games that Allen has started this postseason. That’s because Elliott had been mostly excellent before getting yanked in Game 3. His save percentage in these playoffs is .925, compared to Allen’s .897.
Hitchcock said he hopes the break has allowed Elliott to “reset” after the “mental drain” of starting the first 17 games of the playoff.
“We needed the jolt from Jake, we got it to get back into the series,” Hitchcock told reporters, per the Post-Dispatch. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win yesterday but this has been Brian’s playoffs and we’d like him to finish the job.”
Kevan Miller has cashed in on a career year.
And a fortuitous confluence of circumstances.
Miller, who posted personal highs in games played (71), goals (five) and points (18) last season, has scored a four-year, $10 million extension from the Bruins, per TSN.
That works out to a $2.5M average annual cap hit through 2020.
Miller, 28, scored the payday after taking a while to establish himself at the NHL level. Undrafted out of Vermont, he spent considerable time with AHL Providence before becoming a regular in Boston last season.
Despite those aforementioned career highs, it was an erratic season for Miller.
Often playing alongside Zdeno Chara on Boston’s top defensive pair, he was criticized for making mistakes in his own zone and struggled with consistency, something he lamented at the end of the year.
“I think it was frustrating,” Miller said, per the Boston Herald. “I wanted to be more consistent throughout the season.
“There were some ups and downs coming back off surgery last season and this year I was trying to find my feet initially, and toward the end I started to play pretty well.”
In Miller’s defense, he was miscast as a top-pairing blueliner — duly noted by CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty, who wrote the following:
Miller is a perfectly fine and rugged bottom-pairing defenseman that brings toughness, and can survive well enough against other team’s bottom two forward lines.
But he has struggled all season when charged with stopping the other team’s best offensive players, and it has really started coming to a head over the last month.
As such, today’s extension may have caught some by surprise — like those at the Boston Globe, who wondered if Miller was “destined” for free agency, suggesting he “will draw interest” on the open market.
But others might not be all that shocked.
Miller plays on a Boston defense that’s been thinned over the last two years — by the Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton trades, specifically — and doesn’t have many capable replacements at the ready.
Miller’s not great, but he had leverage. He knew it, his agent knew it and, based on the term and the price tag, the Bruins knew it too.
The more Peter Chiarelli talks, the more anticipation grows for a big trade.
The Oilers’ general manager spoke to Sportsnet yesterday at the Memorial Cup, where he was asked once again about the possibility of dealing the fourth overall draft pick for some NHL-ready help.
“Would I look to move it? We want to win. I took the job in Edmonton to win, so as I said earlier, we’ll look at all options,” said Chiarelli. “There’s some pretty good players that are going to be available at four but we may look to move down and still use a pick to get an asset as part of a larger deal. We owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time and we’re going to look at all options to allow us to do that.”
The number one area that the Oilers need to upgrade is the defense. So if, for example, a player like Tyson Barrie were made available by the Colorado Avalanche, Chiarelli would no doubt be interested. Ditto for Jacob Trouba, Sami Vatanen, or whoever else could be in play this offseason.
It won’t be easy, but if Chiarelli can add a capable, young top-4 defenseman (arguably the most valuable commodity in the NHL) and perhaps a veteran too, all of a sudden things look a lot more promising on the back end. Remember that Darnell Nurse is still only 21, Oscar Klefbom just 22. And even if the Oilers move down in the draft, they could still add another d-man to a mix that also includes youngsters Brandon Davidson, Adam Clendening, Griffin Reinhart and Jordan Oesterle.
If, on the other hand, Chiarelli fails to upgrade the defense, then the Oilers may struggle once again next season.
Hence, the urgency to get something done now, for a fan base that hasn’t experienced playoff excitement in a decade.
After so much losing, there’s no selling patience anymore in Edmonton.
The Florida Panthers’ managerial shakeup continued this week with the firing of their director of player personnel, Tom Luce.
Luce had been with the club since 2002. According to his bio, he had “been responsible for the Panthers drafting notable players, including Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau and Dmitry Kulikov.”
The firing of Luce was particularly noteworthy, since it came just days after Dale Tallon was “promoted” to president of hockey operations. That move was sold as a way for Tallon to do more of what he liked (scouting), while handing off other responsibilities (contracts, salary cap, etc.) to new GM Tom Rowe and his young assistants, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier.
But not all in the Florida media are buying, apparently.
I can retire now. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen teams fire everyone after bad, average and even mildly disappointing seasons. But I’d never seen a team replace people who created a record-setting season that buoyed the franchise’s future.
Until the Florida Panthers over the last few days.
Hyde goes on to question the Panthers’ new, analytics-focused direction. (If that direction sounds similar, it’s because the Arizona Coyotes are taking the same route.)
His column finishes like this:
This should be an offseason of great hope for the Panthers. Instead, it’s now weighed down with a question of recent days. It’s not what Tallon’s diminished role is or who Rowe is.
The question starts here: Does Vinnie Viola know what he’s doing?
And that’s a fair question to ask of any owner. Especially a new one.
That being said, it’s also fair to question how much Tallon and Luce should be credited for the Panthers’ turnaround. After all, since Tallon was hired in 2010, Florida has had the first overall draft pick (Ekblad), the second overall pick (Barkov), and two third overall picks (Gudbranson, Huberdeau). Yes, there have been a few savvy picks — Vincent Trocheck in the third round stands out — and a few good additions via trade. But really, with all the blue-chip talent they’ve been gifted, making the playoffs this year was the least they should have expected.
“It’s a great game, but a tough business sometimes,” Rowe said of the firings, per the Sun Sentinel. “The fans came out in big numbers and it was awesome. We made the playoffs and that’s good. But at the end of the day, I didn’t think we had enough punch in the playoffs and I don’t think we gave [coach Gerard Gallant] enough options to get past the Islanders on our third and fourth lines.”
Regardless of where you stand on what’s happening in Florida, you can’t deny it’s all quite reminiscent of the summer of 2009, when Tallon was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks, replaced by the much-younger Stan Bowman.
Here’s a column that was written by the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Morrissey after that decision was made:
Wirtz and McDonough wanted to have their own crew in place. Fair enough. They don’t even want a suggestion of the mustiness of the Bob Pulford era.
But let’s try to remember Tallon played a huge role in building a team that surprised a lot of people by getting to the Western Conference finals last season. How it came to be that they chose Stan Bowman over Tallon is no secret. There had been rumblings for most of the year that Tallon would be out.
Yes, anybody could have picked superstars-in-training Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But let’s remember that anybody could have picked Michael Jordan in the first round of the 1984 NBA draft. The teams with the first two picks didn’t.
The Blackhawks, of course, won the Stanley Cup the next year, a month after Tallon was introduced as the new GM in Florida.