New Columbus coach thinks he can turn things around for Steve Mason, Nikita Filatov

scottarnielcoach.jpgThe Columbus Blue Jackets are hoping for an improved output in 2010-11 after a horrific 09-10 campaign, even though they haven’t added much in terms of talent. The Blue Jackets are pinning their hopes on the internal improvement that could come from adding new head coach Scott Arniel.

The question is, can Arniel save the day for his hockey team, much like his predecessor Ken Hitchcock helped thwart a shoplifter?

NHL.com caught up with Arniel today, asking him if he could improve the productivity of two talented but troubled players: goalie Steve Mason and prospect Nikita Filatov.

While Arniel “isn’t making any promises,” he did notice a few signs of possible improvement from Calder winner and Vezina candidate turned below average second year netminder Steve Mason.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is he’s taken on his conditioning, taking it to another level, and he’s worked hard this summer,” Arniel told NHL.com. “He spent time with goalie coach Dave Rook in London (Ont.) and he got in here early and looked good. I think after that success in his first year, he got very busy in the offseason and probably didn’t delegate the right amount of time to his training and it might have affected him early on in the season with the injuries. But he recognized that and it’s one area he’s looking after.

“I’ve told the guys that they need to control what they can control and to me that’s being in tip-top shape and working your butt off. From everything I’ve heard and seen so far, Steve has done just that.”

Thumbnail image for Steve Mason.jpgAs the NHL.com story pointed out, Mason’s issue might have been the fact that the league exploited his weak glove after gaining more video-based knowledge as the young goalie made more appearances. While some might wonder if Mason’s biggest issue is talent, Filatov’s problem might be between his ears. While positive actions will matter a lot more than optimistic words, Arniel also had some nice things to say about the talented Russian.

“Nikita has to come in here and earn a spot on our hockey team,” Arniel said. “There were some ruffled feathers last year by his departure to go back to Russia, and it certainly didn’t work out the way he had hoped. He didn’t have the success he thought he was going to have and I think he got humbled a little bit by it. I’ve had a really good talk with him and he wants to play here, he wants to make this work for him. He knows that if he doesn’t make the hockey team that he’ll go to Springfield (in the American Hockey League). We can use his offense if he comes in and buys in to what everyone else is doing.”

Then again, it’s not like the new coach is going to trash high-end prospects, especially in early September. It might not mean anything concrete, but the mere possibility that the team might have some much-needed stability should hearten Blue Jackets fans.

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    Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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    The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

    For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

    The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

    New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

    This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

    The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

    Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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    There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

    On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

    The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

    In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

    The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

    Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

    The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

    Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

    Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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    Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

    It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

    Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

    Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

    You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

    It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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    When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

    It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

    After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

    Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

    EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

    “Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

    Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: