Reason to worry? Devils GM gives coach John MacLean a vote of confidence

Devils head coach John MacLean has already had his first season as a coach with enough drama and intrigue to fill a career and a lot of that is thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk. From waiting it out to get Kovalchuk officially re-signed in New Jersey to making him a healthy scratch on Saturday night, MacLean’s had enough attention brought to him. Throw in the Devils shaky start to the season and you’ve got a potential recipe for employment disaster.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has a bit of a dubious history for changing coaches if he sees fit whether or not the team is winning or losing and with the Devils in seeming disarray to start the year, fans are wondering if, perhaps, John MacLean might have something to worry about. Depending on what you think of a GM’s vote of confidence, you might think he’s got a lot to worry about as Lamoriello threw his support behind MacLean. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun finds out whether or not Lamoriello was even tempted to make a coaching change.

“There’s no thought whatsoever,” Lamoriello told ESPN.com Monday. “John has done an exceptional job. I have no issue with him. Our record certainly isn’t what any of us like, but it has nothing to do with coaching.”

Kovalchuk, who signed a 15-year, $100 million contract in the offseason, had tongues wagging around the league Saturday night when he was made a healthy scratch before a 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. While no one involved would explain why exactly the decision was made, reports suggest he was late for a team meeting Saturday morning.

Either way, Lamoriello backed the decision.

“I am totally supportive,” Lamoriello said. “Without question I was aware of it … and without question I was supportive. So enough said.”

It would be awfully early in the season, not to mention MacLean’s NHL coaching career, to decide to send him packing so it’s worthwhile to see how MacLean adjusts and can right the ship in New Jersey. Of course, if the team continues to play inconsistently and the team stays mired in mediocrity, Lamoriello’s hand may be forced to make a change. After all, one of MacLean’s assistant coaches is former multiple-time head coach Larry Robinson so if things do stay sour, there’s someone that Lamoriello is comfortable with right there on the bench already.

For MacLean, getting Lamoriello’s support is a good thing to have as he makes for a pretty tough boss. Then again, if it’s the stereotypical “vote of confidence” and it serves more as a public warning to get it together, it’s doubtful that that would surprise too many people.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.

Penguins’ Hornqvist hurt after blocking shot vs. Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have had to shuffle their forward combinations in the second period, after Patric Hornqvist was hurt blocking a shot in the first period of Game 2 versus the Capitals.

The Penguins forward was in obvious pain after taking a shot right around the ankle, which is a concerning development for Pittsburgh.

Per reports, he didn’t re-join the Penguins at the bench when the second period began.

Hornqvist can be a frustrating player to go up against, and he’s productive, too, with two goals and five points in six playoff games prior to Saturday.

Moving on up: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery, secure No. 1 overall pick

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The New Jersey Devils entered the Draft Lottery with an 8.5 per cent chance of winning it. They will leave with the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.

The Devils finished the regular season with just 70 points, tied with Arizona for the third fewest in the overall standings. They’ve also had plenty of difficulty scoring goals in recent years, and this provides them with an opportunity to land a player — forwards Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are expected to be the top two players selected in June — that can help remedy that.

It’s become quite a close race between the two heading into the draft, which goes June 23-24 in Chicago.

From Bob McKenzie of TSN:

For TSN’s Draft Lottery edition, five scouts ranked the 6-foot-2, 198-pound Patrick No. 1; five scouts ranked the 6-foot-1, 176-pound Hischier No. 1. The Swiss pivot has closed the gap with his dynamic play, which came at a time when Patrick’s injury-riddled season was ended prematurely by an upper-body ailment that wasn’t related to the groin/abdominal issues that plagued him for the first half of the season.

While the Devils emerged as the overall winners, the Philadelphia Flyers had an enormous rise up the board. So, too, did the Dallas Stars.

The Flyers had just a 2.2 per cent chance of winning the lottery, yet they moved all the way up into the No. 2 selection spot when it was over. The Stars, with a 5.8 per cent chance of winning the lottery, also had a good day, moving up into the No. 3 overall spot.

Here is the 2017 draft order:

  1. New Jersey Devils
  2. Philadelphia Flyers
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. Colorado Avalanche
  5. Vancouver Canucks
  6. Vegas Golden Knights
  7. Arizona Coyotes
  8. Buffalo Sabres
  9. Detroit Red Wings
  10. Florida Panthers
  11. L.A. Kings
  12. Carolina Hurricanes
  13. Winnipeg Jets
  14. Tampa Bay Lightning
  15. New York Islanders

As you see, there were a few other key developments in this lottery.

Vegas was given a 10.3 per cent chance at winning the top pick — the same odds given to the 28th place team — however, the Golden Knights will pick sixth overall. The Colorado Avalanche, which finished with a miserable 48 points and had the best odds to win lottery, now pick fourth overall.

And once again, the Canucks endured more disappointment at the lottery.

Last year, they dropped two spots, from third to fifth. Needing an impact forward in order to help kickstart their rebuild, they dropped three spots, from No. 2 to No. 5 overall, on Saturday.

Related: Report: Devils GM plans to reach out to Kovalchuk’s agent next week