It’s tough to say that I was surprised to hear that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello decided to fire overwhelmed coach John MacLean, even if I think the true fault falls at the feet of the seemingly bullet-proof “Loophole Lou.” After all, MacLean didn’t err profoundly by giving Ilya Kovalchuk a $100 million nor did he lean toward nostalgia with questionable acquisitions of Jason Arnott and Brian Rolston over the last few years.
But ultimately the coach’s head was lopped off, as is often the case with sports teams. You may know the cliche that “you cannot trade the whole team” after all.
So the Devils once again took a trip down memory lane by bringing back Jacques Lemaire for the third time in franchise history. So, the question is: how are some of the biggest figures in the organization reacting to the changes? We’re so glad you asked, because Tom Gulitti of the Fire & Ice blog found answers from high-priced sniper Kovalchuk, team captain Jamie Langenbrunner and team owner Jeff Vanderbeek.
Kovalchuk insisted he had no problems with MacLean, though he was scratched for an Oct. 23 game against Buffalo because he was late for a mandatory meeting the morning of the game.
“I’m not the reason (why MacLean was fired). Don’t worry,” Kovalchuk said. “Everybody has their own opinion, but in the situation that we are, (a coach gets fired). It’s unfortunate, but we have to live with it and move forward.”
When asked to describe his relationship with Lemaire, Langenbrunner said,“We’ll see. Right? You guys obviously wrote a lot about what that was like last year – some truth, some not. I respect him as a coach. I think he’s a very smart hockey man. We’ll do what’s best for the team. He’s a very good hockey guy.”
We’ll see? That’s an interesting way to start off an otherwise PR-soaked answer, isn’t it?
Finally, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek was saddened that the team needed to fire MacLean but also admitted that change was needed. Of course, many will question whether this was the right type of change. But as Langenbrunner would say, “we’ll see.”
Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames
While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.
Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).
The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 59 points and a game in hand on the Flames.
Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.
Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.
Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.
This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.
But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)
The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.
Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).
In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.
You might even be tempted to believe the hype.
Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points
If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.
It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.
Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:
Central Division title chase
1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)
Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.
Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).
The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.
Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers
It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.
Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.
He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.
Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.
On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:
It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.
Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?
The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.
This tweet might only live for a few minutes, but the Ottawa Senators are in first place in the Atlantic Division.