Minnesota Wild coach Todd Richards bristles at ‘trapping team’ label

Sometimes it’s tough to shake a label, whether it’s true or not. Regardless of how much talent the Philadelphia Flyers stack onto their lineup, many people will still think of them as “bullies.” The Pittsburgh Penguins are associated with finesse even though they lead the league in fights and the San Jose Sharks will be considered “chokers” even though they made their way to the Western Conference finals last year.

These labels are especially tough to shed when – let’s face it – the hockey world isn’t exactly clamoring to find out that your team might be different. That seems to be the case with the Minnesota Wild, who might as well have been known as “The Mild” for just about their entire franchise history.

The neutral zone trap helped less talented hockey teams choke the passion, joy and artistry out of the game to win against tall odds, but it didn’t make the sport very popular in the late 90s. Minnesota’s pro team is associated with that trapping style dating back to newly reinstated New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire’s days, but current coach Todd Richards bristles at the trap talk.

Richards discussed the fact that the team doesn’t employ that strategy any longer with Adrian Dater of the Denver Post.

Nothing irritates the Wild and ITS fans more than the stereotype that just won’t die – that they play boring, trapping hockey. Now, while it can be argued that, trap or not, the Wild do play boring hockey still these days, they don’t play the neutral-zone trap anymore, coach Todd Richards told me today, after his team’s morning skate.

“We don’t play that way and I don’t coach that style,” Richards said.

Still, the image leftover from the Jacques Lemaire days, when the Wild trapped and trapped hard, still persist among players and media. Even with the elimination of the red line following the lockout, the stereotype of the Wild being a trap team wouldn’t go away.

There are some teams that DO try and play a non-red-line version of the trap – Florida is one, Boston another – but the Wild want to push the puck and have their D active at the other end. Doing that successfully has been another matter.

OK, coach Richards, let’s try to find a new label for the Wild? How about this: “The Minnesota Wild are an underacheiving/overpaid hockey team that still manages to be unmoving, unless Martin Havlat or Mikko Koivu happen to be on the ice (and on their games).”

Chances are pretty solid that the Wild (and Richards) wouldn’t be all that bothered by trap talk if people could accurately describe them as the best team in the Northwest Division or Western Conference as well. But from the looks of things, they won’t need to “worry” about that label for quite some time.

Scott Darling trade ‘worth the risk’ for Hurricanes

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The Carolina Hurricanes made a somewhat surprising move on Friday night when they acquired goaltender Scott Darling from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round draft pick in 2017.

On the surface it looks like a good move for both the team and the player. Goaltending has been a major thorn in the Hurricanes’ side for several years now, while Darling has probably earned the opportunity to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL after performing extremely well as Corey Crawford‘s backup in Chicago.

The risk for the Hurricanes is that Darling will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and they will have to get him signed to a new contract before then to avoid potentially losing him (and the third-round pick they sent to Chicago) for nothing.

Shortly after the trade on Friday, Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said all of that was worth the risk because the team has accumulated so many draft picks in this year’s class.

“This is a bit of a gamble but one we believed was worth taking,” Francis told Chip Alexander of the News & Observer. “This is why we accumulated these picks and we still have 10 left. It was worth the risk.”

He added that they would “like to get something done sooner rather than later.”

The duo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack finished the 2016-17 season with a .901 save percentage, 26th in the NHL. The Hurricanes have finished higher than 25th just once in the past five years. The Hurricanes have solid young core of talent in place and a defense that allowed the fifth fewest shots on goal in the entire league this season. Solidifying the goaltending position would go a long way toward ending the team’s current eight year playoff drought.

 

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Saturday, April 29

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoff continues on Saturday with a pair of games on NBC.

All of the action starts at 3 p.m. ET when the New York Rangers try to even their series against the Ottawa Senators. Later, the Pittsburgh Penguins look to take a 2-0 series lead against the Washington Capitals at 8 p.m. ET.

Here is all of the information you need for today’s games.

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Announcers: John Forslund, Brian Boucher

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Announcers: Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk, Pierre McGuire

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.