Vancouver Canucks v Washington Capitals

Riding the Zamboni – Friday, January 14th

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Vancouver 4 – Washington 2

In what some were calling a potential Stanley Cup finals showdown, the Canucks showed the Caps what they’re all about. Daniel Sedin scored two goals while Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler each had a goal and an assist to lead the Canucks to victory. Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots in the win. For Washington, they were still without Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin was held without a point. Matt Hendricks and Marcus Johansson scored for Washington who continue their recent struggles dropping their third in a row. Semyon Varlamov stopped 31 shots in the loss.

Philadelphia 5 – Atlanta 2

The Flyers rebounded nicely after a brutal loss against Boston last night pouring five goals on Ondrej Pavelec and the Thrashers. Claude Giroux and Jeff Carter each had a goal and an assist and Sergei Bobrovsky got back on the winning side stopping 27 shots. Pavelec had a tough night dealing with the Flyers in the third period as they scored three goals late (including an empty netter) to ice the game. Pavelec made 31 saves in the loss. Daniel Briere scored his 24th goal of the season for Philly. Flyer fans are still wondering if his All-Star invitation got lost in the mail.

New Jersey 5 – Tampa Bay 2

Right when we get all excited about the Lightning and Dwayne Roloson they go and lose to the basement dwelling Devils in ugly fashion. Roloson started but didn’t finish the game after giving up four goals in the first period. Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice for New Jersey giving him 12 on the season. Brian Rolston and Travis Zajac each had a goal and an assist for the Devils who won their first road game since November 3rd snapping a streak of 11 straight road losses. At least Tampa Bay got a goal and an assist each from Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis with St. Louis’ goal being of the highlight variety. Still, a frustrating outcome for Tampa Bay in that they could’ve put some distance between themselves and their Southeast Division foes who lost tonight.

Columbus 3 – Detroit 2 (F/SO)

It was a heart-warming win for the Blue Jackets as their home win over Detroit was able to snap a string of five losses in a row and was able to make money for charity. Blue Jackets fans put up over $5000 for their “Money on the Board” fundraiser and with the win, the Jackets team is matching their output to give money to the Blue Jackets Foundation. The Jackets got the win in the shootout after Antoine Vermette was able to beat Joey MacDonald. MacDonald got into the game because Jimmy Howard left in the first period with a bruised knee.

It was a rough game for Detroit as they found out after it was over that Tomas Holmstrom broke his hand and will be out indefinitely. Detroit will have to bounce back fast as they’ll play the Jackets again tomorrow night.  Grant Clitsome and Jakub Voracek scored for Columbus while Drew Miller and Jiri Hudler scored for Detroit. Steve Mason stopped 26 shots in the win.

Colorado 4 – Minnesota 1

With the Wild having health issues with their goalies, Anton Khudobin was called up and tasked with the job of having to stop one of the league’s top offenses. After two periods, it was clear that wouldn’t happen as the Avalanche jumped out to a 3-0 lead and the Wild left the ice to a chorus of boos. The Avalanche got stellar goaltending out of Craig Anderson for the first time in a long time as Anderson stopped 32 shots in the win. Khudobin, on the other hand, stopped just 14 shots and gave up an embarrassing goal in the second period to Tomas Fleischmann on an innocent dump in.

The game was marred by an ugly incident involving Ryan O’Reilly as he lost an edge and crashed head first into the boards. He was taken from the ice on a stretcher and taken to the hospital for observation. Good news for him, however, as he flew home with the team to Denver.

Calgary 3 – Ottawa 2

Don’t let the score fool you, this game wasn’t exactly close. The Flames got two goals from David Moss and a third goal from Ales Kotalik to ice the Senators in the second period. Henrik Karlsson made it stand up with 33 saves on the night. The Senators made it close in the third with goals from Nick Foligno and Milan Michalek, but Michalek’s goal came with under a minute to go and the Senators already skating uphill to get back in it.

For Ottawa it’s an especially poor effort coming off their win over the Islanders to snap their losing streak. It’s apparently a poor enough effort to get the Ottawa Sun to call for coach Cory Clouston to be fired for starting Brian Elliott tonight instead of 19 year-old rookie Robin Lehner.

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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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.”

Related: A ‘no-brainer’ — Elliott will start Game 7 for Blues

B’s re-sign Kevan Miller: four years, $10 million

Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (86) is upended as he chases the puck against Florida Panthers left wing Jiri Hudler (24) in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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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.

Related: Kevan Miller is not the problem for the Bruins, but he does illustrate the problem

Oilers ‘owe it to the fans to get better in a relatively short period of time’: Chiarelli

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26: Peter Chiarelli of the Edmonton Oilers attends the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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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.

Related‘There’s a real legitimate chance’ that Oilers trade fourth overall pick

People are wondering — do the Florida Panthers know what they’re doing?

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Round One
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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.

From Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde:

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.