Mike Babcock, Drew Miller

Early Ride on the Zamboni – Thursday, March 17th

For recaps of the three games that had an impact on the Eastern Conference playoff bubble, click here. We’ll pass along notes on the final two games later tonight, but in the mean time, here are recaps of six other contests.

Detroit 2, Columbus 0

When you become a group that only includes Scotty Bowman during his days with the golden era Montreal Canadiens and Glen Sather when he coached the Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers in its ranks, you’ve done something special. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock became only the third coach in NHL history to win 300 games in six seasons. With 11 games left, the Detroit bench boss might even be able to match Sather’s 307 wins in a six season span (Bowman’s out of reach with a staggering 321).

Babcock can thank a goalie who hadn’t earned many of those wins, as Joey MacDonald earned a 37-save shutout to preserve a 1-0 lead Drew Miller created just 33 seconds into the game. Valterri Filppula scored the Red Wings’ other goal, helping the team win its fourth in a row.

Montreal 3, Tampa Bay 2 (SO)

For years, Canadiens fans salivated at the idea of having French-Canadian star Vincent Lecavalier on their team. That didn’t stop them from cheering when he was booted from tonight’s game for slashing P.K. Subban, though.

Carey Price stopped 35 shots for his 34th win of the season, while Michael Cammalleri earned the shootout winner. Nigel Dawes scored the Habs’ other shootout goal in his debut for Montreal.

This win moves Montreal three points behind Boston for the Northeast Division title and also puts the Canadiens only three points behind Tampa Bay for the fifth seed in the East.

Nashville 4, Boston 3 (OT)

Sure, the Bruins wanted to win this game, but the Predators needed to if they wanted to keep pace in the complicated West bubble. Shea Weber scored an overtime power-play goal to win the game.

It wasn’t the Vezina Trophy matchup many were hoping for, as Tuukka Rask played instead of Tim Thomas. Pekka Rinne still made a statement, though, stopping 35 out of 38 shots.

Dallas 5, Chicago 0

With this win for Dallas, the Stars and Blackhawks have identical 38-25-8 records for 81 pts. In fact, they both have the same amount of regulation wins (33), shootout wins (5) and shootout losses (5).

Kari Lehtonen lead the way with a 25-save shutout while the Stars employed a scoring by committee approach. Red-hot youngster Jamie Benn scored yet again, justifying the feeling that he would fill James Neal’s shoes (or skates?) quite comfortably.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks players called it their worst loss of the season.

Phoenix 3, Edmonton 1

After struggling mightily, the Coyotes are hot again. They earned their fourth win in a row thanks to a great performance by Ilya Bryzgalov (35 for 36 saves) and nice work by forwards Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata (both scoring a goal and an assist each).

Phoenix is only one point behind the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks. Then again, the Kings could pass them based on games remaining if they win tonight, which is perfectly reasonable in this division.

Calgary 5, Colorado 2

This was probably the least surprising result of the night. The Flames handed the Avalanche their 10th consecutive loss in a row, but if that didn’t make it foreseeable enough, Calgary apparently beat Colorado on St. Paddy’s last year. In fact, the Flames must play well with green beer in their bellies, because apparently they are 9-5-2 on the holiday.

The Flames now find themselves in eighth place, although the Predators are nipping at their heels.

‘It was frustrating for me,’ says Tarasenko after struggling offensively versus Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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St. Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko has opened up about his play in the Western Conference Final versus the San Jose Sharks, who held the talented forward off the score sheet in five of six games.

It wasn’t until the third period of Game 6 that Tarasenko finally broke his slump, scoring twice as St. Louis tried one last desperation comeback attempt. It didn’t work. The Blues were eliminated and the Sharks are in the Stanley Cup Final.

“They played really tight and they backchecked so hard,” said Tarasenko, as per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s just experience. It was frustrating for me. I wish I could do better. I’m supposed to do better.”

After a 40-goal regular season, the 24-year-old Tarasenko’s point production through the first two rounds — versus Chicago and Dallas — was solid, with 13 points in 14 games.

But the Sharks kept him in check.

His lack of production became a key focal point as the third-round series carried on. Blues’ coach Ken Hitchcock, who signed a one-year extension to stay in St. Louis, admitted Tarasenko was “learning hard lessons” against the Sharks and that he had to fight through the tight checking in order to produce offensively.

As the series continued, Hitchcock added that Tarasenko just needed to play within the system, and that getting away from that is perhaps a “natural tendency” for young players pressing to make things happen in crucial situations.

There had been talk about a rift between Tarasenko and Hitchcock, especially after video replays showed the two in a brief but heated exchange at the bench during the first round. Of course, the coach later downplayed it.

As the Blues’ playoff run ended, there was speculation about why, exactly, Tarasenko didn’t address the media on the same day the rest of his teammates did.

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Ben Frederickson:

More importantly, Tarasenko’s no comment closed the book on his season without addressing the elephant in the dressing room.

There is growing speculation of friction between Tarasenko and the Blues. Is there a rift between the star and his club?

If I’m a member of that front office, I sure would have liked a player under contract until 2023 to squash such a story on Saturday.

On the subject of any perceived issues between the Blues organization and Tarasenko, both parties responded:

 

 

The Russians say they’re in ‘negotiations’ with the NHL to get Voynov into the World Cup

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Yesterday in Pittsburgh, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear that Slava Voynov was still suspended and, because of that, would not be allowed to play in the upcoming World Cup.

Bettman also said that the Russian Ice Hockey Federation had been told as much.

However, it seems the Russians — who last week added Voynov to their World Cup roster — still haven’t given up on trying to get the 26-year-old defensemen into the tournament.

From Russian News Agency TASS:

“The Russian Ice Hockey Federation is holding negotiations with the organizers of the World Cup – the NHL – concerning the issue of national team’s defender Vyacheslav Voynov,” the RHF’s press service told TASS on Tuesday adding that besides the Russian and US sides the negotiations also involve Rene Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

“The Russian Ice Hockey Federation hopes that the organizers of the international competition will make a positive decision on the issue and the defender will be allowed to be included in the roster of the Russian national team,” the RHF added.

Known in the United States as Slava Voynov he played in the past for NHL’s Los Angeles Kings before the North American Hockey League suspended him over domestic violence charges and the player returned last autumn back home, where he is currently playing for the national team and KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg club.

Time will tell if the Russians can convince the NHL to change its stance. They could sure use Voynov, given the relative weakness of their defense. But Bettman did not sound yesterday like he was open to a negotiation.

The Russians, for the record, have maintained that it’s not the NHL’s decision to make.

So perhaps that’s the big question here — who has the final say on the matter? Officially, the World Cup “is a joint effort of the NHLPA and the NHL, in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation.”

It’s just not entirely clear how that bit of boilerplate applies to the Voynov situation.

Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

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Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.