Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson stands behind the bench during third period against the Florida Panthers in NHL hockey action in Sunrise, Florida

Brian Burke says Ron Wilson will be back to coach Maple Leafs next year

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Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke has always been loyal to the coaches he hires. Whether in Vancouver, Anaheim, or Toronto, Burke has never fired a coach he hired for the organization. He publically gave Mike Keenan the boot in Vancouver and installed Marc Crawford to guide the Canucks, but Keenan was already there when Burke arrived on the scene. Since then, he’s always kept his coaches around. He’s only had to replace one since—when Mike Babcock bolted from Anaheim to lead the Detroit Red Wings. Other than that, he’s always stood behind the men who stand behind the bench.

Despite the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs are desperately fighting for their playoff lives (and are likely to finish on the outside looking in), it looks like Ron Wilson’s job is safe for at least another summer. James Mirtle from The Globe and Mail had the scoop:

“I said back in the fall, we would not consider a change, even when all the hounds were baying,” Burke said. “I feel the same way now. Ron is coaching this team next year.”

(Re: Wilson’s contract that is up expires at the end of the season):

“I’m not worried about anything like that now,” the coach said. “I’m sure it will [take care of itself]. I’ve got a contract for next year, so beyond that doesn’t bother me.”

Given Burke’s track-record, this isn’t exactly the most surprising news. Yet hearing a coach is safe even though he’s missed the playoffs for three straight seasons under the heavy scrutiny that only the Toronto media can provide still comes as a bit of a surprise. Apparently fans in Canada will have to wait until October to start the “Fire Wilson” rumors back up again.

Now technically, Ron Wilson was not hired by Brian Burke. Wilson arrived in Toronto a few months before Burke arrived on the scene—but it’s long been speculated that the Wilson/Burke relationship would help bring the GM to the Maple Leafs. If you are inclined to believe that kind of conspiracy theory, then this is simply another case of Burke taking care of his own.

Regardless, when looking at all the two have been through together, there’s no questioning that Ron Wilson is Brian Burke’s man. He’s had ample opportunity to run Wilson out of town when the Leafs were at the bottom of the standings and when fans/media were crying for his head. Despite the pressure, Burke has always remained firm and stood confidently behind his coach.

For a guy who creates so much controversy, these kind of conservative takes on his coaches is down-right boring. After all, this isn’t how John Ferguson, Jr. would do it.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.