If the Dallas Stars managed to win against the Minnesota Wild during regulation or in overtime on Sunday, they would be big-time underdogs against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, they lost a soul-crusher to the Wild and found themselves two points out of the postseason.
This marks the fourth time Crawford has been fired or resigned from a head coaching position in the NHL. He coached the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup victory and helped the Vancouver Canucks make the playoffs in the Markus Naslund/Todd Bertuzzi days. Unfortunately, his luck hasn’t been so great in his last two coaching stops, as he failed to make the playoffs in two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and now the Stars.
While I was highly critical of the Stars making the move to hire Crawford when GM Joe Nieuwendyk chose him as their head coach for the 2009-10 season, this still comes as a surprise. This team is clearly at a crossroads with their ownership situation in flux and Brad Richards’ free agency in limbo because of that, but the move is made that much more surprising considering the fact that the team will still pay his salary for next season (according to Defending Big D).
The more I follow these coach firings, the clearer it becomes that the coach is only a part of the problem. Let’s face it, the Stars aren’t a deep team. They rely far too much on the top of their order to win games. They don’t get much offense outside of the outstanding Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson-Jamie Benn line and the occasionally hot Brenden Morrow-Mike Ribeiro combo. Their defense is a clear weakness, even if Stephane Robidas is underrated and Alex Goligoski fits in fairly well. The team leaned too much on those top players, plus surprisingly healthy goalie Kari Lehtonen; that’s something that reflects on the stingy ownership and general manager as much as it does on Crawford.
Still, Crawford and the Stars had a win-and-you’re-in situation and they fell on their faces, particularly during a disappointing second period. Someone had to take the fall and so it was Crawford and his magical follicles.
Fair or not, it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll earn a fifth gig in the NHL. The questions remain: how will the Stars clean up this mess and who will be the coach to guide them through it?
Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes
It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.
Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:
Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49
Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.
Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.
Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.
Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.
Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.
Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win
Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.
The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”
Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.
The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.
So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus
Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.
Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.
The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.
Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.
Ignoring his one game with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity (it was bad), just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.
This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.
More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.
Greiss blanks Stars as Isles win in first game of post-Capuano era
The New York Islanders began the Doug Weight era in the same way Jack Capuano’s ended: with a shutout.
Yeah, it’s easy to forget that the Islanders actually won their last game under Capuano, consider all that’s happened since.
They blanked the Boston Bruins 4-0 on Monday and generated a 3-0 shutout against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. It’s quite a feather in the cap of goalie Thomas Greiss, who owns these back-to-back shutouts.
(It’s worth mentioning that, for all the Bruins’ and Stars’ flaws, they can be very explosive on offense …)
That Monday shutout wasn’t enough for Capuano to save his job, and the Isles still have a long way to go after this encouraging outcome. The East’s second wild card spot still seems like a long shot for Weight & Co.
Even so, the Islanders will take it. They play their next five games at home and seven of eight in Brooklyn, so if there’s ever a time for movement, it would logically come now.