Joe Nieuwendyk,  Marc Crawford

Dallas Stars fire Marc Crawford after two playoff-free seasons

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.

And now head coach Marc Crawford finds himself out of a job.

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?

Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

Could there be more?

Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.

 

Jets’ Stafford to have disciplinary hearing after high-sticking Holden

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.

There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.

Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.