2011 NHL Winter Classic Practice

Need a new head coach? Root against Bruce Boudreau’s Washington Capitals

At this very moment in time, Bruce Boudreau’s hold over the Washington Capitals head coaching job might be the safest it has been all season long. Yet if you’ve paid even a faint amount of attention to the NHL playoffs – even just the Capitals’ series during the Alex Ovechkin era – you know that a team’s fortunes can turn on a dime.

After all, the Caps held a 3-1 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in their 2010 first round series before Jaroslav Halak switched bodies with ’90s Dominik Hasek for about a month. For all the justifiable talk about the changes Washington made during their transition from a runaway offensive train to a standard issue defensive team, their margin of error has been paper thin. Besides, if any goalie can duplicate Halak’s magical run, it’s all-world New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Although I think the Capitals would likely make an error if they booted bellicose Bruce Boudreau out the door if the team fails in the playoffs, that doesn’t mean it cannot happen. That would be a sad day for many (not just for DC-area Baskin Robbins shops), but one team’s firing is another team’s potential genius hire.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Boudreau would fit in with the NHL teams currently looking to fill some coaching vacancies (in alphabetical order).

Dallas – Sure, the Stars have ownership issues and probably won’t have Brad Richards next season. Even so, the team has some building blocks in place for Boudreau to institute an attacking offense, especially if Jamie Benn continues his ascent as the next big thing at the power forward position.

From a selfish perspective, it would also be hilarious to watch Boudreau gain approximately 3,000 lbs. after gorging on BBQ and Tex-Mex food.

Florida – Boudreau isn’t that far removed from his days as an AHL coach; the Panthers aren’t that far removed from being an AHL team. All kidding aside, this team needs a new identity, so why not bring in a style that might actually appeal to casual sports fans?

Boudreau might have to pretend he has a deep connection to the Chicago Blackhawks franchise to get on GM Dale Tallon’s good side, though.

Minnesota – If the Wild really want to shed the label of being a yawn-inducing, trapping team, then hiring Boudreau would be the best way to accomplish that task. They already have a ringer for Mike Green in Brent Burns, although the team might need to convince Burns to get a bad hair cut to drive the point home.

New Jersey – On first impact, one might ask: “Aren’t the Devils a defense first, second and third team?”

It seems that way, but one cannot help but wonder if such a paradigm only works with a mastermind like Jacques Lemaire. After all, looking at their roster, it’s not like they have a bunch of Scott Stevens-types on their blueline.

If the Devils can retain Zach Parise, it might be time to re-cast the squad as a more offensively dangerous group. Besides, Boudreau connected with a defensively indifferent, frequently shooting Russian left wing in Washington … why couldn’t he do it with Ilya Kovalchuk in Newark?

Ottawa – “Cloudy” Cory Clouston* was fired for two main reasons: 1) he missed the playoffs and 2) he rubbed many players the wrong way.

If Eugene Melnyk and Bryan Murray believe that they should go with a polar opposite to Clouston, why not try go with a lovable, profane type in Boudreau? Something tells me Jason Spezza and Sergei Gonchar would be happy campers, if nothing else.

* – I made this nickname up on the spot. Could you tell?

***

Anyway, it’s obvious that Boudreau’s job is safe, at the moment. Yet if Boudreau stumbles and the Capitals decide to can him, the above teams should seriously consider giving him a shot.

If nothing else, he wouldn’t be boring.

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.