Dan Bylsma, Chris Lee

Dan Bylsma, Barry Trotz, and Alain Vigneault named Jack Adams Trophy finalists; Who wins?

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The NHL’s coach of the year award, the Jack Adams Trophy, always figures to be a hotly contested award and this year’s group of finalists are no different. With three different and intriguing cases to be made between Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma, Nashville’s Barry Trotz, and Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault, figuring out who wins the hardware this time around doesn’t figure to be any easier. There will be some controversy, however, over who was left out of the mix.

Dan Bylsma’s work in Pittsburgh to lead the Penguins to the fourth seed and very nearly winning the Atlantic Division title while playing half the season without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin shows that it’s not always about the star players in order to be successful in the NHL. While Bylsma was without his superstars and a host of other injuries that limited the Penguins ability to ice their ideal starting lineup, he altered his game plan and his means of attacking and defending against opponents. Many other coaches would’ve struggled to adapt without their stars but Bylsma persevered in the face of roster armageddon.

Barry Trotz should essentially be nominated for this award every year as he’s able to put together a playoff team from a roster filled mostly with guys unrecognizable to the common fan. This season he led the Predators to the fifth seed in the Western Conference and thanks to Pekka Rinne they’ve gone deeper into the season than the franchise has ever been before. Each year Trotz has a team that’s a pain to play against, plays tough and physical, and most of all wins games. At some point Trotz is going to win this award because he just does his job excellently every year. Could this year finally be the one?

Vancouver’s Alain Vigneault has an easy case to make for the Adams Trophy. He coached the Canucks to the league’s best record and the Presidents’ Trophy. With the array of talent on the Vancouver roster from the Sedin twins to Ryan Kesler to Roberto Luongo, it’s tough to lose games with those guys. Instead, Vigneault led the team to the most wins in a season in franchise history and the Canucks’ best chance at a Stanley Cup in their 40 years in the NHL. His case for the award is pretty self explanatory.

The surprises lie in who didn’t make the cut as a finalist for the award. Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher stands out as a snub and frankly we’re stunned as well. The expectations heading into this season for the Lightning were not very high and Boucher led them to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and had the Lightning on top of the Southeast Division for a good part of the season. While the three finalists all have great cases to be made to win the award, Boucher being left on the outside of the mix is stunning. Perhaps this was the voters way of rookie hazing. Other guys who could’ve deserved a look at the award as well are Rangers coach John Tortorella and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau for his means of adapting philosophies and making the Capitals a tougher team to deal with.

As it stands, there are three very worthy coaches up for the award, but who wins? Let us know in our poll who you think is most deserving.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 59 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Zach Parise #11 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Minnesota Wild during the first period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers

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It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.

Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.

Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.

On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:

It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.

Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?

The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.

Similar tweets might end up being relevant, however. Though betting against Price is also a dicey proposition.