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.

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.

Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash

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Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.

Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.

One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.

He also had a few choice words for No. 87: