Claude Julien looks to improve his Boston record in elimination games tonight against Guy Boucher

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One of the more curious angles on tonight’s Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay centers upon the head coaches. While both Guy Boucher and Claude Julien have had their hands full with trying to strategize ways to beat each other’s teams they’ve each got different histories when it comes to handling things when their team’s season is on the line.

During his tenure in Boston, Julien has a record that’s stellar against the team he used to coach for in Montreal but against others it’s not quite so good. Overall he’s 5-3 in elimination games with the Bruins but he’s gone 3-1 against the Habs in two different playoff rounds. In 2008 his Bruins rallied from down 3-1 to force a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs only to lose 5-0 in Game 7. This year, Boston knocked off Montreal in Game 7 to advance to the second round. We’re sure Boston fans would like to forget Julien’s record in Montreal coaching in elimination games as he went 3-1 that season with all three coming against the Bruins as the Canadiens rallied from down 3-1 in the series to beat Boston that year. Those Habs were then swept out by Philadelphia in the next round.

In 2009, the Bruins again rallied from down 3-1 to force a Game 7 against Carolina in the second round only to see series nemesis Scott Walker beat them in double overtime to knock the Bruins out of the playoffs. Last year we all remember the Bruins blowing a 3-0 series lead against Philadelphia and then a 3-0 lead in Game 7 to the Flyers before losing the game and series.

For Guy Boucher, his only record comes this year and the Lightning have been more than resilient as they rallied from down 3-1 against Pittsburgh to take that series in seven games and then won Game 6 against Boston in this round to give Boucher a nice 4-0 record in elimination games. It’s not much of a history for him, but if nothing else the Lightning have found numerous ways to win including a 1-0 shutout of Pittsburgh in Game 7 this year and an 8-2 win in Game 5 of that series.

Julien has the experience in these situations but Boucher’s ability to get his team to adapt styles when needed makes him more of the wild card. We essentially know what we’ll get out of Boston if they’re on their best game (and they should be) being tough defense, physical play, and quick counter-attack when they get the opportunity, especially when trying to take advantage of Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 defense. The Bruins have had more than a few 2-on-1 situations develop with varied success.

Tampa Bay will figure out ways to slow down the game if they get a lead at all. We saw it happen against an offensively stricken Penguins team in round one and similar play against the Capitals in Game 4 of their sweep in the second round. Boucher’s smart but he knows when it’s time to really buckle things down if they get in front. One way or another either Julien will get to shake off some gut wrenching Game 7 defeats in the past and provide himself with a new legacy to look ahead to or Guy Boucher will make even more fans wonder aloud about why he’s not a finalist for coach of the year.

Blockbuster: Rangers send Stepan, Raanta to Coyotes for No. 7 pick, DeAngelo

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Just when you thought Stan Bowman was the busiest man at draft weekend, John Chayka upped the ante.

Just minutes after acquiring Niklas Hjalmarsson from the ‘Hawks, Chayka went out and acquired veteran Rangers center Derek Stepan — along with netminder Antti Raanta — in exchange for the No. 7 overall pick at tonight’s draft, and young d-man Anthony DeAngelo.

The trade was first broken by TSN’s Darren Dreger, later confirmed by fellow TSNer Bob McKenzie.

Phew.

In Stepan the Coyotes get a massive upgrade at the center position, which was bereft of talent for all of last season. It’s why Arizona had been tied to Stepan for most of this week. The 27-year-old has consistently been able to go beyond the 50-point plateau, with 17 goals and 55 points last season, and will certainly be a boost to Arizona’s crop of talented young forwards.

Stepan’s entering the third year of a six-year, $39 million contract that comes with an annual cap hit of $6.5 million. And, importantly, the Rangers moved him prior to his no-trade clause kicking in next season. The money freed up by trading Stepan could be used in free agency to land, say, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

As for the other part of this deal, the Coyotes could also have their starting netminder of the future in Raanta, now that Mike Smith has been shipped off to Calgary. Raanta has been one of the league’s best backups working behind Henrik Lundqvist in New York, and a new No. 2 goalie is probably on the Rangers’ revised shopping list.

This trade also gives New York a pair of first-rounders this evening — the Rangers already held the No. 21 overall selection — which is important, given GM Jeff Gorton is without second- and third-round picks. They Blueshirts also received a good puck mover in DeAngelo, a former first-round pick himself.

DeAngelo, 21, made his NHL debut last year and scored 14 points in 39 games. He’s been described as a skilled offensive defenseman, but one with a history of disciplinary issues. That continued last year in Arizona, when he was suspended three games for abuse of an official.

More to follow…

 

Chicago Fire: ‘Hawks re-acquire Saad, send Panarin to Columbus as massive shakeup continues

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Stan Bowman has made good on his promise for big changes in Chicago.

Just minutes after sending longtime defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, Bowman got the band back together by re-acquiring former ‘Hawk Brandon Saad, who he traded to Columbus two years ago.

Per Sportsnet, the Blue Jackets will receive Artemi Panarin in exchange. Right now it’s unclear if any other pieces are involved in the deal, though earlier the ‘Hawks were reportedly looking to move up to the No. 7 pick in tonight’s draft, a pick Arizona currently holds.

UPDATE: Per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Chicago will also get goalie Anton Forsberg and Columbus’ fifth-round pick in 2018. Columbus will get Tyler Motte and Chicago’s sixth-round pick this year.

Saad left Chicago shortly after the 2015 Stanley Cup win, in a deal that landed the ‘Hawks Artem Aninisov and a handful of others. The 24-year-old has since gone on to score 31 and 24 goals in his two years with the Blue Jackets.

Immediately after Saad left, Panarin joined the ‘Hawks and immediately stepped in as a frontline contributor. He’s posted back-to-back 30-goal campaigns — capturing the Calder as the NHL’s top rookie in 2016 — and has been a dynamic offensive player, often alongside Patrick Kane.

As for the money involved, both carry identical $6 million hits. Big difference is that Saad’s locked in through 2021, whereas Panarin is eligible to be a UFA in 2019. So there’s certainly more cost certainty for Bowman with this trade.

More to follow…

After helping ‘change the culture,’ Greene’s Kings career ends with buyout

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The Los Angeles Kings made it official on Friday and bought out the remaining years of defenseman Matt Greene‘s contract.

Greene spent nine years as a member of the Kings, winning two Stanley Cups with the team in 2011-12 and 2013-14.

In a statement announcing the move, team president Luc Robitaille spoke about Greene’s impact on the organization and how he helped change the team’s culture as soon as he arrived.

“Matt has made incredible contributions to our hockey club and we are very grateful for everything he has done since joining our organization including his outstanding leadership,” said Robitaille.

“Upon his arrival to Los Angeles he played a significant role in helping change the culture of the Kings and his contributions to our two Stanley Cups in particular is immeasurable.”

Injuries have completely decimated Greene’s career in recent years, limiting him to just 154 games over the past five seasons.

The buyout will cost the Kings a salary cap hit of $833,333 for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.

Trade: Chicago sends Hjalmarsson to Coyotes for Murphy, Dauphin

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One of the key pieces of Chicago’s three Stanley Cup championships is on the move.

Blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson, who’s spent his entire 10-year career with the Blackhawks, has been dealt to Arizona in exchange for fellow defenseman Connor Murphy, and prospect Laurent Dauphin.

Hjalmarsson, 30, has been a staple of the Chicago defense for quite some time. He’s durable, having only missed 11 games over the last four seasons, and has earned his reputation as a reliable top-four defensive defenseman.

As for the financials, Hjalmarsson has two years remaining on a five-year, $20.5 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit. It’s worth noting he has a modified no-trade clause, in which he had to submit a 10-team trade list.

Murphy, 24, just wrapped the first of a six-year, $23.1 million deal with a $3.85M hit. That he was moved has to come as some surprise, given he signed a lengthy extension just last summer and, at the time, GM John Chayka said Murphy was “a guy we think can be part of our leadership group for a long time moving forward.”

Murphy appeared in 77 games for the Coyotes last year, scoring 17 points. It’s probably worth noting his TOI actually decreased after signing his extension, from 20:30 in ’15-16 to just 19:11 last year.

Dauphin, 22, was the 39th overall pick in 2013. He split last year between Arizona and AHL Tucson, and was a good scorer at the minor league level (28 points in 38 games).