Paul MacLean

2011-12 season preview: Ottawa Senators

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2010-11 record: 32-40-10, 74 points; 5th in Northeast; 13th in East

Playoffs: Did not qualify

Not that long ago, the Senators boasted one of the most talented rosters in the NHL, with a star-studded top line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson supported by talents like Zdeno Chara and Martin Havlat. (History is still trying to cope with what Wade Redden meant to those teams.)

The 2010-11 version was a far cry from those glory days. Heatley, Chara and Havlat are long gone while Spezza struggles to stay healthy and Alfredsson is likely a season or two from riding off into the sunset. GM Bryan Murray keeps firing coaches, but the hope is that former Red Wings assistant Paul MacLean can make magic with an ugly roster.

MacLean’s mustache is magical, if nothing else.

Offense

Only the New Jersey Devils (174 … seriously) scored fewer goals that Ottawa’s pitiful 192 last season. Despite missing 20 games, Spezza topped all Senators players with 57 points. Their second highest point producer was All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson (45). No one else broke the 40-point barrier. Yup, that edition was pathetic.

Nikita Filatov is the most notable offensive addition (stop laughing), unless you count first-round pick Mika Zibanejad. The one bright side – and expect this to be a running theme – is that the Senators basically have nowhere to go but up.

Defense

Well, uh … they still have Chris Phillips. Karlsson made the All-Star team, too. So they have that going for them.

The Senators probably wish they could take their logjam of defensemen and combine a few of them into a Frankenstein monster who could actually make a difference on this team. Imaginary mad science aside, there is at least one dream that isn’t totally crazy: maybe Sergei Gonchar can get his act together after an abysmal debut season. If Spezza and Alfredsson are healthy, the Senators might have a shot at putting a passable power play together with a rejiggered Gonchar, creating a combination that might help them steal a few games.

Goalies

Even though his contract is highly questionable, the Senators made a solid move in tabbing Craig Anderson as their goalie of the (near) future. Anderson struggled mightily last season after carrying a flawed Colorado team to the playoffs in 2009-10, but his previous work suggests that he can be at least an average starter in the NHL. That probably won’t be enough for next season, but if they can start putting things together, he should help them turn things around long-term.

Alex Auld has the chops to give Anderson a breather every know and then, which is a relief because Anderson hasn’t had a full-time workload very often in his career.

Coaching

MacLean matured as a coach in Detroit’s system and followed Mike Babcock around as his mustachioed right-hand man. A lot of teams are going the ‘hire the hot AHL coach’ route, but San Jose excelled nicely with the ‘hire a Red Wings assistant’ routine. Perhaps MacLean will produce similar results as mostly-successful Todd McLellan has.

Breakout candidate

Line combinations tend to change a lot in the NHL and there have been rumors that Alfredsson won’t play alongside Spezza this season (presumably to spread out the team’s offense and cover up for some lackluster depth). It wouldn’t be surprising if they found themselves together quite often next season, though, which could bode well for young winger Bobby Butler. He scored 10 goals in 36 NHL games last season and could very well flirt with 20-25 if he gets significant opportunities alongside Spezza and/or Alfredsson.

Best-case scenario

If you’re a season-ticket holder: MacLean motivates an unproven roster to provide depth for the team’s small stable of stars. Anderson stands on his head most nights, proving that last season was the fluke, not 2009-10. Spezza and Alfredsson put together healthy seasons and average close to a point-per-game each. The Senators make it to the playoffs and scare a division winner in the first round before bowing out in Game 6 or 7.

If you’re a big-picture fan: Spezza, Anderson and MacLean do just well enough to retain Murray’s faith for the near future. Alfredsson serves a greater purpose, whether it means showing young kids the ropes, retiring at the end of the season or producing a surprisingly strong trade package at the deadline. The Senators pull off the rare feat of being both respectable and a lottery team, allowing them to stock up on another set of prospects while earning a little patience from fans and the beer can hoarding media.

Reality

The Senators are a lousy team, although Spezza and Alfredsson could very well produce bounce-back years (while Gonchar could at least be functional). Anderson is a solid goalie who might hit some serious slumps behind a talent-poor squad, but should be given the leeway to stumble here and there.

Ottawa could flirt (at least briefly) with playoff contention, but it would be in their best interest to lay low in the cellar and re-stock the cupboard with young talent. This franchise is in a really tough spot, so making the postseason just to get bounced dismissively from the first round wouldn’t do them much good.

Bruins’ offensive resurgence continues with six-goal game against Stars

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Are the Boston Bruins good again?

Because it is starting to look like the Boston Bruins are good again.

They were winners for the fifth time in their past six games on Sunday afternoon with a rather convincing 6-3 win over a Dallas Stars team that watched whatever remained of its playoff chances completely crumble in defeat.

Leading the way for the Bruins was trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak as they combined for three goals (including two from Bergeron) and six assists in the win.

The goal scoring started early with Marchand picking up his 27th of the season 5:56 into the game. David Krejci added his 16th of the season less than a minute later. Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner also added goals for a Bruins team that for the past couple of months has quietly started to become an offensive powerhouse since the start of the new calendar year. And that is not an exaggeration, either. Including Sunday’s game, the Bruins are up to 76 goals in the 23 games since Jan. 1, a goals per game average of 3.3 that is among the best in the league during that stretch.

The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio are all averaging more than a point-per-game since then, while Marchand’s 17 goals since the new year are the most in the league.

Their defense still needs some work, but with the offense starting to click again and with a goaltender that is capable of getting hot and carrying them for stretches this could be a team worth watching down the stretch, especially if they can secure a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division and get that path in the postseason.

One team you will not have to be worrying about the playoffs, though, is the Stars.

After Sunday’s loss they remain nine points back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after failing to gain any ground on the teams they are chasing.

At the moment the St. Louis Blues are holding the second Wild Card spot in the West with a 91-point pace. That means the Stars would need to finish with 34 points to reach 93 in their final 20 games to pass them. That would require a 16-2-2 run to finish the year.

This has been a massively disappointing season for a Stars team that was in the second round of the playoffs just one year ago and seemed to be returning a team that should have at least been a contender in the Western Conference. Instead everything has just completely fallen apart defensively, especially on the penalty kill where they are a league worst at 73.5 percent.

This Ryan Spooner goal in the third period, off of a ridiculous pass from Torey Krug, pretty much sums it all up.

Teemu Pulkkinen is available on waivers again

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23:  Teemu Pulkkinen #17 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on October 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Wild 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It was a pretty busy day for the NHL’s waiver wire on Sunday with four players — Florida’s Greg McKegg, Minnesota’s Ryan Carter, Zac Dalpe and Teemu Pulkkkinen — being placed on waivers.

The Wild being responsible for three of those players is obviously what sticks out there, but Carter, who just signed a one-year, two-way contract to return to the team on Sunday, must pass through waivers before he is able to join the team.

The Star-Tribune‘s Michael Russo has some thoughts on the decision to place Dalpe, who has appeared in nine games for the Wild this season.

Dalpe was placed on waivers I’m guessing to reset his waiver clock. He’s at nine games, so if the Wild wants to send him down after tomorrow’s game, he’d need waivers (and you can’t waive anybody past Wednesday, so the Wild wouldn’t want to get stuck).

If he gets taken tomorrow, at least the Wild can react. I can’t imagine the Wild would want to find out somebody grabbed him on waivers Wednesday — three hours before the deadline, so that’s why you do it today.

Pulkkinen, however, is the most interesting name here, not only because he has been on the waiver wire multiple this season, but because he is still a talented player that could be intriguing for a team looking to take a cheap chance on somebody that still seems to have at least a little bit of potential. At 25 he isn’t a prospect anymore, and this is the age where you would expect him to be established as a regular NHLer, but there is still talent here.

The Wild claimed Pulkkinen on waivers just before the season began from the Detroit Red Wings, then waived him again just 17 days later. He went unclaimed.

He has only appeared in nine games for the Wild this season, scoring one goal. He has 12 goals and nine assists in 79 games with the Red Wings and Wild.He has only appeared in one NHL game since the middle of October (a Dec. 17 game against the Arizona Coyotes). He has spent most of this season playing for the Iowa Wild of the AHL where he has 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 46 games.

VIDEO: Jamie Benn and David Backes fight right off opening faceoff

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Sunday’s game between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars gave us an opportunity to check in on the relationship between Jamie Benn and David Backes, and it seems that they still do not like each other very much.

Their on-ice feud continued literally as soon as Sunday’s game started, when they dropped the gloves right off the opening faceoff, which you can see in the video up above. It was clear right from the very beginning that fight was going to happen given the way they were discussing things before the puck was even dropped.

These guys have been going at one another for years, dating back to Backes’ days with the St. Louis Blues, and their fight (it was mostly a lot of jersey pulling at the start) on Sunday is already the third time they have dropped the gloves with one another in their careers.

Not much went right for the Stars following the fight as quick goals from Brad Marchand and David Krejci gave the Bruins an early 2-0 lead.

 

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Dallas Stars

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 20:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Dallas Stars scores a goal against Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins in the first period at American Airlines Center on February 20, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins are starting to get on a little bit of a roll and they look to keep it going on Sunday afternoon when they visit their old friend Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars.

The game will be shown live on NBC with a 12:30 p.m. ET faceoff and also be available on our Live Stream.

It’s a Star Sunday with the focus falling on Seguin and David Pastrnak, while the game will also have Dave Strader calling the play-by-play action on NBC. Strader recently returned to the Stars’ broadcast booth as he continues to battle cancer.

Click Here for the Live Stream

Preview: Bruins look to stay hot against desperate Stars