Paul MacLean

Babcock excited for protégé Paul MacLean’s opportunity

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Tonight’s opening night game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Ottawa Senators was more than just a game between a Stanley Cup contender and a contender for the #1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft. For the men behind the bench, it was an opportunity for Paul MacLean to show what he could do in his first head coaching gig. Behind the Red Wings’ bench, it was a chance to see one of their own trying to make the most of the biggest break of his career.

The bad news is that MacLean had to face his former team in his first game as the Senators’ new head coach. After falling behind 5-0, the overmatched Sens managed to make the final score a much more respectable 5-3 final score. The good news is that MacLean and the rest of the boys in Ottawa won’t have to face Detroit again until next season.

For MacLean, the first game as head coach was the culmination of a long road in the coaching world. After a successful coaching with Mike Babcock in Detroit, he was only a matter of time before he got his opportunity. MacLean explains:

“It’s pretty satisfying to get the opportunity to be a head coach in the National Hockey League. A lot of it has to do with being on a successful team and knowing what it takes to be successful in this League. Todd has done a great job in San Jose getting his team further and making it better and that’s the challenge for me — to do that here in Ottawa, as well.”

When listing people to thank, Babcock should be at the top of the pile. Not only had Babcock given him jobs in both Anaheim and Detroit, but he’s groomed the new Sens bench boss to be a head coach himself one day. There’s a key advantage when a head coach prepares his assistants to move onto better things one day. Just ask Todd McLellan for the Sharks.

Red Wings’ coach Mike Babcock holds no ill-will for MacLean moving onto Ottawa. In fact, quite the opposite. Babcock explains that when assistant coaches get promotions around the league, it’s a source of pride for himself and the organization:

“I’m a big believer that the best CEOs in the country… their people move on and do things. Some people stifle people and don’t let them grow and there’s no succession plan. I don’t believe in that. I believe that not just for players, but for coaches, it speaks highly of your organization if people are growing and developing and moving on. I’m proud of it. I’ve got lots of guys who I’ve coached with who are coaches now. I’m proud of that fact. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”

MacLean is certainly walking into a difficult situation this season. The Sens are trying to mix in prospects with potential, strong AHL players, and aging NHL stars. Last season they were one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference and most people have them picked to finish at the bottom of the Northeast Division this season. MacLean will have his work cut out for him if he wants to follow in Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan’s successful footsteps.

For now, he’s just excited for his opportunity. So is his former boss.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.