This might be a case of oversimplification, but it seemed like a light switch went on when the New Jersey Devils changed coaches last season. The team went from cellar dwellers to a squad on a scary hot streak toward playoff relevance when John MacLean made way for Jacques Lemaire, even if they still fell short of the postseason.
The most dramatic improvement could be seen in the play of Ilya Kovalchuk. The $100 million winger scored 23 of his 31 goals and 42 of his 60 points once Lemaire took over after clearly clashing with MacLean, who even benched him for a game. (That decision might have been the hockey version of “When keeping it real goes wrong.”)
Naturally, the unavoidable question for new Devils coach Peter DeBoer is: can he reach Kovalchuk? It’s way, way too early to jump to any conclusions, but the first game didn’t go too well. The Philadelphia Flyers stomped the Devils 3-0 and Kovalchuk was on the ice for all three goals, giving him an ugly -3 rating.
“When the coach trusts you, it changes everything. With Jacques, he had a style where you wanted to play hard for the guy. So that’s what happened. Jacques was one of those guys who would always say the right things at the right time, and he’d put every guy in this room in the right position to be the most successful. That’s why we were playing so well.”
DeBoer has a tough assignment ahead of him: get the most out of a top-heavy group of players who are used to success. DeBoer wasn’t working with much in his stint with the Florida Panthers, but hopefully he knows what to say and do with Kovalchuk and the Devils.
If he doesn’t, it might just cost him his job and keep the Devils out of the playoffs for a second season in a row.
Optimism won’t come as easily for Lightning after ugly loss to Canucks
They were able to find the bright side of recent troubles, but what do you really say after a 5-1 loss to the struggling Vancouver Canucks?
The Lightning have lost two straight, six of seven and seven of nine during a deeply worrisome run. While they did generate more shots on goal tonight, they’ve now given up at least 30 in all but three of their contests since the start of November.
If the playoffs began today, the Lightning would easily miss them.
“It’s time for us to step up here,” Ben Bishop said after a game in which he was pulled heading into the third period. “Nobody is going to feel bad for us.”
Blame it on injuries if you’d like, but Steven Stamkos isn’t coming back anytime soon. If they don’t get things back together, they won’t be playing for much once he can return.
#tblightning Cooper: "I don't even remember losing games by four goals. Ever. Maybe one a year. Now we're losing them once a week."
One team just can’t be denied. At times, the other team just can’t seem to defend.
It was a pretty wild one between the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night, with the ultimate result being a 6-5 win for the Flyers.
The ride was bumpy, dramatic and will probably provide Oilers head coach Todd McLellan with a lot of “teaching moments” (or, let’s be honest, reasons to yell really loud).
Things started promising enough for the Oilers, who built an early 2-0 lead thanks to a goal and an assist by Leon Draisaitl. You could then cue the horror music, as the Flyers scored three goals in a minute and 12 seconds to grab a brief 3-2 lead:
There might be some concern about a young team like the Oilers cratering from such a letdown, yet they bounced back … to an extent.
Edmonton rattled off three unanswered goals, giving them a 5-3 lead about five minutes into the third period. It seemed like it would be a redemptive moment after that three-goal blunder.
The Oilers? They didn’t even get what sometimes feels like a customary “charity point” by getting to overtime. Three isn’t a magical number for Edmonton lately, as they’ve now lost three in a row. It’s probably safe to say that this one will burn the most.
Avalanche beat Bruins, even as Pastrnak remains almost unstoppable
David Pastrnak is scoring at an astounding pace. Sometimes it’s still not enough to earn a win for the Boston Bruins.
The 20-year-old wunderkind scored both of the Bruins’ goals on Thursday, giving him a patently absurd 18 in 23 games. Pastrnak now has five goals in his last three games (not to mention a five-game point streak with those five goals and two assists).
Calvin Pickard was perfect against Bruins not named Pastrnak, however, and the Colorado Avalanche beat Boston 4-2.
Perhaps part of the problem was that the Bruins “other” MVP wasn’t in action, then. Tuukka Rask has been right up there with the NHL’s best, but it was Anton Khudobin in net, and he gave up four goals on just 22 shots.
Rather than taking a step up the ladder, Pastrnak’s made leaps. Similarly, Rask is more than merely rebounding from what was – for his lofty standards – a disappointing campaign in 2015-16.
The Bruins need more from their supporting cast members, however, especially when one of these two players can’t suit up.
Even the best goalie in the world – one who makes it look easy – can lose his cool sometimes.
(Heck, that used to be the domain of Patrick Roy, right?)
It was quite the sight on Thursday nonetheless: Carey Price absolutely lost his cool and went after Kyle Palmieri during the Montreal Canadiens’ game against the New Jersey Devils. You can watch that spectacle in the video above.
Palmieri received an interference penalty while Price received a roughing double-minor. Apparently fits of Price anger are rare:
Carey Price loses it?! That's like seeing a unicorn.