2011 NHL Winter Classic Practice

PHT’s Three Duds of the Week: Coach-killing captains

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Every Monday, we’ll highlight (lowlight?) three of the NHL’s biggest duds from the past week.

1st Dud: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals captain

Key stat: One coach fired (allegedly).

Even though Caps GM George McPhee said firing Bruce Boudreau wasn’t just about one guy, chances are it was mostly about one guy — Ovechkin. CBC’s Tim Wharnsby pinned Boudreau’s firing entirely on Washington’s captain, claiming the infamous benching against Anaheim was Boudreau’s undoing.

“After that, Ovechkin pouted,” Wharnsby wrote. “He scored only three times in the next 12 games and the Capitals record was a poor 3-7-1. Boudreau had lost his team. He no longer had the support from the Capitals ownership nor general manager George McPhee.”

McPhee had to know his star player couldn’t languish 38th in goalscoring (tied with Travis Moen!) much longer, or continue to score at a 63-point pace. McPhee can say the coaching change wasn’t about Ovechkin…but it was about Ovechkin.

2nd Dud: Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes captain

Key stat: One coach fired (possibly).

If you’re looking for reasons why Paul Maurice is unemployed, look no further than Staal. He’s on pace for jaw-droppingly bad statistics; at this rate he’ll finish with 16 goals and 30 points and somewhere in the neighborhood of a minus-237 rating. (Estimating.)

Maurice tried everything short of Tony Robbins tapes to motivate his captain. He shifted linemates, he changed assignments, he even moved Staal to the wing — but nothing worked. It’s believed Staal’s issues are between the ears as opposed to a physical ailment (speculation is that concussed his brother, Marc, weighs on him still) so in that light, it’s tough to blame Maurice entirely.

But he’s the one that lost his job.

3rd Dud: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks captain

Key stat: One coach fired (impending?)

Next on the coaching hot seat is Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle. With his team at 6-13-4 and just one point up on last-place Columbus, he needs someone to step up and right the ship — which you’d think would be his captain.

Not so, says Jeff Miller of the OC Register.

Now is when the Ducks need Getzlaf to prove that the “C” on his jersey has been earned, not just awarded.

The last time he experienced something comparable to this, no one was leaning on him for direction. Now, each of Getzlaf’s teammates is looking his way – and the image they’ve seen hasn’t always been that of a leader.

It was Getzlaf who Friday lost the puck behind his own net, leading to what became the Blackhawks’ tying goal in the third period.

That was the misplay that prompted him to kill an otherwise innocent hockey stick.

“With Getzy, he’s trying to wear the weight of that captaincy,” Carlyle told the Register. “These are the times when it becomes very, very heavy.”

The burden of losing games and potentially costing coach his job? Yeah, that’s fairly heavy.

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.