Brian Burke

Leafs officially eliminated from playoffs, but Burke might keep his job

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With a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the seemingly inevitable became official: the Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated from the playoffs.

Now the obvious question for the free-falling Leafs is: what’s next? If you believe Dave Shoalts’ unnamed sources, embattled (and profoundly entertaining) GM Brian Burke will be there to shape the team in 2012-13.

Efficient may not be a popular word right now when it comes to the Maple Leafs and their general manager, Brian Burke, but the board has no plans to fire him.

The MLSE insider, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, also does not expect this to change when BCE Inc., and Rogers Communications Inc., officially become the owners of 75 per cent of MLSE some time this summer. He can’t say that for sure, of course, but he also said he has no reason to think either communications giant will demand Burke’s head before his contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 NHL season.

Shoalts goes on to detail some of the wins and losses of Burke’s tenure, although I must play the devil’s advocate on the Phil Kessel deal to some extent. Yes, Dougie Hamilton could be a good-to-great NHL defenseman and Tyler Seguin is beginning to show his promise with 61 points this season, but Kessel was absolutely outstanding for most of this season. (Yes, Kessel might have his flaws, yet it might be time to downgrade that trade from the “awful” category.)

There is one “benefit” from the Maple Leafs plummeting ways (whether Burke is there to take advantage or not): Toronto is tanking its way to a possible lottery pick. NHL Network provided this helpful look at the lottery situation, which I’ll share in text form:

Tank watch

Anaheim: 6 games left, 75 points
Islanders: 6 games left, 75 points

Lottery Teams as of this writing
Toronto: 5, 75 (8.1 percent chance for the top pick)
Minnesota: 6, 72 (10.7 percent)
Montreal: 6, 72 (14.2 percent)
Edmonton: 6, 71 (18.8 percent)
Columbus: 6, 55 (48.2 percent )

(Boy, the Islanders must feel great about smiting the Pittsburgh Penguins, right?)

The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in the post-lockout era, so “wait til next year” is the sort of phrase that likely sends Toronto fans to the nearest pub, but the team should be able to add a nice prospect to try to turn things around.

It just remains to be seen if Burke will get another year or two to try to steer that ship.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champions this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, three off his college career high set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, bumping the number of players from that program’s junior class to turn pro to four since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, a 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.

 

Video: Roussel opens the scoring for Dallas and Elliott wasn’t happy about it

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The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.

Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.