Marc Staal

NHL coach on Rangers’ Staal: “I haven’t seen signs he’s getting better”

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Over at ESPN, Craig Custance continued his preview series of playoff-bound teams with an interesting piece on the New York Rangers — specifically, the analysis of defenseman Marc Staal.

From ESPN (Insider):

Depth on defense is a bit of a concern for the Rangers, and there’s a big difference if Staal is playing like a bottom-pair defenseman rather than a guy capable of playing on the top pair. “He’s gone, for me, from a Norris trophy candidate to a guy playing in the five- or six-hole, and he looks like it,” one coach said. “If he can get anywhere near that level, it’d change things … but I haven’t seen signs he’s getting better.”

Our scout isn’t quite as concerned. “He’s not great but certainly plays well within reason. He’s better than most at operating at 80 percent,” he said. “I think he’ll be able to take his game to a very good level. I’m not so much worried about him as I would be injuries [on defense] in general.”

By the numbers, Staal’s a fourth defenseman rather than a fifth/sixth — he’s fourth amongst all Rangers blueliners in time on ice per game (19:44), shifts per game (23.5) and shorthanded minutes per game (1:37).

Regardless, it’s a far cry from his role of last season, when he averaged over 25 minutes a game in the regular season before getting bumped to 28:01 per night in a five-game playoff loss to the Capitals.

As for this year, Staal missed the first 36 games dealing with the effects of a concussion suffered last February. While he has seen more ice time recently — there were three games in March where Staal played over 24 minutes — one wonders if he’s still out of sorts after missing what amounted to half the regular season.

One final note: Come playoff time, it’ll be interesting to see if Tortorella ever goes back to last year’s dynamic shutdown pairing of Staal and Dan Girardi. The two were often used to neutralize the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby but, with Girardi averaging over 26 minutes and night and now flourishing with partner Ryan McDonagh, it would be hard for Staal to get back in that mix.

BREAKING: Flames fire head coach Bob Hartley

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley gives instructions during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Saturday, March 5, 2016. The Flames won 4-2. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Associated Press
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The Calgary Flames have decided to move on from head coach Bob Hartley. The team made the announcement via their Twitter account on Tuesday morning. Associate coach Jacques Cloutier has also been informed that he won’t be back next season.

Hartley and the Flames surprised many last year when they won 45 games and made the postseason. Hartley was awarded the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s top coach.

What a difference a year makes. Unfortunately for the Flames, they won just 35 games in 2015-16 and finished 26th in the overall standings. They were also the NHL’s worst defensive team, and that doesn’t reflect well on the coaching staff.

The Flames have called a press conference at noon ET.

More details to come.

Kris Letang will have a hearing for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Many expected it to happen and now it has. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Penguins defenseman Kris Letang will have a hearing for his hit on Caps forward Marcus Johansson in Game 3.

After Brooks Orpik was suspended three games for this hit on Olli Maatta in Game 2, many people are expecting a similar outcome for Letang. It’s important to note that there are certain similarities between the two hits, but there are also some key differences.

Both victims definitely took shots to the head, there’s no doubt about that, but to say that the hits are identical isn’t accurate. First, although Letang’s hit appears to be late (0.6 seconds after the puck is gone is considered late), it isn’t as late as Orpik’s hit on Maatta. Another key factor to consider is that unlike Maatta, Johansson returned to the game.

Letang was given a two-minute penalty for interference on the play.

TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie breaks it down perfectly:

A decision is expected to be made later on today.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with three games on Tuesday night. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at NY Islanders (7:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 3 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

San Jose at Nashville (9:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 3 will be on the USA Network. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Dallas at St. Louis (9:30 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 3 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for tonight’s action:

Lightning strikes: Bolts even series with Islanders

The Sharks are the only team to grab a 2-0 series lead in the second round

Seguin resumes skating in Dallas, Ruff notes ‘they have flights to St. Louis every day’

PHT Morning Skate: Adam Henrique wants to make NHL 17 great again

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)

–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)

–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)

–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)

Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17: