When Ken Hitchcock was canned in the disappointing season after the Columbus Blue Jackets made their first (and only) playoff appearance, many attributed the move to the way he clashed with young players, particularly Nikita Filatov and Nik Zherdev. If those two “mercurial” Russians’ fall from grace wasn’t enough to strengthen Hitch’s side of the story, the way he’s handling a youth-laden roster in the St. Louis Blues adds another degree of clarifying hindsight, as this Associated Press story discusses.
During a 1½-year absence from coaching after getting fired by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hitchcock prepared mentally and physically for what might be his final shot. While scrutinizing rosters and doing his own job of scouting, Hitchcock embraced a workout routine and improved diet habits.
He gets points for trying to better relate to a younger generation and its reliance on social media.
“He didn’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring,” [John] Davidson said. “He made himself a better man, a better coach, so when the opportunity came around he’d be ready.”
Perhaps Hitchcock is a better man and coach, but he came into St. Louis with a pretty impressive resume to begin with. Even if it’s difficult to decide if his struggles to “relate” with guys like Filatov and Zherdev were more myth than reality, that concept drove Hitchcock to embrace a (relatively) kinder and gentler side.
In a way that might just ape the way Tom Coughlin softened up ever-so-slightly to keep his job with the New York Giants (and eventually win two Super Bowls), the “new” Hitchcock is paying off in his new gig – especially with guys who are still pretty new to the NHL.
This past week Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby became the 86th player in league history to record 1,000 points in the NHL when he assisted on a Chris Kunitz goal in a win over the Winnipeg Jets. He is the 11th youngest player to reach the milestone, doing so at age 29 and making an already massive accomplishment that much more impressive when you consider the low scoring era he has played in.
Before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins’ first home game since Crosby reached the 1,000 point mark on Thursday night, the team honored with a pre-game ceremony that included a golden stick and a plaque made out of the roof of the old Civic Arena, the building in Pittsburgh that Crosby played in for the first five years of his career.
Check out the ceremony in the video above.
This season Crosby is second in the NHL scoring race with 64 points in 51 games, trailing Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid by three points (McDavid has played in eight more games). Crosby also leads the league with 31 goals entering play on Sunday.
More: Sidney Crosby records 1,000th career point
The New York Rangers are on some kind of a roll right now.
They were winners for the seventh time in their past eight games thanks to their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon and have now won 10 of their past 13 games to put a pretty massive gap between them and the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (they are now 13 points ahead of Boston).
Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello provided the offense on Sunday afternoon, with Zuccarello’s third period goal — his 12th of the season — going in the books as the game-winner.
It was also another strong day for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he continues to regain his form after a tough first half of the season. With Sunday’s 29-save performance he has now won nine of his past 12 starts since Jan. 18. During that stretch he has allowed two goals or less in eight of those starts and has an overall save percentage of .936 during that stretch.
The crazy thing about this run for the Rangers is that for as good as they have been, and for as many wins as they have stacked up in recent weeks, they are still in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and relegated to a wild card spot because the three teams ahead of them (Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus) keep collecting points. The Rangers are still two points back of the Blue Jackets (and if Columbus wins on Sunday night, it would be back to four points).
Just for some perspective on that, if they were in the Atlantic Division they would have a seven point lead. They would have a one-point lead over San Jose. They would be in second place in the Central.
For the Capitals, Sunday’s game was their second loss in a row coming out of their bye week after they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Detroit on Saturday.
It is the first time the Capitals have dropped consecutive games since Dec. 27 and 29. It is only the sixth time it has happened all season. They have lost more than two games in a row just once this season and never more than three in a row.
The Ottawa Senators have a chance to move into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division on Sunday evening if they can beat the Winnipeg Jets.
If they are going to do it they will have to do so without the services of forward Bobby Ryan.
The team announced on Sunday afternoon, less than three hours before puck drop against the Jets, that Ryan is going to be sidelined indefinitely due to a hand injury pending further evaluation.
The team says Ryan was injured in the third period of Saturday’s win over Toronto when he was hit in the hand by a puck.
In 50 games this season Ryan has 12 goals and 12 assists. He has been going through a bit of a scoring slump in recent weeks with only three points in his past eight games. He has also registered just 14 shots on goal during that stretch, including a pair of games where he failed to register even one.
The Senators enter play on Saturday just two points behind Montreal in the Atlantic Division. A win over the Jets would move them into a tie and, for the time being, give them the tiebreaker edge due to having played in fewer games.
The NBC Networks quadruple header of NHL action on Hockey Day In America continues on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh when the Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings.
The Penguins enter the game coming off of an overtime loss in Columbus on Friday night and continue to play through some injuries with Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz all sidelined at the moment.
They remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division and have not lost a game in regulation since Jan. 26. They have gone 6-0-3 since, collecting 15 of 19 points in the standings.
On Sunday afternoon they get a Red Wings team that was a 3-2 shootout winner over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. The Red Wings beat the Penguins in Detroit more than a month ago.
Game time is 3 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream.
Click here for the Live Stream
Hockey Day In American Quadruple Header