Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Six

Columnist: If Canucks can’t come back, fire Vigneault

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Given the pitchforks are already out in Vancouver, no surprise scalpels are being brandished now too.

With the top-seeded Canucks down 3-0 in their opening-round series to No. 8 Los Angeles, the Vancouver media has already begun looking past the idea of a comeback (and hey, fair enough — teams up 3-0 go on to win 98 percent of the time).

Instead, they’ve started conducting the autopsy.

There have been healthy debates about personnel decisions, trade ideas, who should be the starting netminder and today, Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province added another topic to the list:

Who the next head coach should be.

Because of his long tenure enjoyed as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, it might be a useful exercise to mount something of a defence for Alain Vigneault after another season whereby it looks all but certain his team is going to come to another crashing, miserable end in the NHL playoffs.

Granted this agent may not be the most qualified for this, but those who worship the ground the man spits on will doubtless come out of their boots trying to keep him around because he’s an easy man with which to work…

…“I’ve been on teams where the coach has been fired a couple of times but it’s not decisions we make,” said Samuel Pahlsson, who was on hand when Scott Arniel was fired by Columbus in January this season. “We didn’t think it was the coach’s fault there.

When asked about here in Vancouver should the team lose this series he thought for at least two seconds and finally said: “It’s the same here.”

Players at this level always take the blame, publicly at least. Barring a recovery of historic proportions in this series however, it says here this group, however comprised next year, deserves to hear a different voice.

Some notes:

— Vigneault’s the most decorated (and arguably best) coach in Canucks franchise history, though his chief competition is Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford and two seasons of Roger Neilson. AV won a Jack Adams, was nominated for another, captured the club’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophies and got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Very healthy resume.

— There’s heavy speculation that Vigneault’s in the “fired at sunset, hired by sunrise” category of NHL head coaches. Ergo, if Vancouver cuts him loose there’s a good chance he ends up behind a bench at the start of next season (and given his ability to speak French, you can see where this is going…)

— To put Gallagher’s work in context, he wrote this in March after the Canucks went 5-6-2 over a 13-game stretch. The team then proceeded to win eight of its next 10 and finish first overall in the NHL.

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

The puck shot by Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel crosses the goal line as St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) attempt the stop during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

“We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

“They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

File that under “easier said than done.”

Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some reading to get you pumped up:

– The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

– Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.