Could Alain Vigneault become the next coach of the Canadiens?

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Now that Marc Bergevin’s been named the new general manager of the Canadiens, the next big question in Montreal is, who will he choose to coach? Because it won’t be Randy Cunneyworth.

Bergevin says that decision will be made “sooner than later.” And with no word out of Vancouver regarding Alain Vigneault’s future, it’s easy to understand the speculation that the coach of the Canucks could be back behind the bench of the Habs.

Yes, back behind the bench, for those who may have forgotten that Vigneault’s first head-coaching job was with the Canadiens, hired prior to the 1997-98 season and fired after 20 games of the 2000-01 campaign.

While Vigneault only led the Habs to the playoffs once, he really didn’t have much to work with. In fact, he was nominated for coach of the year in 2000 after salvaging a 35-34-9-4 record despite his team being decimated by injuries.

In Vancouver, Vigneault’s made the playoffs in five of his six seasons as coach and took the Canucks to Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup final. In his first season with the club, 2006-07, he won the Jack Adams Award. He was also a finalist for coach of the year in 2010 and 2011.

Oh, and he speaks French.

Of course, should Bergevin feel Vigneault’s the right man for the job, Vigneault would have to leave the Canucks first.

What are the chances of that?

From The Province, the case to fire Vigneault:

As much as Vigneault nearly directed the franchise to its first league championship and has a year remaining on his contract, he has also missed the post-season and been ousted on three occasions in the second round. Against the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks talked of how the experience of enduring a playoff marathon was going to benefit another long run this spring, how they were tailored to play any kind of game and would be just as happy to win 1-0. But they were never really ready and dropped the first two games on home ice. Players are paid handsomely to be prepared but it’s the coach’s mandate to ensure they are. The season-ending 2-1 overtime loss in Game 5 left the disturbing impression that outside of a failed Mason Raymond wraparound attempt in the extra session, the Canucks were trying not to lose the game rather than pressing to win it.

From the Vancouver Sun, the case to keep him:

If the Canucks can get better by firing easily the best coach they’ve had, by all means pass the blindfold and cigarettes. But unless the Detroit Red Wings are going to punt Mike Babcock – and why wouldn’t they because they lost in the first round, too? – it’s hard to imagine any of the small handful of coaches in Vigneault’s class being available as a potential upgrade.

Ultimately the decision may be Vigneault’s to make. Canucks GM Mike Gillis has voiced his support for the coach, and there’s even talk Gillis could quit if ownership forces him to fire Vigneault.

That said, it’s not preposterous to wonder if Vigneault would prefer coaching in Montreal over Vancouver. After all, it’s not every year the Habs job becomes available.

OK, lately it has, but you get my point.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.