Fun with stats: Who’s leading the 2012 playoffs

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Every year, the playoffs provide small sample sizes that delight fans – particularly those who love surprises – and antagonize stat nerds. With between four and seven games to go in the 2012 Stanley Cup finals and some time off, this seems like a perfect time to take a look at the postseason stat leaders.

Most points: Ilya Kovalchuk (18 in 17 games played)

Kovalchuk also leads all postseason scorers with 11 assists. If the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup, he might just get his name on the Conn Smythe Trophy, which would really make a lot of people look silly for questioning his “clutchness.”

Most goals: Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere (eight apiece)

Despite missing a full round and only playing in 11 games max – Giroux actually missed one because of that suspension – the two Flyers’ forwards still are tied for the playoff Richard Trophy (so to speak). Giroux also only has one fewer point (17) than Kovalchuk. Those Philly forwards should be usurped soon enough, however, as Kovalchuk, Dustin Brown, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac are all tied for second with seven goals each.

Plus/minus: Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar (+13)

I’m not a huge fan of the plus/minus stat, but if nothing else, it’s another example of how dominant a one-two punch the Kings’ top forwards have been so far. Brown had a +18 all season long while Kopitar was at a +12 so they tend to win matchups anyway, but not to this extent.

Most points for a defenseman: Dan Girardi (12 points)

Bryce Salvador leads active blueliners with 11 points while Drew Doughty tops the Kings’ side with 10. Salvador got to that point in 18 games while Doughty only needed 14 to score 10 points. My money’s on Doughty finishing with the most points among playoff defensemen.

Most penalty minutes: Zac Rinaldo (48 PIM)

The Kings and Devils aren’t likely to fill the penalty minutes category. Dustin Penner leads active players with 26 PIM while Dustin Brown is right behind him with 24. David Clarkson has 20 to top the Devils. It will likely take the two teams a while to generate sincere hatred, too.

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

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Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

But that’s not happening.

In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

“The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run