Lindy Ruff

Handicapping possible Lightning head coaches

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have a vacancy to fill now that Guy Boucher has been fired.

Team GM Steve Yzerman has a big decision to make on who to have take over the reigns of his scoring talented/defensively hampered team. Who are the candidates to pick from? Here’s a short list.

Lindy Ruff — The former Buffalo Sabres head coach is the available veteran. He’s close with Yzerman after the two worked together on the 2010 Canadian Olympic team. His track record in Buffalo is more than solid having coached there from 1997 until this season when he was fired by the Sabres. If Yzerman wants a guy with a wealth of experience, Ruff is there for the taking and TSN’s Bob McKenzie says they could be going for a veteran guy now.

Jon Cooper — The current head coach of the Lightning’s AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch, Cooper has a ton of experience working with many of the guys on the current roster. Cooper led the Norfolk Admirals to the Calder Cup last season and has the Crunch (it’s still the same team, just in a new place) at the top of the standings this year even in spite of all the call-ups.

The only question with Cooper is whether or not Yzerman would opt for another guy with no NHL head coaching experience. McKenzie says some of the Lightning veterans started tuning out Boucher. Would bringing in Cooper just be a continuation of that?

Dallas Eakins — The Toronto Marlies head coach is a guy who could be ready for an NHL job, but the Lightning would have to A) ask the Maple Leafs for permission to interview him and B) Decide a guy without NHL experience is a good fit. It’s not likely he’d be a pick here, but he’ll get an NHL job sometime soon, just probably not in Central Florida.

Mike SullivanLarry Brooks of the New York Post mentions him as a guy who could get consideration. He’s currently John Tortorella’s assistant in New York but his last head job came in Boston back in 2003-04 and 05-06 with the Bruins. Sullivan was an assistant in Tampa Bay in 07-08 so he’s connected to the team there. Question here is whether or not he has his eyes set on going for the head job at Boston University.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.