Adam Oates

In praise of Adam Oates

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Joel Quenneville led the Blackhawks to an amazing 36-7-5 record.

Paul MacLean helped the Senators into the playoffs despite a rash of injuries to star players.

Michel Therrien has been a great fit in Montreal.

But based on what the Washington Capitals have to say, Adam Oates deserves major consideration for NHL coach of the year.

“I’ve never had a coach that’s so in tune with his players,” forward Troy Brouwer told NHL.com. “He talks to you as if he’s still a player, but just a really smart player.”

And, of course, what can you say about the job Oates has done helping Alex Ovechkin get his scoring swagger back?

At the beginning of the season, Oates moved Ovechkin from the left wing, where the organization believed he had grown stale and predictable, to the right, where it was hoped the captain would give defenders something new to think about.

It didn’t work right away — perhaps it would’ve been a smoother transition had there been some preseason games to get comfortable — but sticking to the plan ultimately resulted in Ovechkin leading the NHL with 32 goals.

Communication, the Caps says, is one aspect where Oates excels, particularly compared to the last guy, Dale Hunter.

“It’s not a guessing game,” said d-man John Erskine, per the Washington Post. “Last year there wasn’t a lot of communication and this year’s totally different. It’s a 180.”

All compliments aside, Oates’ job wasn’t merely to get the Capitals to the playoffs. This franchise needs to have postseason success. An early exit at the hands of the Rangers and all the good work Oates has done won’t seem so commendable. They’ll just be the same old Caps that can’t get it done when it counts.

Related: Capitals-Rangers preview

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.

 

Video: Roussel opens the scoring for Dallas and Elliott wasn’t happy about it

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The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.

Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.

WATCH LIVE: Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks – Game 1

Nashville Predators' Paul Gaustad, left, defends against San Jose Sharks' Joel Ward (42) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in San Jose, Calif. Nashville won 2-1. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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After stunning the Anaheim Ducks with a Game 7 win in the first round, the Nashville Predators remain in California to take on the San Jose Sharks in the second round. You can catch Game 1 on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Sharks have some ‘pent up energy,’ eager to start series with Preds

Game 7 win is ‘a big step’ for Predators