On the future of Torts

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Brad Richards’ contract may not be the only casualty of a second-round exit by the New York Rangers. There’s also reason to wonder if John Tortorella is about to coach his last game for the team he’s led the past five postseasons.

Indeed, if the Rangers are swept by the Bruins tonight at Madison Square Garden, the calls for a new bench boss in the Big Apple will be loud.

Not by all, of course.

Tortorella is a polarizing figure. Some love his no-nonsense style and the way he handles players and reporters; some hate it and would vehemently disagree with the descriptor “no-nonsense.”

But that’s mostly just noise. Wins are what matter for head coaches in the NHL, and three playoff series victories in five postseasons isn’t good enough given the high expectations, not to mention payroll, in New York.

Many critics will point to Tortorella’s inability to coax offense out of a lineup that features no shortage of high-priced talent up front. New York is averaging just 2.1 goals per game in the 2013 playoffs. Last year, the Rangers scored three or fewer goals in all but one of their 20 postseason games.

To Tortorella’s credit, the Rangers almost always play hard, and they’ve shown they’re not afraid to sacrifice for the betterment of the team by blocking lots of shots. But is collapsing in the defensive zone a winning style? Isn’t it better to possess the puck; not be constantly diving in front of it?

Oh, and the entertainment value isn’t particularly high either, if that’s a concern for ownership, which is in the business of entertainment.

All that said, at least one reporter who’s covered the Rangers closely the past few seasons doesn’t believe Tortorella will be fired.

Writes Dave Lozo for theScore.com:

Tortorella has one more year left on his contract and will enter next season with a true contender. If the Rangers struggle in their first 20 games, maybe something happens. Who would the Rangers get to replace him now? Lindy Ruff? Alain Vigneault? Mark Messier? I’ve been wrong before, but there’s just no way Tortorella is going anywhere after this season unless a mutiny happens.

Related: ‘I hope to coach again,’ says Vigneault

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the (brief) hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Here’s the Jurco goal:

Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:

Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.

Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.