After earning a Jack Adams nomination in his first year on the job, then winning the trophy in his second, Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension.
“In two years, Paul has made a significant impact on the entire franchise, both on and off the ice,” Sens GM Bryan Murray said in a statement. “We feel that under Paul’s direction we have been able to develop into a team that is competitive each and every night and we are confident that he is the person we want behind the bench to lead us to our goal of being a championship level team.”
MacLean, 55, has enjoyed tremendous success in Ottawa since inheriting the head coaching gig from Cory Clouston in 2011.
He led the club to a 41-win, 92-point campaign in 2011-12, earning a surprise playoff berth and the aforementioned Adams nomination (eventually won by St. Louis’ Ken Hitchcock).
This year, MacLean outdid that performance — in the face of major adversity.
The Sens were without the services of Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson for large portions of the season, yet still managed to finish seventh in the Eastern Conference (25-17-6) — one spot higher than the season prior — and win a playoff round for the first time since 2007.
“Paul represents what we want to become as both a hockey club and as a franchise,” said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk. “He is a hard-working coach and an outstanding teacher and mentor of the game.
“I am very pleased and proud to extend Paul’s contract and look forward to his many future contributions to our team and to our city.”
A little scene setting for you.
New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.
As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.
Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.
(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)
But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.
He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.
The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.
The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)
So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.
The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.
The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.
It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.
After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”
In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.
It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.
Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.
The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.
Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.
Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.
Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.
The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.
Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.
One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.
He also had a few choice words for No. 87: