Martin St. Louis

St. Louis: ‘Am I playing great? No. But I’ve played way worse than this’


The numbers are in from Martin St. Louis’ first seven games as a Ranger, and they’re not great: Zero goals, two points and just three wins.

On Monday, St. Louis addressed his slow start to life on Broadway.

“You’ve got to stay positive. Am I playing great? No. But I’ve played way worse than this,” St. Louis said, per the New York Daily News. “There’s no time to feel sorry, you’ve just got to man up, be a big boy about it and go to work every day.”

Acquired in a captain-for-captain deadline day blockbuster — ex-Rangers captain Ryan Callahan went to Tampa Bay — St. Louis was supposed to inject life into a Ranger offense that ranked in the NHL’s bottom-half in goals per game. What’s more, the adjustment to life in New York was supposed to be made easier by the presence of former Bolts teammate Brad Richards, installed as St. Louis’ linemate upon his Rangers debut against Toronto on Mar. 5.

It just hasn’t gone according to plan.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault split up St. Louis and Richards prior to Friday’s 4-2 win over Winnipeg, saying the duo didn’t have the impact he thought it would. Which leads to the big question moving forward — where will St. Louis play now?

He skated with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello against the Sharks on Sunday, but the line didn’t produce much offensively (though, to be fair, none of the Rangers did as they lost 1-0 as Antti Niemi stopped all 41 shots faced). The trio did have some good puck possession shifts down low and looked capable of generating some chances but, with the Rangers fighting for their playoff lives, the prospect of good scoring chances really isn’t enough.

“We still could have won this game,” Zuccarello said following the San Jose loss. “At the end of the day it’s not good enough. We have to put the puck in the net.”

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.