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Islanders chase Cam Ward is less than seven minutes

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A rough season might have hit a new low for Cam Ward on Tuesday, as the New York Islanders didn’t need a full seven minutes of game time to boot him from the Carolina Hurricanes’ net.

Ward, 30, allowed three goals on nine shots in 6:12 of action. To be fair to him, the Islanders generated a 10-0 shot disadvantage in the early going tonight, so the veteran netminder might just be the scapegoat in this case.

(Regardless, it’s difficult to deny the impression that Anton Khudobin will be their clear No. 1 going into 2014-15.)

While Carolina’s playoff hopes are slim (71 points with 11 games left, including this one), it seems like the Islanders are playing more like the team desperately trying to stay in the postseason picture.

Ward came into tonight’s game with a 9-11-5 record and worrisome .896 save percentage, so it’s not like this is just an isolated incident.

Weather forecast looks good for Penguins-Flyers

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 01:  Fireworks go off before the start of the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field on January 1, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh set a new weather record today, with temperatures reaching a summer-like 76 degrees.

But it’s supposed to cool down considerably tomorrow, with only a chance of showers during the day — good news with the Penguins and Flyers set to play outdoors at Heinz Field.

Game time tomorrow is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET (on NBC).

“It’ll be fun, and what the weather is, because it’s unpredictable, is one of the great intriguing parts of putting on these games,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a radio interview, per the Post-Gazette.

The last time the Penguins played outdoors at Heinz Field, in the 2011 Winter Classic, the threat of rain forced the start time from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Tomorrow’s forecast from The Weather Network:

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Related: How to watch and stream Penguins-Flyers outdoor game

Blues extend Berglund — five years, $19.25 million

Patrik Berglund
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Just a few hours ago, we passed along reports that St. Louis was in extension talks with longtime forward Patrik Berglund.

Now, the deal’s done.

Per the Post-Dispatch, Berglund has signed a five-year extension worth $19.25 million. It’s a $3.85M average annual cap hit, up slightly from the $3.7M he’s making on his current deal.

Berglund, 28, was a pending UFA but made it clear he wanted to stick in St. Louis.

“I would like to still be a Blue,” Berglund said earlier this week, per the Post-Dispatch. “I think everybody in here and upstairs knows that I want to be a Blue, too.”

Berglund has spent his entire nine-year career in St. Louis, emerging as versatile forward that can play the middle or wing. He’s also found the back of the net 17 times this season, and is flirting with matching or surpassing the career-high 22 he scored back in ’10-11.

It’s a fair bit of term and financial commitment for the veteran Swede, who hasn’t cracked 40 points in six years. And there’s reason to suggest Blues fans might be irate dollars are being committed here, rather than in an effort to retain Kevin Shattenkirk.

That said, it’s not entirely surprising GM Doug Armstrong opted to retain Berglund. The Blues have undergone major changes over the last few seasons, jettisoning veterans like Barret Jackman, T.J. Oshie, Troy Brouwer, Brian Elliott and longtime captain David Backes.

With this new deal, Berglund will be in St. Louis through 2022. The only player signed on longer than that is Vladimir Tarasenko.

With this contract inked, attention will almost entirely focus on Shattenkirk. The pending UFA d-man is believed to be on his way out by the Mar. 1 trade deadline.

Habs need to ‘find their confidence,’ and they need to find it soon

Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien watches from the bench during the team's NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)
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All of a sudden the Montreal Canadiens aren’t such a sure thing to make the playoffs.

According to Sports Club Stats, a record of 8-10-3 in their final 21 games would put them in the danger zone. And the way things have been going, you can’t rule it out.

Last night, the Habs dropped a 3-0 decision to the Islanders at Bell Centre. They’re now 7-12-2 in their last 21, and 1-2-0 since Claude Julien took over as head coach from Michel Therrien.

It wasn’t a very fun night for the home team.

From the Montreal Gazette:

The boos started with about five minutes remaining in Thursday night’s game between the Canadiens and the New York Islanders, and they would have been louder if many fans hadn’t already made a beeline for the Bell Centre exits before John Tavares’s empty-net goal put an exclamation point on the Islanders’ 3-0 victory.

Captain Max Pacioretty said he wasn’t surprised by the fans’ negative reaction.

“We haven’t played good enough,” Pacioretty said after the Canadiens’ home record in February dropped to 0-4-1. “They pay good money to come watch us play and they deserve better.”

This morning, Julien juggled the lines at practice, hoping to find some more potent combinations ahead of Saturday’s big game in Toronto. He told reporters afterwards that the team has been better defensively, but now it’s time for the offense to improve.

“I think one of the big issues is probably our neutral zone transition, which hasn’t been very good,” Julien said. “It’s gotta be quick, you gotta have some support, and then you want to cross that blue line with some speed. Teams are going to stand you up; you gotta be able to retrieve those loose pucks.”

He then added, “Our transition game is important, but also the confidence of the players. They need to find their confidence to score goals. Today, we did some drills where they had outnumbered situations and they were able to score some goals.”

The mental state of the Canadiens will certainly be worth monitoring. As everyone knows, Montreal is not an easy market when things are going poorly. Last year’s collapse demonstrated that rather well.

“The more we talk about it, the more fragile we’ll be,” Pacioretty said. “At the end of the day, we’re playing hockey and we’ve played it all our lives. Guys have to find it. I don’t think excuses are possible now, guys just have to find their game.”

Tippett calls out Smith, Goligoski, Schenn for ‘brutal’ efforts

Dave Tippett
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It’s not very often head coaches call out underperforming players by name, but that’s exactly what Arizona bench boss Dave Tippett did following Thursday’s defeat in Chicago.

The Coyotes website has full video of his postgame availability, but here are the key parts:

Q: Is the disappointment now maybe because expectations are going up, as the team gets better?

Tippett: Yeah, you should expect to win every night. Go out there and play well. We had veterans that were brutal out there tonight.

Q: Is this the good part about hockey, you get to get back out there tomorrow and try to flush it?

Tippett: Yeah, get right back at it, lots more to try to achieve. We’ve got to continue to get better. Our young players have to continue to get better, but we need our veterans to play a lot better.

Q: Is Mike [Smith] an example of that?

Tippett: Yeah. Mike, [Alex] Goligoski, [Luke] Schenn… a lot of guys can play a lot better.

Tippett seemed to be most critical of Smith. He said his club didn’t “get some extra saves,” adding that Smith couldn’t make a stop while the Coyotes kept making mistakes in front of him.

The critique might seem a bit harsh, given Smith’s been under siege for most of the year. His .915 save percentage is pretty respectable, given he’s playing behind one of the leakiest teams in the league.

As for Goligoski, it’s fair to say he’s been a disappointment since signing a five-year, $27.375 million deal in free agency. He got off to a frustrating start, and while he’s posted decent offensive numbers — 23 points in 59 games — his possession metrics leave much to be desired (45.4 CF %).

Schenn, signed on the cheap in the hopes of reviving his career, hasn’t done much to shed the reputation he’s built over the last few years. He’s done little on offense, logs bottom-pair minutes, is minus-7 and leads all Coyotes d-men in PIM.

The two finished minus-1 last night, and each had a pair of giveaways.