Canucks’ forward Burrows praises former coach Vigneault

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Alain Vigneault and the New York Rangers are in Vancouver to face the Canucks on Tuesday. So, naturally, the return of Vigneault, the head coach of the Canucks for seven seasons until last spring, has brought a lot of memories back.

Take Alex Burrows for instance. He not only played for Vigneault as a member of the Canucks, but also with the former Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League for a season. Burrows made the jump from the minors, which included stops in the ECHL as well, to the NHL, and he gives Vigneault credit for helping him with achievement.

He also gives Vigneault credit for helping turn the Canucks into an elite team not that long ago.

“As a player, that’s what you want — somebody to guide you in a direction and give you challenges that you can succeed at, and he did that with me,” Burrows told The Province newspaper on Monday.

“You didn’t hear from him until training camp, but once it started he was well prepared. He had his opening-day speech and it wasn’t just written on a napkin.

“We were tough to play against away from the puck and once we got it we had the freedom to do things in the offensive zone. He liked high-percentage plays, that’s the biggest thing. To not give the other team easy goals.”

Vigneault was fired last May, after the Canucks were swept in the first round of the playoffs. They were only two years removed from making it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

But Tuesday’s match-up features two teams going in opposite directions. Vigneault and the Rangers are fifth in the Eastern Conference and in good shape to make the playoffs. The Canucks are 10th in the West. Their playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread, five points back of the eighth-place Phoenix Coyotes.

Vancouver’s struggles have meant a great deal of criticism toward head coach John Tortorella and general manager Mike Gillis.

Interesting because the Rangers and Canucks essentially swapped coaches last off-season (New York fired Tortorella, hired Vigneault, and the Canucks fired Vigneault and hired Tortorella).

“You guys are going to make your opinions and talk about it because it’s kind of a unique thing,” Tortorella told reporters on Monday.

“We’re losing games, so I’m the idiot. Alain’s winning games, so he’s the smart guy. Rightfully so. When you lose games and you struggle, you’re going to get scrutinized. That’s part of the business and I should be scrutinized.

“But how you think about … style of play and all that, I think sometimes there’s not a true understanding of what’s going on. But as far as the records concerned, I get that.”

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.