Phoenix Coyotes v Pittsburgh Penguins

Pressing question: How much pressure is on the Pens?

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One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

Here’s the list of teams Pittsburgh has defeated in the playoffs since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009:

Ottawa Senators
New York Islanders

End of list.

The lack of wins over quality opponents — neither the Sens nor Isles are in the playoffs this year — speaks to a larger issue facing the entire Penguins organization, prior to what could be the most important postseason in franchise history:

Over the last five years, the Pens’ playoff exits have defined them far more than any of their wins.

There was running into the Halak wall in 2010. The defensive meltdown against Philly in ’12. The offense seizing up like an engine with no oil against Boston last year. For a team that looked to be on the cusp of a dynasty after beating Detroit five years ago, the playoffs have become vexing — something few expected to see.

“Given the guys that I played with on the ’09 team, you’d think that they were going to be a perennial Cup candidate,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

“Just because you have a team on paper that looks like it’s going to blow the doors off the playoffs doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. You have to come together at the right time and for a long time. As much as you think this team would have had more wins, it’s not shocking. It’s a hard time of year to win.”

Yes, it is a hard time of the year to win. But one has to wonder what happens if the Penguins don’t.

Head coach Dan Bylsma will undoubtedly come under fire — again — should Pittsburgh flop. Rumors flew after last year’s sweep to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals, with one report claiming owner Mario Lemieux was mulling over a coaching change, followed by another suggesting the Rangers were ready to pounce if Bylsma was let go.

Marc-Andre Fleury will also be under the microscope. Replaced by Tomas Vokoun midway through last year’s opening-round victory over the Isles, Fleury rebounded this regular season and posted great numbers, but that’s done little to shake his playoff reputation. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, Fleury isn’t the goalie that backstopped Pittsburgh to the Cup in ’09; he’s the one that followed up an awful series against Philly two years ago by getting yanked last year.

So, how does Fleury deal with it all?

“Not read too much. Not watch [TV],” he said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And remind myself that I have won one more Stanley Cup than a lot of people.”

Like Bylsma, Fleury’s future could hinge on this postseason. He’s heading into the final of a seven-year, $35 million deal and it’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh re-signing him after another playoff disappointment.

Others are in a similar boat. Longtime defenseman Brooks Orpik, who’s spent all 11 of his NHL seasons in Pittsburgh, is a pending UFA. Same goes for Matt Niskanen, who’s played the last four years with the Pens. It’s all part the overall theme of pressure — along with the weight of expectations comes the added weight of uncertain futures, possibly hinging on how the Pens do this spring.

“This team has had the weight of expectation on them for a long time,” Scuderi explained. “It’s something you just have to learn how to deal with. Those are mostly kind of outside sources putting the pressure on you.

“You just have to be able to shut it out and play your game.”

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

North Dakota loses another d-man as Kings sign LaDue

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09:  Paul LaDue #6 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the second period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Keaton Thompson, Troy Stecher and now, Paul LaDue.

On Friday, the Kings announced that LaDue — the junior d-man that helped North Dakota win the Frozen Four — agreed to a one-year, entry-level deal, forgoing his senior season in the process.

LaDue, 23, was part of a talented UND blueline that also featured fellow juniors Troy Stecher — who since signed with Vancouver — and Thompson, who inked with the Ducks.

So yeah, bit of an exodus.

Thankfully for North Dakota, freshman scoring sensation Brock Boeser has already committed to returning for his sophomore campaign, while junior defenseman Gage Ausmus — a San Jose draftee — vowed to go back to school as well.

As for Frozen Four MOP Drake Caggiula — a senior that was already leaving school — he’s already begun his tour of interested NHL suitors.

Per TSN, Caggiula has shortlisted six clubs: Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

Wilson fined for kneeing Sheary

Wilson hit
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No suspension for Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Only a fine.

That’s what the NHL’s Department of Player Safety decided after Wilson kneed Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary last night in Washington.

The fine of $2,403.67 is the maximum allowable under the CBA, and, at the very least, it puts Wilson on official notice.

Wilson was not penalized on the play, and Sheary was able to leave the ice under his own power and remain in the game.

“We’re just going to play hockey, and the refs are going to call it the way they see it,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters afterwards. “Our guys are going to play.”

This morning, Capitals coach Barry Trotz reportedly said of the play, “It was OK, but it wasn’t I would say necessary.”

Report: In expansion draft, teams must protect players with no-movement clauses

Washington Capitals v Columbus Blue Jackets
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If a player has a no-movement clause, his club will be forced to protect him in next summer’s expected expansion draft.

If, on the other hand, a player merely has a no-trade clause, his club will have no obligation to put him on its protected list.

Those details were reported this morning by TSN’s Gary Lawless, shortly after he’d reported that the NHL and NHLPA had come together on a framework for a potential expansion draft.

Per General Fanager, here’s the difference between the two clauses:

A No-Movement Clause prohibits a team from moving a player by trade, loan or waivers, or assigning that player to the minors without the player’s consent. This keeps the player with the pro team unless permitted by the player to move the player by one of these means. A No-Movement Clause does not restrict a team from buying out or terminating a player’s contract.

A No-Trade Clause is less restrictive, as it only places restrictions on movement by trade. A player with a No-Trade Clause cannot be traded by a team unless the player provides consent. A Partial or Modified No-Trade Clause is often less restrictive than a Full No-Trade Clause, and depends on the conditions outlined in the player’s contracts. Often these are No-Trade Clauses with conditions that give the player the right to provide a list of teams to which the team can or cannot trade the player.

So, for example, in Pittsburgh, the Penguins would be obligated to put Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil KesselMarc-Andre Fleury, and Kris Letang on their protected list. All five have NMCs, per General FanagerPatric Hornqvist, however, would not require protection, even though he has a modified no-trade clause.

Now, granted, the Penguins weren’t going to risk leaving their superstars exposed anyway.

Where this rule could have consequences is if a team is forced to protect a player with a no-move, at the expense of exposing a player it would prefer to keep. 

In Columbus, for example, David Clarkson, Scott Hartnell and Fedor Tyutin have no-moves, as do Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno. So, assuming General Fanager’s information is correct and there aren’t any complicating factors, that’s five players they’d be obligated to protect, whether they’d want to or not.

We’ll let Jackets fans fret over what that may cost them. There will be plenty of fretting league-wide, no doubt. 

But just remember, if the NHL only expands to Las Vegas — and that’s the most likely scenario at this point — each team can only lose one player in the expansion draft.

Ducks fire Boudreau

Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, back, looks on against the Colorado Avalanche in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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In the end, it was one playoff failure too many.

On Friday, the Ducks reacted to their upset loss to Nashville by doing the expected — relieving head coach Bruce Boudreau of his duties.

“I would like to thank Bruce for his hard work and dedication to the franchise,” Ducks GM Bob Murray said in a statement, tweeted out by the club. “This was a very difficult decision to make.

“Bruce is a good coach and character person, and we wish him the best of luck in the future.”

Boudreau, 61, enjoyed tremendous regular-season success in Anaheim — 208-104-40 record over five years — but ultimately paid the price for the club’s playoff failures.

Despite a wealth of talent and repeated home-ice advantage, the Ducks never qualified for a Stanley Cup final and were twice bounced in the opening round. Most damning was the club’s record in Game 7s — Wednesday’s loss to Nashville was the fourth straight Game 7 defeat Anaheim had suffered.

What’s more, it was the fourth time they lost a series in which they led 3-2.

What’s more, it was the fourth Game 7 they lost on home ice.

For Boudreau, this firing will only add to the narrative that’s dogged him throughout his career, dating back to his time in Washington.

Great regular-season coach, not so much in the playoffs.

It’s ultimately unfair and probably too simplistic, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that a coach with an impressive win total — 409, putting him No. 32 all-time — has never competed for the Stanley Cup, and only qualified for one conference final.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Boudreau can find work as quickly as the last time he was fired. After getting turfed in Washington, it took him all of two days to be hired by the Ducks, and it’s quite possible Ottawa could now be in the mix for his services.

The Sens are looking for an experienced bench boss, per new GM Pierre Dorion, and have already interviewed ex-Wild head coach Mike Yeo.

Related: Boudreau says this was the Ducks’ toughest loss yet