Todd McLellan

Poll: Should the Sharks fire McLellan?

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Now that San Jose’s gone down in infamy — just the fourth team in Stanley Cup playoffs history to blow an 0-3 series lead — one big question hangs over the organization:

Will Todd McLellan be shown the door?

The 46-year-old — who, earlier this year, became the franchise’s all-time leader in games coached — could be out of a job soon. While the collapse to L.A. falls on the players, McLellan did take a big risk by parking longtime starter Antti Niemi in Game 6 in favor of playoff rookie Alex Stalock, which didn’t pay off, and then went back to Niemi in Game 7, though many figured the damage was already done by then.

Why? Well, possibly because the decision wasn’t all about goaltending.

It might’ve spoke to McLellan’s overall comfort level (or lack thereof) with the series on the whole. Niemi wasn’t great in Games 4 and 5, but was he really the issue? San Jose only managed three goals over those two losses after scoring 11 in the previous two wins, and the club’s vaunted power play fizzled in the second half of this series, going 0-for-15.

Parking Niemi also came at the same time Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the team’s best defensive defenseman, was ruled out of action…making it even tougher to explain why McLellan would make another significant lineup alternation.

As such, it’s worth asking — was putting Stalock in for Niemi a panic move? Or one designed to wake up the Sharks?

If yes, that could be an issue. Remember that, at the time of said yanking, the Sharks were still in reasonably OK shape; they held a 3-2 series lead and a pair of close-out opportunities, in a series almost everybody picked to go six or seven games. What’s more, McLellan’s comments after losing Game 7 — y’know, ones about why the Sharks collapsed — had nothing to do with goaltending.

“Our problems got progressively worse as we went along. We were awful off the rush. … Every day we came to the rink and we tried to stress that about giving outnumbered rushes,” he said, per CSN Bay Area. “We were never able to fix it. It’s frustrating, because during the year we were pretty good in those areas.”

He wasn’t done there.

“[Another] problem we ran into was getting them to understand that those 6-3, 7-2 games weren’t going to keep coming,” McLellan said of his team’s early victories over the Kings. “They’re too good a team for that.

“They were the better team. That was quite evident.”

The counter argument to firing McLellan is that he’s regarded as a very good coach and, should he get turfed, would almost instantly shoot to the list of likely candidates for vacancies across the league (Vancouver has been on McLellan watch for a couple days now.) Coaches with career winning percentages of .654 don’t become available very often and let’s re-iterate what was said at the onset of this post — the players are the ones that lost that series, not McLellan. Also, patience can be a virtue in these instances. Boston didn’t fire Claude Julien after its 0-3 collapse to Philly in 2010 and, a year later, he led the B’s to a Stanley Cup.

With all this in mind, we’ll turn it over to you:  Should McLellan stay, or should he go?

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.