New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens - Game Five

With Lundqvist, AV is nipping potential meltdowns in the bud

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Alain Vigneault didn’t ask Henrik Lundqvist if he wanted to go back in for the third period. The Rangers coach had already made the decision to pull his star goalie less than halfway through Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, after Montreal had taken a 4-1 lead and the Bell Centre had entered full-on madhouse mode.

Backup Cam Talbot was the one between the pipes as New York stormed back to tie it, and he stayed between the pipes for the rest of the game, a 7-4 Canadiens victory. Talbot surrendered one goal in the second, after New York had leveled the score, then one more in the third. The Habs scored their seventh into an empty net.

“I pulled [Lundqvist] because I thought at that time we needed a little momentum shift, and I thought it might catch everybody’s attention,” Vigneault said. “It did for a while. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”

It was the second time in these playoffs that Lundqvist had been pulled after allowing four goals prior to the second intermission. He got the hook in Game 6 of the Rangers’ first-round series versus Philadelphia, before responding with a solid performance in Game 7, a 2-1 New York victory.

Vigneault expects another solid bounce-back Thursday at Madison Square Garden, this time with a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

“He’s a veteran player,” the coach said today. “One of the best in his area, and I’m sure he’s going to be focused and ready for the next game.”

Vigneault, you may recall, was criticized when he was coaching Vancouver for failing to pull Roberto Luongo during rough playoff outings. Like in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, when Luongo allowed all eight goals in an 8-1 loss to the Bruins in Boston.

“[Luongo] said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out,’ so that’s what I did,” Vigneault said after that game, leaving many to wonder why the coach had left the decision up to the player. It was 4-0 after 15:47 of the second period. Why not pull him then, before things got really out of hand? Which they most certainly did. Much to the delight of the Boston fans.

The very next game, Vigneault did pull Luongo, early in the third after he’d allowed four goals on just 20 shots, perhaps still shaken from his previous outing.

But it was the eight-goal meltdown that people still remember to this day. And don’t forget, all the blame Luongo received after the Canucks blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the Bruins was a factor in his much-publicized request to be traded.

Three years later, is it possible Vigneault has learned from his experience in Vancouver? That he’s realized people have a way of forgetting when goalies get pulled after allowing four goals? That it’s the big-time meltdowns — when six, seven or eight get past a guy — that everyone remembers, and can have franchise-altering consequences?

Only the coach has the power to nip those meltdowns in the bud.

“We didn’t give [Lundqvist] too much help,” said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, “and obviously A.V. felt that was the right move just to get him out of the game.”

And get re-focused for the next one.

 

Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche congratulates Matt Duchene #9 after his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on December 14, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.

Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.

It’s unclear how much this lost season factors into the decision to shut the big blueliner’s year down. If they had a shot at the playoffs, would they have ruled him out entirely? Either way, he won’t be back until 2017-18.

Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.

He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.

At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.

Kings may just lean on Budaj as Quick progresses toward return

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 08:  Goaltender Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings stands on the ice during a preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche at T-Mobile Arena on October 8, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Colorado won 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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LA Kings Insider provided a mostly positive update about Jonathan Quick‘s gradual recovery from what’s been a season-long injury. Still, it’s difficult to get a truly concrete idea about the team’s plans.

Quick told Jon Rosen that “everything’s coming along really well,” but they didn’t give a hard date on when he may suit up again for Los Angeles.

(NHL.com and Rosen’s report remind us that the general aim is for “the first half of March.”)

The Kings were mulling over the possibility of recalling former Stars first-round pick Jack Campbell to attempt to ease the surprisingly large burden on journeyman goalie Peter Budaj, but Rosen reports that such discussions have been “tabled.”

Jeff Zatkoff has been a mixture of inactive and ineffective for the Kings, so what about getting help elsewhere for Budaj? That part’s a little fuzzy, though it’s clear that Budaj – Zatkoff is the duo for the moment.

Darryl Sutter backs that up, via Rosen:

But, according to a source, Campbell’s recall has been tabled, as it appears as though Budaj and Zatkoff will be the duo until Quick is able to return, and that no cut-off will be necessary as Quick is “on that path” towards being game-ready, according to Sutter.

None of this explicitly shuts down at least the thought of trading for goaltending help, though it doesn’t give you the impression that such a move is pressing for the Kings. They’re not laying out a deadline, whether it be a self-imposed one or the trade deadline itself.

Some of this seems a little unclear, though it currently follows the pattern of this season: it falls on Budaj, at least until Quick is back. Whenever that may be.

Trouba suspended two games for ‘high, forceful’ headshot on Stone

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Jets blueliner Jacob Trouba has been suspended two games for his headshot on Ottawa forward Mark Stone, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Monday.

“Trouba steps up and delivers a high, forceful blow that makes the head the main point of contact, on a hit where such head contact was avoidable,” the DoPS explained. “The onus here is on Trouba to deliver a full body hit through his opponent’s core. Instead, Trouba takes a poor angle of approach, picking Stone’s head.”

The incident occurred in Winnipeg’s 3-2 win over Ottawa on Sunday. Trouba was given a two-minute minor on the play, much to the displeasure of Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher.

Stone didn’t return to the game following the hit but, according to the DoPS, “suffered no apparent injury.”

Trouba will now miss tomorrow’s game in Toronto, then Winnipeg’s next game following the bye week — on Feb. 28, against Minnesota. He’s eligible to return on Mar. 3, when the Jets host the Blues.

Trouba will also forfeit $33,333.34 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Sens extend depth blueliner Claesson — one year, $650,000

OTTAWA, ON - APRIL 5: Fredrik Claesson #49 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Canadian Tire Centre on April 5, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Ottawa made a minor move on Monday, agreeing to terms with d-man Fredrik Claesson on a one-year extension worth $650,000.

The deal is of the one-way variety.

Claesson, 24, has appeared in 19 games for the Sens this year, scoring five points. He’s averaging just 10:27 per game but has been a more regular lineup fixture regularly, having played in five of Ottawa’s last six games.

The Swedish rearguard has also appeared in nine games for AHL Binghamton. Since coming over from SHL outfit Djurgardens in 2013, Claesson has been up and down between Bingo and Ottawa frequently, though this latest deal would suggest he’s in line for a more permanent NHL gig.