Wild believe they’re developing winning culture with Yeo

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The Minnesota Wild held a press conference today to formally announce that they’ve inked head coach Mike Yeo to a multi-year contract extension. Even after three seasons with the team, Yeo remains the youngest head coach in the league at the age of 40, but the Wild are very happy with the direction he’s taking them in.

“We’ve started to create an identity of being a hard working, fast and resilient team,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said. “That has been very critical to our success, in establishing that identity.

“We’ve also become a team that’s won a lot of hockey games and we’ve done so while playing a lot of young kids — all of whom have developed nicely under Mike and his staff’s direction. We couldn’t be happier.”

Under Yeo, the Wild have posted a 104-82-26 regular season record and have made the playoffs in two of his three campaigns. They advanced to the second round of the postseason in 2014 despite losing starting goaltender Josh Harding and backup Niklas Backstrom for a good chunk of the season. Even third-string goaltender Darcy Kuemper dealt with injury problems during the playoffs.

Fletcher used that situation as an example of how Yeo has been able to handle distractions.

“I’ll never forget Zach (Parise), someone asked him about the goaltending in the playoffs, I think Zach’s quote was ‘we don’t even notice it anymore,’” Fletcher said. “I think that speaks to Mike and how he handled everything, from the losing streak in late December to a little bit of some up and down play in March, to the injuries, to losing Mikko and Zach at the same time, to the goaltending.

“Once we got into the playoffs, that Colorado series was a roller coaster and I think the team took on Mike’s demeanor. I think that helped up get through.”

Now that the Wild have won their first playoff series since 2003, the stakes are only going to be raised in Minnesota. Forwards Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and defenseman Ryan Suter are all in their prime, which means that the Wild have to establish themselves as serious contenders for the Stanley Cup soon if they want to take advantage of those players while they’re still at their best.

You can watch the full press conference below:

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.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.