NashRichards

What does $20M get? For the Rangers, one point in the Stanley Cup Final

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Here are the stats from New York’s three highest-paid forwards — Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis — through the first three games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final:

Nash: No goals, no assists, minus-3 rating.

Richards: No goals, no assists, minus-4 rating.

St. Louis: One goal, no assists, minus-4 rating.

Given the amount of money the Blueshirts have committed to this trio this season — $7.8 million for Nash, $6.7 million for Richards, $5.6 million for St. Louis — it stands to reason the club is probably expecting more production from its “big three.”

Just ask Richards, who deep-sixed the notion all they need is some puck luck.

“You don’t talk about getting bounces,” Richards said on Tuesday. “It’d be nice to have them, but you don’t just talk and hope they come. You score a goal at the right time that helps and then you’ve gotta create more, get to the inside more.

“They’ve turned pucks over, we’ve turned pucks over, but for some reason it seems like ours are finding a way into the net. Their turnovers, either there is a big save or something close. But that’s an easy way to look at it. We’ve gotta find a way.”

That Richards, Nash and St. Louis have failed to generate any offense this series is one of the reasons New York finds itself in an 0-3 hole. St. Louis, to his credit, was a pretty productive in the three previous rounds and leads the Blueshirts in both goals (seven) and is second in points (14); Richards has been less productive (11 points in 23 games), though hardly surprising given his decline over the last two seasons, and all the pending buyout talk.

Which brings us to Nash.

To say No. 61 has struggled this postseason would be a major understatement — his 10 points put him on par with Jussi Jokinen and Torey Krug, guys that were eliminated two rounds ago (or Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny, who didn’t get past the opening round.) The style of play that saw Nash score 30-plus goals seven times — power, strength, ability to drive the net — has seemingly vanished; when Nash was put back on the Ranger power play late in Game 3 and created a scoring chance by driving to the middle of the ice, it was like watching an overwhelmed boxer land one really nice counter punch — an impressive flash, but one that wouldn’t change the outcome of the fight.

To be clear, Nash can’t be blamed for New York’s power play woes. He’s been largely absent from a unit that’s gone 1-for-14 this series — which brings us back to Richards and St. Louis, who’ve been front and center. Richards had an eye-popping 8:47 of man-advantage time in Game 3 while St. Louis had 4:38, yet the two could only muster four shots on goal.

“You got to finish in this game,” head coach Alain Vigneault lamented on Monday night. “It’s a performance-oriented business. Power play had some looks, but it didn’t finish.”

It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Vigneault does with Richards, Nash and St. Louis moving forward. He indirectly called out the Richards-St.Louis-Hagelin unit prior to Game 3 but stayed away from throwing his lines in the blender during the contest, suggesting afterward that putting Nash on the PP was about as big of a shakeup as he had in his arsenal.

That, really, might sum up the situation on the whole. Vigneault’s playing the hand he’s been dealt here; he’s gone the entire postseason without Nash and Richards contributing much offensively and St. Louis has now gone silent as well. Sometimes, that happens. It’s also why the Rangers are talking about puck luck and bounces and breaks needing to go their way — there just aren’t many other answers or solutions to give.

Still…for $20 million, you’d think they’d be getting more.

PHT Extra: Mike Halford and Jason Brough discuss what the Rangers have to do in order to make a comeback attempt.

PHT Morning Skate: Tarasenko gives young fan an unforgettable birthday gift

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Vladimir Tarasenko gave 11-year-old fan Arianna Dougan the birthday gift of a lifetime. Dougan, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was three, was given a trip for two on the team’s charter flight to Arizona and Colorado for her 11th birthday. “I was crying in the background,” said Arianna’s mom, Lorie Zucker. “She’s so over the moon she doesn’t realize what she’s got yet. It won’t hit home until she gets in the car. This has been the best birthday ever.” (NHL.com/Blues)

–To many, Mike Babcock or Joel Quenneville being the best coaches in hockey is a foregone conclusion. But what if they’re not? Yahoo’s Ryan Lambert makes a case for Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau. “Boudreau didn’t inherit a sleeping giant of any sort when he took this job. The Wild were decent. He turned them into a team that’s not quite among the elites of the league, but is certainly a very good team that could do some damage in the playoffs.” (Yahoo)

–At one point, it looked like the Carolina Hurricanes were going to make a serious push for a playoff spot, but they quickly faded and went back to being a non-contending team. If the Oilers make the playoffs this year, the Hurricanes would own the longest playoff drought in the NHL. Sportsnet’s Luke Fox explains that the ‘Canes need to sacrifice some of their depth on defense so they can acquire an offensive weapon up front. (Sportsnet)

–Don’t look now, but the Florida Panthers are making a serious run at a playoff spot. The team turned the corner once they got injured forward Jonathan Huberdeau back into their lineup and they haven’t looked back. In the 51 games he missed, the Panthers scored just 2.33 goals per game. Since he’s been back, they’re averaging over four goals per game. (The Hockey News)

–Former NHLer Jeremy Roenick knows what it feels like to be traded. Roenick told SI.com that the first trade he experienced was “horrifying”. He also described just how tough it is to go to battle with a team one day and be on a different squad the next. (Sports Illustrated)

–On Monday, the Calgary Flames acquired Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes. A few hours after the deal, Flames forward Mikael Backlund posted this funny tweet about Stone running him over when they were in junior:

Little-known Langhamer spurns Ducks comeback for Coyotes

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 14:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks skates with the puck during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 14, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 3-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Both of Monday’s games could have gone beyond regulation, yet the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks were left kicking themselves after failing to generate standings points.

In the case of the Ducks, they simply couldn’t overcome a lousy start to the Arizona Coyotes. They erased most of a 3-0 deficit but ultimately fell 3-2 on Monday.

Again, it was an ugly opening for Anaheim.

Randy Carlyle turned to John Gibson to start the second period and the red-hot goalie didn’t give up a goal; even so, his strong work wasn’t rewarded with anything but nice numbers.

Ryan Getzlaf scored both of Anaheim’s goals, including one with less than 30 seconds remaining in the third period and the Ducks’ net empty. You’d think that would be the end of the drama, but that wasn’t the case.

Mike Smith needed to leave the net during the third, likely because of a collision with Jakob Silfverberg. (Sounds like he’s OK, though.)

This forced Marek Langhamer to close out the game, meaning he had to deal with Anaheim’s endgame barrage. That included making quite the clutch stop against Sami Vatanen, spurning quite the attempt to tie:

Wow.

A quick primer on Langhamer: he was a seventh-round pick by the Coyotes (then Phoenix, 184th overall in 2012). He’s spent chunks of this season in both the AHL and ECHL, so this must be quite the moment for the 22-year-old.

As cool as that story is, the Ducks have to be kicking themselves. Instead of going ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for the second spot in the Pacific, both teams remain locked at 72 points (with Edmonton holding two games in hand).

Coyotes fans might have mixed feelings about the returns for Michael Stone, but beating their division rivals had to feel like a resounding win.

Yes, the Florida Panthers are indeed on fire

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  Michael Sgarbossa #48 of the Florida Panthers is congratulated after scoring a goal during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers are on a ridiculous roll right now. They’re even hotter than the also-quite-hot St. Louis Blues.

You could practically hear the air leave the building in St. Louis as Vincent Trocheck‘s goal made it 2-1 with just five seconds remaining in regulation. To little surprise, that ended up being the final score on Monday in what was otherwise quite the goaltending duel between James Reimer and Jake Allen.

The Panthers won all five games of what seemed to be a harrowing road trip on paper:

Feb. 11: 7-4 win against Predators
Feb. 15: 6-5 OT win against Sharks
Feb. 17: 4-1 win against Ducks
Feb. 18: 3-2 win vs. Kings
Tonight: 2-1 win over St. Louis

The Panthers now face a four-game homestand to close out February and also play seven of eight in Florida. (Actually, eight of nine, as they close out that run by visiting the Lightning on March 11).

Anyway, the Cats are in the catbird seat, and they finish the night back in front of the Boston Bruins for third in the Atlantic Division:

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 GP
2. Senators: 68 in 57
3. Panthers – 66 in 58

Bruins – 66 in 59
Maple Leafs – 65 in 58
Sabres – 62 in 60
Lightning – 60 in 58
Red Wings – 58 in 59

As you can see, games in hand stand as Florida’s advantage over Boston, but with the Bruins holding the second wild card spot, the Panthers’ position in the playoff picture is clear (if vulnerable).

Again, it wasn’t like the Panthers outright dominated the Blues.

St. Louis and Florida both looked sharp in this one, but the Blues have lost two straight games in regulation after reeling off a six-game winning streak. With a ton of road games on the docket through the next month, the Blues will just need to keep fighting.

At least Mike Yeo has an easy team to point to in explaining how the Blues can overcome such challenges.

Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.

Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.

First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:

Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:

Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.