Pre-game reading: Beantown columnists put the boots to the B’s

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— Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones delve into the dismissal of Claude Julien, as well as the general state of the Bruins.

— Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy ripped into the B’s for firing Julien on the same day the New England Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl victory. Shaughnessy writes: “Do the Bruins think we are stupid? Did owners Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs, and hockey bosses Cam Neely and Don Sweeney, think nobody was going to notice if they axed the coach during the parade? … The Bruins held their coach-firing news conference Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., minutes after the Duck Boats started rolling up Boylston Street. NESN, the Bruins’ team-owned flagship station, televised the Patriots parade while the team was firing its Stanley Cup-winning coach.” For the record, Sweeney blamed the schedule for the timing. (Boston Globe)

— More criticism of Bruins management from Mike Loftus of The Patriot Ledger, but this is about the roster that Julien was forced to coach. “With all due respect to players like Riley Nash, Tim Schaller, Dominic Moore – players acquired last off-season, after being deemed expendable by other teams – and Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey, who were among those added in the summer of 2015, they’re role players, and rarely difference-makers. Some are the sorts who can plug holes on an established, contending team, but the Bruins have been slipping from that designation for years. And they’ve been losing that status because too many role players have been added while better, more established players – some dispatched by Peter Chiarelli, Sweeney’s predecessor and mentor, and some by Sweeney himself – have been subtracted.” (The Patriot Ledger)

Read more: Sweeney says Bruins’ core deserves chance to ‘win now’

— It’s not quite time for Canadiens fans to panic, writes Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette. But the way things are looking down the middle, there’s definitely reason for concern. “Phillip Danault, who moved into the No. 1 spot after Alex Galchenyuk went down with a knee injury, has one goal in his last 12 games. Tomas Plekanec has one goal in his last 11. David Desharnais, who missed 24 games with a knee injury, has one goal in his last 12 games and fourth-line center Torrey Mitchell hasn’t scored in 27 games and has only two goals in his last 44, both in the same game Dec. 8 against New Jersey.” For more on this topic, see: Martin Hanzal trade rumors. (Montreal Gazette)

— Pierre LeBrun wonders if the Dallas Stars, as their playoff hopes keep fading, will start selling their pending free agents soon. “Topping the list would be cagey veteran Patrick Sharp, whose Stanley Cup experience and creative hands could help any contender. … Forward Patrick Eaves, another pending UFA, is a smart player who can play up and down on forward lines and help a second-unit power play, so he would be a useful addition to a contender.” (TSN)

— Elliotte Friedman published his must-read “30 Thoughts” yesterday, and he included this tidbit on the 2018 Winter Olympics, which may or may not include NHLers. “For the 2018 Olympic hockey tournament, Canada and the USA are in different pools. Local game times are noon, 4:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. That’s 10 p.m., 2:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. Eastern time. It is expected that the Canadians and Americans will never be scheduled for that 2:30 a.m. (ET) game. It is hoped that will alleviate one of the NHL’s concerns, that the two marquee North American teams will never play in the middle of the night for this continent’s viewers.” (Sportsnet)

Enjoy the game!

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.