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‘Canes axe goalie coach, and there may be more changes in net

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Suffice to say, this was not a good year between the pipes in Carolina.

Cam Ward and Eddie Lack combined to post the NHL’s fourth-worst combined save percentage. Lack missed extensive time with concussion problems — forcing the 33-year-old Ward into a heavy workload — and upon returning, the lanky Swede was lambasted by head coach Bill Peters in a now-infamous rant.

Today, the ‘Canes made the first in what could be a series of moves to improve their goaltending.

GM Ron Francis announced the team was cutting ties with goalie coach David Marcoux. Marcoux had been with the club for the past three seasons, having joined the Carolina organization after a six-year stint in Calgary.

There have been rumblings that Lack and Marcoux never gelled, something that was emphasized when Lack spoke to The Province last season.

“It’s been an adjustment,” Lack explained. “At times, it’s been really hard. Sometimes I catch myself in games looking down to see where I am in the crease because I have no idea where I am.”

Changes in Carolina sound like they’ll go beyond the Marcoux dismissal, however.

Both Lack and Ward are heading into the final years of their respective contracts. Ward will earn $3.3 million, Lack $2.75M, and both are eligible to be exposed in the upcoming expansion draft.

Francis said the tandem didn’t work out this season, in large part because Lack’s injury issue forced the club to “lean extremely heavily” on Ward — too much, Francis said.

The GM also didn’t sound very enthusiastic about Carolina’s prospect pool. He said the club has “throw a lot of darts at the board over the last few years,” to try and find a good young goalie, but the results have been negligible. Francis added he couldn’t honestly say if they have a future No. 1 in the organization.

Luckily for the ‘Canes, this is a good summer to be goalie shopping. The UFA market could feature the likes of Ben Bishop, Ryan Miller, Brian Elliott, Steve Mason, Jonathan Bernier and Scott Darling.

Francis said the club will be in a good financial position to add players this offseason, through trades or free agency. As such, he may be given the green light to snag a goalie and deal with the ramifications later — under this scenario, he’d have until early October to figure out a potential three-headed goalie monster.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule for Sunday, April 23

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Only two series remain in the first-round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and both of them continue on Sunday.

First, the Boston Bruins look to push their first-round series to a seventh game after their double overtime win on Friday when they host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday afternoon. That game will be followed by Washington Capitals trying to, as Barry Trotz wants to see, push the Toronto Maple Leafs off the cliff.

Here is everything you for Sunday’s games, both of which will be shown on the NBC networks and streamed online.

Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)

Video: Oilers showed off depth beyond McDavid in beating Sharks

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As the Art Ross winner and Hart Trophy frontrunner, there’s no doubt that Connor McDavid is the catalyst for the Edmonton Oilers.

Still, the scary thing for opponents is that, while he created chances against the San Jose Sharks, McDavid wasn’t exactly lighting them up for points.

Nope, as Mike Rupp and Jeremy Roenick discuss in the video above, the Oilers advanced thanks as much to depth scorers – and deft goaltending from Cam Talbot – as they did because of McDavid’s blistering combination of skill and speed.

Now, the Anaheim Ducks rank as an interesting opponent. While the Sharks could slow McDavid with one of the few blueliners who could really give him trouble – relatively speaking – in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, it remains to be seen if Anaheim can accomplish the same.

(A fully healthy Hampus Lindholm would increase their odds, mind you.)

Either way, the Oilers’ “other guys” deserve some credit, and they get it in the video above.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.