The Bruins seemingly expected him to suit up tonight, so perhaps he’ll be available for Game 2?
Elliotte Friedman and others believe that former Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Gerard Gallant will be the guy. At 53, Gallant might fall in the ideal spot for a candidate: experienced but also young enough to put up with the growing pains of coaching an expansion team.
In late March, Golden Knights GM George McPhee stated that he wanted to hire a “progressive” coach. There were rumblings that Gallant clashed with Panthers management regarding analytics vs. traditional approaches, yet “progressive” can mean many things.
“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a phone call with season ticket holders. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”
It sounds like we’ll find out if that guy will be Gallant (or someone else) tomorrow.
Update: Even more reports lean toward Gallant.
Much of the focus regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs’ run to a playoff spot revolves around Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Failing that, people fawn over the job Mike Babcock’s done integrating those new pieces.
But … let’s take a moment to give some other key, not-quite-as-young figures some credit, too.
The easiest way to illustrate this mix of new and near-new is to look at the ages and point totals of the Maple Leafs’ top 10 scorers:
1. Auston Matthews – 19 years old, 69 points
2. James van Riemsdyk – 27, 62 points
3. Nazem Kadri – 26, 61 points
3. William Nylander – 20, 61 points
3. Mitch Marner – 19, 61 points
6. Tyler Bozak – 30, 55 points
7. Jake Gardiner – 26, 43 points
8. Connor Brown – 23, 36 points
8. Nikita Zaitsev 25, 36 points
10. Leo Komarov – 30, 32 points
Again, there’s nothing wrong with highlighting the Buds’ ridiculous bounty of rookie difference-makers.
There’s a feel-good story to long-suffering Leafs such as JVR, Kadri and Bozak enjoying some glory. It doesn’t seem like we need to #FreeJakeGardiner any longer.
NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers don’t mind starting the Stanley Cup playoffs on the road.
After all, they led the NHL with 27 road wins in the regular season.
And the Rangers had 21 wins at Madison Square Garden this season, tied for the fewest home wins among the 16 teams that reached the postseason.
So playing the opening two games of their series at the Bell Centre in Montreal is not a big problem.
“Starting on the road here will give us a good chance to establish our playoff game,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “Hopefully we’ll have good Games 1 and 2 and that’ll carry over to our barn for 3 and 4. I just think we’re worried about Game 1 and play that way throughout the whole playoffs.”
The teams last met in the playoffs in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, best remembered for when Rangers forward Chris Kreider slid into Montreal goalie Carey Price and knocked him out for the series . The Rangers won the series in six games before losing to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
“My game hasn’t changed,” Kreider said. “For me to be effective, I need to go get to the crease. That’s where I’m going to score goals.”
Kreider, who led the Rangers with 28 goals in the regular season, expects to hear from the Canadiens fans.
“That’s one thing in particular that I remember is that rink being energetic and really emotional,” he said. “They’ve got an incredibly passionate fan base so it’s a fun place to play.”
Here are some other things to look for in the matchup between Original Six franchises beginning with Game 1 on Wednesday night:
The Canadiens swept all three meetings in the regular season. Price had a 2.27 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in those matchups and is 15-5-1 with a 1.82 GAA and .940 save percentage in his career against the Rangers.
“They’ve had some success against us the last couple of years, but I think our focus is definitely what we did a couple of years ago in the playoffs,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.
“They’re a great team. They have a lot of speed, good structure, a great goaltender, so it’s a going to be a good test and a great challenge for us.”
Going into the playoffs, Lundqvist leads all active NHL goaltenders in playoff appearances (116) and playoff wins (55), and he is tied for first among active goaltenders in playoff shutouts (nine).
Max Pacioretty, who led the Canadiens with 35 goals in the regular season, left practice Tuesday after getting hit by a stick. Coach Claude Julien said Pacioretty is expected to play. Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin will miss Game 1 with an injury. Shea Weber and Jordie Benn are expected to play.
The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien during the season and brought back Julien for his second stint with Montreal. The Canadiens went 16-7-1 under Julien and won the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs in 2015-16.
“Every year it’s tough to make the playoffs so when you have that opportunity, you want to take advantage of it,” Julien said.
“You want to stay even-keel. You want to get ready to play. We play tomorrow and we’ll deal with the next day afterward.”
The Rangers finished the regular season 8-9-4 but welcome the chance of a fresh start. They have reached the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
“Everybody has a clean slate and a great opportunity in front of them to make a difference and an impact in the playoffs,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
“This is what we worked for the whole season and what every player and coach works for, to get an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We’re one of the 16 teams that have that opportunity.”
For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Mason said he’s “not trying to break the bank” and that he’d be willing to re-sign with the Flyers, but not if it’s in a platoon situation. Hmm.*
“It doesn’t work. It’s shown throughout the league that it doesn’t work,” Mason said, according to the Courier-Post. “Tampa got rid of their situation (with Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy). St. Louis got rid of their situation (with Jake Allen and Brian Elliott). It’s got nothing to do with Neuvy and I as people. I’ve got no issue with Neuvy. It just doesn’t work for the goaltending position.”
Some of this stuff seems a little … bold.
If Mason isn’t willing to share starts with Neuvirth, and Neuvirth’s already got a deal, does that already mean Mason is gone? Not necessarily.
The expansion draft could make things weird. Perhaps there are a few other scenarios that can play out.
On the other hand, does Mason really have the leverage to demand a clear No. 1 spot?
He’s certainly gained his proponents, especially if you only look at his time with the Flyers. He posted a fantastic .928 save percentage in 2014-15 and a nice .918 in 2015-16. Even then, you have to give him a mulligan for a letdown this past season, where he went 26-21-8 with a mediocre .908 save percentage.
Of course, there are also those dire Blue Jackets years, and the bottom line is that Mason’s never really had any playoff success.
When you consider his goalie resume in totality, how many teams would really look at him as a franchise goalie? Some might view him as an outstanding backup while others (more reasonably) would likely slot him in as a 1a/1b type. But it’s tough to imagine more than a few GMs who would make a big investment in a netminder with such a mixed track record.
But, hey, at least Mason has some swagger. That should count for … something.
* -For the sake of this post, let’s ignore the obvious cross-state rebuttal of the Pittsburgh Penguins winning a Stanley Cup with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury, among other examples of platoons working out.