Steven Stamkos is happy to be in the second round of the playoffs.
And he’s probably just as happy to be done trying to shake Pavel Datsyuk.
Stamkos was held without a goal in seven games versus the Red Wings, though he did manage to rack up 22 shots.
“The first round was tough when you’re not producing, but that was an eye-opener for me that I can go out there and focus on other areas of the game, whether it was faceoffs or playing well defensively,” he said, per the Canadian Press. “The beauty of it is it’s kind of a fresh start and I’m excited for that chance.”
The Lightning open their series with the Canadiens tonight in Montreal. Stamkos scored five goals in five games versus the Habs, all of them Tampa Bay wins, during the regular season.
Then again, he had four goals in four games versus the Wings, three of them Tampa Bay wins, during the regular season.
“This is a brand new ballgame,” he said. “I think this group has learned the lesson of not paying any attention to what happened in previous games.”
Related: Coach Cooper isn’t worried about Stamkos’ goal drought
This is going to be a brief post because there’s really not much to report. Mike Babcock hasn’t made a decision on his future. He doesn’t know if he’ll be back in Detroit coaching the Red Wings next season, or if he’ll be somewhere else.
“I’m not trying to snow you,” he told reporters today. “I don’t know.”
And so, over the next 10 days, Babcock will talk it over with his wife (a.k.a. the real “boss”) and meet with Red Wings GM Ken Holland.
After that, there should be something real to pass along.
We suppose if there was one interesting thing Babcock said today, it might have been this:
Feel free to try and parse something out of that.
Just don’t go overboard with your parsing, because…
Related: On the difference between ‘good’ and ‘big-time’ players
Craig MacTavish will remain with the Edmonton Oilers as Peter Chiarelli’s right-hand man.
“He’ll be the No. 2 guy,” Chiarelli, the Oilers’ new general manager, told the Edmonton Sun in an exclusive interview.
“He’ll be my eyes and ears in all areas. I want to have strong people with strong opinions.”
MacTavish, the former GM, was reportedly surprised and “hurt” when Chiarelli was hired as his replacement last week. At the time, it wasn’t clear if MacTavish would remain with the club.
But Chiarelli met with MacTavish and “explained how much I’d like to have him in the mix,” and apparently the sales pitch worked.
Related: MacTavish says Oilers could ‘ignite’ with ‘a few key personnel changes’
The disparity is huge. Duncan Keith is averaging 32:03, Kimmo Timonen just 10:22. The most ice time among Blackhawks defensemen, versus the least.
Partly by design and partly by necessity, Keith has been a workhouse for Chicago in these playoffs.
“He’s a freak,” Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said, per NHL.com. “He’s one of those athletes you don’t see every day. He’s as physically fit and prepared as they come, and he’s a guy that obviously loves playing hockey.”
Keith had three points in Game 6 versus Nashville, including the winning goal on a play that perfectly illustrated the 31-year-old’s ability to walk (dance?) the line and open shooting lanes:
Don’t expect the Blackhawks to lean any less on Keith in their series versus the Wild. Chicago’s defense has been under the microscope a lot this season, with inconsistent play from veterans Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival. The addition of 40-year-old Timonen has not done anything to quell concerns.
Said captain Jonathan Toews of Keith: “It’s huge for him to be as dynamic as he is offensively. But the minutes and the style that he plays, he means a lot to our team.”
Even without Mats Zuccarello, the New York Rangers will still pose a speedy challenge for the Washington Capitals when the two teams kick off their second-round series tonight at MSG.
“I think [Carl] Hagelin and [Chris] Kreider jump out as probably their top speed guys,” Caps d-man Brooks Orpik said, per NHL.com. “I think from video we have watched it’s more the way they play than the individual speed. If you turn the puck over, the transition from their defense to the forwards with those stretch passes is good. It forces teams to play fast so that’ll be really important. We need to manage the puck well so they don’t hit us with that transition speed.”
It’s that quick-strike potential on offense that made the Rangers one of the top-scoring teams during the regular season, despite not boasting the best possession numbers.
As Orpik noted, not only can some of the Rangers really skate, their coach, Alain Vigneault, demands his players move the puck quickly.
“It’s about making good, clean passes to our forwards to help them get up the ice,” d-man Keith Yandle learned upon joining the Rangers from Arizona, per NHL.com.
But remember, these are Barry Trotz’s Capitals now. Washington plays with the kind of patience and structure that can stifle a good offense, as we saw Monday when John Tavares and the New York Islanders were held to just 11 shots.
“They really respect the way their coach wants them to play,” said Rangers center Derrick Brassard, per CBS New York. “They have a really good structure now. Their players are willing to pay the price. They’re competing real hard. That’s why they’re having a lot of success this year.”
Related: Here’s the second-round schedule