Author: Jason Brough

Mike Johnston, Jim Rutherford, Rick Tocchet

Pens coach draws on personal experience of trailing series 3-1 and winning


Mike Johnston doesn’t need to be told a team can come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Back in 2003, when he was an associate coach with the Canucks, he lived it.

“I remember clearly when I was in Vancouver,” the Penguins coach recalled today, “we were in a series with St. Louis, and we went into St. Louis and won Game 5. And all of a sudden St. Louis had to pack their bags and come back to Vancouver. And they really didn’t want to. They wanted to have a couple of extra days to get ready for the next series.

“A few [Blues] got sick, got the flu, we won Game 6, won Game 7. The series can change so fast. And a lot of our players have been through that. Those are the experiences you need to draw on.”

And what Johnston didn’t mention about 2003 was the Canucks blowing a 3-1 series lead, to Minnesota, in the next round.

Of course, it was the Penguins who led the Rangers 3-1 last year, then proceeded to lose three straight.

“Several of the players have been through the reversal last year,” said Johnston. “They were leading on New York 3-1, and the whole series changed.

“This game going into New York, we win (and) the series changes completely, and it heads in our favor for sure. Just because of the psychological edge, when they’re at home, and we win that game and bring it back here, that’s a whole different series. We need one game, and that’s it.”

The Penguins may be in a deep hole trailing 3-1, but it’s not like they’ve been blown out so far. All four games have been decided by one goal, with last night’s contest going to overtime before Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers.

“If you look at the way the whole series has gone, it’s just a fine line,” Johnston said afterwards.

Game 5 goes tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET (on NBCSN).

Cooper says ‘just a matter of time’ before Stamkos scores versus Wings

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings - Game Three

He had eight shots in Game 1, one in Game 2, and two in Game 3.

That’s 11 shots total, and for a guy with a pretty good shot. Yet Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos is still searching for his first goal against the Detroit Red Wings.

Stamkos had 43 goals in the regular season, second to only Alex Ovechkin and his 53.

“He’s had a couple of good looks in this series,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, per the Detroit News. “If you go down the list of some of our players who haven’t scored, he’s had a couple of helpers (assists). These guys that have done it on numerous occasions, there’s a little more weight on their shoulders.

“Does Stammer wish he has a goal or two in this series? For sure. Do I think Detroit will keep him down the whole series? I don’t. It’s just a matter of time.”

The big challenge for Stamkos — especially in Detroit, where Wings coach Mike Babcock can deploy his troops with the last change — is trying to get chances matched up against Pavel Datsyuk, a.k.a. one of the best two-way forwards in the game.

In Game 3, Stamkos was on the ice for 11:18 at five-on-five. For 9:01 of that, Datsyuk was on the ice too, per

Detroit leads Tampa 2-1 in the series. Game 4 goes tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

Hartley not worried about big ice times — ‘I’m not coaching a nursing home’

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames - Game Three

Dennis Wideman has averaged 27:15.

T.J. Brodie has only logged a bit less, at 26:43.

Ditto for Kris Russell, at 26:37.

And there hasn’t even been overtime.

So, is Bob Hartley worried he’s tiring out his three top defensemen?

Of course not.

“We’re coaching elite athletes — I’m not coaching a nursing home,” the Flames coach said yesterday, per the Calgary Herald. “Those guys are well-conditioned athletes. Our total team game and our conditioning allow us to play those guys. I really believe those minutes are blown way out of proportion.

“You know, we’re getting so many stats right now. Pretty soon the manager of the arena is going to come and tell me how many cases of beer were sold after the first, second, third periods. It has to stop.”

Hartley’s player deployment stands in stark contrast to that of Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins, whose biggest workhorse has been defenseman Alex Edler (23:36) and who’s taken all sorts of heat for not playing the Sedins enough.

If the Flames can defeat (and eliminate) the Canucks tonight in Vancouver, Hartley’s troops will get a good rest before the start of the second round.

“We’re in the business to win games,” he said. “My mindset, my philosophy? If I have to play five guys the full 60 minutes to win the game, I will do it.”

Baertschi to play Game 5; Burrows out for series

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks

For all the talk about the Sedins’ ice time, an equally big — if not bigger — factor for the Vancouver Canucks in these playoffs has been the way their second line, once anchored by Ryan Kesler, has been wholly ineffective versus the Calgary Flames.

Enter Sven Baertschi, the former Flames prospect, who’s expected to make his series debut Thursday at Rogers Arena on a line with center Nick Bonino and winger Radim Vrbata.

“Vrbata, he’s a real good scorer. Bonino’s a real good play-maker,” coach Willie Desjardins said today after practice. “I think that’s a real natural fit, and we just have to find somebody on the other side that’ll complement that line.”

Baertschi scored twice in his last game for the Canucks, a meaningless 6-5 OT win over the Oilers on the last day of the regular season. The 13th overall pick in 2011, Baertschi’s strength is scoring goals, and Vancouver’s only scored eight of those against the hard-working, shot-blocking Flames.

While Baertschi has said he doesn’t think about his former organization anymore, that he’s all about the Canucks now, his insertion into the lineup is a noteworthy story for both fan bases, and one would assume he’ll be suitably motivated to make an impact.

One player who won’t be making an impact for the rest of the series is Alex Burrows. Desjardins confirmed the veteran winger is still in Calgary recovering from the injury (reportedly a broken rib) that put him in hospital yesterday.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” said Desjardins. “It’s kind of a comfort thing (staying in Calgary). … He won’t be back for the series. … It’s an injury, but nothing serious.”

Desjardins, predictably, did not name his starting goalie for Game 5. He’ll save that announcement for tomorrow.

The Flames lead the series, 3-1.

MacTavish: Oilers could ‘ignite’ with ‘a few key personnel changes’

Craig MacTavish

“Out of respect for the players,” Craig MacTavish wouldn’t commit to drafting Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel with this summer’s first overall pick.

But the Oilers’ GM kind of showed his hand today on Edmonton’s AM 630 radio when he said, “We arguably have the three best players in the CHL right now.”

One of those three would be center Leon Draisaitl, the third overall pick in last year’s draft.

Another would be defenseman Darnell Nurse, the seventh overall pick in 2013.

And the third would be “the player we pick” in June — which would have to mean McDavid, since Jack Eichel doesn’t play in the CHL. He’s a college guy.


Whatever, nobody thought the Oilers would pick Eichel anyway.

In reality, what will be far more interesting than who the Oilers pick first overall (it’ll be McDavid, you can count on it) is what they’ll do with the first-round pick they acquired from Pittsburgh in the David Perron trade, not to mention all the picks they have beyond the first round.

Because MacTavish isn’t counting on McDavid to turn the Oilers around alone. He knows there are still “critical positions” (plural) that need to be “improved upon”, and the GM says he’s “more inclined to use draft picks” to do it.

“We’ve got to make a few key personnel changes and improvements, and I think that could ignite it quickly,” said MacTavish.

Case in point, the goaltending needs to be fixed. The Oilers thought they’d done that a year ago with Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth; alas, they had not.

Edmonton’s blue line also needs upgrading. (Which could, in turn, make the goaltenders look better.)

And let’s not forget the potential changes to the front office, though those won’t be MacTavish’s responsibility to make.

At any rate, MacTavish promised a “very busy summer” in Edmonton. It doesn’t sound like winning the lottery will change that.

Related: So…what do the Oilers do now?