Author: Mike Halford

2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7

Pens GM Rutherford isn’t big on votes of confidence


Doesn’t sound like Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford is ready to give his head coach, Mike Johnston, a vote of confidence —  but it’s not because he doesn’t like Johnston.

Rutherford just doesn’t like votes of confidence.

“I’ve heard that term because I follow sports, but I don’t like it. You can say you give a guy a vote of confidence, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” Rutherford said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “[Johnston’s] done a good job under difficult circumstances and still has gotten us to 96 points and given us a chance to get into the playoffs here in the last couple of games.”

Johnston’s job security has been a hot topic of late as the Penguins, 3-8-2 in their last 13, trend towards a once-unthinkable collapse; they were 10 points clear of the final wild card spot at the beginning of March, neck-and-neck with the Rangers and Isles for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

But things, they have changed.

Injuries and poor health have besieged the team, especially on defense, which is perhaps why Rutherford wasn’t prepared to throw Johnston under the bus. The first-time NHL head coach had the Pens playing some very impressive hockey early — Pittsburgh had just nine regulation losses over the first three months of the season — and, to be fair, there aren’t many clubs that could withstand 333 man-games lost (fifth-most in the NHL) and the types of ailments Pittsburgh suffered: Olli Maata had cancer, Pascal Dupuis had blood clots and five different players were infected with the mumps.

Still, one has to wonder if Johnston will be turfed should the Penguins miss the dance, simply because he and the club would fall remarkably short of their goals. He arrived on the job talking like the postseason was a given; his aim was to win another championship.

“The bottom-line expectation for me is that, from training camp through the first part of the season, everything we do is setting the table for the playoffs,” he said upon getting hired. “The score is relevant, but it’s not as relevant as the habits that we are going to have to make us successful in the playoffs.

“This is a group that wants to win. They’ve won the Stanley Cup, and I believe they want to do it again.”

Preds sign KHL scoring sensation Moses: one year, $1M


The Predators have landed a pretty intriguing free agent — Steve Moses, who set a KHL scoring record this season with 36 goals in 60 games.

Moses, 25, agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal with Nashville on Thursday. The deal will begin next season, at which time the former University of New Hampshire star will (presumably) make his NHL debut. Per the Tennessean, Moses’ deal is of the one-way variety.

Moses has spent the last three years in the KHL with Jokerit, following a four-year career at New Hampshire (and a brief eight-game cameo with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate). Though undersized — 5-foot-9, 170 pounds — Moses is blessed with great skating ability and offensive instincts, which saw him score 70 times for Jokerit over the last three seasons.

“He skates like the wind,” Moses’ former UNH teammate, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, told Sportsnet. “He’s really well built. He won’t get thrown around over here.”

Per Sportsnet, there were multiple suitors for Moses’ services, with Edmonton and Columbus believed to be two of the frontrunners. Columbus was thought to be at the top of the list, given Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen used to work as Jokerit’s GM and was primarily responsible for bringing Moses to the Finnish-based club in 2012.

Willie being Willie? Desjardins won’t commit to Lack as playoff starter

Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver head coach Willie Desjardins — who, it has to be said, treats lineup decisions like top-secret nuclear codes — played it coy on Wednesday, refusing to reveal who’d be his starting netminder when the Canucks open the playoffs next week.

To most, the decision is simple and logical — Eddie Lack should open as the No. 1. The lanky Swede has been Vancouver’s goalie of record in 19 of 21 games since Ryan Miller went down to injury in late February, going 11-6-2 while backstopping Vancouver to the playoffs after a one-year absence. Lack has played well, played often and justifiably earned the gig.

But there are some things to consider with Miller.

The first is that he signed a three-year, $18 million deal to be the starter in Vancouver and, through two-thirds of the season, performed in that role quite well (28-15-1, 2.47 GAA, .913 save percentage.) And there is the oft-uttered “you shouldn’t lose your job to injury” adage to consider, even if nobody believes it to actually be true (just ask Drew Bledsoe.)

There’s also the fact Miller appears to be racing back from injury. On Friday, he flew out to join the team in Winnipeg just so he could practice and, today, said there was a chance he’d dress for tomorrow’s penultimate regular-season game against Arizona, which could pave the way for a start against Edmonton in the finale:

Finally, there’s the experience factor. Lack has a grand total of zero playoff games on his resume; Miller has 53, which includes a pair of trips to the Eastern Conference Final with Buffalo in 2006 and ’07.

Isles draftees Pulock, Pokka highlight AHL all-rookie team

St Louis Blues v New York Islanders

The New York Islanders continued to display their recent drafting prowess on Wednesday as a pair of picks — Ville Pokka and Ryan Pulock — were named to the AHL’s All-Rookie team.

Of course, only one currently plays in the Isles’ organization.

That would be Pulock, the 15th overall pick in 2013 that — despite injuries limiting him to just 48 games — ranks second among all AHL defensemen with 17 goals, and second among all AHL skaters with 13 power-play markers. The 20-year-old also showed an ability to stay out of the penalty box, recording just six PIM this year.

Pokka, a defenseman the Isles took in the second round in 2012, was sent to Chicago as part of the Nick Leddy deal and has gone on to star for the Blackhawks’ affiliate in Rockford, scoring 30 points in 64 games while helping the IceHogs make the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in five years.

(In addition to Pulock and Pokka, the Isles also drafted defensemen Griffin Reinhart, Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield, all of whom are also playing with Bridgeport. Reinhart, 21, and Mayfield, 22, have already made their NHL debuts.)

As for the remainder of the AHL All-Rookie team, it looks like this…

Goalie: Matt Murray, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Forward: Viktor Arvidsson, Milwaukee
Forward: Connor Brown, Toronto
Forward: Charles Hudon, Hamilton

Goalie nods: Andersen likely for Ducks, who’ve yet to name playoff starter


All the latest from the blue paint…

Andersen first off for Anaheim

Looks as though Frederik Andersen will be in goal tonight when the Ducks host the Stars on NBCSN.

Andersen was the first goalie off at this morning’s skate, suggesting he’ll take over the net after John Gibson allowed three goals on 22 shots in Friday’s 4-2 loss to Colorado. The Danish netminder will make his first start since last Wednesday, when he made 22 saves in an easy 5-1 win over Edmonton.

The bigger story for the Ducks, of course, is which goalie will get the start come playoff time. Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau continues to play coy with his choice, suggesting that he knows who he thinks will start Game 1 but won’t share that info with the media.

“I think we know who we’re going to play and what we’re going to be doing as a group,” Boudreau said, per the O.C. Register. “So let’s just leave it at that.”


Leafs at Jackets: James Reimer vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Bruins at Caps: Tuukka Rask vs. Braden Holtby