Author: Mike Halford

New York Rangers v Toronto Maple Leafs

Vigneault: ‘Standards have been set’ after Ovechkin, Backstrom hits


Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault had a creative — dare we say passive-aggressive — take on last night’s controversial finish in Game 1 against the Caps, saying officials set the standard on hits from behind by not calling penalties on Niklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, and that the Rangers have to meet that standard.

Here are the hits Vigneault’s referring to:

The latter, of course, has been the source of great controversy as it led to Joel Ward’s last-second winner on Thursday night. Backstrom put a pretty good lick on Dan Boyle but no penalty was called, much to the Rangers’ chagrin.

But for all the gamesmanship out of New York, the Caps weren’t just going to sit around and stay mum on the issue.

“(Fans) in front didn’t flinch,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said, referring to ticketholders near the glass where the Boyle hit occurred. “Usually if it’s a questionable hit everybody jumps up and puts their hands up.”

Howard won’t demand trade out of Detroit

Detroit Red Wings v Carolina Hurricanes

Jimmy Howard isn’t letting his playoff benching affect his future as a Red Wing.

At Friday’s locker clean-out, Howard informed reporters he wouldn’t demand a trade after losing his No. 1 gig to Petr Mrazek in Detroit’s opening-round playoff loss to Tampa. The 31-year-old also stated he looked forward to competing for the starting job with Mrazek next season.

Howard’s remarks put any sort of goalie controversy to bed for now.

For now, that is.

Why? Well, the American netminder carries a pretty hefty pricetag — a six-year, $31.8 million deal with a $5.3M average annual cap hit — and has four years left on the contract. He’s also eight years older than Mrazek, who’s widely considered to be the franchise’s goalie of the future… but the future might be now.

Mrazek played to rave reviews in the loss to Tampa Bay, finishing with a .925 save percentage, 2.11 GAA and two shutouts. Head coach Mike Babcock was full of praise, describing Mrazek as “a young guy with good athleticism and a good mind for the game,” adding, “he’s going to get better.”

Wings GM Ken Holland has already stated Mrazek will be with the Red Wings next season, even though he could be sent down to AHL Grand Rapids without having to clear waivers.

While Howard wouldn’t seem to be a very desirable trade target, a team in need of veteran goaltending depth — and one that might need to move an onerous contract of its own — could be in play, though those types of situations are far and few between.

As such, it sounds like Howard will be forced to earn back his No. 1 job when the Wings break camp this fall.


Devils’ Matteau (broken finger) leaves Worlds, won’t need surgery


Stefan Matteau’s time with Team USA at the World Championships is over before it ever really got started.

Matteau has been sent home from the Czech Republic after suffering a broken index finger, per the Star-Ledger. The young Devils prospect joined the American club after spending most of the year with AHL Albany, appearing in seven games at the NHL level.

“(Matteau) does not need an operation, but he cannot play,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello explained. “We’ll have him checked out.”

Team USA is currently in the midst of its tournament opener against Finland. The Worlds were thought to be a good experience for the 21-year-old Matteau, as he’d be playing alongside a host of other promising young players, including a trio of collegians in Jack Eichel, Jimmy Vesey and Mike Reilly.