For Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, the 2015 World Championships can be seen as something of a palate cleanser. Although he was able to rebound somewhat in the second half, the 2014-15 campaign was a difficult one for him as he finished with a 3.16 GAA and .904 save percentage.
Now substantially removed from his standout 2011-2012 campaign, it seems fair to wonder if that season was an anomaly within his career. Amid that speculation, Smith joined Team Canada and started in eight of the nation’s 10 games. He posted a 1.50 GAA and .930 save percentage to help Canada claim the gold medal.
“It reiterates that I’m a pretty good goalie,” Smith said, per the Coyotes’ website. “It’s been a tough year mentally on me. Physically, I got a good handle on that, but I think mentally, going into the summer knowing that I’ve played some pretty good hockey now for three months or so, I think it’s important.”
It will allow him to enter the summer on a high note, although he certainly still has major tests ahead of him. Arizona has missed the playoffs for three straight years and its preliminary outlook for 2015-16 isn’t great. A strong campaign from Smith would go a long way towards getting the Coyotes back into the postseason though.
The Boston Bruins looked inward to replace Peter Chiarelli as Don Sweeney has been announced as the team’s new general manager.
Sweeney, 48, is a former NHL defenseman that spent the vast majority of his 1,115-game career with Boston. He also has nine seasons worth of experience within the Bruins’ front office, including his service as an assistant general manager for the last six years. Before that he served as the team’s Director of Player Development and then Director of Hockey Operations.
Among his duties as an assistant general manager was overseeing the development of the Bruins’ prospects at every level. In 2014 he also took over as the general manager of AHL Providence.
”Don has excelled in every role he has been in with the Bruins organization and has a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of our hockey operations department,” said Bruins president Cam Neely. “His commitment and drive to bring a championship caliber team to the Boston fans was evident every step of the way through this search process, and I am confident that his leadership of our hockey operations department will lead to success.”
Before selecting Sweeney, the Bruins reportedly considered former Capitals GM George McPhee. They also had interest in Rangers assistant GM Jeff Gorton, but Glen Sather wouldn’t give permission for any to interview him during New York’s playoff run. At one point Ray Shero was linked to the Bruins as well, but he became the New Jersey Devils’ general manager.
The New York Rangers have been able to get this far while averaging just two goals per game, but just because they’ve been able to do that doesn’t mean its ideal or will continue to work going forward. The Tampa Bay Lightning handed the Rangers their first blowout loss of the 2015 playoffs Monday night and it remains to be seen if the Rangers can respond.
They’ve had great goaltending and Monday’s loss aside, the Rangers’ defense has been an asset. But some of their forwards haven’t been getting the job done with the puck and no one exemplifies that more than Rick Nash. After scoring 42 markers in the regular season, he has just two goals and seven points in 14 playoff contests. Combine that with his offensive struggles in 2013 and questions are being raised about his ability to produce when the stakes are raised.
NBC’s Keith Jones put it bluntly on Monday:
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault continues to defend his star player, but that doesn’t mean he thinks the Rangers can get by with the status quo from Nash in terms of production.
“I mean, again, he’s working extremely hard,” Vigneault said, per the Bergen Record. “He’s getting physically involved. He’s getting some looks. Would I like him to finish on some of those looks? Yes. Do we need him to finish on those looks? Probably, yes. He knows that.”
Vigneault went on to emphasize that it’s not just Nash that they need more out of and that was certainly the case on Monday. Still, a breakout night from Nash would likely go a long way towards tipping the Eastern Conference Final in the Rangers’ favor.
Game 3 will air on NBCSN and is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Before Todd McLellan officially became the Edmonton Oilers’ bench boss and while he was still coaching Team Canada in the 2015 Worlds, he took it upon himself to pick Sidney Crosby’s brain about what life was like as an 18-year-old superstar so that McLellan would have a better idea of how best to handle Connor McDavid. (Edmonton Sun)
While on the subject of McLellan; he still thinks very highly of the San Jose Sharks. (NHL.com)
Los Angeles Kings director of player personnel Michael Futa opened up on a number of subjects, including the Kings’ offseason outlook and top prospect Adrian Kempe’s transition to North America. (LA Kings Insider)
Here are the highlight’s from Chicago’s triple-overtime victory last night:
New Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol might be able to better communicate with his players about why they’re being scratched or getting less playing time, compared to how Craig Berube did things. (Broad Street Hockey)
NHL Numbers had an interesting piece on the risk and potential reward of draft prospects. (NHL Numbers)
Dennis Seidenberg isn’t sure what the future holds for the Boston Bruins, but he hopes he’ll be able to stay with the team. (CSN New England)
The Colorado Avalanche will have some vacancies to fill as defensive coach Andre Tourigny, and video coach Mario Duhamel will not return for the 2015-16 campaign, per the Denver Post.
Tourigny has resigned to pursue a head coaching position while Duhamel hopes to serve in a role that would allow him to be behind the bench. Duhamel has been granted permission to speak with other teams so that he can pursue that goal.
Per the Post:
The Avs obviously have a problem with shots-against and getting hemmed in their zone. But Tourigny should not be seen as “runner” or scapegoat. At every practice I attended, play stopped when Roy had something to say — and usually he was running the D-zone drills.
Patrick Roy’s second season as Colorado’s head coach was a rocky one. After leading Colorado to a division title in 2013-14, the Avalanche finished at the bottom of the Central Division with a 39-31-12 record. Their offense was a big part of the issue as they went from scoring 2.99 goals per game to just 2.55 this season.
Colorado did finish on a high note with a 12-6-1 record from the beginning of March onward and Roy felt they learned a lot in 2014-15. At the same time, the Avalanche were a terrible puck possession team in 2013-14, which led some to believe that their regression was just that catching up with them.
The Avalanche similarly struggled in that regard this season with a five-on-five Fenwick of 43.9%. The only team that did worse than them in that regard were the Buffalo Sabres.