The list of candidates being considered for the Sharks’ vacant head coaching job has expanded to include Dan Bylsma. San Jose has gotten permission to interview him, per ESPN’s Craig Custance.
Bylsma had a 252-117-32 regular season record with the Pittsburgh Penguins and led them to a Stanley Cup championship in his first campaign as their bench boss. At the same time, the Penguins struggled to live up to that standard their subsequent playoff runs, which might be of particular note to San Jose given the franchise’s reputation for underperforming in the postseason.
San Jose also appears to be considering Pete DeBoer for the gig and has reportedly expressed an interest in Mike Babcock as well.
Whoever the Sharks end up with will be replacing Todd McLellan, who appears to be on the verge of signing with Edmonton.
San Jose missed the playoffs in 2014-15 for the first time since 2003. Since the organization’s debut in 1991, San Jose has only failed to advance to the postseason in six campaigns, but has never reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Bylsma studying in preparation for his eventual return
The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of strengths, but their defensive depth might not be one of them. After Michal Rozsival suffered an ankle injury that will sideline him for the rest of the playoffs, 24-year-old David Rundblad was inserted into the lineup for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.
Rundblad as well as Kimmo Timonen barely played though, forcing the Blackhawks’ top four defensemen to carry the load. The Anaheim Ducks went on to win that game 4-1. Under those circumstances, Kyle Cumiskey practiced alongside Johnny Oduya today in place of Rundblad.
“(Cumiskey) could play,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville when asked about the potential lineup change for Game 2 tomorrow. On the subject of what Cumiskey would offer if he’s inserted into the lineup, Quenneville added, “He brings some speed, quickness. I think he defends with his quickness in the puck area. I think offensively he’s got some pace to his game as well.
“I think it will be a good opportunity for him to come in and help us and bring some quickness to our team.”
Cumiskey is a more veteran option than Rundblad, but he spent most of the 2014-15 campaign in the minors. The 28-year-old ended up playing in seven regular season contests with Chicago, bringing his career total to 139 regular season games. The last time he made a playoff appearance at this level was 2010 when he was with the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s a huge game to get thrown into. I’m sure I’ll be nervous, but excited at the same time,” Cumiskey said, per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus.
Meanwhile, the Ducks are feeling great about their defensive depth
The New York Rangers’ playoff run has been anything but conventional. Although they were one of the best offensive teams during the regular season, they’ve averaged just two goals per game in the playoffs. That’s given them almost no margin for error, but they’ve gotten this far all the same.
In keeping with how the Rangers have done business throughout the playoffs, they earned a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Will they continue to win by the narrowest of margins? Or will the Tampa Bay Lightning be the team that solves their defense and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist?
We’ll get the next chapter of that series tonight. Game 2 is set to begin at 8:00 p.m. ET, but you can tune in as early as 7:00 p.m. for pregame coverage. The contest will air on NBCSN and can be streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra:
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some relevant links:
Zuccarello skates, but Rangers say he’s still out indefinitely
Cooper: ‘What got Montreal back in the series was what we did for big parts of the game’
On second thought, Game 1 made Lightning’s Cooper ‘want to vomit’
Can the Rangers win the Cup like this?
A good kicking: Rangers best Lightning for 1-0 series lead
Bolts coach makes it clear why Drouin isn’t playing
Bolts mum on what’s ailing Brian Boyle
The Anaheim Ducks are widely seen as the underdogs going into the Western Conference Final, but if they are to top Chicago, perhaps it won’t be on the strength of their five-on-five play. Maybe it will come by dominating with the man advantage instead.
That’s been a big part of Anaheim’s early success as its converted on 31% of its power plays so far in the playoffs. That’s in stark contrast to the Ducks’ 15.7 power-play percentage in the regular season, but given that they feature Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, their recent success may be more than just a product of a small sample size. That seems to be Chicago’s view.
“They have a couple of really skilled individuals on that team and are really good at those short passes in front of the net, close to the net, and finding good passing lanes,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson told CSN Chicago. “It’s going to be a tough challenge but I think we came up with a couple of big kills against Minnesota. The overall total wasn’t what we wanted, but that’s definitely one area we can improve on. And we have to improve on it if we’re going to move forward to the next round.”
The other part of the equation is Chicago’s penalty kill, which as Hjalmarsson touched on, has left something to be desired overall. The Blackhawks have successfully killed just 72.7% of their penalties in the playoffs, which makes this matchup look all the more troubling for Chicago.
It’s definitely an area of their game that the Blackhawks will be tested on in this series, but coach Joel Quenneville has an obvious solution to minimize the potential impact: “Stay out of the box.”
We’ll see how successful Chicago is in that regard.
Now that he’s had a chance to reflect on the Washington Capitals’ 3-1 series collapse in the second round, Barry Trotz has been able to put his first season as head coach of the squad into perspective.
He saw some real positives from Washington in 2014-15. Braden Holtby was able to play like an elite goaltender, rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov took big strides forward, and Trotz felt the team’s best players grew as leaders as well.
“I think we didn’t cower from things, we looked things in the face when adversity hit our way,” Trotz told the Washington Post. “We sort of dealt with it head on, and we didn’t make excuses. That’s what I think we learned.”
And yet Washington can’t escape the fact that it once again was unable to reach the Eastern Conference Final. Another year of the Alex Ovechkin has been lost. So additional lessons are required.
“We said, ‘What lessons can we learn?’ ” Trotz said. “If we can learn anything, it’s that we’re still going to have to find that next level of killer instinct. We have a team like the Rangers on the ropes and how this series got there didn’t really matter, but I didn’t think we played as well in a couple of our wins that we did win, and we played quite well in some of our losses. It really doesn’t matter. You still have an opportunity at certain points where if you can knock out a team, you’ve got to find that next level of hardness, killer instinct, whatever. And I think we recognized it.”
Whether they’ll be able to do that remains to be seen, but in the meantime they have some matters to address over the summer. Holtby, Kuznetsov, Nate Schmidt, and Marcus Johansson are all set to become restricted free agents and they also have quite a few players that could potentially walk, including forward Joel Ward and defenseman Mike Green.