Rick Nash’s playoff struggles have been an ongoing topic throughout the playoffs. If he makes some more plays like he did in the first period of Game 4, then that storyline will look very dated.
After surrendering six goals in each of their last two games, the Rangers were able to hold the Lightning at bay for the opening period tonight. It was starting to look like this contest would be scoreless through 20 minutes, but Nash accepted a pass from Kevin Hayes and then charged at the net to beat goaltender Ben Bishop one-on-one:
Nash now has three goals in 16 playoff games and eight markers in 57 career postseason contests. Those numbers pale in comparison to what he’s done in the regular season, but if he’s able to heat up, then that could push the Rangers over the top in their series against Tampa Bay.
As it is, New York has its work cut out for it as it seeks to protect the lead and even this series at 2-2.
Vigneault defends Nash, but realizes they need more
The NHL GM of the Year award has come down to Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman, the New York Rangers’ Glen Sather, and Anaheim’s Bob Murray.
For Murray its an opportunity to become the first general manager to win the award twice since it was first given in 2010. Anaheim won its division for the third straight year and is fighting the Chicago Blackhawks for a berth into the Stanley Cup Final.
Murray helped bring the Ducks to the next level in the playoffs by acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver in the summer of 2014 in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and two draft picks. Kesler had a solid campaign and has been a big help in the postseason with four goals, nine points, and a 61.2 faceoff winning percentage in 12 contests. Perhaps the biggest move was the one Murray didn’t make though. He let goaltender Jonas Hiller walk as a free agent and rather than replace him, Murray put his trust in the idea that one of his two young netminders, Frederik Andersen or John Gibson, would be able to fill the void. So far that’s worked out for Anaheim.
Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning had a 50-24-8 record in the regular season and advanced to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. Yzerman inherited Steven Stamkos, but he’s done a great job of building a strong team around the superstar. The Lightning have a number of young offensive weapons, including Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat, all of which were acquired during Yzerman’s watch. Kucherov was a late second round selection in 2011 while Palat slipped all the way to the seventh round of the same draft. Johnson meanwhile was never drafted and Yzerman instead lured him over with an entry-level contract in 2011.
The Lightning general manager also acquired a vital piece of the puzzle in 2013 when he sent Cory Conacher and a fourth round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Ben Bishop.
Sather has been running the Rangers’ front office since in 2000 and oversaw their Presidents’ Trophy-winning 2014-15 campaign. He’s made a habit of trading for or signing high-profile players with varying degrees of success. The most recent example is defenseman Keith Yandle, who he pried away from Arizona in March. Some of the other big names he’s acquired in recent years include Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Dan Boyle.
The San Jose Sharks are considering a lot of high profile options for their vacant head coaching job, but GM Doug Wilson might end up surprising people by picking Dave Lowry.
That’s based on speculation from David Pollak of the Mercury News, although as he notes, he’s not the only one that thinks Lowry has a chance:
He made the Merc’s list of 14 candidates the day after McLellan’s departure was announced. TSN’s Darren Dreger had him on a list of potential Sharks coaches as well, and the Times Colonist (great name for a newspaper, eh?) in Victoria did a quick story on Lowry’s name percolating for the San Jose job.
None of this is to suggest that Lowry has the inside track as Wilson is keeping his lip zipped while the search is in process. Consider it more of a reminder that the Sharks general manager is talking to a lot more people than the few names that do surface here and there.
Lowry has been serving as the bench boss of the WHL Victoria Royals, which went to the second round of the playoffs after posting a 39-29-3-1 regular season record. His efforts with the Royals have earned him the head coaching gig for Team Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championship.
As for the other names out there, three prominent ones are Adam Oates, Dan Bylsma, and Peter DeBoer.
In contrast to those three, Lowry doesn’t have any head coaching experience at the NHL level, but he did enjoy a 1,084-game playing career and previously served as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames for three seasons.
Mike Babcock is bringing former Red Wings assistant coach Jim Hiller with him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, per the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan. That might help Toronto considerably with the man advantage.
Detroit had a mediocre 17.7% power-play success rate in 2013-14, but they finished second this season with a 23.8% conversion rate and Hiller, who was in his first campaign with Detroit, got a lot of the credit for that.
“Jim Hiller played in the NHL at one time, was a college player, was a long-time junior coach, and he’s about offense every single day,” Babcock said back in February.
“He had lots of ideas. We had to tweak them a little bit for the NHL, to build our program and get some trust for our guys, but he’s done a real nice job.”
Hiller will have his work cut out for him in Toronto as the Maple Leafs’ power play was only successful 15.9% of the time this season. Toronto was also one of the league’s worst teams offensively with an average of 2.51 goals per game.
Babcock predicts ‘pain’ for Leafs, who are a ‘massive, massive challenge’
Babcock wants to ‘put Canada’s team back on the map’
The Rangers got through the first two rounds on the strength of 2-1 victories, but in Games 2 and 3 of the Eastern Conference Final they weren’t able to contain the Tampa Bay Lightning. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers will be looking to bounce back tonight after surrendering six goals in each of those contests.
The game is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. ET and you can tune in as early as 7:00 for pregame coverage. The contest will air on NBCSN and it can also be streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra:
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Here are some relevant links:
It goes to eleven: Lightning edge Rangers in track meet
Brian Boyle is right, ‘The Triplets’ are scary good
All eyes on Lundqvist
Twins joining Triplets? Watch out if Stamkos, Killorn keep heating up
Bolts rule Carle (undisclosed) out for Game 4