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
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.