Jarome Iginla

Neely, Jacobs presser leaves more questions than answers

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They didn’t want to get into specifics and, for the most part, they didn’t.

That was the biggest takeaway from Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs and team president Cam Neely meeting with the media this afternoon, just hours after dismissing GM Peter Chiarelli. The pair began the session evading questions about Chiarelli’s ouster — “I don’t want to get into specifics,” was the common refrain — and left without really delving into why one of the NHL’s most respected GMs, who led Boston to two Stanley Cup Finals in the last five years, was turfed.

That’s not to say Neely and Jacobs didn’t talk around the firing. Here’s a list of the (possible) reasons that were (partially) touched upon:

— Missing the playoffs.

— A lack of push from younger players for roster spots, which morphed into talk of whiffing at the draft (which Brough pointed out on Twitter.)

— Straying from the team’s identity, possibly related to the aforementioned young players and lackluster drafts. “We got away from our identity,” Neely explained. “We weren’t as tough to play against as we’d like to be.”

— Cap management, with Jacobs saying the Jarome Iginla contract put Boston in a “sticky” situation.

It’s likely a combination of all these factors played a role Chiarelli’s dismissal, though one wonders why he wasn’t afforded the chance to try and fix some of the issues. For as disappointing as this season was, Chiarelli developed a good track record of success — and a good reputation across the league — over the previous eight.

The lack of insight also makes it tough to predict what the Bruins seek in a new GM. All we know is Neely and Jacobs will look both internally and externally for “the best candidate, period,” and that the new hire will decide the fate of head coach Claude Julien.

Neely also confirmed he had zero interest in becoming GM.

That isn’t to say, however, that Neely doesn’t want major influence over the club moving forward. Consider this, from the Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa:

Chiarelli’s ouster is a result of two things: the Bruins’ failure to make the playoffs and the clout of Cam Neely.

The president, in conjunction with CEO Charlie Jacobs, made the decision to fire Chiarelli. Neely has not been happy with many things about the Bruins this season: the defense-first style of play, the small number of young players pushing for NHL employment, and the team’s tightness against the salary cap.

This is Neely’s quickest move to call for change. He will have a big say in who becomes the next GM. Beyond that, Neely will have an greater say in how the GM goes about his business. The 2015-16 Bruins and beyond will be built according to Neely’s vision and play in the manner he prefers.

Neely also revealed he utilized some of his clout at the March trade deadline.

“At some point during the year as we approached the trade deadline I had a conversation with Peter to make sure that we were protecting as many assets as we could,” Neely said. “Peter was very professional, and he was going to do everything he could to help improve our club during the season.

“It was more about, for me, trading assets for rentals which he understood.”

Translation: Chiarelli wasn’t allowed to mortgage the future for a deal that might get the B’s into the playoffs, which might’ve saved his job.

Not long after saying that, Neely left the podium and embarked on arguably his most important offseason after coming aboard five seasons ago. There’s a GM search to conduct, Julien’s lame-duck status to figure out and trade rumors swirling around Milan Lucic.

Soon, the Bruins will have to get into specifics.

Bruins don’t want to ‘rely on the last game’ to make the playoffs

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And so it comes down to the last three games — all on the road — for the Boston Bruins to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Chances are, they’ll get the job done. Two wins would do it. Even just one could be good enough. They already deserve some credit, heading into tonight’s contest in D.C. having won five in a row.

That being said, there are easier ways to try and clinch than with three away games in four days: tonight at Washington, tomorrow at Florida, and Saturday at Tampa Bay. Two of those teams are headed to the playoffs. The other was close, and will be rested.

“We don’t have an easy schedule,” coach Claude Julien conceded, per CSN New England. “We have a game against Washington and we know what that represents, but it’s also a late game with a late arrival in Florida the next day.

“So we really need to take care of business early on, and try and take as many of those points as we can to not have to rely on the last game.”

It’s been quite the year for this Boston team. Even without Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk, it wasn’t supposed to be this hard. The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy last season; they finished with a 27-point cushion. Their cushion now, over the Ottawa Senators, is zero points and one game in hand.

“This is why you play hockey,” said forward Chris Kelly, choosing to focus on the positives. “You don’t play to play in meaningless hockey games. You play to have purpose, and there’s nothing better than playing 82 games that have purpose. Every year is a different situation.”

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Avs hope to keep distant playoff hopes alive

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The second game of that series will see the San Jose Sharks host the Colorado Avalanche at the SAP Center, starting at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Even in a best-case scenario, it’s difficult to imagine the Colorado Avalanche or San Jose Sharks storming to a playoff berth this season. Many members of each team seem to know that.

According to Sports Club Stats, the Avs boast a .1 percent chance to make the postseason while the Sharks have a 2.6 percent chance. You get the impression that mathematical elimination will just be a formality at some point.

Matt Duchene told the Denver Post that the Avalanche just want to make every game count, a sentiment that’s likely echoed by the Sharks.

“We’re both still fighting, and it’s not over until it’s over,” Duchene said. “We’re not done until we’re mathematically eliminated. If we go 6-0 in the last six games, we’re going to give ourselves a shot. We have to make these games count — all six of them.”

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Despite their current predicaments, the two teams boast some talent that could entertain on NBCSN tonight.

The Sharks employ a group of forwards that are talented enough that it’s tough to believe they’ll almost certainly be watching the playoffs on TV with the rest of us. For all the controversy surrounding Joe Thornton, he’s had a great season feeding Joe Pavelski while Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture also rank as big offensive threats. Don’t forget dragon-loving hybrid defenseman Brent Burns, either.

Colorado isn’t far behind.

It’s been a disappointing season for the likes of Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, yet the Avalanche are enjoying production from veterans (Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay) and guys deep in their primes (Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly).

Expect to see two desperate hockey teams on NBCSN tonight, then.

In praise of Vrbata, who’s ‘just kind of an assassin’

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Of all the unrestricted free agents who joined new teams this summer, it’s hard to find one who’s had a bigger impact than Radim Vrbata has with the Vancouver Canucks.

Vrbata scored the game-winner in last night’s 5-2 victory over the Jets. The goal was his 29th of the season. Only nine players in the entire league have more than that.

“He’s just kind of an assassin,” said teammate Chris Higgins, per the Associated Press. “It’s pretty incredible watching him around the net — so much poise and patience. He’s very aware of how much time he has.

“It’s pretty impressive to watch.”

Vrbata signed on July 3 for two years and $10 million. He wasn’t GM Jim Benning’s first choice to provide more scoring, either. That was Jarome Iginla, who chose the Avs instead.

As it turns out, Vrbata hasn’t been such a bad consolation prize.

Get your game notes: Rangers at Caps

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Washington Capitals hosting the New York Rangers on Rivalry Night at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• At a glance in the Metro: No division has less separation between its top 4 teams than the Metropolitan. After the Rangers 2-1 win at NYI last night, NYR can take sole possession of the division – and Eastern Conference – lead tonight with a win. In addition, with a win AND an ANA regulation loss, the Rangers would become 1st in the NHL. WSH has a 4-point lead on #2WC BOS, but PIT is also within reach for 3rd in the division.

• In addition, WSH and NYR have 3 matchups remaining this season (including tonight).

• Winning with Cam: When Henrik Lundqvist began to miss time starting on Feb. 4 (though injured initially on Jan. 31), the Rangers’ 2 goalies had a combined 32 games of NHL experience– all from backup Cam Talbot. After last night’s win vs. NYI, the team is now 12-2-3 in King Henrik’s absence.

• Talbot has started 16 of those 17 total Ranger games, including his current run of 8 straight, putting up very impressive numbers in that stretch:

• Talbot stopped 29 of 30 shots last night. He has only started games on back-to-back days once in this stretch with Lundqvist out. He allowed 3 goals each against NSH and DAL last month, posting an 0-1-1 record in those games.

• There is still no concrete update on Lundqvist’s status other than him
continuing to skate and work out on his own.

• Caps coming off big win: This is the 3rd of a 5 game home stand for WSH (1-1-0 record), though the Caps enter tonight after a 3-day break between games. WSH is coming off its most lopsided victory of the season – a 6-1 defeat of BUF on Sat. They have now won 3 of their 4 gms in March after closing out Feb. with 3 straight losses.

• The Caps set season-bests for shots on goal (45), shots against (17), and margin of victory (5) while going 2-for-3 on the PP and a perfect 3-for-3 on the PK against the Sabres. Coach Barry Trotz gave the team two days off following the win. He also indicated that the break could help the Caps gear up for the stretch run and improve their position in the Metro: “There’s teams that are chasing us a little bit…so we’re not out of the woods there…But our focus has to be, when we come back, let’s look at the teams that we could catch now and see if we can jump over a couple of them. I think there’s enough time and I think we’re a good enough team to do that.” – Trotz, following the win vs. BUF

• Ovechkin and Nash: This game will feature the top 2 goal scorers in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin (44 goals) is the 2-time defending Rocket Richard Trophy winner (4-time winner overall), while Rick Nash (39 goals) took home his only goal-scoring title in 2003-04 (scored a career-high 41 goals, shared award w/ 2 others).

• In the only prior meeting this season between WSH and NYR (at MSG), Nash had a hat trick and Ovechkin scored a PPG in NYR’s 4-2 win.

RANGERS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Rick Nash scored the game-winning goal vs. NYI last night (also assisted on NYR’s first goal). He leads the NHL in even-strength goals (30), is t-1st in short-handed goals (4), and is t-2nd in game-winning goals (8).

• Nash is 1 goal away from his 3rd career 40-goal season. His previous 2 were both w/ CBJ: 40 in 2008-09 and a career-high 41 in 2003-04 when he won the Rocket Richard Trophy (shared w/ Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla).

• Derick Brassard (also a CBJ 1st-round pick – 6th overall in 2006) centers Rick Nash on the top line. Since the beginning of February, Brassard has made in impact with 17 points (2G-15A) in 18 games.

• Trade deadline acquisition Keith Yandle was Arizona’s leading scorer (41 pts) before the trade. In four games for the Rangers, Yandle has 0 points in 19:03 TOI.

• Yandle has not yet sparked the Rangers 14th-ranked power play (18.3%) as hoped. Since the trade, the team is 1-for-10 on the PP.

• Mats Zuccarello has responded well since agreeing to a 4-yr/18M extension last week. He has assists in all 4 games since (5 total), including the primary helper on Kevin Hayes’ game-tying goal last night.

• On Sunday, Hayes played at United Center for the first time. The 22-year-old was a 1st-round pick (24th overall) by Chicago in 2010, but he did not sign with the Hawks and instead played 4 years at Boston College. Hayes signed with the Rangers over the summer. Then, yesterday, Hayes continued his strong rookie season with an impressive individual effort to tie the game at 1 – his 13th goal of the season.

CAPITALS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• The Caps have at least 1 power play goal in all 4 March games so far (5-for-8 overall). The team ranks 2nd in the NHL overall with a 24.9% success rate. Alex Ovechkin leads the league with 20 power play goals.

• The Capitals acquired Curtis Glencross from Calgary for a 2015 2nd and 3rd-round pick at the trade deadline. Glencross has been an immediate fit on a line with Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer, in addition to getting time on the PP.

• Glencross had 3 points (1G-2A) vs. BUF, his first 3-point game since March 22 of last season.

• He now has 4 points (2G-2A) in the 3 games since being traded.

• “I was excited for the new challenge.” – Glencross, on coming to WSH

• Alex Ovechkin (44 goals) & Nicklas Backstrom (51 assists) lead the league in those respective categories. They are also t-2nd in the league with 69 points (John Tavares leads w/ 72).

• With 2 assists vs. BUF, Backstrom tied Michal Pivonka on the franchise’s all-time assists list with 418. Ovi is 3rd (417).

• No two teammates have more points this season than Ovechkin & Backstrom (138).

• The last time two teammates finished 1-2 in the scoring race in a full season was in 1995-96, when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr (PIT), accomplished the feat (Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis were 1-2 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season for TB).

• Ovi is the frontrunner for a 5th Rocket Richard Trophy – and 3rd straight. 6 players have won the NHL’s goal-scoring title 5+ times. 6 players have also won 3+ consecutive titles (most recent: Brett Hull 1990-92).

• Caps injuries: D Mike Green (upper-body) was held out of practice Tuesday. He is day-to-day and will be evaluated after the morning skate. WSH recalled D Nate Schmidt from Hershey (AHL) on an emergency basis.

• D Brooks Orpik (lower-body) left practice early yesterday and will also be a game-time decision.

• Braden Holtby made 16 saves on 17 shots against Buffalo. Overall, he is ranked near the top of 5 major goaltending categories:

• He has started the Caps’ last 10 games.

• vs. NYR: Holtby allowed 4 goals in the December meeting vs. the Rangers (4-2 loss).