New York Rangers

Maurice: ‘Vigneault wanted the electric chair’ for Byfuglien

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Jets head coach Paul Maurice addressed the media Friday, one day after the NHL levied a four-game suspension against Dustin Byfuglien for his nasty cross-check on Rangers forward J.T. Miller.

Maurice, it seems, took issue with two things. One, what he perceived as inconsistency between the Byfuglien ruling and other cross-check suspensions and two, how Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault portrayed Big Buff in the aftermath.

“Vigneault wanted the electric chair, and I’ve got a lot more time for Dustin than that,” Maurice said, per the Winnipeg Sun. “So we will always be a little agitated by what we feel is the unfairness of it.

“From my point of view, though, you can hand out heavier suspensions on all these events. The players will make the adjustment.”

Maurice mentioned a few incidents from this season for comparison purposes, including the cross-check Dallas’ Antoine Roussel landed on Boston’s Adam McQuaid in early February, which resulted in a two-game suspension for Roussel:

As for the Vigneault quote, Maurice appeared to be referring to what the New York bench boss said immediately following Tuesday’s tilt.

“[It was] violent, deliberate, could have broken his neck,” said Vigneault. “It was one of the most vicious cross-checks I’ve seen this year.”

What are the Oilers going to do about their goaltending?

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Given the unpredictable nature of goaltending — a notion we’ve been hammering home all season — it seems a bit unfair to bring up something Craig MacTavish said a year ago and hold it against the Oilers’ general manager.

But here’s the quote anyway, made after the Oilers had 1) signed Ben Scrivens to a two-year contract extension and 2) acquired Viktor Fasth from Anaheim:

“I think anyone who tells you they’re sure about the performance of their goaltenders based on a relatively small sample size, is not likely accurate. But we have two really good options next year and it will be a competitive position, as it always is. When I was driving into the office today, I thought that if we could stabilize our goaltending for next year and check that box off, that was my objective going in.”

Yada, yada, yada, based on their team save percentage of .888, the Oilers have had the NHL’s worst goaltending this season.

That’s right — instead of improving, it’s actually gotten quite a bit worse. Out of 44 goalies that have played regularly this season, Scrivens (.893) and Fasth (.888) rank 42nd and 44th in save percentage, respectively.

Now, two things:

1. The Oilers have defensive deficiencies, no doubt about it. How much that impacts a goalie’s save percentage is up for debate, but there’s sure good reason to believe it doesn’t help.

2. MacTavish wasn’t the only one who thought he’d stabilized the position. And he did acknowledge the unpredictability of goaltending with his “relatively small sample size” disclaimer.

Neither of those things changes the fact the position remains a problem, and how the Oilers try to solve the problem will be interesting to watch. Scrivens has one year left on his contract, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. Fasth can become unrestricted this summer. There’s no obvious option in the AHL; 22-year-old Laurent Brossoit is developing nicely, but he’s still just a prospect.

So, assuming Fasth isn’t back, the Oilers will need to go out and get a goalie.

One name that’s been bandied about is Kings backup Martin Jones. Of course, the risk there is his limited body of work in the NHL, just like it was with Scrivens and Fasth.

Instead of going the “promising backup playing behind an entrenched starter” route (Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta fall in that category as well), it may behoove the Oilers to acquire a more experienced netminder, similar to what the Canucks were thinking when they brought Ryan Miller aboard last summer.

So, would Antti Niemi be worth talking to when he becomes a UFA this summer? He’s not the most exciting option, but there’s something to be said for consistency:

source:

Or, if not a free agent, might the Oilers be able to pry Eddie Lack out of Vancouver? It’s unlikely the Canucks will be able to keep Miller, Lack and Jacob Markstrom past this season.

Unfortunately for MacTavish, there just isn’t a glaringly obvious candidate for him to pursue. Not one that we can think of anyway.

In a cruel twist for Oilers fans, the most sought-after UFA goalie this summer will probably be — yep, you guessed it — Devan Dubnyk.

Related: ‘Amazing how quickly we regained our confidence’ with Dubnyk, says Wild GM

Jets sure Byfuglien didn’t mean to crosscheck Miller’s neck

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The league announced that Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been suspended for four of the Jets’ remaining five games for his “dangerous” crosscheck in the back of the neck to a “defenseless” J.T. Miller. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault called the actions against Miller “violent” and “deliberate,” but the Jets don’t feel Byfuglien is that type of player.

“He’s not a guy that is a dirty player, so he definitely didn’t mean to do that,” Mark Stuart told TSN. “He’s not out there to injure guys.”

Jets captain Andrew Ladd has reviewed the video of the incident and realizes it doesn’t look good, but he feels you lose context when watching what happened in slow motion.

“I think it’s easy to slow it down after the fact,” Ladd said.

“In the course of a game, things happen quick. I know he didn’t mean to get him in the neck. He was probably trying to get him in the back and hit the wrong spot.”

Winnipeg has just a two point edge over Los Angeles in the battle for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and the Kings have played in one less game. Los Angeles also has the edge in ROW, so the tie would go to the Kings.

Byfuglien is a critical player for the Jets, averaging 22:39 minutes per game. He has 18 goals, 45 points, and 122 penalty minutes in 68 contests.

Byfuglien suspended four games for ‘dangerous’ crosscheck

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Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been suspended four games for crosschecking New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller on Tuesday in Winnipeg.

In making the ruling, the NHL deemed that Byfuglien delivered a “dangerous” crosscheck with “excessive force” to a “prone” and “defenseless” Miller, who was fortunately not injured on the play.

The Jets have five games left in the regular season. Byfuglien will be eligible to return for their final game, on Apr. 11 versus Calgary.

‘Hawks land another college prospect, sign Hobey Baker finalist Kero

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Chicago has signed Michigan Tech forward and WCHA Player of the Year Tanner Kero to a two-year contract, the club announced on Thursday.

Kero, 22, is an undrafted free agent that spent the last four years with the Huskies, scoring 111 points in 153 career NCAA contests. This year, he scored 20 goals and 46 points in 41 games and was named one of the country’s 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, becoming just the third player in school history to earn that distinction.

Kero signing with Chicago is noteworthy. The ‘Hawks have had issues with acquiring/retaining prospects, thanks largely to their depth at the NHL level; the most high-profile example was 2010 first-round pick Kevin Hayes, who played out his four full years at Boston College before balking at signing with the ‘Hawks, becoming a UFA, and inking with the Rangers.

That trend now appears to be a thing of the past. Last week, Chicago beat out a host of other teams to sign Colgate’s Kyle Baun — another undrafted free agent — and, a day later, came to terms with University of Vermont d-man Michael Paliotta, who was drafted by the ‘Hawks in 2011 but rumored to be eyeing unrestricted free agency.