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Berube, Cooper, Trotz are 2019 Jack Adams Award finalists

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The NHL announced on Friday the three finalists for the 2019 Jack Adams Awards, which is awarded to the head coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.”

Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues, Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders are the finalists after members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association submitted their votes at the end of the regular season.

The award was presented by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association in 1974 in honor of the late Jack Adams, longtime coach and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings.

The winner will be announced on June 19 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Case For Craig Berube: Berube took over as Blues’ head coach on Nov. 19 with the team 30th in the NHL. By the end of the regular season St. Louis finished third in the Central Division and earned 65 out of a possible 90 points in their final 45 games, the most points accumulated by any team over that span. The Blues’ success was highlighted by a franchise-record 11-game win streak and a 12-1-1 record in February, which tied a team-record for wins in a single month. A win would make Berube the fifth coach in franchise history to win the award and the first NHL coach to earn the Adams after taking over midseason.

The Case For Jon Cooper: The Lightning finished the 2018-19 season with 62 wins, tied for the most in NHL history, and 128 points, which is good for fourth all-time. Cooper’s team were the first in league history with at least 30 wins at home and 30 on the road. Their 325 goals were the most by a team in 23 years. This is Cooper’s second time as an Adams finalist and a victory would make him the second winner in franchise history joining John Tortorella (2004).

The Case For Barry Trotz: In his first season with the team,Trotz helped the Islanders to a 23-point improvement from last season and a defensive turnaround that saw them allow 100 fewer goals, which earned goaltenders Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner the William Jennings Trophy. This is Trotz’s fourth time as an Adams finalist. He won the award in 2016 while with the Washington Capitals. Al Arbour (1979) is the only Islanders’ winner in franchise history.

MORE 2019 NHL AWARD FINALISTS:
• Selke Trophy
Lady Bing Trophy
Masteron Trophy
Norris Trophy
Ted Lindsay Award

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning limp into Game 4 without Hedman, Stralman

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing a potential sweep in Game 4 on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC; Live stream), and they’re going to have to find a way to win without Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.

Head coach Jon Cooper announced that Hedman and Stralman are out, while Alex Killorn is a game-time decision. Of course, the biggest lineup note is that Nikita Kucherov is back in the mix after sitting out Game 3 thanks to his one-game suspension, but these are big absences on the defensive side.

Via The Athletic’s Joe Smith, the Lightning will continue to roll with:

Mikhail SergachevDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Braydon CoburnJan Rutta

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In a detailed, fantastic piece for The Athletic (sub required), Alison Lukan detailed how the Blue Jackets’ forecheck (by way of a 1-2-2 setup) has been giving the Lightning fits so far in this Round 1 series.

“(We are) trying to find ways to limit their opportunities through their speed and their skill,” Brandon Dubinsky said. “That’s making sure we play disciplined and stay above the puck. When you go, it’s about not getting beat up the ice, and if (a Lightning player) moves the puck and your partner goes, you have to make sure you get back and get ahead of that guy and reload for him.”

Earlier in Round 1, much was made about Hedman being on the ice for some glaring Blue Jackets goals, particularly a David Savard goal that was key in Columbus’ Game 1 comeback. It was tough to shake the impression that injury issues limited Hedman’s mobility, and the big Swede missing big games only strengthens that possibility.

Yet, as much as Hedman’s missed on the defensive side, his absence really hurts the Lightning’s ability to break Columbus’ system with crisp, clean passes (and also the ability to skate the puck up the ice, when that makes sense).

The Hedman loss stings, as you’d frankly expect when a team is missing a Norris-level defenseman. It also might push someone useful like Sergachev a little out of their (or Cooper’s) comfort zone.

On the bright side, Lukan points out that Kucherov isn’t just a great weapon for Tampa Bay in the offensive zone, but is also one of the Lightning’s best players when it comes to the transition game.

Heading into Game 4, the Lightning played into typical cliches by talking about taking things “one period at a time,” and there might be some wisdom within the well-worn words. More than anything else, the Lightning could really benefit from starting Tuesday’s contest with a lead, preferably an early one. If Columbus is chasing a score, the Blue Jackets might be a little bit more willing to “cheat” or get too aggressive, potentially opening up lanes and other opportunities for the Lightning to really get rolling.

Still, between the Blue Jackets’ commitment to clogging things up, officials generally putting away their whistles when it comes to obstruction, and Sergei Bobrovsky‘s bank-account-fattening brilliance, Columbus is unlikely to make this easy on the Lightning. Not having Hedman, Stralman, and possibly Killorn only makes the mountain taller.

The Lightning hope to avoid being swept by Columbus Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC (Live stream)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ovechkin’s Richard reign continues, and more early NHL Awards

via NHL PR
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The NHL announced the winners of three regular season trophies following the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. Interestingly, all of these announcements could be paired with additional trophies when the full 2019 NHL Awards roll around following the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Art Ross Trophy: Nikita Kucherov won the scoring title, generating 128 points, a new single-season record for a Russian-born player. There are a bunch of great facts about Kucherov’s season in this post.

There’s a strong chance Kucherov will eventually bring home the Hart Trophy as league MVP, too. In addition to that, Kucherov’s teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy is a strong candidate to win the Vezina Trophy, and his coach Jon Cooper could very well land the Jack Adams. (I mean, probably not, but there’s a sizeable number of people who believe that he’s deserving.)

Of course, the Lightning also locked up the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the NHL back in March.

Maurice Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals to become the first player to win this award as the top goal scorer on eight different occasions. It wasn’t easy, though, as Leon Draisaitl pushed it to the limit by finishing with 50 goals himself.

This infographic tells a nice story about how 2018-19 was a strong season for scorers

In case you’re wondering, 18 of Ovechkin’s 51 goals came on the power play.

William Jennings Trophy: Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner helped the Islanders allow an NHL-low 196 goals this season, putting together similarly splendid stats to win this trophy for fewest goals against.

The league’s blurb captures just how remarkable this turnaround was for Isles goalies:

Lehner and Greiss both finished the season among the top five netminders in goals-against average and save percentage. That helped the Islanders, who gave up 296 goals in 2017-18, become the second team in NHL history to allow the fewest goals immediately following the season in which it yielded the most. The original Ottawa Senators first accomplished that feat in 1918-19, the second season in League history (when there were only three teams).

Of course, the fascinating chicken-and-the-egg discussion revolves around: “How much was this turnaround about those goalies, and how much was it about the work of Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn?” Trotz is a virtual lock for the Jack Adams this year (sorry, Cooper and others), so chances are, both the goalies and their coach will come away with hardware for their work during the 2018-19 campaign.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Jon Cooper signs multi-year extension with Lightning

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Even if the Tampa Bay Lightning’s historic season ends with a shocking first-round exit, head coach Jon Cooper has plenty of job security.

The Lightning announced on Tuesday that they have agreed to a multi-year extension with Cooper, one day after the sixth anniversary of his promotion to the job. At six years on the job, he’s currently the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach with a 301-157-44 record and .643 points percentage. Since his hiring, the Lightning have the second-most points in the NHL and the most wins over that span.

“I am very pleased to announce Jon’s extension today,” said Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois in a statement. “His ability to forge impactful relationships with everyone from players to staff has been a trademark of his tenure with the organization and he is the absolute best coach for our hockey team. Coop’s ability to develop a strong culture while continually adapting has been a big part of the team’s success. He has helped set high standards for our organization with his unrelenting drive for excellence. I would like to thank Coop and his family for their continuous commitment to the organization, as well as to the Tampa Bay community, and I look forward to working in partnership with Jon for years to come.”

In five full seasons behind the bench in Tampa Cooper has led the Lightning to the Eastern Conference Final three times and the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The two Conference Finals where they fell short — 2016 and 2018 — they lost in seven games to the eventual Cup champion.

This season, Cooper has led an All-Star cast of talent to the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy and the opportunity to top the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings’ regular season wins record (62) and match the NHL record for most points in a season (132), which was set by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. Following Monday night’s victory over the Boston Bruins, the Lightning have 59 wins and 122 points with five games to play.

Given the Lightning’s success, Cooper should be one of the three finalists this season for the Jack Adams Award, which is voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association. But before that can be decided, he has his eyes on guiding his team to a second Stanley Cup title in franchise history, which would be a fitting end to a memorable year.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Gwozdecky leaves Lightning to pursue other opportunities

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George Gwozdecky is leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning after spending two seasons as an assistant coach on Jon Cooper’s staff the club announced on Monday.

Gwozdecky joined the Lightning on Aug. 9, 2013 after serving as the head coach at the University of Denver for 19 seasons.

“Jon Cooper and I, along with the entire Lightning organization, would like to thank George and his family for giving us the past two years,” GM Steve Yzerman said in a statement. “He helped turn a young, unproven team into the Eastern Conference Champions and we appreciate his professionalism and dedication.”

The 61-year-old told the Tampa Bay Times that he’s been considering leaving the club for a while.

“I have nothing but great memories, great things to say about the team, about the organization,” Gwozdecky said. “It was a great learning experience.”

Gwozdecky will attend this week’s NHL Draft with the Lightning and be apart of the coaches association meetings before heading home to Denver.

Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reports that Gwozdecky could be an ideal candidate to replace Andre Tourigny in Colorado, but Gwozdecky says he has not heard from the Avs.

“Not leaning in any direction right now except to get some much-needed (rest and relaxation),” Gwozdecky told Chambers via text message. “I have not spoken with anybody in the Avs organization but I’m sure I would if they call.”

Tourigny announced his resignation last month.

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning