• Holtby, Capitals blank Rangers 1-0 in Game 3 as pressure builds on big-money Blueshirts veterans

    Braden Holtby (Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The New York Rangers were the NHL’s top regular-season team this season, the defending Eastern Conference champions, and the pre-playoffs odds-on favorite to win the 2014-15 Stanley Cup. But after Game 3 of their second-round series against Washington ended with a 1-0 Capitals victory Monday, the Blueshirts are just two losses from elimination.

    And if Washington’s Braden Holtby stays on his current hot streak between the Caps’ pipes and the Rangers’ collection of highly-paid veteran stars remain unable to produce offense in front of star netminder Henrik Lundqvist, those two losses could come sooner than later. Read more

  • Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist denies scoring attempt from Caps’ Alex Ovechkin at point-blank range

    Alex Ovechkin (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Through the first two games of the New York Rangers/Washington Capitals second-round playoff series, Alex Ovechkin has made his presence known with astonishing goals and electrifying play. The Capitals star winger nearly did early in Game 3 Monday night in D.C., but Blueshirts goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped Ovechkin’s one-timer from the slot to keep the contest scoreless.

    Washington was on the power play near the midway part of the first period when Ovechkin (who had four goals and eight points in nine games entering Monday’s action) found himself all alone in front of the net with the puck after a smart pass from teammate Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin took his best shot from up close, but the 33-year-old Lundqvist made a solid shift from his left post to meet the Russian sniper squarely and turn the shot away: Read more

  • Jets’ Ladd, Ducks’ Getzlaf, Hawks’ Toews this year’s finalists for Mark Messier Leadership Award

    Andrew Ladd (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Winnipeg Jets winger Andrew Ladd, Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf and Chicago Blackhawks superstar Jonathan Toews are the finalists for this season’s Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, the league announced Monday.

    All three finalists are captains for their respective teams, and one of the three will win their first Messier Leadership Award, which since the 2006-07 campaign recognizes one individual “who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season”. Read more

  • Devils name Ray Shero GM, retain Lou Lamoriello as president

    Matt Larkin
    Ray Shero. (Getty Images)

    How’s that for a Monday bombshell? The longest active tenure of any NHL GM is officially over. Lou Lamoriello has stepped down as GM of the New Jersey Devils. Ray Shero will take over, with Lamoriello staying on as president of hockey operations.

    The move was 100 percent Lamoriello’s decision. He personally recommended Shero for the job. Shero is the fourth GM in team history and will report directly to Lamoriello.

    “Ray is well respected within the hockey industry and knows what it takes to win,” Lamoriello told media on a conference call Monday. “His 22 seasons of NHL experience will be beneficial to the Devils organization. I look forward to working alongside Ray.”

    So why has Lamoriello removed his GM hat after 28 years? For one, he’s 72 and may want to participate in the broad strokes rather than the day-to-day minutia.

    “My age is not something that’s hidden,” Lamoriello said on the call. “Timing is everything in life, and the opportunity to bring in someone like Ray Shero…when you see that, you make those types of decisions.”

    The timing doesn’t just work because of Lamoriello’s age. The Devils are also a team in need of a fresh start, and perhaps the wily Lamoriello recognizes that.

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  • Red Wings top prospect Mantha “very disappointing” says Detroit senior VP Devellano

    Jared Clinton
    Anthony Mantha (Bill Wippert/Getty Images)

    In his first season of professional hockey, Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha scored 15 goals and 33 points with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, and that’s after suffering a broken leg in training camp and missing nearly two months. As great as Mantha’s season may seem, however, Detroit senior vice president Jim Devellano isn’t happy with what he’s seen.

    “Very, very, very disappointing,” Devellano told Fox Sports’ Keith Gave. “And I say that with a lot of sadness. Coming out of junior, we had such high hopes for him.” Read more

  • Why Ben Bishop’s post-season play is making him an unsung hero in Tampa Bay

    Ben Bishop (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

    On a team as deep and as talented as the Tampa Bay Lightning, there wasn’t going to be much that could have slowed them down in their quest for the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. One concern, however, was the 6-foot-7 giant of a man in net for the Lightning: Ben Bishop.

    While it may be hard to believe after the season Bishop has in 2013-14 when many considered one of the best goaltenders in the league, 2014-15 wasn’t exactly the kind of year that was cause for much jubilation about Bishop’s play. While on the surface his 2.32 goals-against average and .916 save percentage weren’t far cries from his 2.23 GAA and .924 SP last season, it was his play at 5-on-5 that was worrisome.

    The key word there is “was.” Through nine post-season outings, Bishop’s play hasn’t hindered the Lightning at all. Truthfully, you could even say he might be the reason Tampa Bay is rolling the way they are. Read more

  • Vladimir Tarasenko: Start your Brinks truck!

    Ken Campbell
    Vladimir Tarasenko (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)

    St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong had a front-row seat in Traverse City, Mich., last fall for the ugly imbroglio between the Columbus Blue Jackets and restricted free agent Ryan Johansen. It was during the annual prospect tournament there that Blue Jackets president John Davidson went on his epic tirade about Johansen and his agent, accusing them of trying to get the Blue Jackets front office fired.

    Armstrong, at the time, was dealing with an RFA of his own in Jaden Schwartz and was openly talking about other prospects taking Schwatz’s spot if Schwartz was not signed by training camp. “We hope Jaden is there for camp, but as they say in Britain, ‘The King is dead. Long live the King,’ “ Armstrong said at the time. “Somebody is going to play if (Schwartz) doesn’t and I’ve never seen a 21- or 22-year old kid retire from hockey.”

    Contrast that with Armstrong’s recent words concerning pending RFA Vladimir Tarasenko, a player the Blues took two picks after Schwartz in the 2010 NHL draft. Armstrong has made it crystal clear that while all players are created equal, some are more equal than others. A lot more equal. In hockey parlance, Armstrong might have just told Tarasenko and his camp to back the Brinks truck up to the Scottrade Center so they can all just start shoveling money into the back of it.

    Armstrong made it clear that the Blues first and most pressing order of off-season business is to take care of Taransenko. That means there will be no bridge deal. You can basically use $6 million a year for eight years as the starting point in negotiations. And you guys waiting for contracts next season? Well, take your number and wait in line behind the golden boy.

    “If it means allowing players to go to free agency,” Armstrong told media in St. Louis. “If it means making players sweat it on what their deals are going to be, he’s the priority.”

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