Canadiens on Senators: ‘Doesn’t matter who’s on the other side’

Andrew Hammond vs. David Desharnais (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Give the Montreal Canadiens credit. They could have tiptoed their way around Saturday night’s game and avoided the hottest team in the league with the hottest goalie and the hottest rookie. They could have looked at the all the obstacles the Ottawa Senators posed to them and rolled over. But they didn’t.

And who would have blamed them for, you know, maybe rolling over in the dying minutes of their 4-3 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs? By gaining a point, the Canadiens won the Atlantic Division and their reward for that was a playoff series against the Senators, who went 23-4-4 down the stretch and earned the title of The Team You’d Least Like to Face in the First Round of the Playoffs. Read more

How do you win in the playoffs? Doug Gilmour tells you

Gilmour kisses the Cup (Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

By Doug Gilmour

The playoffs were always my time of year. That’s because no matter what kind of a season you had, the post-season is what everybody remembers. Whether it was a good year, a bad year or an average year, it didn’t matter. You write your ticket in the playoffs.

Make no mistake, there’s a huge difference between playing in the regular season and playing in the playoffs. Some NHL players raise their level of game at the most important time of year. Others who may star during the season disappear in the playoffs. It’s a time for desperation. You know if you lose, you’re going home. That’s what motivated me.

We all play for the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. It’s been a dozen years now since I last played in the NHL. But these are the things I still think about if you ask me about making a run for the title: Read more

AHL All-Rookie team shows players to watch for next season

Viktor Arvidsson (John Russell/Getty Images)

If you don’t think AHL All-Rookie team honors mean much, consider that New York Islanders rookie Ryan Strome, who has scored 17 goals and 50 points this season, was named to the team just last season.

Strome isn’t the only rookie from the 2014 squad who has shown his skill in the NHL, either. Teemu Pulkkinen, the Detroit Red Wings prospect with a cannon for a slapshot, was named to last year’s list and has 34 goals in 46 games in the AHL this season to go along with five in 29 big league contests.

Wednesday afternoon, the AHL announced this season’s team and the list is full of promising stars. Maybe one day they will add to the list of present day standouts that once appeared on the team, including Zdeno Chara, Jason Spezza, Thomas Vanek, Mike Green, John Carlson, P.K. Subban, Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Toffoli. Read more

Calling Colton Orr up to the Maple Leafs sends all the wrong messages

Ken Campbell
Colton Orr

Just so we all have this straight, Buffalo Sabres fans are chided for cheering for their team to lose games so it can guarantee itself a chance at drafting a generational talent who could alter the course of the franchise. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs are being hailed as “classy” for calling up a player who can barely play at the American League level for the last game of the season?

All right, carry on then.

The Maple Leafs have called up Orr, a player to whom they’ve already paid almost $6 million in exchange for eight goals in 231 games and are paying $925,000 to play for their AHL team this season, as some kind of thank you for everything he has done for them. We can only imagine what the send-off would be if Orr had actually done anything to help the Leafs win a game over the years. Read more

Dear Hockey Gods: please give us an all-Canadian team Stanley Cup Final this year

Calgary Flames fans. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Before I say what I’m about to say, let me be clear: I’m not, in any way shape or form, a jingoistic Canadian hockey fan who thinks it’s a tragedy when one of my country’s teams fails to win at the elite international level, or who believes the number of Canadians on any NHL roster is an accurate metric for their capability to win. Good hockey is good hockey, and hockey fans ought to be happy with any display of the sport that is highly-skilled and passionately-contested.

With that out of the way, this is a plea to the Hockey Gods: it’s been 26 years since the last Cup Final between two Canadian teams. We’re long past due for another. And this year would be as great a year as any for it to come to pass. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Dion Phaneuf could still be a target for Detroit

Dion Phaneuf

Leading up to the recent NHL trade deadline, the biggest rumor making the rounds claimed the Detroit Red Wings were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. While trade talks between the two clubs ultimately fell through, speculation persists suggesting the Wings could revisit their interest in the 29-year-old Phaneuf during the off-season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes Red Wings director of pro scouting Mark Howe took in a recent game between the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. As the Wings completed their respective season series with both clubs weeks ago, Friedman facetiously wondered which player Howe was scouting.

If the Wings remain keen to land Phaneuf, they must ensure not to use up too much cap space for future use. They currently have over $53 million invested in their 2015-16 cap payroll, but Friedman points out they have several key players to re-sign. Notables include Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith this summer, plus Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Petr Mrazek in 2016.

Phaneuf has another six seasons at $7-million annually remaining on his contract. If the Wings want him, they must convince the Leafs to pick up part of his salary or accept a toxic contract in return like center Stephen Weiss, who has three years at $4.9-million per season left on his deal.

BLUE JACKETS WANT TO BOLSTER BLUELINE

The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t have fond memories of 2014-15. Having reached the playoffs last year for only the second time in franchise history, the Jackets followed up by finishing well out of contention this season.

Injuries were largely to blame. As of Apr. 7, Man Games Lost indicates the Jackets led the league in man games lost to injury with 499. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, defensmen Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray along with forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert were among the notables to miss considerable time.

While the Jackets front office expressed disappointment in how the season unfolded, they don’t intend on a major roster shakeup this summer. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports team president John Davidson said management will try to improve the lineup, “but we’re not going to tear it down to improve it.”

Prior to Davidson’s comments, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said he’d like to add more depth to his blueline. Given the amount of players the Jackets have under contract next season and with the prospects within their system, Kekalainen said he wants to ensure his club has enough defensive depth going forward.

With over $61 million already invested in cap payroll for 2015-16 and all his core players under contract, Kekalainen has some room to add an experienced and affordable blueliner via free agency. St. Louis’ Zbynek Michalek and Barret Jackman, Detroit’s Marek Zidlicky, Chicago’s Johnny Oduya, Montreal’s Jeff Petry and perhaps Nashville’s Cody Franson could be among the options.

Rumor Roundup: Could the Boston Bruins trade Marc Savard?

Lyle Richardson
Marc Savard (Steve Babineau/Getty Images)

Post-concussion symptoms have all but ended the playing career of Boston Bruins center Marc Savard. He hasn’t played since suffering a concussion (his second in 10 months) in January 2011. Savard, 37, hasn’t officially retired and his $4.007-million cap hit through 2016-16 remains on the Bruins’ books.

Since 2011-12, the Bruins regularly placed Savard on long-term injured reserve, providing them a measure of relief when pressed for salary-cap space. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Bruins could try trading Savard’s contract to a club with a lower payroll.

Friedman claims this move would free up valuable cap space for re-signings and other additions by the Bruins. It could also help a rival team reach the salary-cap floor for 2015-16. Read more

Bernier denies MacArthur with huge glove save, puts damper on Senators’ playoff hopes

Jared Clinton
Jonathan-Bernier-TOR

In a lost season for the Maple Leafs, Toronto fans can at least take solace in the fact that at the most important time of the year for the provincial rival Ottawa Senators, the Leafs have put up two victories and hurt the Sens’ playoff chances.

Ottawa went into Sunday night’s game in a must-win situation. With the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins both three points up on the Senators, a victory would have pulled them within a single point and made for a furious fight to the finish. Instead, the Leafs came together to pull off a shootout win, aided in the first period by one of the best stops Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier has made all season.

With Toronto up 1-0 less than four minutes into the game, Ottawa broke down ice with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur driving toward the net. Rookie Mark Stone stopped up at the top of the Toronto zone, spun and fired a puck on net, which ended up on the tape of MacArthur following a Bernier rebound. With Bernier down, MacArthur simply had to elevate the puck to tie the game for the Senators, but Bernier reached back with his trapper and pulled the puck out of harm’s way: Read more