The Chicago Blackhawks superstar is climbing up the scoring charts again and his ability to beguile goaltenders with his intentions is helping him get there
Don't look now, but Patrick Kane is gunning for another Art Ross Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks superstar has 10 points in his past six games and currently sits just behind Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead.
The Blackhawks just dropped a 3-2 contest to Minnesota (no shame there; the Wild are a heavy outfit), but Kane was a terror, throwing two goals past Vezina favorite Devan Dubnyk. What's most interesting about Kane's attack is how he put the shots past Dubnyk. Here's the first one, which admittedly, probably came with some luck:
OK, Kane's not an evil genius for knuckling one under Dubnyk because the puck was rolling, but let's go to the second goal for a better example of his craftiness:
There we go. Firing a rocket that Dubnyk clearly wasn't prepared for, and doing so amidst a bunch of skates when most shooters would have pulled the puck out of the fray first. Few players are as confident as Kane is with the puck and that's a weapon he uses to exploit goaltenders time and again. Historically, just look back to the most famous goal he ever scored, the overtime Stanley Cup game-winner against Philadelphia – as we've all seen countless times, Kane was basically the only person in the arena who knew the puck had gone in. Interesting side note – Colorado's Matt Duchene once told me that he knew the puck had gone in right away because he had been studying the older Kane and seen the trick once before. But for those of us who aren't elite hockey players, Kane's maneuvers are consistently quite impressive.
In an era where goal-scoring is at a premium, there's a reason why Kane has still been successful and his obfuscation is a big part of it. Same goes for Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews – they're thinking about offense on a different level from mere mortals. On the other end of the spectrum, you still have a couple of elite scorers who can overpower netminders with their shots: Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied in both goals and points, which I believe is a nice bit of cosmic alignment.
Last year, Kane won the scoring crown with 106 points and he was the only NHLer to hit triple digits. Right now, no one is on pace to break 100, though Crosby is in the ballpark if he has a hot second half. Defensive schemes and excellent goaltenders are suppressing offense right now, but at least we still have a few artists like Kane working on the assembly line.
Jack Capuano couldn’t turn things around fast enough in New York, and the Islanders announced Tuesday afternoon that he has been let go and replaced by assistant coach Doug Weight.
The New York Islanders have rattled off five wins in their past 10 games and picked up 12 of a possible 20 points, but it hasn’t been enough to get the club out of the Eastern Conference basement. And with the season officially more than halfway through, the club has seen enough to determine that a change is necessary, announcing Tuesday that coach Jack Capuano has been let go.
Capuano’s firing comes the day following the Islanders’ 4-0 win over the Boston Bruins and during a season in which everyone from GM Garth Snow to captain John Tavares has gone to bat for the coach. With Capuano out from behind the bench, interim coaching duties will now fall to assistant GM and coach Doug Weight.
"The New York Islanders would like to thank Jack for his tireless work throughout his seven seasons with the organization as Head Coach," Snow said in a release. "His leadership guided the team to the playoffs in three of the past four years, which included two straight 100-point seasons. He is a great coach and an even better person. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward."
The 2016-17 campaign was an almost complete disaster from the very start of the season. The Islanders started off flat, dropping six of their first 10 games and completing the first quarter of the schedule with just six wins to their name. Frustrations mounted throughout the first two months of the season as the offense struggled, the power play was flat, the penalty kill was porous and the Islanders struggled to find any positive in the way they were playing.
The timing, however, is a bit strange. Besides the fact it comes immediately following one of the Islanders’ more impressive wins of the season, it also comes during a time when the team is in one of its best stretches of the season. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, though, Snow said the reason for relieving Capuano of his duties now had little to do with the performance of the team at the moment and more to do with the fact the Islanders didn’t see Capuano as their coach for next season.
Despite the difficult season, Capuano will leave the organization as one of the best coaches the franchise has ever seen. Though no one will likely ever reach the heights that legendary Islanders bench boss Al Arbour did, Capuano finishes his tenure with New York having coached the second-most games in franchise history (483), collected the second-most wins (227) and became the only coach since Arbour in 1992-93 to coach the franchise to a post-season series victory.
That playoff series victory, one that was 22 seasons in the making, was cause for hope entering this current season, which is a major reason the Islanders’ performance this season was so disappointing. However, Capuano can take solace in the fact that he led the franchise to the post-season in three of his six full seasons behind the bench and helped the club to two of its best seasons in the modern era in 2014-15 and 2015-16. He was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the league at the time of his firing.
"It's an honor to have served this historic franchise and its passionate fans," Capuano said in a release. "I'd like to thank Garth and our ownership group for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Islanders. I'd also like to recognize our coaching staff, training staff and players for all of their hard work.”
According to LeBrun, Snow said there’s no timeline for the Islanders to name their next bench boss, and there’s certainly a chance the Islanders enter the off-season with Weight remaining the bench boss. Weight, who played the final three seasons of his career with the Islanders, has been an assistant coach with New York since 2011-12.
Martin St-Louis had a penchant for big playoff goals during his time with the Lightning, and those highlight his five best moments in Tampa Bay as the team gets set to retire his jersey.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will pay tribute to Martin St-Louis Friday night with a jersey retirement ceremony, making him the first player to receive the honor in franchise history.
It’s a fitting honor, too, because St-Louis will almost certainly go down as one of the greatest players to play at the tail-end of the clutch-and-grab era and one of the more impressive talents the league had as the game opened up and speed and skill were the dominant forces.
While a member of the Lightning, St-Louis captured two Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer, three Lady Byng’s as the most gentlemanly player in the game and was crowned the league MVP by both the press and the players for his fantastic 2003-04 campaign. St-Louis’ remains the greatest scorer in franchise history, and his impact on the Lightning will likely never be forgotten.
Here are the five greatest moments from St-Louis’ time in Tampa Bay:
5. Passes Lecavalier for good on all-time scoring list
St-Louis was part of Tampa Bay Lightning lore well before he became the franchise’s most decorated scorer, but the moment that he took the scoring lead for good and never let it go came during the 2012-13 campaign.
When the season began, St-Louis was 10 points back of Vincent Lecavalier on the Lightning’s all-time scoring lead, but the diminutive winger picked away at Lecavalier’s point lead before finally squeaking past him for good on March 7, 2013 against the Winnipeg Jets.
4. Four-goal night highlighted by natural hat trick
For the tremendous goal scoring ability that St-Louis possessed, one might think he had a number of big goal scoring nights to his name. While he did score eight hat tricks throughout his career, the last time he completed the feat was the most impressive of his career.
Almost everything was going in for St-Louis during the Jan. 18, 2014 meeting with the San Jose Sharks. He scored the Lightning’s first goal of the game, then their second, third and fourth goals over a period of less than seven minutes across the end of the first period and into the second.
Unfortunately, Joe Pavelski fired back with a natural hat trick of his own to give the Sharks the win.
3. Sparking Lightning Stanley Cup run with series winner in OT
Almost every Stanley Cup run has the one moment that you can pinpoint that started the miraculous chase for a championship, and while the Lightning were absolutely favored to down the eighth-ranked New York Islanders, the excitement necessary for a big run came when St-Louis put Tampa Bay through to the second round with his first of two huge overtime goals in the post-season.
It’s probably a shot Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro could have stopped, but the booming slap shot sent New York packing and Tampa Bay marching towards the Stanley Cup.
2. Overtime winner gives Lightning first playoff series victory
Maybe the Lightning should have known they’d have their franchise’s overtime hero on their hands when he was the architect of the team’s first ever series win with a spinning overtime goal in Game 6 of the Lightning’s 2003 first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals.
There are few moments bigger for a franchise than winning their first playoff series, because it’s an indication that things are really starting to move in the right direction. For the Lightning, that was exactly the case. The 2003 playoff run was stopped short in five games by the New Jersey Devils in the second round, but Tampa Bay would use their post-season experience to their advantage the next season.
1. Double OT-winner forces Game 7 in Stanley Cup final
This goal has to go down as the biggest of St-Louis’ career. While he had netted two playoff overtime winners in his career before Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final, it was his marker 30 seconds into the second overtime of a potentially series-deciding game against the Calgary Flames that opened the door for the Lightning to capture the Cup.
Two nights later, the Lightning downed the Flames in front of a hometown crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum on two goals by Ruslan Fedotenko. It remains the only Stanley Cup in franchise history for the Lightning.
Winnipeg has allowed three or more goals against in eight of their past 10 games, and with Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggling, the Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran Ondrej Pavelec.
It took 47 games and more than three months, but with the season potentially slipping away as their goaltending fails them, the Winnipeg Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Pavelec’s recall from the minors comes the day following the Jets’ 5-2 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, which is the fourth straight defeat Winnipeg has been handed and the eighth time in 10 games that the team has allowed three or more goals against. Bringing Pavelec up is a move the Jets certainly hopes can stop the bleeding, because right now coach Paul Maurice is likely aching for someone, anyone, to come in and stop the puck with some consistency.
As he comes up from the Moose, Pavelec is sporting an 8-7-2 record, 2.78 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 18 outings in the AHL, and he’s only two days removed from putting in his best effort of the entire season. Sunday evening against the Chicago Wolves, Pavelec was tested 44 times, but he allowed only one puck to elude him, turning aside 43 shots in a 4-1 Manitoba victory.
Pavelec’s trip back to the big league doesn’t come simply as a response to him having one good outing and yet another Jets loss, though. Over the past several weeks, the idea of calling up Pavelec has been bandied about, especially as both Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have struggled to piece together anything that resembles the type of run of play one would expect from a big league starter.
At times it was hard to fathom a scenario in which a young, growing team like Winnipeg wouldn’t stay all-in on their young netminders, hoping one or both would find a way through this tough stretch. With Pavelec available to possibly give the club a jolt, the Jets have decided that might be exactly what they need.
And if the move is one viewed to be out of desperation, that would be because it is. There’s a reason Pavelec has spent more than half of the campaign buried in the AHL along with his $3.9-million cap hit. But save pulling the trigger on a trade that would bring the Jets a starting netminder, what other options do the Jets really have? Eric Comrie is a promising prospect, but another young goaltender added to the mix is the last thing Winnipeg needed right now.
Don’t go thinking Pavelec will be the Winnipeg’s idea of a long-term fix, though. He is as stop-gap as stop-gap options come.
Over the course of his career, Pavelec has been a below-average netminder, boasting a career .907 SP and bloated 2.85 goals-against average. Though he had the best season of his career in 2014-15 — his .920 SP was substantially better than any year prior — he followed it up with a .904 SP mark in 2015-16. Comparatively, Hellebuyck’s difficult campaign has seen him post a .907 SP, and his career SP is .912. Hutchinson is a career .908 SP goaltender, with a tough .894 SP throughout this season.
All the Jets want right now is someone who can come in and stop some pucks. If that’s Pavelec, great. If that’s Hellebuyck or Hutchinson, better. But the fact of the matter is that with only a few months remaining, the Jets have the league’s third-worst points percentage during a season in which they were supposed to be taking a sizeable step forward. That needs to change, and maybe the increased competition in goal — or the veteran presence — is enough to turn things around.