Tag:Guy Boucher
Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:46 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:00 pm
 

Milan Michalek's bizarre hat trick

SenatorsBy: Adam Gretz

Milan Michalek recorded his second career hat trick on Tuesday night during the Senators 7-3 win in Tampa Bay, and it was pretty much a gift from Lightning coach Guy Boucher.

All three goals were scored in succession during the third period, making it a natural hat trick, and it was also one of the more, let's say ... interesting, hat tricks that you will see, scoring his first goal on the power play, giving the Senators a 5-3 lead, and then completing the trick by adding not one, but two empty net goals as Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher kept pulling his goalie in a desperate attempt to get his team back into the game.



You don't always see coaches pulling their goalie with a minute to play in a game their team is down by three goals, as the Lightning were when Boucher lifted Dwayne Roloson allowing Michalek to score his third goal, but Tampa Bay is in desperate need of points as it attempts to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race (and, amazingly, the Southeast Division race) and it was a last ditch effort to spark a late rally.

And let's face it, whether they lose by three goals or 20 goals it's still two points they didn't get in the end.

The night really seemed to go off the rails for Tampa Bay in the first period when starting goalie Mathieu Garon had to leave the game due to injury. Roloson came in and almost instantly surrendered three straight goals, putting the Lightning in a hole they were never able to climb out of.

Given the overall mediocrity of the Southeast Division (and the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race) which has the Lightning still very much in the race, combined with their less than stellar goaltending situation, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for the Lightning to put a waiver claim in on Marty Turco.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:17 am
 

While Lightning sink, Stamkos continues to rise

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- In case you have forgotten, Steven Stamkos is still good. Really, really good.

You don't hear a whole lot about him these days because the Tampa Bay Lightning aren't setting the league on fire again this season. In fact, they're the only ones getting torched. Last season they were battling for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, this season they currently had the last spot thanks to what is currently a seven-game losing streak.

In one of his Pucks & Numbers segments earlier this season, my colleague Adam Gretz broke down the Lightning's struggles this year and while everybody wants to point the finger at the defense and goaltending (it's way subpar, so that's fair) neither was good last season either. The difference is the scoring is down.

Maybe this helps to put it in perspective. Now Stamkos is the best scorer going in the NHL right now, but his 30 goals represent nearly 1/4 of the Lightning's 121-goal total. That's not a whole lot of help. Here we are in January and only three players have double-digit goals for Tampa Bay and one of them, Martin St. Louis, barely qualifies with 10.

To put it another way, he is being asked to carry a massive amount of the Lightning's offensive load. For somebody who is still shy of his 22nd birthday, that's asking a lot. But that's not a workload that Stamkos isn't willing to bear.

"I always put pressure on myself as an offensive guy," Stamkos told CBSSports.com "If you ask Vinny [Vincent Lecavalier] or Marty [St. Louis], they feel the same way. Guys expect us to produce, we expect the penalty kill guys to do well on the penalty kill, our goalies to stop the puck and our defensemen to shut the other team down. Everybody has a role and for me, I want to produce and help our team win. I probably put the most pressure on myself to do that."

He's doing his part more than admirably. As mentioned, he leads the league with 30 goals (clear of the pack by six goals, mind you). He was a no-brainer to be the Lightning's All-Star selection this season. Frankly, there were not any exciting options after Stamkos anyway.

He has been the lone beacon of light in an otherwise dark Lightning season. Expectations were raised significantly after last season when the Bolts were one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final, taking the Boston Bruins to the limit in a Game 7. Those haven't been met, to put it mildly.

"It's frustrating right now," Stamkos said. "We don't doubt anybody's character in this room and their desire to win. There's been too many of those this year where we deserved to win and we didn't."

His team St. Louis echoed those sentiments from his stall right next to Stamkos'.

"We've lost six in a row. It's normal to feel the way we do," St. Louis said. "But you got to get ready for the next game, you know? You have to get ready for the next game, you can't feel sorry for yourself. There's still 40, 39 or whatever games left. A lot can happen. If you just give in right now it's going to be a long year."

Their head coach, Guy Boucher, was not long ago seen as the best young coach in the league after his rookie season last year. Funny how perceptions change when the breaks don't go your way.

"There's years where everything works and there are years where things don't work out," said Boucher, the longest-tenured coach in the Southeast at a year and a half. "You see where you are when things don't work out so much. I think circumstances have been tough for us but players have been dealing with it with a lot of class and they've been very resilient. Never quit, we always come back.

"What's tough is that we're just not getting the breaks. It's been like that for a long time, that's the story of our season. We've got injuries and more injuries, adversity and adversity and the breaks just are not coming at all."

The frustration in the locker room is palpable. It's been evident on the ice too. In Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, some of it boiled over for Lecavalier, who was given a misconduct after throwing a punch to Evgeni Malkin's face in a scrum for what Lecavalier felt was a shot at his knees.

In Friday's 4-3 loss to the Capitals, the frustration even showed for Stamkos, normally a pretty reserved guy on the ice. He took exception to a hit from Troy Brouwer on St. Louis that sent the Lightning captain into the boards. It only drew a two-minute minor for interference, but it drew more ire from Stamkos, who came flying in to smash Brouwer into the boards and then start throwing haymakers.

I admit I had to double-check to see it was No. 91 (Stamkos) instead of No. 9 Steve Downie, a guy who isn't a stranger to mixing it up, his fight earlier in the game with Karl Alzner a testament to that. But it was Stammer alright.

"Stick up for your teammates; that's the way I was brought up," Stamkos said. "Everyone on this team, it's a team mentality. Everyone would probably do that for Marty as well."

"Marty's his buddy, Marty's the guy that groomed him," Boucher said. "Anybody who sees Marty get something like that is going to jump in ... I'm proud of him. We stick together. It's like marriage. They ask you through thick and thin, the answer is always yes. But when the tough comes how do you react? We stick together, that's how it is through adversity."

And through that adversity Stamkos has only gotten better. He's on pace to break his own career high of 51 goals but is below his career-best 91-point pace with only 20 assists so far. But he can't assist on his own goals, to state the obvious.

Here's a sign of how much Stamkos is growing as a scorer. His power play goals are way down this season, obviously meaning that he's doing a lot more scoring at even strength. Last season he scored 17 on the man advantage, 24 two seasons ago -- almost half of his season total. But this season's power play goals represent only 1/6 of his scores thus far.

You could look at that the other way and point to his power play numbers being down, but this is a team that has struggled to get the power play right for a while. That tends to happen when you are missing some of your top defensemen. Sagging power play numbers could get to some players and leave them lagging in the confidence department.

But not Stamkos, who is only getting better, even if there's little publicity about it.

"You just try to get better as a player each and every year," Stamkos said. "You try to be more of a complete player each and every year. It's my fourth year now. I've learned a lot in this league. I got the opportunity to go far in the playoffs last year and I figured what hockey is all about. It's made me a better player. I just want to stay consistent and help this team win.

"It's not fun right now the position we're in, but I'm just doing everything I can to improve and help our team win."

He might not be having much fun, but he is getting more fun to watch by the year.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 28, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 5:21 pm
 

What happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?



Pucks and Numbers:
a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look what has gone wrong for the Tampa Bay Lightning.


By: Adam Gretz


It was less than a year ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were a 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 from representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Thirty-five games into the 2011-12 season and Tampa Bay finds itself in 13th place in the conference, six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. As we talked about last week, that's already a deficit that is dangerously close to being too much to overcome at this point in the season, especially with five teams ahead of them for the last playoff spot.

So what has changed for Guy Boucher's team in a span of eight months, going from potential Stanley Cup team to what is currently one of the worst teams in the league?

The easy answer is goaltending, as the duo of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon has been dreadful, currently owning the second-worst team save percentage in the league, barely ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 30th spot. The position was a major problem in the early part of last season as well, and it was covered up with a short-term band-aid thanks to general manager Steve Yzerman's New Years Day trade that landed Roloson from the New York Islanders. He ended up getting hot at the right time and helped lead the Lightning through the first two rounds of the playoffs as the team upset Pittsburgh and Washington, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the former, and sweeping the latter in four straight games.

Entering this season the Lightning decided to stick with the 42-year-old Roloson, a risky maneuver given his age and the number of miles that were already on the tires. So far, it hasn't worked out.

While the Lightning have become synonymous with their 1-3-1 neutral zone trap and have faced their share of criticism for playing such a "boring" system (no, we haven't forgotten about this), the team has given up a ton of goals over the past season-and-a-half. A lot of that has to do with the bad goaltending, as the Lightning do a pretty good job limiting the number of shots taken by the opposition (though, they are worse in that area this season). Still, they were 21th in the NHL in terms of goals allowed last season, and after 35 games this season are 27th.

There are a couple of things working against the Lightning this season.

While the team has young Stars in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, and great veteran players like Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, it also has some older parts that, obviously, are now a year older than they were a year ago. Even worse, they've also been without defenseman Mattias Ohlund for the entire season, a player that handled some of the toughest minutes and assignments last season. He didn't provide any offense, but he was the go-to guy in terms of defensive assignments. His absence has not only impacted the overall depth on the team's blue line, but also forced Hedman and Eric Brewer into playing all of the tough assignments that Ohlund would have ordinarily handled.

And, of course, there is more.

Let's just look at some numbers through the first 35 games of the past two seasons:

Tampa Bay Lightning 2011-12 vs. 2010-11 Through 35 Games
Year W-L-OTL Goals For Goals Against Shots For/Game Shots All. Game PP Goals PP OPP PP %
2011-12 15-17-3 95 117 28.8 30.6 18 123 14.6%
2010-11 20-10-5 109 114 32.5 27.1 35 149 23.0%

So here we are. Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson has been pointing out over the past week on Twitter that the Lightning have given up nearly the same number of goals this season as they did through the same number of games last season. And he's right. But that's not necessarily a good thing because the number is way too high. And again, the Lightning had a trade in their back pocket on Jan. 1 last season that enabled the team to improve that area as the season went on. Roloson wasn't great, but he was good enough and enough of an upgrade over the alternative. He also hit the aforementioned hot streak at the right time. If the Lightning hadn't made that trade there's a good chance that playoff run never happens. Yzerman is going to need to pull off a similar move (or perhaps a bigger one, involving more of a long-term solution that isn't a player over the age of 40) to help get Tampa Bay back where it wants to be (and needs to be) in the crease if a return to the playoffs is in the team's future.

But while the goals against are nearly identical, there's a pretty large difference from one year to the next that sticks out like a sore thumb: the power play.

Both the number of power play opportunities and the frequency in which they've been able to score on the man advantage. The Lightning didn't win many games last season by keeping their opponents off the scoreboard, they won a lot of games by outscoring them in some of the highest scoring games in the league. A lot of that was the result of a power play that was pretty much unstoppable when it was on top of its game.

A year ago Tampa Bay had the sixth-best power play in the league, converting on 20 percent of its chances. This season? 25th. And even worse, it's a unit that's not generating a ton of shots when it does get an opportunity.

It's been a perfect storm for Tampa Bay this season. Some aging players, bad goaltending, the absence of the best and most reliable defensive defenseman on the team and a power play that's regressed. Basically, a little bit of everything.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:52 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

By Brian Stubits

This could be interesting. For people who like boring hockey, this Saturday's game in Philadelphia could be just for you.

Now that we've really sold the game, let me clarify. This weekend the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers will meet for the second time this season. And for some reason, the first game was a bit memorable -- or forgettable, depending on your viewpoint.

Who can forget when the Flyers refused to play into the Lightning's 1-3-1 trap and the Lightning refused to forecheck? What resulted was the biggest stalemate heard 'round the hockey world. Since then there have been discussions about the validity of Tampa Bay's defensive system. Should it even be allowed?

Here's a refresher on what that looked like.

Of course that's all silly talk. It obviously isn't hurting teams from scoring against the Lightning. The Bolts enter the weekend have surrendered the third-most goals in the Eastern Conference.

I highly doubt we'll see a replay of that ugly display in Tampa Bay from earlier this season, especially if Peter Laviolette wises up and remembers he has arguably the most explosive offense in the game. It's not the time to over-coach when you have Claude Giroux on your team.

There were a lot of questions about the Flyers entering this season. Would Ilya Bryzgalov be the missing piece? Can Jaromir Jagr still perform at a high level? (The answers are still undetermined and unequivocally yes).

But the one that everybody wondered about the most was who, exactly, was going to replace the scoring load that was carried by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards? Some assumed it would be James van Riemsdyk, others thought Danny Briere. I think the most popular answer, though, would have been Claude Giroux.

Well those folks were right, but I'm not sure they knew how right they would be.

Not only is Giroux leading the Flyers in points (by 14, no less), he leads the entire NHL in that category, passing early leader Phil Kessel.

It's a bit insulting to call this a breakout season for Giroux, after all, he did have 76 points last season, but it is just that. His 16 goals through just 27 games already brings him within 10 his career-best 25 one season ago. He's on pace for close to 100 points.

Oh, and he's only 23 (he turns 24 in January).

So here's a bit of a plea to Laviolette: let your offense go. Teams aren't having trouble scoring against the Lightning (the goalies share a good chunk of that blame, too). That's a particularly good idea with Giroux around.

Then again ...

"We might sit there for four or five minutes at a time," Laviolette was quoted as saying.

Be prepared for another night of non-action.

Oh my Michalek

Phil Kessel has received a lot of the early season headlines for his goal scoring. Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos haven't been getting the same amount of pub, but people know about their scoring prowess too.

Alex Ovechkin has received a lot of talk too, but for his lack of goal scoring.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to take this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, this time on the NHL's goal-scoring leader, Milan Michalek of the Ottawa Senators.

Maybe it's because he plays all the way up in Ottawa. Perhaps it's because the Senators had such low expectations this season. Whatever the reason, the player the Senators acquired in the Dany Heatley trade is blossoming into a major player and there's little attention being paid to him.

Michalek gets a bigger stage to make an impression on Saturday when the Sens will host the Vancouver Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.

How Wild is this?

The Minnesota Wild are the best team in the NHL based on the standings. It's impossible to give them enough credit right now.

Especially when they head to Phoenix having won six games in a row and completing the California sweep for the first time in franchise history.

Before the season began, how many people really, truly believed that when these teams met on Dec. 9, they would both be in first place in their respective divisions? That's simply ... wild.

Is there any doubt who the front-runner is for the Jack Adams Award in the NHL right now? Sure, Kevin Dineen of the Panthers has to be in the conversation, but as of this moment it's clearly Mike Yeo on the Minnesota bench.

Not even injuries have been slowing his team down. Lose two goaltenders? No problem. Just call up Matt Hackett from the AHL to make his NHL debut and watch him go more than five periods before allowing a goal. Have a defense few people outside of Minnesota can't recognize? No worries. The Wild are still incredibly stingy when it comes to giving up goals.

Pretty soon, people won't be able to ignore the Wild, no matter how much they might try.

Return of the matinee (and Kaberle)

Now that the college football season is done -- seems as convenient a reason as any -- Saturday matinees are returning to the NHL schedule. Last week it was the Canadiens visiting the Kings. This week it's again the Canadiens, this time visiting the Devils.

The game will also be the debut of Tomas Kaberle with the Canadiens. After being traded to Montreal on Friday for Jaroslav Spacek, this will be Kaberle's first opportunity to change the minds of fans of his new team: that he doesn't stink.

That's going to be a hard task, considering the view of Kaberle league-wide is so low. You know it's bad when a GM who signed you a few months ago essentially admits to it being a mistake.

It's also big for Jacques Martin, the Habs coach. The talk surrounding his job security had died down after the Habs had appeared to right the ship, but it's starting to leak again. And with that, people are wondering about Martin's status once anew. Beating the Devils, a team they are battling with at the bottom of the playoff picture right now, would be a helpful start.

We're going streaking!

These are your streaks at play going into the weekend.

Flyers: The Flyers enter Saturday's game with the Bolts having won four straight.

Florida Panthers: People are still stunned by them, and they take a three-game run into Buffalo and then, if it survives, Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Winnipeg Jets: Yes, another Southeast Division team. The Jets are starting to make a push to stay relevant all season and have won three in a row. Their weekend consists of a game vs. the Hurricanes and at the Red Wings.

Wild: No team is playing better than Minnesota in the NHL. None. As mentioned, they head to Phoenix with a six-game win streak in hand.

Vancouver Canucks: Don't look now, but the defending Western Conference champs are starting to roll. Their streak is three games going into Ottawa.

Los Angeles Kings: They are the only team who come into the weekend with a losing streak in the works. They'll have a chance to snap that against the Stars on Saturday.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 8, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 7:27 pm
 

Martin St. Louis out after facial/nasal fractures

By: Adam Gretz

Few players in the NHL have been as durable as Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis over the past nine years, as he's missed just two games over that stretch. He hasn't missed a game of any kind for the Lightning since the 2005-06 season, and that streak, which was one game short of 500 consecutive games, is going to come to an end on Thursday night against the New York Rangers.

From Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson:

"No surprise but Marty St Louis is not playing tonight, a statement regarding his status is expected from the team shortly."

Here is said statement.

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis will not play tonight’s game at the New York Rangers and he is out indefinitely after suffering facial and nasal fractures at the team’s morning skate today at Madison Square Garden. St. Louis was struck in the face by a puck shot by a teammate during a practice drill.

St. Louis will return to Tampa Bay immediately and will undergo further medical examination by Lightning team physicians when swelling subsides in and around his left eye. A more detailed determination on his return to the lineup will be made at that time.

During the team's morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, St. Louis was struck near his left eye with a puck that resulted in a nasty cut and a lot of blood. He reportedly needed assistance getting to the team's bench and even stumbled on his way there.

Said head coach Guy Boucher, via Erlendsson, “We’ll see what the extent of it is, but right now it doesn’t look pretty. It just keeps on pouring. We have to prepare as if he’s not going to be available.” That was earlier Thursday. Good thing they prepared.

In 27 games this season St. Louis has scored nine goals and recorded 13 assists.

The Lightning enter Thursday's game riding a five-game losing streak and are coming off a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday. If St. Louis can't go they're certainly going to miss his offense as they've scored more than two goals in a single game just two times over the past month.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 29, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Guy Boucher knows how to use M-A Bergeron

mab1
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the way the Tampa Bay Lightning take advanatge of Marc-Andre Bergeron's offensive ability.

By: Adam Gretz


A quick look at the top-scoring defensemen in the NHL this season and the second name on the list, as of Tuesday afternoon, is Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Tampa Bay Lightning, currently with 19 points, trailing only the 21 that belong to Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. There are two things, to me, that stand out about Bergeron being in that spot: First, he plays significantly fewer minutes than the other defensemen near the top of the list. Second: His name isn't one that's usually near the top.

Whether or not he remains there for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but he's not only been one of the leading scorers among defensemen across the league, he's also been one of Tampa Bay's top scorers, regardless of position, and a lot of that has to do with the way head coach Guy Boucher utilizes him and takes advantage of what he does well, while also minimizing what he does not do well.

Every player in the NHL has strengths and weaknesses, and Bergeron's are easy to spot every time he steps on the ice. He has a heavy slap shot (Boucher actually talked about it at the Lightning's website on Tuesday) and is a threat to score from the blue line, while he also struggles mightily in his own end of the ice. In all honesty, he's probably the closest thing there is in the NHL to having a fourth forward on the ice without actually putting a fourth forward on the ice.

After spending the 2009-10 season with the Montreal Canadiens, Bergeron was not re-signed by the team and spent most of last season as a free agent before signing with the Lightning in January. He ended up playing 23 regular season games for them, as well as 14 of their 18 playoff games, scoring four goals and recording seven assists in a limited role, mainly in offensive situations and on the power play. 

Since joining the team mid-way through last season, it seems as if the Lightning have made sure to put him in situations where his skills can be maximized: the power play, obviously, while also starting as many of his 5-on-5 shifts as they can as far away from his own net as they can get, while also sending him out against the other team's weakest competition.

For the season, he's a plus-four, tops among all Tampa Bay defensemen, and has been on the ice for 14 even strength goals against, the second-lowest total on the team. That doesn't necessarily mean he's been the best, or one of the best, "defensive" players on the team. It actually says more about the way Boucher and the Tampa Bay coaching staff have used him, and the situations they've put him in.

We know he can score on the power play. It's something he's done throughout his career for every team he's spent time with. But let's take a look at how he's been utilized during even-strength situations in recent years.

(The table below looks at the following over the past five seasons: Percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone (Ozone%), total offensive zone starts (Ozone), Neutral Zone Starts (Nzone), Defensive Zone Starts (Dzone), Quality of Competition (Qualcomp) and the number of even-strength points he's produced. Data via Behindthenet.ca)

Marc-Andre Bergeron's Even-Strength Usage
Team Season Ozone% Ozone Nzone Dzone QualComp Points Games
TB Lightning 2011-12 69.6% 135 111 59 -.152 12 23
TB Lightning 2010-11 69.2% 110 51 49 -.046 5 23
Montreal Canadiens 2009-10 54.6% 227 207 189 -.078 12 60
Minnesota Wild 2008-09 66.8% 399 251 198 -.040 14 72
Anaheim/Islanders 2007-08 50.2% 167 166 246 -.065 4 54

Obviously, none of his recent teams have asked him to play against the other teams best players, while most have gone out of their way to hide his defensive struggles by starting him in the offensive zone. No team has taken it to the extreme that Tampa Bay has, with only the Minnesota Wild in 2008-09 coming close. The one exception here is the '07-08 Islanders who gave him more defensive zone starts than any other team over the past five years, and it's not a coincidence that was the year he finished as a minus-14, still the worst mark of his career. 

By starting nearly 70 percent of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone Bergeron is far and away the top defensemen in the NHL in that area. Of the 127 defensemen that have played at least 20 games this season, the only ones that are starting even 60 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone are Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, Montreal's Yannick Weber and Vancouver's Alexander Edler, while only Sheldon Brookbank and Andreas Lilja have played against a lower quality of competition.

In other words: He's playing some seriously sheltered minutes, and that also can have an impact on the other defensemen on the team.

While Bergeron is getting some of the most favorable matchups in the NHL, his teammates Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer, are drawing some of the least favorable matchups, currently owning the highest QualCOMP numbers in the NHL (again, among defensemen that have played at least 20 games) while also starting, by far, the fewest shifts in the offensive zone. That might help explain, at least in part, why Bergeron is a plus-four, while the two better players defensively are currently a minus-five and minus-seven on the season.

Bergeron is a flawed player defensively, but he has value if he's used properly, and so far Boucher has demonstrated that he knows exactly where, and when, to put him on the ice to take advantage of what he does the best: help score goals.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Paul Maurice fired as Hurricanes coach

maurice1By: Adam Gretz

Monday turned out to be a bad day to be a head coach in the NHL's Southeast Division. Not long after the Washington Capitals fired Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with Dale Hunter, the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they have fired Paul Maurice.

He will be replaced by former NHL player Kirk Muller, who was previously the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.

This was Maurice's second stint with the Hurricanes franchise, also coaching the team from 1995-96 (when it was still based in Hartford) through the 2003-04 season, leading the team to the Stanley Cup Finals during the 2001-02 campaign where they would ultimately lose to the Detroit Red Wings. Following a two-year stint behind the bench in Toronto, Maurice returned to Carolina during the 2008-09 season and guided the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Finals. This was Maurice's 15th season as a head coach in the NHL, having compiled a 460-457-99-68 record (the 99 are ties from his pre-lockout coaching days) and qualifying for the postseason just four times.

Through the first 25 games of this season the Hurricanes have struggled out of the gate, winning just eight games and currently occupying the bottom spot in the division, while the team's best players, Eric Staal and Cam Ward, have been mired in early season slumps.

More NHL Coaching Changes
Following Monday's division-wide shakeup, Tampa Bay's Guy Boucher, currently in his second year on the job, is now the longest tenured head coach in the Southeast. Washington and Carolina will be introducing new coaches on Monday, while the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets have first-year coaches with Kevin Dineen and Claude Noel, respectively.

If nothing else, the division is a nice illustration as to just how short the shelf life is for a head coach in the NHL.

Muller was previously an assistant coach at the NHL level with the Montreal Canadiens, and was in his first year as a head coach in the American Hockey League. The No. 2 overall pick in the 1984 draft, he played 19 seasons in the NHL with New Jersey, Montreal, the New York Islanders, Toronto, Florida and Dallas, scoring 357 goals and was always one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:51 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Ducks searching for wakeup call

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedule: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

You know it's bad when we're still early in November and the Anaheim Ducks call a closed-doors meeting. It stinks almost as much as the Avalanche calling Thursday's tilt against the Islanders a "must-win game." They did, barely (4-3 in OT).

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now, things are getting close to desperate in Orange County. The Ducks are the coldest team in hockey having lost six in a row. In a world without the overtime loser point, Anaheim is 5-10. That is not good.

"You have to eliminate any confusion, any doubt before you can take the next step forward," Carlyle said about the meeting.

"A lot of times coaches are talking and nobody says a word and you go to the ice and say, 'Well, I don't think that's work[ing]," Teemu Selanne offered. "It's important that the players can give their input also about the situation. It was really good. It was really honest conversations. I think it was a huge step forward."

They better get things figured out quickly. With Dallas playing as well as it is and San Jose in the division, the Ducks could dig themselves a hole too tough to get out of. They have the fewest goals scored and the most goals surrendered in the Pacific Division. In 15 games they have 29 goals, that's less than two goals per game.

How can a team with Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Selanne be struggling to score this much? Well presumably that's what the closed-door meeting was for.

I can't help but think it's the lack of power of the mustache. Since the month of Movember came around and the Ducks all began growing out their best 'staches, the team hasn't won a game. This is making me rethink my entire stance on the world. Here I was holding the mustache in such high esteem.

Or maybe it could be more rationally explained by figuring out where Lubomir Visnovsky has gone? The defenseman who had 18 goals and 50 assists last season has just four points (1-3=4) in 15 games and is a minus-9. Him finding his game would go a long way in helping the Ducks remove the ugly from their game.

So who do they get to try their presumably new tactics against first? How about the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night? Just the team for a struggling squad to face (the still-not-invented sarcasm font was on there).

But that's not all for the weekend. On Sunday the Ducks welcome the last team they beat, the Minnesota Wild. Of course since that win, these two teams have flipped their fortunes. The Ducks have become the coldest team this side of Columbus while Minnesota has been red hot.

SoCal struggles, Part II: This was supposed to be the season the Los Angeles Kings stepped forward, made a run for the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship. It obviously still could be, the season is only a short way in. But right now they could use a swift kick in the rear to get in gear.

Los Angeles has followed a 5-1-1 start with a 2-5-2 stretch, including a five-game losing streak that has people wondering if the boot isn't being polished up before delivering the kick. After all, the Kings have not scored more than three goals in 13 of their 16 games. For a team that acquired an offensive talent like Mike Richards to go with a solid group already, that's not going to cut it.

"The offense, certainly myself at the top of the list, should be scoring more, getting to the net," Justin Williams said following Thursday's loss.

So do you put the blame for the struggling stretch on coach Terry Murray? After all, head coaches are always the first scapegoat. I find it hard to blame Murray. He's trying all that he can, mixing and matching the lines to try and create a spark. But as they always say, you can't really fire the players. I mean you can, but it's a lot more difficult.

One of the issues right now is the play of Jonathan Quick. Remember that shutout streak back in October? That's a thing of the past. In his last six starts, Quick has zero wins. He is giving up nearly three goals per game in that stretch.

About the only thing going well right now for L.A. is the play of Drew Doughty. His game has been on point recently with five points in the last three games.

Like their SoCal neighbors in the O.C., the chance to get on the right track will come against the Wild, Saturday night at Staples Center. Oh, Minnesota enters the game having won five of the last six.

What the ....? You know who's not struggling? The first-place Florida Panthers. Yes, you read that right, first-place Panthers.

Dale Tallon threw together a team that everybody anticipated would struggle to jell, but it came together like jell-o. The Panthers have tallied a point in six consecutive games, including back-to-back wins on the road in Toronto and Winnipeg.

If they want to make it seven straight, they will have to get through the Flyers, who are in Sunrise on Sunday.

This is where I'd like to spread a little love on Kris Versteeg, the forward who is on his fourth team in a two-year span -- the one before the Panthers being the Flyers. He has apparently found the right fit and is scoring at a pace of better than a point per game, leading the Cats with 17 points in 15 games. Brian Campbell hasn't been too shabby either with 15 points in 15 games.

The surprises are all around on one of the NHL's biggest surprises this season. Jason Garrison is a sniper from the blue line? Who knew? But he's tied with Nicklas Lidstrom in the NHL lead for goals among defensemen with six. Jose Theodore can still be effective as a No. 1 goalie? Just talk to the folks in the Washington press box to see how hard that is to believe.

There's no telling how long this will last. First place in a division with the Capitals is asking a lot. But with a start like this, they can at least dream of ending that 10-year playoff drought in Florida.

Texas two-step: Want to know if the Dallas Stars are really as good as their 11-3-0 record indicates? Other than the fact that you are what your record says you are, as Bill Parcells would say, the Stars are in the midst of about as tough a three-game road stretch you can conjure up in the NHL.

They already went through the Capitals, handing them their first loss in D.C. this season. Now they have back-to-back games starting Friday in Pittsburgh. The game was viewed as a potential return date for Sidney Crosby, but that's not happening now. However it is still the top two teams in each conference and James Neal vs. the team that traded him.

If that's not enough, Dallas will take the trip to Detroit where the Red Wings await on Saturday.

I'm not sure how many more tests the Stars have to pass before this start and this team is believed to be for real by the masses. It might be already. I know I'm a believer. But just to be safe, a few more points in this weekend double-dip couldn't hurt.

The Bruins got their groove back: It only took a month, but now the Boston Bruins are showing the form the hockey world expected. After all, ask Boston fans and they will tell you last season was just a whole heaping of bonus -- this was the season when they were expected to be legitimate Cup contenders.

The team that in the early going couldn't score now can't stop scoring. Especially in bunches. Five times in the month of November the Bruins scored two goals within 49 seconds of one another. Five times!

Without a doubt, the most impressive player has been Tyler Seguin. The sophomore is showing why there was such a debate between himself and Taylor Hall before the 2010 draft. He is so quick and always seem to get his stick on the puck near the net.

The above items considered, it should come then as no surprise that the Bruins have won four games in a row and are streaking into their game against Northeast Division foe Buffalo.

The question there is which Sabres goalie will be entrusted with slowing down this now potent Bruins attack? That’s the question every day now in Buffalo where at the moment -- and I stress at the moment -- the goaltending job is a 50/50 proposition between Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. If Miller gets the call, it could be a tough situation to find a slump-busting performance.

Defense rules

The Tampa Bay defense, specifically the 1-3-1 trap that coach Guy Boucher loves to use, is the topic of the week in the NHL. The crux of the issue: people want to see more scoring, less stalling.

If that describes you, maybe you should find something else to do on Saturday night when the Lightning and St. Louis Blues meet. Offense might not be too plentiful.

With Ken Hitchcock now on the St. Louis bench and his preference to play a defensive-minded game, it could be a pretty slow and plodding game. Nothing as bad as the scene on Wednesday night, but still not offense friendly. In the two games under Hitchcock, the Blues have given up two goals.

Of course after all this you can now expect for the teams to hit the over.

Photo: US Presswire

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com