Coach of the Year:
John Tortorella, Alain Vigneault and Mike Babcock were nominated for the Jack Adams Award.
It says here that Babcock takes it. Babcock integrated a large number of rookies into his lineup, becoming the first team in NHL history to have six different rookies appear in at least 70 games. The club improved by 26 points and had a huge Round 1 in a loss to Washington, the President’s Trophy winner. The Maple Leafs became the first team since the 2007-08 Flyers to make the playoffs one year after ranking last in the overall standings.
Tortorella turned around a Columbus team that was long overdue, and Vigneault kept the Rangers in the pool of legitimate Cup contenders once again.
Since the Jack Adams likes big turnarounds, we’ll give this one to Babcock’s Leafs.
Ottawa wins Game 1 vs Rangers
Quote of the day, courtesy Mats Zuccarello (quoted by Larry Brooks in the NY Post):
“Obviously we want to play fast, but we can’t rush it up with one guy trying to break through, give it away and have them come back and shove it up our ass,” Mats Zuccarello told The Post. “It’s important for us to be patient with the puck against their trap, or whatever they call it.”
Certainly the speed game is all the rage these days, but the Rangers are going to have to calm things down in the offensive zone and establish the tone.
It is certainly curious that Ottawa D-man Erik Karlsson copped to the fact that he’s playing with hairline fractures in a heel. Certainly hasn’t affected his world-class hockey sense: That hard-angle shot (no angle, actually, since he was behind the goal line) that he banked in off of Henrik Lundqvist’s jersey name plate was one for the ages.
What’s up with the empty seats atop the Canadian Tire Center? Considering all the speeches Americans have endured, especially in warm-weather markets, what’s the excuse for hundreds of empty chairs? Just sayin’.
UPDATE: (FROM SPORTSNET.CA) DART GUY HAS SPOKEN RE EMPTY SEATS
Pittsburgh tops Washington on Bonino Goal
Two goals by Sidney Crosby at even-strength just 68 seconds apart fueled the Penguins Thursday night in a 3-2 victory at Washington sealed by a Nick Bonino’s third period breakaway goal.
It’s nothing new for the Penguins, seeing a clutch performance by Crosby at exactly the right moment. The guy’s timing is impeccable.
As for Bonino, he split a seemingly ready but obviously snoozing Caps’ defense (Orpik and Shattenkirk) and delivered.
To his credit, Alex Ovechkin responded after Crosby’s goal with his fourth of the postseason, then Evgeni Kuznetsov tied it. The Caps were quite game, and need to build off of this one for Game 2.
But the Penguins played smart, and did not have to kill a single penalty all night.
What about Marc-Andre Fleury? 33 Saves against the Caps in Game 1. Numbers: .934 SV%/2.43GAA/5-1 after six playoff games. During an intense third-period scrum in front of the Penguins’ net, Ovechkin passed to Nate Schmidt, whose shot Fleury saved, then many subsequent whacks at the puck ensued, with Nick Backstrom and Marcus Johansson dangerously close. Credit the Penguins defense for converging on the low slot to help out Fleury. It’s impressive, though, to see the longtime Penguins netminder seize the opportunity via Matt Murray’s injury to be the number one guy again. It would be awfully hard to supplant Fleury now.