Into the Boards: Rangers Still Contending, Yeo Picks Up St.Louis, The Habs’ New Coach, and the Coyotes Still Suck


What’s up, hockey nerds? Scott is up in Canada this week and had to witness our beloved Islanders get stomped out by the Maple Leafs in Toronto, so this week it’s all me (Vin). Scott’s the one with the English Degree, so if this reads like a college dropout wrote it… that’s because it was.

This week we take a look at the surging New York Rangers , and the Yeo-era St. Louis Blues. We also talk shit on the lackluster Arizona Coyotes, and learn who the new coach is in Montreal!

Eastern Conference

Red Hot Rangers

The Metropolitan is easily the most competitive division in the entire league. The Rangers are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games, and with a win over the Blue Jackets on Monday evening they clinched their sixth straight victory. The Blue Shirts sit in the first spot for the Wild Card and are tied at 75 points with Columbus and Pittsburgh.

The Rangers are looking to extend their win streak to seven games and move up in the rankings with a win on Thursday against the Islanders [They lost! -Ed.]. This will be no easy feat against the surging Islanders, who have done a complete 180 since Dougie Weight took over as Coach. The Rangers, who were cooling down after a hot start, have seemed to catch fire again. It has truly been a team effort in New York, as forwards J.T Miller, Kevin Hayes, Matt Zuccarello, and Derek Stepan all have 40+ points this season, and King Henrik Lundqvist has won his last five starts between the pipes, notching his 400th victory with a win over the struggling Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. With the win at Madison Square Garden, Hank becomes just the 12th goaltender in NHL history to reach that milestone. The Swede is the fastest goaltender in history to reach 400 wins, doing so in just 727 appearances.

This is the ideal time to catch fire and stack some wins as we continue the second half of the season and make our way towards April. Even with the great amount of competition going on in the East I still feel confident in the Rangers and believe they will find their way into the postseason. When the Rangers are on point, they are as good as any other team, and can beat anyone in the league.

Behind Enemy Lines

Last week ITB covered the story of the Great Claude Julien being axed by the Boston Bruins after a successful run in Beantown. I (Vin) was on tour with my buddies in Astronoid, who are all from Massachusetts and love their Bruins. Julien leaving was obviously a sore topic to discuss, but was slightly alleviated by the Patriots celebrating their recent Super Bowl victory.

We briefly discussed who might be interested in picking up Coach Claude, but I could’ve never predicted what went down this week. Last Thursday it was announced that the Montreal Canadians would be relieving Michael Therrien of his coaching duties and Claude Julien would be taking over as Head Coach. Julien and the Habs agreed to a five-year deal, keeping Claude a Canadian until the 2021-22 season.

Even though the Canadiens are in first place of the Atlantic Division they still managed to have the second worst record in the NHL since the start of January, going 3-6-1. This isn’t Coach Claude’s first run with the Habs; he was with the team from January 2003 to January 2006, taking them to the second round in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ironically, back in 2003 Julien replaced Michael Therrien as coach as well.

The Habs and Bruins have a huge, historical rivalry and I’m sure this is just adding fuel to the fire. Coach Julien will look to keep the Habs in first place, and help push them deeper into the postseason. Quite honestly, though, I think the Canadians will fall short of another Stanley Cup appearance, especially the way the Penguins and Capitals are playing recently. You all know I have a lot of love and respect for Carey Price and company, but I’m just being realistic here.

Western Conference

Yeo Stepping Up

February 13th marks the one-year anniversary of the firing of Mike Yeo by the Minnesota Wild. Yeo admits it was tough at the time, but in the long run it has made him a better coach. This anniversary comes just twelve days after the St.Louis Blues relieved former coach Ken Hitchcock of his duties, and allowed to Yeo to take over as head coach.

Since taking over the position, Yeo and the Blues have stepped it up. St. Louis is on a four game win streak, earning confidence with victories over the first place Montreal Canadiens and shutting out the Ottawa Senators. Since Yeo has taken the reigns, the Blues are 5-1 and seem to be leaving their mediocre play behind them. Goaltender Jake Allen, who has been quite shitty this year (to be frank), has also turned it around and earned the NHL’s second star of the week.

The Blues now sit in the third spot of the Central Division despite their lackluster performance in the first half of the season. I expect them to stay there, especially if the Minnesota Wild continue to stay hot and the Blackhawks continue to be the dynasty team that they are. I doubt the Nashville Predators will pass either of the top three teams and will most likely clinch a wild card spot, while the other will be filled out by a team from the Pacific Division if the Dallas Stars and the Winnipeg Jets continue to struggle.

Coyotes Still Ugly

Not much has been going on with the Coyotes this season. The highlight of their year was probably when All-Star Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald dropped the puck before Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Recently the Coyotes celebrated their 20th anniversary amidst rumors of the team seeking an arena outside of Arizona. Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc addressed the media and said the rumors were “completely false”. LeBlanc also added that “The Coyotes are focused on creating one of the most taxpayer friendly facilities in the country here in the Valley. This new arena will pay for itself, create jobs and generate millions of dollars of revenue for the state, county and municipality where it’s built. We are fully committed to Arizona.”

To no one’s surprise Arizona is in dead last in the Pacific Division, still 10 points behind the God-awful Vancouver Canucks. Arizona still has yet to win their 20th victory of the season; the only team with a worse record in the NHL is the Colorado Avalanche with an embarrassing 15 wins.

One positive for Arizona is that their young stud winger Max Domi was finally taken off the IR and is back on the ice to help the team in any way he can. Rumor has it that captain Shane Doan will be moved before the deadline to a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup. As a fan of Shane Doan, I would love to see him moved to a team that’s further along their way and see him really contend. Arizona still has many holes to fill, but they do have some young talent that will hopefully bring the desert some hockey success in the future.

Top Stars

Gotta give it to the King. The great Henrik Lundqvist is this week’s top star for collecting his 400th victory. Check it out here!

Jamie Benn has been relatively quiet this year compared to his amazing season in 2015-16. But this week the Dallas winger is back to his old ways; the Star notched three goals, four assists and four power play points. The Stars have been struggling this year, but Jamie heating up can turn that all around.

Top Plays

This is a beautiful goal for the great big beard himself. Watch the Sharks defenseman Brent Burns wrist a laser shot, going over the shoulder of Devils’ goaltender Cory Schneider and bar down for a game-tying goal.

Patience! Patience! Patience! Watch Malkin slow time down and settle the puck right in front of the net, before passing to a wide open Phil Kessel who easily scores, making the Canucks defence and netminder Ryan Miller look just silly.

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