WINNIPEG -- The equipment bags sat scattered across MTS Centre's home dressing room as the Winnipeg Jets said their early-April goodbyes.
The early departures have become a rite of April for the club. Sunday cemented that ritual further after the Jets finished their first season in Winnipeg anchored in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 37-35-10 record.
The organization has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the past five consecutive seasons and has struggled to edge much beyond the 80-point mark in that span. With only one trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- a 2007 visit that ended with a sweep by the New York Rangers -- there is significant work to be done to move the club up from the League's bottom-third and make it a viable Playoff contender on a yearly basis.
"It's not acceptable to be sitting here doing this at this time of the year," Jets captain and two-time Stanley Cup winner Andrew Ladd said.
But Lightning coach Guy Boucher has far more to say about the work ethic of his 22-year-old star who became the 20th player to score 60 or more goals in one season than he does about the physical skill set that Stamkos possesses.
"What I like is that he just pushes always for more," Boucher said. "He just wants more all the time. It's never enough, and it's not the goals. He never has enough of getting better -- that's why he scores the goals. It's a by-product of his attitude, his work ethic, and his willingness to pay the price.
"It's not just about skill," Boucher continued. "Skill, in his case, is not the biggest [factor] in why he scores those goals. It's just desire."
Over that time, only two things have been constant -- Doan and the dearth of banners in the rafters of Jobing.com Arena.
Now, there's just one.
Phoenix's 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild Saturday at Xcel Energy Center secured the first division title -- or title of any kind -- since the Jets/Coyotes franchise entered the National Hockey League 33 years ago.
When Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced the firing of coach Jacques Martin on Dec. 17, the team was 13-12-7 and sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Almost four months later, Gauthier no longer is with the club, which will finish last in the conference this season. The team is 17-23-9 for interim coach Randy Cunneyworth and will finish 15th in the Eastern Conference regardless of what happens in the season finale Saturday against the Maple Leafs. However, Martin is finding no joy in the team's failings since he was let go.
"It's unfortunate. You don't like to see a team that you're associated with lose," Martin said. "We're in the business of winning and I had the opportunity to build some relationships with some of the players in my two-and-a-half years here. I firmly believed we were going to make the playoffs. But I think injuries have been a big factor in their season this year."
It's been a whirlwind tour so far with the tryouts and the preparation, but it's exciting now that we're in Burlington and we're getting a chance to see the Douglas Cairns Arena and be in this environment and soak up everything about getting a chance to host the World Championships in our home country.
I think that for us, it's a very special thing. The last time we did it was in 2001. It was actually my first World Championship ever. I was just a starry-eyed kid, and I kind of point back to that moment a little bit and it's unreal to think that I'm still able to be a part of this incredible program and see how far we've come and see how far I've come as an individual.
Getting a chance to play at Gutterson Field House reminds us of the history of women's hockey. There were some great pioneers that came in the 90s and the early 2000s that really helped to pave the way and kind of created the environment that we all have the opportunity to play in now. It wasn't that easy. The resources weren't there.
DETROIT -- One is a goalie; the other has a dog named "shooter" because of his own scoring acumen.
One plays goalie for the Detroit Red Wings, while the other is a star forward for Detroit's Original Six rival, the Chicago Blackhawks. There are plenty of differences that separate Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp -- but this season they also have more in common than either one might realize.
Not only did both get off to great starts for their teams, but both also went through frustrating injuries that cut short some statistical benchmarks they were on pace to reach. Yet it's what happened off the ice that makes their situations kind of unique as Sharp and Howard prepare to face each other again on Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena (1 p.m., NBC, TSN2) to conclude the regular season.
DETROIT -- The hope was to get Jonathan Toews back for at least one game before the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that's not going to happen for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago's top center and captain is still experiencing symptoms from a concussion and will miss his 22nd straight game Saturday afternoon in Detroit (1 p.m., NBC, TSN2) when the regular season concludes.
"It would've been nice to get him in a game, but Game 1 of the playoffs is way more meaningful than [this] game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Friday at Joe Louis Arena. "We have five full days here [before the playoffs start]. Let's side with caution."
PITTSBURGH--Sidney Crosby dismissed Rangers coach John Tortorella's comments calling him a whiny star on an arrogant team Friday as "garbage" gamesmanship that is equally unwarranted and undeserved.
Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins' elite center who is back on his game after missing 61 games this season with concussion-like symptoms, usually shrugs off criticism from an opposing coach or player. But he showed a bit of an edge Friday while dismissing Tortorella's rant following the Penguins' 5-2 win over the Rangers on Thursday night.
Tortorella also suggested Crosby and Penguins star Evgeni Malkin spend considerable time whining to the officials.
PITTSBURGH -- Rangers coach John Tortorella became visibly upset when Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik dropped New York center Derek Stepan with a knee-to-knee hit on Thursday night, and he turned his anger on the Penguins franchise.
Orpik drew a five-minute major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct for upending Stepan with less than five minutes remaining in the Penguins' 5-2 victory at Consol Energy Center – a hit that Tortorella called "cheap, dirty."
Stepan was carrying the puck in the neutral zone and, just as he released a pass at the blue line, he tried to cut the other way to avoid colliding with Orpik, only to be rammed knee to knee. Stepan remained on the ice for several minutes.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Mike Knuble has made a living scoring goals from the tip of the crease, jamming loose pucks and causing havoc around opposing goalies.
But in his 15-year NHL career, Knuble cannot recall ever seeing a goal-mouth scramble quite like the one in Tuesday night's game between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Trailing 5-4 with less than two minutes to play in the third period, Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold emerged from a nearly eight-second, eight-man scrum and slid the puck past goalie Ben Scrivens to tie the game. The Sabres eventually beat the Maple Leafs 6-5 in overtime to move into an eighth-place tie with the Capitals in the Eastern Conference.
It's not always going to be pretty, especially against a great goalie [Lundqvist] like that. My goals are never how you draw them up. It's just a matter of grinding it out and trying to create havoc in front and good things happen.
— Capitals forward Jay Beagle on scoring in their Game 3 victory against the Rangers on Monday