Head Coach Peter DeBoer and Assistant Coach Mike Kitchen (Getty Images)
By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer
Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer not only has a firm grasp on the makeup of his team, but on the mindset of his players.
Facing a must-win situation Thursday in Philadelphia, DeBoer opted to start backup goalie Craig Anderson in place of Tomas Vokoun, who had started the previous 11 games. DeBoer apparently was upset with Vokoun's play in the third period of Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Buffalo, when he yielded three goals in just over two minutes.
"We have to find a way to get wins," DeBoer said before his team met the Flyers. "It's not one guy's fault. We wouldn't be battling for a spot if not for Tomas Vokoun. We had been in this position earlier in the year and made a change. The team responded and Craig responded."
DeBoer was referring to Anderson's eight straight starts from Nov. 26 to Dec. 11, when he helped lead the Panthers to a 5-1-2 record. Once again, DeBoer's instincts were right, as Anderson turned aside 40 shots to help snap his team's three-game losing streak in a 4-2 victory.
"It was definitely a team effort," Anderson said following his fifth appearance in the past 25 games. "I couldn't do it without the guys in front of me. I just wanted to make sure I played well, didn't want to give the team any letdowns. I wanted to be a spark."
"He's been sitting for a long time," DeBoer said. "To come in and give a performance like that was great for the confidence for our team and himself."
The victory over the Flyers marked the eighth time in eight opportunities the Panthers picked up at least one point when Anderson makes 40 or more saves in a game (6-0-2).
Boiling over -- Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau is sick and tired of talking about Alex Ovechkin's 50th goal celebration. The only problem is he can't seem to escape the questioning.
Following his team's practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex Wednesday, Boudreau became agitated when asked about the possibility Tampa Bay would seek retribution in Friday's matchup in D.C.
"You want to go there?" he asked. "It's 10 friggin' days since it happened. We have talked to Tampa's coaches. I just thought it was a professional courtesy and what was said is between us. The people that are bringing the crap up are you guys (media). Nobody cares about it anymore. You guys want to bring it up because you want to see a riot, then you want to talk about retribution."
On March 16, Ovechkin followed through with a plan to put his stick on the ice and pretend to warm his hands over it after becoming the first player to score 50 this season.
"He scored his 50th goal in a 0-0 game," Boudreau said. "It wasn't 8-0, where he made a mockery. It's a done deal as far as I'm concerned. You've got to have better stuff to talk about."
Tampa coach Rick Tocchet considered it a noble gesture that Boudreau spoke to him personally prior to his team's practice Thursday.
"I respect that he came by my office, face-to-face," Tocchet said Thursday. "It was a nice gesture. He apologized. He didn't condone it. I told him what I felt, that doing it by our goalie for five seconds by the crease (wasn't appropriate), and he agreed. I said, 'Good luck this year,' and that was it."
Boudreau feels there are more prevalent issues to discuss.
"The playoff races are so intense and so tight that we are talking about a three-second thing," he said. "I feel like Allen Iverson talking about practice, for crying out loud. It's dumb. Let's get over it. The teams have both gotten over it. So it's up to the media to get over it."
"We're kind of blowing it out of proportion," he said. "I'm sure you'd like to see our players react, but reacting is playing in Washington and playing abrasive and not playing stupid."
A new beginning -- The Carolina Hurricanes agreed to terms with defenseman Jamie McBain on Thursday to a three-year, entry-level contract. He was assigned to the club's American Hockey League, the Albany River Rats.
McBain, who starred the past three seasons for the University of Wisconsin, led the Badgers with 37 points (7 goals) in 40 games this season, and he was second among NCAA Division I defensemen in points.
McBain, selected in the second round (No. 63) of the 2006 Entry Draft, was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association player of the year for 2008-09, and is one of 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists.
"Jamie had an outstanding season at Wisconsin, serving as an alternate captain and leading the team in scoring," Hurricanes Vice President/Assistant General Manager Jason Karmanos said. "The time is right for him to take the next step in his development and begin his professional career."
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves feels the 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman is prepared to begin his professional career.
"He's got three years of education under his belt and received the maximum contract he could get as an entry-level athlete, and as a second rounder, and that's a good thing," Eaves said. "Carolina was also really honest with him. They didn't sell him the moment but told him he'll play 10 games in Albany right now and then be able to come back and finish his semester. Next year they expect him to be in the American Hockey League, and depending on his growth, could be there the whole year.
"You got to look at the timing of the whole situation. If Jamie wasn't having the success he was having this season, he might have stayed one more season. He's certainly earned this opportunity."
Stamkos a success -- Despite the Tampa Bay Lightning's struggles this season, the organization can take pride in the fact that 2008 No. 1 draft choice Steven Stamkos turned out a winner.
Stamkos entered the weekend with 8 goals and 15 points in his last 14 games and was tied for fifth among first-year scorers with 40 points entering the weekend.
"I can just tell, myself, coming to the rink every day now, I feel more confident, whether it's in practice or in a game," Stamkos told Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune. "You have that quiet self-confidence or the swagger that all good players need to be successful and you realize that I have that ability to go out there and be a guy who can make an impact on this game. To have some other players from other teams come and say that to me helps with that part of the game."
One such player was New Jersey Devils right wing Brendan Shanahan, a veteran of 21 NHL seasons, who took the time to speak with Stamkos following a Feb. 19 game in Tampa.
"The last time we played New Jersey, Brendan Shanahan stopped me after the game in the hall and kind of said how he has watched me progress as a player," Stamkos said. "It's pretty special that players who are potentially Hall of Famers take time to stop and talk to a young guy like me and say those nice things.
"It's tough to even put into words that they would go and specifically have in their mind that they want to come talk to me. That means a lot to me and I'm grateful for that. Hopefully I can entertain them for years to come."
Ice chips -- Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith, out since Jan. 30 with post-concussion syndrome, would like nothing more than to close the 2008-09 season with a few more starts. With only seven games remaining, however, it appears as though interim coach Rick Tocchet has taken a different outlook. "I know Smitty would like to come back, but with every game (that passes), it's a moot point. Right now, if he can't ride a bike 20, 25 minutes hard without getting a headache, I mean, there's no chance he's going to put pads on." ... With six games remaining, the Washington Capitals already have clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth, marking the first time since 1999-2000 and 2000-01 the Caps earned back-to-back to playoff appearances. ... Carolina goalie Cam Ward won his 116th game Wednesday, moving him into a tie with Mike Liut for second on the Hartford/Carolina all-time wins list. Arturs Irbe (130 victories), who spent six seasons in Carolina, is the leader. ... The Florida Panthers established a team record Monday when Jay Bouwmeester scored Florida's NHL-leading 44th goal by a defenseman. The previous mark of 43 was set during the 1995-96 season -- the only season the Panthers made the Stanley Cup Final. ... In his first 32 games with Atlanta this season, Rich Peverley has 10 goals and 28 points, including a season-high four-game point streak (2 goals, 6 assists) from Jan. 16-21. The 26-year-old center, claimed off waivers from Nashville on Jan. 10, has set new career highs in goals (12), assists (25) and points (37) in 59 games this season.