Nicholas J. Cotsonika

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Nicholas J. Cotsonika is the NHL writer for Yahoo! Sports. He previously worked for the Detroit Free Press, where he covered the Red Wings, Lions and several other subjects. He has written three books, including "Hockey Gods: The Inside Story of the Red Wings' Hall of Fame Team."

  • Blues survive triple-overtime roller-coaster for much-needed Game 1 victory over Blackhawks

    ST. LOUIS — They played for more than 100 minutes. They took 109 faceoffs and fired 94 shots and made 87 saves and threw 69 hits and blocked 50 shots. They traded scoring chances and close calls, and it all piled up into an exhilarating, exhausting playoff opener.

    Either team could have won. Neither team wanted it more.

    But one team needed it more.

    When Alex Steen scored 26 seconds into the third overtime period on Thursday night, he didn’t just give the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. He didn’t just win the longest game in the Blues’ 47-year history. He helped the Blues believe that this season, as coach Ken Hitchcock said, wasn’t going to “just kind of melt away.”

    [Watch: Blues score late tying goal and again in triple OT]

    “I think I jumped about three feet,” said goaltender Ryan Miller. “Just happy to get that win. … We needed it for confidence, I think. We needed it to show that stretch we had to finish the season was kind of behind us.”

    The Blues were one

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  • The Stanley Cup is in the details for devoted Blues goalie Ryan Miller

    ST. LOUIS — Ryan Miller is a star goalie, but he doesn’t have an endorsement deal with an equipment company. He wears one brand of pads and glove, another brand of blocker. He uses only what he thinks is best.

    When breaking in a pair of pads, as he has been doing for a while now, he’ll put an old one on his right leg and a new one on his left and vice-versa. He’ll drop into the butterfly position. He’ll look closely. He’ll even take pictures. Sometimes he slices through a blocker with a knife so he can study the insides. Why this fabric? Why that plastic?

    “I’m not saying he’s a modern-day Tony Esposito,” said former NHL goalie and current Blues TV analyst Darren Pang, referring to the Hall of Famer who was legendary for tinkering with his gear. “But he’s pretty detailed.”

    This is the kind of guy the St. Louis Blues brought in to win the Stanley Cup – uncompromising, inquisitive, exact about everything from his equipment to his mindset to his technique to the team structure. He sweats

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  • NHL Playoff Power Rankings: Stanley Cup favorites & long shots

    The best part about the new playoff format? The bracket.

    The NCAA has March Madness. Now that NHL has gone to divisional playoffs, the league will have April Insanity and May Mayhem before the Stanley Cup final in June. You can print out your own bracket, trace the path for your favorite team and make your picks.

    Yahoo Sports isn’t offering a billion dollars if you fill out a perfect NHL bracket, like we did during the NCAA tournament. But go ahead. Try. It’s a good bet you’ll go bust. There won’t be upsets by seventh or eighth seeds anymore, because there aren’t seventh or eighth seeds anymore. Still, there is sure to be a surprise somewhere.

    [Related: Ranking the NHL's eight first-round playoff series]

    So here we go, and here are our Sweet 16 power rankings. Teams are listed in order of how we view their current situation and Stanley Cup potential, not necessarily where they finished in the standings. We’ll recalibrate before the Elite Eight and the Final Four. Good luck.

    Boston has advanced to two Cup finals in three years, winning in 2011 and losing to Chicago last season. (USA Today)1. Boston

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  • 2013-14 NHL Awards: Runaway MVP Sidney Crosby & tight trophy races

    Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin? No controversy this year. Though Ovechkin lit the lamp 51 times and won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, he was minus-35, third-worst in the league. His Washington Capitals didn’t make the playoffs, and he won’t make many awards ballots.

    So how about Drew Doughty vs. Duncan Keith instead? Or Semyon Varlamov vs. Tuukka Rask? Or Patrice Bergeron vs. Anze Kopitar? Or Nathan MacKinnon vs. the two rookies from Tampa Bay? Or Mike Babcock vs. Patrick Roy? With one exception, every honor came with a hot debate or at least a tight race. My picks:

    HART TROPHY (most valuable player): Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

    Whichever definition you use – the liberal “best player” or the literal “most valuable to his team” – Crosby should win the Hart hands down. The Penguins led the NHL in man-games lost to injury. But their captain stayed healthy for a full season for the first time since 2009-10, and he carried the team to the second-best

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  • Brendan Shanahan's low-key power grab with the Maple Leafs: 'I’m not here for big speeches'

    Brendan Shanahan could have reminisced about growing up in Mimico, a suburb of Toronto. He could have flashed one of his Stanley Cup rings and crowed about his qualifications as a Hall of Fame player and an NHL executive. He could have outlined his vision for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    He did none of that Monday as he was introduced as the Leafs’ new president. This team has not won the Cup since 1967 and has made the playoffs once in the past nine years in the Centre of the Hockey Universe, and this job has been held before by men with impressive resumes and colorful personalities – Ken Dryden, Brian Burke. If this smacked of PR, his first move was to tone down the PR part.

    “I’m not here today for big speeches, big words, big proclamations,” said Shanahan, in stark contrast to Burke, who burst onto the scene in November 2008 talking about “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence.” “Today is my first day at work, and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

    [Related: Predators part

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  • Stephane Quintal takes over NHL Player Safety for playoffs; but then what?

    Get ready for "Quintal-a-bans."

    Stephane Quintal will fill Brendan Shanahan’s role as NHL disciplinarian for the final days of the regular season and the playoffs, now that Shanahan has become president of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    From the NHL:

    At the direction of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Brendan Shanahan immediately relinquished responsibility for overseeing the League’s Department of Player Safety upon accepting the position of President of the Toronto Maple Leafs yesterday afternoon.       

    Effective with Thursday night’s games and for the balance of the regular season and throughout the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stephane Quintal assumes the role of conducting hearings and administering supplementary discipline.       

    The National Hockey League has a first-rate and fully functional team of professionals staffed in the Player Safety Department that will continue to monitor all plays in all games and to flag plays that warrant review and potential discipline. There will

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  • Three Periods: Who's next on NHL hot seat for non-playoff teams?

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appeared on Thursdays during the regular season. This week’s finale includes the changes that could be coming to the teams that missed the playoffs; how the NHL probably will replace Brendan Shanahan as disciplinarian; why the Red Wings’ 23-season playoff streak might be the most impressive in NHL history; and why the PHWA should not embarrass itself in postseason all-star voting again.

    FIRST PERIOD: Now that Mike Gillis is gone, who’s next?

    Mike Gillis is out as general manager, Trevor Linden is in as president, and it looks like that will be just the start – in Vancouver and across the NHL. The coming days and weeks should bring a lot of change for teams that missed the playoffs. Here are five to watch:

    1. Vancouver Canucks: Linden said the GM search had already begun and would involve internal and external candidates. The internal candidates are assistant GMs Laurence Gilman and Lorne Henning, both of whom are highly regarded. The

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  • NHL czar to Toronto Maple Leafs president? The future's wide open for Brendan Shanahan

    In November, before he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Brendan Shanahan sat down for an interview in his corner office at NHL headquarters in New York. We were talking about his role as league disciplinarian. I asked him a direct question: “How long do you want to do this?”

    Colin Campbell had done it for more than a decade. Shanahan was in his third season.

    Shanahan answered carefully.

    “I don’t know,” he said, pausing. “I don’t know how Coli did it as long as he did. I would like to … I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. I like having … I do like being involved in hockey, but I don’t know the answer to that.”

    We might know in the near future. The Toronto Maple Leafs are indeed talking to Shanahan about a job – team president, director of hockey operations, something like that – and I think Shanahan is interested and qualified. The question is whether it is the right fit for both sides (and maybe the timing because of his current job and the approaching playoffs).

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  • No experience necessary: Canucks gamble on fan-favorite Trevor Linden to revive franchise

    The Vancouver Canucks made two moves Wednesday: One, they introduced Trevor Linden, the most popular player in franchise history, as the new president of hockey operations. Two, they extended the season-ticket renewal deadline until after the draft and free agency period.

    “We’re trying to sell tickets,” said chairman Franceso Aquilini, when asked about the economic cost of missing the playoffs. “I’m disappointed in the season, just like all our fans. Trevor’s here now. He’s going to put a plan in place and get our season-ticket holders back and believing in this team again.”

    For now, that’s what this is about. Sales. Belief. But if you’re a season-ticket holder, are you sold just because general manager Mike Gillis is gone? Do you believe just because Trevor’s here now? Or do you wait and see what the plan actually is before you come back?

    [Related: Trevor Linden's arrival is much-needed PR victory for Canucks]

    Linden captained the Canucks, leading them to the 1994 Stanley Cup final. He

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  • Three Periods: Iginla worth wait for Bruins; the Vanek effect; Bolts keeping Callahan?

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include how Jarome Iginla, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Callahan have adjusted to their new teams this season; Canucks GM Mike Gillis hinted at a power struggle in Vancouver; and, three members of Team Canada whose stock rose in Sochi.

    FIRST PERIOD: One year after spurning Bruins, Iginla is excelling in Boston

    It was only a year ago that Jarome Iginla decided not to join the Boston Bruins. He had a no-trade clause in his contract, and so he had a choice when the Calgary Flames reached a deal with the Bruins before the deadline. He went to the Pittsburgh Penguins instead to chase his first Stanley Cup.

    “It’s funny how it works itself out,” said Bruins winger Milan Lucic, smiling. “There might have been a jab here or there [at first]. But we all respect him for who he is and what he he’s done as a hockey player over the last 17 years, so we were happy to have him.”

    It has worked out well for Iginla and

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