After win No. 500, John Tortorella should be considered among the greatest American coaches

ByJoe McDonald ESPN logo
Monday, December 19, 2016

What do you need to know about the weekend's big stories? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best. This is where we say, "Morning, Joe."

Torts is tops:Coach John Tortorella, 58, became the first American-born coach to reach 500 career wins in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets' 4-3 OT win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. He has won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04, of course, but reaching this milestone is an impressive accomplishment as well. Is he the greatest U.S. coach? Like him or not, he wears his heart on his sleeve and he holds players accountable. He was fired by the Vancouver Canucks after only one season (2013-14), and his decision to step away from coaching probably saved his career. He took over in Columbus after Todd Richards was fired seven games into the 2015-16 season, and Tortorella's presence has been influential for the Blue Jackets. The results speak for themselves: He should be considered among the elite American coaches.

Let the truth be told:There was never a goalie controversy with the New York Rangers. While Henrik Lundqvist sat on the bench four consecutive games for the first time in his career as a healthy backup, Antti Raanta went 3-1-0. The brief hiatus as the No. 1 proved crucial for Lundqvist. Since his return, he's 3-0-0 in his past three starts, with a 0.98 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage. He now has 389 career wins, tying Dominik Hasek for the most wins by a European goaltender. Overall, Lundqvist is 14-5-1, with a 2.19 GAA and a .927 SP. He continues to make timely saves and he's made 87 on 90 shots during the streak. It should serve as evidence that he can take a few games off to stay fresh because Raanta is more than capable of doing the job.

Blackhawks tightening up:Just when you think the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups since 2010, are struggling, they rocket to success once again. Chicago has won five consecutive games and owns the best record (22-8-4) in the league with 48 points. With No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford (appendectomy) sidelined, backup Scott Darling has stepped in and has been outstanding. So, what happens after Crawford returns, expected to be as early as Friday? It's a no-brainer. He gets his job back. When that does happen, he'll notice a better defensive team in front of him than before his illness. The Blackhawks are back to being the gold standard.

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