Kukla's Korner

Goal Line Report

Hoffman’s First Round Playoff Picks

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) New York Islanders

For the Penguins to Win: Simply put, utilize their high-octane offense. Even without Sidney Crosby, this Penguins’ hockey club can put the puck in the net with guys like Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, and Kris Letang. The team’s offense is absolutely lethal and if used the right way, should be able to absolutely pound the Islanders’ young defensive corps.

For the Islanders to Win: Play loose. Going into this series, there is absolutely no pressure on this Islanders’ team. With guys like John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Brad Boyes, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, and Frans Nielsen, the Islanders can score goals, play a high-tempo game and even put a scare into opponents that are greater than them.

Match-up to Watch: The Penguins’ offense vs. the Islanders’ defense. There is a good chance that the young Islanders’ defensive corps will be under siege a lot in this series so it will be interesting to see how they can handle the Penguins’ high-powered offense.

Big Question: Does Sidney Crosby make his return to the ice in this series?

Best Bet: Penguins in five.

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  Tags: 2013+stanley+cup+playoffs

Easy As 1-2-3 for the Blueshirts in Win Over the Devils

That is the perfect description for the New York Rangers' 4-0 shutout this afternoon at Madison Square Garden over the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils did not seem to be interested in playing a meaningless game and that showed in their loss this afternoon. The Blueshirts were able to catch the Devils out of position on all four of their goals as the team simply took advantage of a poor Devils' performance today.

For Rangers' netminder Henrik Lundqvist, it was a relatively easy 20-save shutout. The shutout was his second of the season while the victory was his 24th of the season.

It may not be a 30-win season for the Blueshirts' 31-year-old netminder but given the way he played in the regular season, it could garner another Vezina Trophy nomination or even win. In 43 games, Lundqvist went 24-16-3 with a 2.05 GAA, a .926 save percentage and two shutouts.

The team also got strong performances out of the likes of Derek Stepan (one goal and one assist), Ryan Callahan (one goal and one assist), Rick Nash (two goals), and Brad Richards (two assists). These four players are going to have to continue their offensive production come next week in the postseason in order for this Rangers' hockey club to have success.

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  Tags: boston+bruins, brad+richards, derek+stepan, henrik+lundqvist, montreal+canadiens, new+jersey+devils, new+york+rangers, ottawa+senators, pittsburgh+penguins, rick+nash, ryan+callahan, washington+capitals

Seeding On the Line for the Blueshirts

While the New Jersey Devils might not look at this afternoon's game as a meaningful one, it will be the opposite for the New York Rangers.

The Blueshirts might have clinched a playoff spot in their 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night but what is still to be decided is what spot the team will finish in. It is said that come playoff hockey time, the regular season does not matter but for the Rangers, they should do everything they can to get a higher seed.

As of this writing, the Rangers find themselves in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. That would mean that they would play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, which should be something the team should try and avoid given the Penguins' dangerous offensive arsenal and the way they have played the Blueshirts this season.

Should the Rangers beat the Devils, however, it will make things very interesting in terms of seeding. With a win, the Rangers would have 56 points,  which would give them one more point than the New York Islanders and possibly two more points than the Ottawa Senators, who take on the Philadelphia Flyers tonight and the Boston Bruins tomorrow.

If the Rangers manage to take the sixth spot, they will end up facing the Washington Capitals. The Rangers have met the Capitals in each and every postseason they have been in since 2009, with the Rangers winning one of their three series against the Caps.

Should the Rangers finish in seventh, it could mean a series with an Original Six franchise in the Bruins or Montreal Canadiens. Coming into tonight's slate of games, the Bruins and Habs are tied with 61 points but the Bruins have a game in hand.

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  Tags: boston+bruins, carolina+hurricanes, montreal+canadiens, new+jersey+devils, new+york+islanders, new+york+rangers, ottawa+senators, philadelphia+flyers, pittsburgh+penguins, washington+capitals

A Glass Half Full Look at the Blueshirts

When it comes to New York Rangers' fans and the way they view their favorite hockey club, it is always an extreme point of view.

Either fans are in love and ecstatic about their hockey club or they absolutely despise and are fed up with their so called favorite NHL team. There is never a middle ground.

With two games remaining and just one win needed to clinch a postseason spot in the ever tight bottom portion of the Eastern Conference standings, it is time for a glass half full look. Believe it or not, there are things to like about this Blueshirts' hockey club.

For starters, the team has perhaps the best goaltender in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist. For the last month or so, Lundqvist has been the team's best player and his statistics reflect that. 

In 41 games this season, Lundqvist is 22-16-3 with a 2.08 GAA (seventh in the league), a .926 save percentage (fifth in the league) and one shutout. He is always the main reason why when the Rangers' win and night in and night out, he gives his team a chance to win a hockey game.

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  Tags: brad+richards, carolina+hurricanes, derek+stepan, henrik+lundqvist, new+jersey+devils, new+york+rangers, rick+nash, ryan+callahan

Where is the Rangers’ Playoff Team?

That is what New York Rangers' fans must be wondering after watching their favorite team lost to the Florida Panthers by a score of 3-2.

After scoring 18 goals in three games, the Rangers' offense came up one short tonight in Florida. Panthers' goaltender Jacob Markstrom was solid in making 36 saves and him and the rest of his team was able to survive a late Rangers' power play and a late Rangers' goal by Derick Brassard.

Even though the team had 36 shots on goal, many of them were not of the quality variety. To beat a goaltender like Markstrom, a player needs to be patient and look for the holes because when it comes to Markstrom, there is plenty of room to score goals as he came into tonight's game sporting a 3.26 GAA.

One Blueshirts' forward who seemed to struggle tonight was Carl Hagelin. Hagelin seemed lost and took just two shots on goal.

The Rangers' power play was also a let down. With little time remaining in the third period, the Rangers' had the man advantage and just could not generate a quality scoring chance. Come playoff time, assuming the Rangers get in, this kind of play will be unacceptable. 

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  Tags: carl+hagelin, carolina+hurricanes, derick+brassard, florida+panthers, jacob+markstrom, new+jersey+devils, new+york+rangers, washington+capitals, winnipeg+jets

Rangers Offense Stepping Up at the Right Time

From Patrick Hoffman at Sportsnet.ca:

It appears that after scoring 18 goals in their last three games, the Rangers’ offence, without Gaborik due to his trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets, is coming together at the right time. With three straight wins and six points under their belt, the Rangers’ offence is keeping things simple, getting lucky bounces and finding ways to score with the man advantage, three things that were lacking in the team’s first few months of the season.

Click here for more on the Rangers' streaking offense.

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  Tags: new+york+rangers

Richards Getting Hot at the Right Time for the Blueshirts

For most of this shortened season, things have not been easy for New York Rangers' forward Brad Richards.

For much of this year, Richards struggled in all areas of game whether it was on offense, on the power play, handling the puck, etc. A few times this season, Rangers' head coach John Tortorella even went as far to bench the Rangers' nine-year man.

With that said, it really is amazing how fast things can change. After picking up a goal and an assist last night in his team's 6-1 win over the Florida Panthers, Richards went out and scored his first career hat trick in helping the Blueshirts crush the Sabres by a score of 8-4.

If you are counting at home, that is four goals and an assist in the last two games. With his three goals tonight, not only is he in double digits, but he is starting to show that he is not afraid to put the puck on net.

In many games prior to these last two, Richards seemed afraid to put the puck on goal. He was clearly snake bitten and looked like he had lost confidence in his ability to put the puck in the net.

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  Tags: brad+richards, buffalo+sabres, carolina+hurricanes, florida+panthers, john+tortorella, new+jersey+devils, new+york+rangers

Taking Care Of Business

That is exactly what the New York Rangers did tonight in their 6-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden.

Coming into tonight's tilt, the Panthers were the worst team in the league. Tonight, the Rangers took advantage of that and pounded the Panthers with six goals and got strong offensive efforts from several of their players.

For starters, Mats Zuccarello is continuing to show how he has improved his game. He goes hard to the net, knows how to use his speed, gets his nose dirty and tonight, he was able to score two goals.

The club also got a strong offensive performance from Derick Brassard. Brassard had two goals and gave the team an early lead when he scored the games first goal just over three minutes into the tilt.

Rick Nash did his part in this game by picking up three points with a goal and two assists. It will be important for Nash to continue to produce as the team needs him to score in this last stretch of the season. 

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  Tags: brad+richards, buffalo+sabres, derick+brassard, florida+panthers, henrik+lundqvist, mats+zuccarello, new+york+islanders, new+york+rangers, philadelphia+flyers, rick+nash, ron+rolston, winnipeg+jets

Four Teams That You Should Not Want to Play in the Postseason

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs right around the corner, every hockey fan is dreaming about the potential of their favorite hockey team.

Puckheads across North America are starting to think about 16 wins, big-time performances, clutch goals, big saves and some great hockey in general. As of this moment, the potential is limitless.

With that said, here are four somewhat surprising teams that you do not want to end up playing in the first round should your team clinch a spot in the postseason this year:

- New York Islanders

As a whole, the New York Islanders may not have a lot of playoff experience but boy, are they hungry to make some noise when it matters the most.

They are playing some of their best hockey at the crucial point of the season and are getting great performances from their young players. The Islanders are fast, they go to the net and they can score.

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  Tags: alex+ovechkin, brian+elliott, columbus+blue+jackets, evgeni+nabokov, ken+hitchcock, new+york+islanders, sergei+bobrovsky, st.+louis+blues, washington+capitals

All About Second Chances For Flyers’ Mason

When looking at the NHL as a whole, it is easy to see that several NHL netminders thrive when given a second chance to prove their worth.

As an example, one can point out the likes of Ray Emery (Chicago Blackhawks), Carey Price (2010-11 with the Montreal Canadiens), Craig Anderson (Ottawa Senators) and so on and so forth. One can probably name several players in this particular category.

With that said, one player who really needs a second chance the most is Philadelphia Flyers' netminder Steve Mason. Mason, who won the Calder Trophy as the league's rooke of the year in the 2008-09 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, has struggled to find his rookie form and is now looking to do so in the "City of Brotherly Love".

Mason, 24, burst onto the NHL scene in the 2008-09 season and dominated the league. That year, Mason went 33-20-0-7 with a 2.29 GAA, a .916 save percentage and 10 shutouts in leading the Columbus Blue Jackets to their first postseason.

While Mason did not play well in that postseason, the Blue Jackets thought they had their netminder of the future. Unfortunately, the team was wrong.

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  Tags: carey+price, chicago+blackhawks, columbus+blue+jackets, craig+anderson, montreal+canadiens, new+york+rangers, ottawa+senators, philadelphia+flyers, ray+emery, sergei+bobrovsky, steve+mason

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About Goal Line Report

Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.

Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.

For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com.

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