Kukla's Korner Hockey
from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
Over the past three months, the Penguins have been among the hottest teams in the NHL, posting a 25-7-3 record with two six-game winning streaks as part of a 16-game points streak that vaulted the team into contention with New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division.
“They have no fear, and that’s the scary part of our team,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said Monday. “The second half of the season, (experts) were saying that a veteran team would have more success because it’s more like a man’s game, but the second half of the season we’ve played our best because we have no fear and we got better and better.”
from the Montreal Gazette,
Saturday night, Koivu was uncharacteristically absent from the room after the victory. Furious? Koivu was fit to be tied. Bet on it - although you would never have known it after yesterday’s practice, when he was diplomacy itself. Asked whether it was tough for an individual as competitive as himself to accept being benched in a critical situation, Koivu chose his words with care.
“It’s tough for me to answer why it happened. That’s something I can’t answer. That’s something you’d have to ask the coach….”
“No, no. We had a day off Sunday and there was no one here. Now there’s a week left and three games. I’ve been in situations where I don’t care who you are or how old you are, you’re not going to be happy with the decisions they’re making. It’s just something you have to live with and something you can’t control.”
from the News & Observer,
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are two points back and have to pass two teams to get there. Those two teams, Toronto and the Montreal Canadiens, play each other Saturday—meaning one of them is guaranteed two more points, making Carolina’s task even tougher.
The Canes are 13-6-2 against their final three opponents—the Lightning tonight, the Thrashers on Friday and the Panthers on Saturday—and they’ll probably need to win out to make it.
“When we got pressed right to the wall, almost taking our last breath of the season, we turned it up and were able to win a game,” Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said. “But the inconsistency is still there. This team is capable of winning its last three, but there’s still a lot of other things we need to have happen.”
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
Don’t bother looking for the smoking gun. It doesn’t exist.
Lou Lamoriello fired Claude Julien as head coach of the New Jersey Devils with 102 points already achieved and just three games remaining on the schedule for one reason.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
Is that a tear dripping from the statue of Kate Smith outside the old Philadelphia Spectrum?
No one would doubt the spirit of the late, great singer of God Bless America has turned away from her beloved Flyers across the parking lot at the Wachovia Center in what could be their worst season in franchise history.
If the Flyers don’t pick up six points in their remaining four games—starting tonight against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre—they’ll come in lower than the 1969-70 club, an expansion-era team that compiled 58 points in 76 games.
from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,
And it will be bloody - not in the literal sense - for the Islanders, who established themselves as a playoff contender over the first half of the year with a relentless work ethic that overcame holes in the lineup, but who have been unable to muster the necessary inspiration to overcome fatigue, warts, injuries and a suspension down the stretch.
Have we mentioned that the Islanders are 5-7-4 since Garth Snow appropriately pulled the trigger on the trade for Ryan Smyth?
Have we mentioned that the Islanders are 3-7-2 since Alexei Yashin returned to the lineup on Mar. 8 after going 8-2-4 while he was down with a knee?
Hmmm. Must be a coincidence….
There is tonight for the Rangers and Islanders, but if the Blueshirts win, there will be no tomorrows for Ted Nolan’s team. This more likely than not means no tomorrows on the Island for, among others, Smyth and Jason Blake. Talk about an organization on the brink.
from Stan Fischler at the Hockey Journal,
• Mats Sundin crying about the NHL’s playoff arrangement is pure and simple sour grapes. Why would he suggest that it’s unfair that the Southeast Division-winner getting home ice in the first round is unfair? Sundin knew the score at the start of the season and said nothing about it then. That’s why we can’t buy any of his end-of-campaign bleating.
• Marty Biron may be the answer to the Flyers’ goaltending prayers. But, then again, his showing on Friday and Saturday suggests that Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki would have been just as good with the mediocre squad in front of them.
from Al Strachan at Fox Sports,
There are many things that can be said about New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello — not all of them complimentary.
But this much you have to concede: He’s decisive.
Sensing now, as he did in 2000, that his team was doomed to playoff failure despite a modicum of regular-season success, he fired his coach….
To say that the hockey world was shocked would be something of an understatement. Usually in situations of this nature, the whispers have been going around and a few insiders have been confiding to their friends that the coach in question is on a slippery slope.
But in the New Jersey gulag, where loose talkers get deported to other franchises, where media relations personnel eavesdrop on conversations, where a hidden camera spies on players who might talk to the media in the hallway, where player attendance at off-day meals is mandatory and mature adults are not allowed a glass of wine with dinner, the free flow of information is not a high priority.
from John Buccigross of ESPN,
The playoffs begin next week. So, for those of you who need a refresher course on what has happened this NHL season, here are some notes from while you were away.
• This season’s story has unquestionably been what is happening in Pittsburgh. Last season, the Penguins had the fewest points in the Eastern Conference and the second fewest in the NHL
• What is happening in Buffalo this season is right on the heels of what is taking place in Pittsburgh. The Sabres don’t have that transcendent, matinee idol in Crosby, but they have a pulse provided by fans that gives the Western New York experience a sense of community that is warm and pure. It is middle America at its finest.
much, much more from John…
from Eric Duhastchek of the Globe and Mail,
This is what we know for sure with a week to go in a delirious, nerve-wracking, throat-constricting National Hockey League playoff race:
The Vancouver Canucks are in; the Ottawa Senators are in; and the Calgary Flames will get in, provided they win one of their four remaining games.
The Edmonton Oilers are out; the miracle run of 2006 a long-forgotten memory. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens can technically both still make it, but in all probability, only one will. If that happens, it will likely be at the expense of the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, meaning that for the first time in 80 years, both of last year’s finalists would fail to qualify for the playoffs.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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