Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune,
We have no idea what it means down the road, including the playoff road. But Sunday might have been a big step for the Lightning. It might even go down in franchise lore.
The Night Stammer Brought Down The Bear.
The Lightning finally beat the big, bad Boston Bruins, 5-3. Do not try to adjust your sports column. That really happened Sunday night at Amalie Arena.
But how it happened, or began to happen, was the real story.
Bolts captain Steven Stamkos has 273 NHL goals. He has two NHL fights. But one of the fights came Sunday, when Stamkos squared off with Bruins king rat Brad Marchand in the first period.
Stamkos dropped the gloves, and his giddy, energized teammates nearly instantly scored a knockout, scoring twice inside of a minute as Stamkos was in the penalty box. No. 91 didn’t register on the score sheet, just in hearts and minds.
“I just felt at that moment, it was the right thing to do,” Stamkos said.
Watch the fight below...
from Joe Haggerty of CSNNE,
Along with the general softness across this team’s roster and the intermittent offensive droughts, there are times when the Bruins want things to be easy. It’s a natural human trait, to be sure, but it’s also the sign of a team that doesn’t consistently set the bar high enough. The intensity, desire and compete level of the recently great B’s teams hasn’t been there on most nights.
That needs to change, and the players say they're well aware of that. Good thing, because this three-game road trip -- tonight at Ottawa, Saturday at Florida and Sunday at Tampa Bay -- could make or break their season. The Senators and Panthers are desperately trying to overtake the B's for the final playoff spot, and the Lightning will be looking for revenge after their recent loss at TD Garden.
The simple truth is: The Eastern Conference is completely wide open this spring. The Islanders and Lightning have talent, but they're inexperienced and they have goaltending questions. The Penguins are a top-heavy team that doesn’t feel all that dangerous once you get past Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Red Wings are an interesting mix of youth and veterans, but nobody is printing up Stanley Cup final invites for them at this point. The Capitals, who do have one of the best players in the world in Alex Ovechkin, can be exploited defensively. The Rangers and Canadiens -- full of speed, good goaltending and talented D-corps units -- are probably the two most formidable teams, and would present the most problematic matchups for Boston.
But the pathways are there for the Bruins if they could somehow get their stuff together before the third week in April.
Unfortunately, they’ve given few reasons to be confident that will change with 12 games remaining in the regular season. Tuesday's game against Buffalo was just another sore-eyed example of that.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Bring on the Bruins! That's what the Ottawa Senators are saying after yet another victory, this time 2-1 in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes after a highlight-of-the-year setup by Kyle Turris that let to Mark Stone's game-winner.
Coupled with the Boston Bruins' shootout loss at home -- to Buffalo, no less -- the Senators are now just four points behind the Bruins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, with entering Thursday's gigantic rematch between the Bruins and Senators in Ottawa looming.
It appeared the Sens were done like dinner after last Tuesday's home loss to Boston. Yeah, right. Not when "The Hamburgler" is doing his thing. Goalie Andrew Hammond was sensational again against the Hurricanes, and is now 11-0-1 in his first 12 NHL starts and has given up two or fewer goals in each of those 12 games. Buckle up, folks, the Eastern Conference playoff race is about to get even more interesting.
continue for notes on Sabres, Bruins, Blackhawks, the Metropolitian Division and the Sharks from the ESPN hockey writers...
from Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe,
Buffalo is the worst team in the league. The Sabres entered the night without a win in their last seven games. They were playing their second game in two nights. Their roster is stuffed with borderline varsity players, ranging from Tim Schaller to Philip Varone to Zac Dalpe.
Buffalo is a team built to lose with the hopes of the ultimate win in June: the opportunity to select Connor McDavid as its reward for bottoming out.
The Bruins were lucky to get 1 point out of the decision.
The numbers say the Bruins deserved a better fate than a 2-1 shootout loss. They led in shot attempts, 95-47. They hammered Anders Lindback with 44 pucks. For the first 40 minutes, the Bruins looked like they were playing keepaway rather than hockey by grabbing a 26-10 shot advantage.
But the Bruins are at a stage where attaboys are not handed out for advantages in shot attempts or zone time. They need points. They only got 1 when 2, given the situation, were required.
The Senators took care of their business by beating the Hurricanes in overtime Tuesday, 2-1. Andrew Hammond tied a league record by launching his NHL career with 12 straight starts with three goals or fewer. This is the goalie the Bruins must stare down on Thursday. With Hammond in net, the Senators could close the gap to 2 points with a regulation win at Canadian Tire Centre.
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
As the first postgame question came Sunday night, Coach Barry Trotz reviewed the events of the Washington Capitals’ 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins in his mind and considered the juxtaposition. Forty-eight hours earlier, he had derided a listless defeat against the Dallas Stars and commanded his players to patch their problems, to which they responded by calling a closed-door meeting. He called a surprise practice the next day and put the Capitals on blast, threatening lineup demotions. He proclaimed that hosting Boston would truly reveal the character of a group reeling from two straight home defeats.
And now, after goaltender Braden Holtby made 32 saves, center Nicklas Backstrom claimed the franchise’s assists lead, defenseman Nate Schmidt scored his first goal of the season and the team staved off the foe in closest pursuit of its top Eastern Conference wild card spot, Trotz needed little time to answer what was posed: Could he have asked for a better response?
“Not really,” Trotz said. “I think that just shows there is good leadership in the room. They had to make it happen. There’s a great response. They had the closed door [meeting]. We had to get urgent, let’s get playing well. I thought we came out, good start, I thought we had a lot of urgency, we had a lot of detail, we had a lot of commitment, got big penalty kills when we needed, got great goaltending from Holtby. A lot of good things. All over I thought we had pretty good structure against a pretty good team.”
from Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun,
Exactly one month ago, they were down to a prayer and a miracle.
The Senators had more points than just two teams in the entire conference, and they trailed the Boston Bruins by 14 in the wild-card standings.
Impossible ground to make up, almost everyone agreed. Ottawa was going to miss the playoffs in consecutive springs for the first time since 1996....
Then suddenly, the Bruins started to slip. From Feb. 8-20, Claude Julien's squad earned just one point while losing six games in a row.
Almost simultaneously, Dave Cameron's club rallied around The Hamburglar and began to work its way up the ladder.
Since losing to Carolina Feb. 16, the Senators have grabbed 17 of a possible 18 points and now trail the Bruins by five, with a game in hand.
And now there's one month left in the season, and no denying the magnitude of the B's visit to Canadian Tire Centre Tuesday night. "Up to this point, it's definitely our biggest game of the year ... it might end up being one of our biggest games all year," defenceman Mark Borowiecki said after Monday's optional practice.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Hey, it's a nice story the Ottawa Senators jumping back into the playoff fray with a cadre of talented young players. And it's been fun to watch the plucky Florida Panthers continue to nip at the heels of the Boston Bruins. And while it's become an interesting storyline, it's highly unlikely to become anything more than that for the Panthers, because we're talking about the Boston Bruins here.
The Bs are 4-0-1 in their last five and have points in seven of their last 10 games after an emphatic 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, a score that flattered Detroit given that Boston was up comfortably 4-1 after the second period.
The Bruins have 17 games left, and if they went a pedestrian 8-8-1 that would give them 93 points and mean that Florida would have to come up with 22 points in their last 16 games (10-4-2?) while Ottawa would need 23 points in their last 18 games (11-6-1?) to jump ahead of the Bruins. In short, unless the Bruins go off the deep end again the notion of a playoff race is really only theoretical, even with a big game looming between Ottawa and Boston on Tuesday.
continue for more from the ESPN hockey bunch including Pierre LeBrun on the Flames...
Then this happened...
Below is the Eastern Conference picture afte the Boston win...
from Joe Haggerty of CSNNE,
“Tomorrow is a huge game for Philadelphia, and it should be a huge game for us,” said Julien. “Those are teams that are obviously gunning for us, and if we want some separation then we obviously need to win those kinds of games. I know we’ve got Detroit the next day, and then Ottawa at the beginning of next week. The month of March is going to be a tough one.”
The B’s coach is, of course, referencing the stretch of 11 games in 18 days, that the team capped off with the shootout loss to the Flames, and 15 total games in 31 days with 13 of those games against Eastern Conference opponents.
The month also has the Bruins in four sets of back-to-back games over the course of March, and that’s an area where the team has withered this season in the second night of those situations.
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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