Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Eric Duhatshek of the Globe and Mail,
Calgary’s fortunes will depend heavily on how they handle the Canucks’ dynamic offensive duo of Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
“Year after year, they’re very offensively powered,” Flames forward Mason Raymond said of the Sedins, with whom he played for the first six years of his NHL career. “The power play is definitely where they do a lot of their work, but all over the ice, they can be dangerous, so you’ve got to be aware of them, and make their lives as miserable as possible.”
With team captain Mark Giordano still out indefinitely because of a biceps tendon injury, it will fall to Calgary’s shutdown defence pair of Dennis Wideman and Russell to neutralize the Sedins.
Hartley put Wideman and Russell together as a defensive pair in the third game of the regular season and they’ve been lights-out good for Calgary ever since, developing the sort of chemistry that matters as much – or more – to defence pairs as it does to forward lines.
“With us, with D pairs, you have to know what the other guy is going to do and where he’s going to be, especially if you’re under pressure with the fore-check,” said Wideman, who has previously played in 44 NHL playoff games. “A lot of times, I know where Russ is or where he’s going to be, so I can just put a puck there and have confidence that he’s going to get it out, or make a play.”
Young teams that make playoff breakthroughs often falter in the opening round. On the night the Flames eliminated Los Angeles from playoff contention, Kings captain Dustin Brown compared the Flames to last year’s Colorado Avalanche, a team that unexpectedly won the tough Central Division, but couldn’t carry regular-season success into the playoffs.
“At every party that has been organized in the NHL this year, we always get the last invitation and by the time we got there, there was no more sandwiches. We’re used to (being doubted). We’re OK with this. We’ll come in and try to pick up the crumbs."
-Bob Hartley, head coach of the Calgary Flames via the Twitter account of Kristen Odland.
from George Johnson of the Calgary Herald,
“It was crazy,” said Flames’ coach Bob Hartley, following the 3-1 playoff-cementing victory. “Guys were jumping. Sticks were flying everywhere. We could almost feel fans going through the glass … It’s a great feeling. To pull through in front of our fans was a classy way to do it
“The most important thing about was we did it in front of our fans. That was unbelievable. What a welcome from our fans. Throughout the game, we felt their support.
“Everyone that was coming in the rink this afternoon before the game was commenting that they were on MacLeod or downtown and there were busses that had ‘Go Flames Go.’ Plenty of flags and jerseys. Hey, there’s a fever out there.”
Capping a superb regular season, right winger Jiri Hudler, the silent one, scored twice (Nos. 30 and 31), including the second into an empty L.A. net at 19:10 of the third period with the champs furiously trying to push the game into OT and salvage their season, to book Calgary passage into their first playoff in six years.
Below, a video montage from last night...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Will the real Los Angeles Kings please stand up? Are they the team running on fumes we saw Tuesday night in Edmonton, or are they the side with a championship heart that has one last flurry of swings in them?
The beauty of this time of year is that the answers will become crystal clear. The Kings are in Calgary tonight and must register a regulation victory to tie the Flames on points at 95, and then hope they can finish a point ahead of Calgary after the Flames head to Winnipeg and the defending champs host the San Jose Sharks.
Tonight's contest in Calgary will be revealing in many ways, with the champ on the ropes and the upstart Flames having a chance to book their ticket to the postseason, easily the most surprising development of the year if it comes true for Bob Hartley's men. And don't forget, they've been doing it without team MVP Mark Giordano since Feb. 26, going 11-5-3 without their capatin. Unreal.
Does the clock strike midnight tonight? We shall see.
read on for notes on the Bruins, Capitals, Jamie Benn/Sidney Crosby and the Canadiens from the ESPN hockey crew...
from George Johnson of the Calgary Herald,
There is no remaining wiggle room for the reigning Stanley Cup titans. No more mulligans. No more Get Out of Jail Free cards.
There is nothing beyond this game. No White House visits. No parades. No champagne.
Just 60 minutes against a foe that is neither in fear nor awe.
One loss, either here or against the San Jose Sharks come Saturday, or two Flames’ points over Calgary’s final pair of games, and the Kings go from hockey aristocrats to afterthoughts.
They are, in reverse, a storyline every bit as compelling as the Flames.
from the CP at GlobalNews,
There is now a quick and straightforward path to the NHL playoffs for the Calgary Flames.
A win in regulation over the Los Angeles Kings in Calgary’s final home game of the season Thursday will put the Flames in the post-season for the first time since 2009.
Calgary’s 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes combined with the Kings’ 4-2 loss up the highway to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday gave Calgary 95 points in third place in the Pacific Division — two points up on the Kings.
The Flames can put insurmountable distance on the defending Stanley Cup champions with a victory in regulation Thursday.
“We’ve been trying to take care of business leading up to this game,” Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman said.
“We knew just the way everyone seems to be winning, we knew it would come down to this game as long as we won ours. And we have been. So here we go.”
from Kristina Rutherford of Sportsnet,
SN: Has anything about being an NHL player surprised you?
Gaudreau: The amount of free time I have. After practice, I have the whole day to figure out what I’m gonna do.
SN: Did you expect your rookie season to go so well?
Gaudreau: No, not at all. I’m really fortunate I got to make the team right out of camp. I’ve been playing with some really good players here who helped me my first season.
SN: Even you underestimated yourself?
Gaudreau: Yeah, I think so. You always gotta believe in yourself, but there’s that thought that you may not make it. I wanted to make sure it was in the back of my mind so I wouldn’t get too upset if I didn’t make the team right out of the gate.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
Imagine the NHL’s Western Conference playoff race as a game of musical chairs, with nine teams competing for eight spots and one guaranteed to miss out when the music stops.
On Tuesday night, all four of the on-the-bubble contenders in the West were in action and when the smoke cleared, the best possible scenario unfolded for all of Canada’s Western-based teams.
Both the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets won their games – over the Arizona Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues respectively – meaning each team is just a single victory away from clinching a playoff spot, with two games remaining on their schedules.
Idle Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks nevertheless clinched a playoff spot when the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings lost in regulation to the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers avenged an 8-1 drubbing by the Kings four days earlier in Los Angeles and enhanced both Calgary’s and Winnipeg’s playoff chances with the victory.
The Flames hold a two-point lead over the Kings and can knock them out of the playoffs with a victory.
Barry Melrose says Kings and Jets, in, Flames out.
from the CP at Sportsnet,
The Flames finish out the regular season against the two clubs threatening to beat them out of a playoff berth -- the Los Angeles Kings at home on Thursday and the Winnipeg Jets on the road Saturday.
"I don't who made the schedule, but this guy has a flare for drama," Flames coach Bob Hartley said Monday following practice.
Calgary (43-29-7) is battling the Kings for third in the Pacific Division, as well as Winnipeg for the last wild card berth in the Western Conference. The Kings and Jets both had a game in hand on Calgary but both played Monday night.
The Flames are aware of the stakes in their last two games of the season, but there is also the matter of hosting the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.
Teams out of the playoff race can impact those still in it. A 3-2 shootout decision to the also-ran Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday dealt a blow to the playoff prospects of the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference.
"The media is talking about the last two games, but we as a group, we're really focused on this (Arizona) game because we know they're a dangerous group," Flames defenceman Kris Russell said.
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.
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